Monday, March 11, 2013

Intersecting questions?

A vigorous discussion over the weekend here has reminded me that several lines (faultlines?) of Anglican discussion and debate intersect when we ask 'what is Anglican?'

One line, in my estimation, is the line of thought about what constitutes classical or ideal Anglicanism.

On a ramble around the internet, to say nothing of a walk backwards through Anglican history, we see different proposals: here the free spirit of Celtic Christianity in ancient England, there the glories of the English Reformation (with that line split into those somewhat comfortable with the Elizabethan Settlement and those thinking that the Reformation was something of a still-born child who should be revived and grown to Puritan maturity), over there the wonders of Laudian high church predilection, off to one side the energies of the Evangelical Revival of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, close by which are the similar energies of Anglo-Catholicism, and newly arrived on the scene is Fresh Expression Anglicanism. By no means is this list of possibilities for classical or ideal Anglicanism exhaustive.

Another line is the line between (or is it through?) worship and mission. Is Anglicanism at its best when concentrating on the provision of wonderful worship (this being a means to engage in God's mission in the world)? Or at its best when focused on marvellous mission, making up as the mission goes along, the liturgies required to enable new converts to Christ to worship decently and in order? Is it an 'either/or'? Perhaps Anglicanism is 'at its best' when engaged simultaneously in provision of worship and opportunities for mission?

In each case of thinking liturgically and thinking missionally, the crucial decision we take is to be obedient to Christ's command. Go and do. Love.

When we are thus obedient we face subsequent decisions. Mission, for instance, has scarcely been successful if it does not lead to baptisms. Baptism raises questions about the content of the baptism liturgy we use (and how we will gather together to answer those questions). Eucharist, to take another example, is scarcely successful if it is not a 'Mass', an occasion from which we are dismissed into the world to extend the grace of God which we have just received. Such mission raises questions about the content of our message, including the language (words, signs, symbols, actions) we will use to proclaim the gospel.

Some difficulties being reflected on here in comments arise (I venture to suggest) because we have become weighed down with the concerns of one line or the other or both.

Our liturgies, for instance, can be the means by which we express our commitment to ideal Anglicanism and all too easily that expression can be the priority in worship rather than the mission worship is intended to precede (and proceed to).

Our missional activity can overwhelm us (so many people have not heard the gospel, need feeding/housing/healing, etc) to the point where we dismiss liturgy from the concerns of our mission (rather than attend to liturgy so that it can dismiss us, refreshed and renewed, into our mission).

Discussion is good about what is Anglicanism and where is it heading in the twenty-first century. But is Jesus calling us beyond discussion to decision? And is the decision to make a new resolve to integrate mission and worship?


Father Ron Smith said...

"Perhaps Anglicanism is 'at its best' when engaged simultaneously in provision of worship and opportunities for mission? In each case of thinking liturgically and thinking missionally, the crucial decision we take is to be obedient to Christ's command. Go and do. Love."

- Dr. Peter Carrell -

Spot on, Peter! A little anecdote:

While serving as interim P.i.C. in Wanaka, I was approached, at very short notice, to 'Christen' a new baby in a farming family that had no official connection with the local church, but had relatives from Europe who did, and who were about to return to Europe before the next Sunday Worship services.

I quickly interviewed the family members - all of 'em - and we established some 'ground-rules' for my participation, that included serious thinking about what this Baotism would mean for both Baby and extended family.

Because of the circumstances, we decided that the Baptism would take place on the Farm on the Saturday - with many of the local farmers in attendance. Believing family members were Sponsors, and the whole assembly seemed affected by the ceremony. Needless to say, there was a barbecue afterwards!

I don't know what subsequently happened to the family after I left but I do know that all concerned were impressed that 'The Church' took the opportunity offered by the situation to demonstrate 'The great Love of God as revealed in the Son'

Going 'beyond our borders' with the love of God, with the liturgies of the church is paramount in mission.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I have just listened to the Canterbury Archbishop-Elect, ++Justin's talk made at the end of the recent Conference on The Church and Reconciliation - at Coventry Cathedral. I was profoundly impressed with his reference to Bonhoffer's 'Straight/Crooked Path', which, he says, marks the trajectory of the way of the Church in this endeavour.

Please listen to this recording:

Aware of ++ Archbishop Justin's impeccable Evangelical provenance, I was moved by his final reference to the fact that "The grace of the Eucharist is where we begin" (Reconciliation and mission)

Robert Fain said...

Dr. Carrell,

It seems to me the questions of both how and what we Anglican Christians say to the culture are of urgent and pressing concern. Any message that is not clear, coherent and inviting I fear is just more noise in the Babel like cacophony of competing voices that are our time and place.

I am concerned that Anglican ambiguity does not communicate well or effectively in this post-Christendom context and I see little thinking on just what it is that we wish to share with the world.

In short, what is the Anglican articulation of the kerygma and the prospect that there are several understandings of this , some at odds with each other, is in my opinion, a problem.

Our credibility and persuasiveness with others is diminished when we are not able to speak with a clear voice ourselves.

Thank you for the time and thoughtfulness, as well as the tone, of your posts.

Robert Fain

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Robert Fain for the clarity of your comment; appreciated - not least in relation to another comment of mine on the immediately preceding thread re "Anglican culture's muddles".