Friday, December 16, 2016

Anglican Apostolicity (3)

A great virtue of being Anglican is our embrace of breadth, our ability to accommodate, well, a lot of variety.

Sometimes that has meant for us a kind of "anything goes" approach, whether any theology is fine, any liturgy (or non-liturgy) will do, and all diversity is blessed, especially because it is, er, diverse. We have only feared, in such moods, monochromaticity. 

Those "anything goes" days are over, however, in my view, if the Anglican church wishes to survive the tsunami of 21st century secularism, Islamism and now Trumpism bearing down on it.

The only consequence for avant-garde Anglican theologising since the Enlightenment I can see is decline in church attendance. By contrast, new possibilities for restoring old fractures in the global church present themselves, and if we take them up we will need to focus on how we move together in theological harmony - drawn together by the teaching of the apostles - rather than difference.

Thus an apostolic Anglican church, seeking again to win the world to Jesus Christ, needs to tighten up theologically. 

I suggest we need to be quite conservative theologically, constantly asking ourselves whether what we are thinking and teaching is consistent with the faith once given, as understood by the vast majority of Christians around the world today. That is a necessary condition of being an apostolic church. 

The sufficient condition of being an apostolic church is that we combine that "defensive" role of preserving our faith with the "offensive" role of proclaiming our faith. It is in this offensive, advancing movement of the church that Anglican breadth becomes a new and welcome virtue. The other day Liturgy published a striking and very popular post. One takeaway from that post is that we should be very careful to avoid throwing out anything valuable to us about the way we do or the way we are church.

Our world is pluriform. There is no one size (i.e. type of) church fits all. If the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and the church is Christ's body in the world, then as the good news of Jesus Christ is embraced by different people at varying points of human need, then the body of that same Jesus Christ must be diverse: both to welcome a variety of people and to express the personalities of those same varied people. The Anglican church is well suited to this particular requirement of apostolicity in the 21st century.

We can do ritual. We can be charismatic. (Yes, to ward off a predictable comment: we can be both!) We can preach the gospel with words and in deeds. We can speak to the varied socio-economic classes of our society. We can connect with immigrants.

But sometimes we do these things better than other times and quite often we are patchy in our record of being a church suited to the pluriformity of life. To coin a phrase (!!), we can make the Anglican church great again ...


Postscript
From an apostolic perspective we Anglicans need desperately to take a break from our sexuality wars. Here is one reason: we cannot be sure that the GAFCON approach to being Anglican is purely driven by theological issues in sexuality. If some or all the archbishops involved in GAFCON are "despotic", how does dancing to their tune serve the gospel of the Servant? There is another way: meeting of minds, continuing dialogue, mutuality in face to face conversations, well exemplified in this report.

23 comments:

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

In order for any church, or churches plural, to have a natural diversity that does not compromise the Gospel/Scripture (they are the same thing as the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Revelations is the Gospel) there needs to be common theological grounding and common doctrinal commitments that are held by all. I think Anglicanism had that in the past. I'm not sure if that is still the case. The divide between big "L" Liberalism of the Spong/TEC variety and the rest of the Anglican Communion has become an unbridgeable canyon.

In the Vineyard churches what unites all of the local churches around the world into one is Kingdom theology, the focus on the proclamation of the reign of God, inaugurated eschatology, the now/not yet and so forth. This common theological grounding allows for both unity and diversity, for Arminians and Calvinists to exist in the same church.

And this is not just a Vineyard thing. Baptist theologian Russell Moore has written an excellent book called 'The Kingdom of Christ' which shows the way in which the growth of Kingdom theology in US evangelicalism has helped evangelicals achieve something of a broad unity in diversity, bringing together Dispensational and Covenant theology based churches, Arminians and Calvinists.

Kingdom theology seems to be growing in the Anglican church as well. I heard an Anglican minister preach from a KT perspective last Sunday. And of course NT Wright is a well known proponent.

At the end of the day unity in diversity can only work if there is genuine and serious theological unity, and that requires more than just a vague idea that Anglicanism means episcopacy and liturgy.

P.S. I don't think "Trumpism" is bearing down on the Church, or at least not in a negative way. Clintonism would have, in a very negative way, but thankfully, by the grace of God, we avoided that outcome. :)

Glen Young said...


"We can speak to the varied socio-economic classes of our society. We can connect with immigrants" Peter.

The great commission of the Church was to "protect the Holy Writ in it's entirety and purity and proclaim it to all mankind.Christianity is not a tribal religion.We come to Him as individuals.Speaking of CLASSES and IMMIGRANTS is in political speak "Identity Politics" or in religious speak
"Contextual Theology".

A W Tozer summed it up well when he said:"We who preach the Gospel must not think of ourselves as public relation agents, sent to establish good will between Christ and the world.We must not imagine of ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business,the press,the world of sports or modern education.We are not diplomats but prophets,and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum".

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
I am not talking about identity politics and such like.
I am simply making the point that across our Anglican parishes we seem able to encounter people from all walks of life with the gospel.

Glen Young said...


That's okay Peter.I accept that one should not preach "Truthless Grace" nor
"Graceless Truth";but how you tell a Muslin that Allah is not the God of Eternal life??

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
I am no kind of expert on evangelism among Muslims but I lean towards finding what can be affirmed in Islam (there is only one God) and sharing how I meet that one God and that one God meets me in the person of Isa (Jesus).

Glen Young said...


Peter,

I admire you hope of evangelising Muslims; everything is possible with God.It is not my call to say that anyone is beyond the call of Christ.The mission of the Church is to put the Gospel out there,for every man to hear.How we go about that is not our call for the SPIRIT will give us the WORDS.

We have a family member who leaves London as I type. At his local shopping center,a number of young Muslims from a nearby mosque tried to educate him, whenever he was there. When he told them that he knew and loved the Father,having been led to Him, by His only Begotten Son;they told him that they did not accept Christ as God, nor did they acknowledge His RESURRECTION.

Father Ron said...

Reading the latest interview given by Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon - to an Irish audience, recently - Anglicanism may soon have 2 'Apostolicities' - the Anglican Communion and GAFCON.

Archbishop Josiah points to the carpet-baggist activities of influential former ECUSA conservative members of ACNA and other foreign influences - like former Sydney archbishop Peter Jensen - who have egged on the ambitious and despotic African Church Leaders to declare war on the See of Canterbury and other, more liberal, Provinces of the Anglican Communion; thus forming the GAFCON Separatist Movement, with its offshoot; the FoCA(lare) groups to spread discontent in other Churches of the Communion.

If one wonders how and why the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion would want to warn us all of the separatist activities of GAFCON; it can only be because of the fact that Archbishop Josiah was demoted from his Archiepiscopal role in the Anglican Church of Nigeria by the Nigerian Primate - merely for resisting enrolment into the GAFCON claque.

Father Ron said...

"In the Vineyard churches what unites all of the local churches around the world into one is Kingdom theology, the focus on the proclamation of the reign of God, inaugurated eschatology, the now/not yet and so forth. This common theological grounding allows for both unity and diversity, for Arminians and Calvinists to exist in the same church." - Shawn Herles -

Vineyard Church has no bishops - and no claim to apostolicity based on the episcopal model.

Mind you, the self-proclamation of episcopal authority (such as 'Bishop" Brian Tamaki in 'Destiny Church') does not qualify, either, for the title Apostolic

Shawn Herles said...

"Vineyard Church has no bishops - and no claim to apostolicity based on the episcopal model."

'Vineyard embraces a form of episcopal church government which existed in the Church for the first 15 centuries and is still practiced today by probably 80 percent or more of Christian churches.

The pastor of the church functions as a bishop. He is called of God (or should be) and functions with multiple elders, ministers, pastors (Acts 15).

The elders believe the pastor is called of God and gladly submit to his leadership. The elders are appointed by the pastor (as Paul told Timothy to do).

The pastor, in turn, believes in and submits to the counsel and ministry of the appointed elders.

The pastor is a shepherd not a hireling.

This form of government functions in all Vineyard churches because it is biblical,'

http://www.grace.org.nz/about_us/our_beliefs

Shawn Herles said...

Peter,

"I suggest we need to be quite conservative theologically, constantly asking ourselves whether what we are thinking and teaching is consistent with the faith once given"

I agree. I am wondering if you have any ideas as to how this can actually be achieved?

Father Ron said...

One thing about internet blogs is that the information given is no more reliable that Google Search, and often misleading in its commentary.

"Vineyard embraces a form of episcopal church government which existed in the Church for the first 15 centuries and is still practiced (sic) today by probably 80 percent or more of Christian churches." - Shawn Herles -

Well, Shawn, such an assertion may be very difficult to substantiate, and I would be most interested to know the source of your information for what you state here as 'fact' - that 80 percent of Christians do not have a formal episcopal leadership as existing in the mainline Churches: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Episcopal Churches.

The role of Bishop was established early on in the Universal Church, and did not cease to be the norm in the 15th century. This was the distinctive mark of an episcopally governed (apostolic) Christian community.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Shawn has plainly and clearly described the form of episcopacy followed in the Vineyard churches.
The form of appointment to the episcopate differs from the form followed in RC, EO and Anglican churches, but, to my mind, it looks very proximate to what the New Testament proscribes re bishops and elders/presbyters.
I seen no need for Shawn to comment further.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Thanks for your question.
I think the key point is that Kingdom theology is engendering a "broad unity in diversity" rather than a tight unity.

Shawn Herles said...

I perhaps did not make it clear, citing only two examples, but Kingdom theology is widely held in Anglican evangelical churches, both in conservative Calvinist churches and in the HBT type charismatic churches. And you are right Peter, it does provide a common theological framework that allows for unity and diversity. It helps defend against diversity becoming theological anarchy on the one hand, but without requiring a checklist of doctrinal positions that might kill any diversity on the other.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
At 9.58 pm last night you posted the following (which I inadvertently Deleted):

"Dear Peter, if you comment (copied below) is not a mistake, then I think you are agreeing with me on the very point you are contesting:

"The form of appointment to the episcopate differs from the form followed in RC, EO and Anglican churches, but, to my mind, it looks very proximate to what the New Testament proscribes (sic) re bishops and elders/presbyters.
I see no need for Shawn to comment further." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Use of the word 'proscribe' indicates that the form of appointment to the 'episcopate' in Vineyard churches is banned by New Testament evidence!

Perhaps you meant to use the word 'prescribe' instead of 'Proscribe'?
"

Hi Ron, in response:
Yes, I meant "prescribe" rather than "proscribe."
I am accepting that the Vineyard movement understands it theology of episcopacy to be faithful to the most ancient understanding of episcopacy, the NT itself.
I am also accepting that that account differs from the practice of episcopacy through many centuries inasmuch as the appointment process for bishops differs.
But let's remember that (e.g.) the Roman process of appointment differs from the Church of England process which differs from all other Anglican provinces (that I am aware of).

Shawn Herles said...

There are serious differences between Roman, Anglican, and Orthodox views regarding episcopacy and appointment, not to mention how they understand the actual role of Bishops.

Personally I think the whole area is irrelevant to the issues raised in Peter's original post. Christians who have very different forms and understandings of church government can have broad agreement in other areas. Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians (those that are faithful to their confessional heritage) for example have very different understandings of church government and baptism, yet have much else in agreement. The 1677 Baptist catechism (Keach's catechism) and the Westminster shorter catechism are not radically different understandings of the faith. Why? Because there is a broader theological unity, in this case Reformed/Covenant theology.

Which brings us back to the issue being raised here. How can the Anglican Communion achieve what Peter is talking about, a more conservative approach to theology that can, on the one hand, provide for more unity, but on the other hand without requiring an exhaustive checklist of doctrinal positions that might crush all diversity?

Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians have that to a degree because they have the broader theological framework of Reformed/Covenant theology which they share. That allows Pastors from both traditions to work together in promoting the Gospel. The group Together For The Gospel is a good example.

For Anglicans, Kingdom theology is one possible example of how that might be achieved, and it has two advantages. One is that it is already operative in many evangelical Anglican churches, and two it would help create a shared sense of Gospel mission with the broader evangelical world.

Father Ron said...

It seems to me that, rather than being unitive, 'Kingdom Theology' has produced a plethora of different understandings of what that term means - as witness the hundreds of different denominational bodies in the United States of America alone. To speak of one 'Kingdom theology' is too simplistic, and quite misleading. What often does unite such communities who embrace this nomenclature, is their opposition to traditional mainline Churches - which are the upholders of the Catholic and Apostolic position, with the majorityof Christian adherents.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I read the situation quite differently.
There are a plethora of denominations (and this is not caused by Kingdom Theology).
Kingdom Theology is emerging among those denominations as a unifying force.
As for the mainstream churches upholding Catholic and Apostolic traditions: well, we haven't got our act together because we still won't commune with each other!

Shawn Herles said...

Yes Peter, you have it right. The different denominations did not start with Kingdom theology, they started with each one's individual traditional theological heritage, such as, just as two examples, Dispensationalism or Covenant theology, which, on their own, kept them radically seperate. Nor did they have to replace their own theology, as Kingdom theology is able to embrace them without replacing them.

This is the point of Russell Moore's book 'The Kingdom of Christ', how a whole lot of previously divided churches were able, over the course of the 20th-21st centuries, to find common ground and purpose through a common theological framework, and without having to give up their individual distinctive traditions.

In short, they found unity in diversity.

Shawn Herles said...

"traditional mainline Churches - which are the upholders of the Catholic and Apostolic position, with the majorityof Christian adherents."

Traditional mainline denominations would include the older mainline Presbyterian churches, the mainline Lutheran churches, and the mainline Methodist churches, among many others, which do not hold, with rare exceptions, to the episcopal form of government. So that alone seems to contradict your claim if the "Catholic and Apostolic" position means episcopal government.

Also, merely having episcopal government does not mean they hold to the catholic and apostolic faith itself. They may have the outward form, but not always the actual content. Liberal churches like TEC have in fact largely abandoned the content.

The Catholic and Apostolic faith has never embraced universal salvation, Matthew Fox's pantheist "Cosmic Christ", gay marriage, the validity of all religions, or many other liberal ideas. Those are all radical departures from the Catholic and Apostolic faith.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Let's take the heat out of thsi comment, below, with a little editing.
P

""Traditional mainline denominations would include the older mainline Presbyterian churches, the mainline Lutheran churches, and the mainline Methodist churches, among many others, which do not hold, with rare exceptions, to the episcopal form of government. So that alone seems to contradict your claim if the "Catholic and Apostolic" position means episcopal government" - Shawn Herles -

You may look back to my comment and see that the 'Mainline' Churches I have mentioned are the Roman Catholic; Eastern Orthodox Churches and Protestant Episcopal Churches - each of which has a traditional (catholic) sacramental theology. These do not include Presbyterian or non-Episcopal Protestant Churches that do not Ordain Bishops! Then there are some Methodist Churches that ordain Bishops; these are part of the mainline episcopal Churches.

(n.B. I do not include the so-called 'bishop' of Destiny Church as being among the mainline, episcopal Churches).
"

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Shawn and Ron
I was surprised once to hear a significant Kiwi Presbyterian theologian make the point to a group of (equally surprised) Anglicans that Presbyterians do have an episcopacy!

His point was that it is a collective episcopacy rather than an individual episcopacy (illustrated, e.g., by the presbytery (i.e. churches collected together locally) being the body which appoints a minister, which agrees to the ordination of a minister).

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

Yes, the Presbyterian minister makes a good point. My previous post should have made it clear that in fact what counts as episcopal government is a matter of opinion. Even among Roman, Orthodox, and Anglican churches, there are different understandings. What I don't understand is what any of this has to do with your original post, or my response to it.

So, with that in mind, my response was simply to show that in order to to achieve what you want, namely;

"Thus an apostolic Anglican church, seeking again to win the world to Jesus Christ, needs to tighten up theologically. I suggest we need to be quite conservative theologically"

then there is a need for a common theological framework that is consistent with the Biblical/Apostolic Faith on the one hand (conservative) but that is broad enough to include some variation and diversity on the other, given the nature of the Anglican Communion having both "high" and "low" church traditions, and Arminian and Calvinist traditions. Kingdom theology is simply one possible example of how that might be achieved.

Anyway, having made that point, and given an example of it working in practice, I think I'll leave it at that so the thread does not get bogged down in a rather pointless debate about other issues.

P.S. The Calvinists might be right, as my browsers spellcheck function recognizes the word Calvinist' but does not recognize Arminian! :)