Yesterday I described a kind of post-Anglican church, a church which draws strongly on the 'Word' strand within Anglicanism. Indeed 'an independent Bible church' would not be an outrageous alternative description of the churches I described along with their counterparts in Australia (as mentioned in various comments to that post). Something I have not made much of so far is the matter of bishops and post-Anglican churches. A feature of all three churches I described is that they have been founded without the oversight of an Anglican bishop authorising and blessing their establishment. Their post-Anglican pastors have either moved out from under the authority of their previous licensing bishops or have not yet sought the oversight of a new bishop.
When we look around the wider world we do not look far before we find another kind of post-Anglican church, the Anglican Ordinariates or Anglican churches which have moved out from under the oversight of Anglican bishops in order to come under the oversight of the Bishop of Rome. These are not Bible churches in the way of those above (though I am sure they respect and read the Bible in public worship and preaching).
As best I understand all these post-Anglican churches, they have felt shackled by being within the Anglican fold with Anglican bishops as their shepherds. Their true freedom to pursue who they are in Christ and what their mission is, comes through breaking with their previous arrangements, or, in a new territory, by simply avoiding them. As some commenters here have pointed out, in respect of growth in numbers, of reaching young people for Christ and in planting even newer churches, many post-Anglican churches (especially of the Bible variety) set an example for most Anglican churches to aspire to. As far as I can tell churches in the Anglican Ordinariates are doing well, but it is perhaps too early to measure their growth in respect of converts.
In other words, although Anglican nuts like me observe deficiencies in ecclesiology in respect of statements made on websites, from a missiological perspective there is much to be excited over. Here are churches that are growing in numbers because they are connecting with people in today's world in a contemporary manner. Anglicans who refuse to learn from their post-Anglican counterparts, whether it is lessons about preaching the Word or celebrating the Mass, may face a grim future of aging and declining congregations. Ask not why your congregation is in decline: ask how it might apply lessons to be learned from other churches!
As an aside, a commenter here asked the other day for my views on the 'franchise' aspect of Bible-oriented churches. I assume this to be a question about the comparatively monochromatic character of such churches so that a service in one church is more or less the same as a service in another, and the structure of parish life is the same as expressed in study groups, staff make up and such like. Well, I think it is true: there is monochromaticity ... Just like many other churches, including 'franchises' in the Anglican church such as the Anglo-catholic franchises and the charismatic franchises. Believe me, the telling sign of monochromacity is the way the same songs are sung across the franchises: Belfast hymns here, Graham Kendrick songs there, and Marian anthems over there :)
Back to post-Anglican churches. Recall my analysis of a couple of days ago: the Anglican Church is a big boat in a wide sea. Bible churches and Mass churches sail along together. No one forces one to be what it is not, even though the Anglican ideal preached by many is a balance of Bible and Mass, of Word and Sacrament. Freedom to choose to emphasise one half of the duality is a hallmark of modern Anglicanism. So when we find, as I posted yesterday, that some Bible churches have felt unable to continue in the large boat on the wide sea, or we recall today some Mass churches have also left the boat, something has caused disruption. I don't want to speculate here on what may have caused such disruption, just observe that given the width, flexibility and tolerance of Anglicanism, something significant is going on when Anglicans feel impelled to leave the fold in order to pursue their vision of missional church.
There is one aspect of changing circumstances for Anglicans which I think does not reflect a move to post-Anglicanism. This is the situation in North America where the Anglican Church in North America has been formed in protest at the direction being pursued by TEC and ACCan, and where we find the Diocese of South Carolina sitting outside of the polity of TEC but not yet inside the polity of another Anglican church such as ACNA. In each case I suggest 'post-Anglican' is not an appropriate description of their situation because they continue to have regard for the episcopal oversight of Anglican bishops. Neither independence from Anglican bishops nor submission to the Bishop of Rome marks the character of their ecclesial life. In each case they fervently share in fellowship with Anglican churches, maintain Anglican episcopacy at the core of their identity and seek communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, indeed believe they are in communion with the ABC. Naysayers who describe these churches in North America as 'unAnglican' should face the fact that these churches are viewed as Anglican by a majority of the Anglican Communion with whom they have more Anglican commonality than with TEC and ACCan.
Church life today, as we speak, is very, very complicated. Two instances in the news this week are striking. First, the ordination by the Kenyan church of a clergyman to work in a church plant in Sheffield which is, well, you work it out, but I describe it as an Anglican plant which is not Anglican. Who would be the Bishop of Sheffield?
Then the sad, sorry, spectacular saga of Cardinal O' Brien, leading British spokesperson against gay marriage in the UK, resigning and thus barring himself from attending the papal electoral conclave: if the charges against him are true then he arguably deserves to be regarded as the worst kind of hypocrite because of his strident criticism of homosexuality; and if the charges against him are untrue, then the priests who have brought those charges have not only cast an unwarranted slur on a courageous church leader but also contributed to a spectacular own goal for their church which can no longer contribute publicly to the debate over gay marriage. There are, you may be aware, other stories in the media this week re a powerful network of gay priests. Cardinal O'Brien just before the story broke against him had said in an interview that priests should be able to marry. Good grief. Is the powerful coherence of the Roman church's teaching on human sexuality fraying at the edges and about to be ripped to shreds by the dissonance between its written statements and the behaviour of the clergy responsible for upholding those statements?
I am sure we could multiply such stories around the world. The twenty-first century is make or break time for the church of God. We are in a perfect storm of rising winds of opposition, both from without and within the church. We desperately need God through the Holy Spirit to cleanse us, teach us and enable us to come to true obedience of faith in Christ.
PS Talking of confusion, if one didn't know better one might think this priest is a trendy Anglican vicar ... but he has my vote for pope!