Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Be Anglican boldly!

John Richardson of The Ugley Vicar has a post which says things dear to my heart about being Anglican and evangelical. I think what he says is quite challenging to many Anglican evangelicals/evangelical Anglicans, especially of the 'it's a good boat to fish from' variety ('so long as it doesn't leak faster than the bilge pump works I'll stay on board'!). Here's a sample:

"In the face of this, the natural response of traditionalist Evangelicals has been to withdraw both physically and mentally from the Church of England. The more they have done this, however, the worse —oddly enough —the problem has become. The answer advocated by most is increasingly to formalize this distancing from the institution. The answer I am advocating is that we reverse the process entirely.

"I remember once listening to George Carey, before he became Archbishop of Canterbury, describe himself as a Christian first, an Anglican second, and an Evangelical third. At the time I was distinctly unimpressed. I now want to suggest he was right, albeit for the wrong reasons. I now want to suggest that those who currently think of themselves as ‘Evangelical Anglicans’ should see themselves as Christians first, Church of England second, and Evangelicals only as a distant and carefully nuanced third.

"How can I, as a hitherto-dedicated Conservative Evangelical, make such a suggestion?

"The first reason is that, at the time of the Reformation, the Church of England committed itself to the principle that Scripture is its final authority in matters of faith. The formularies of the Church of England (to which incidentally it is bound by the law of the land), declare that the Scriptures are sufficient for salvation (Article 6), and that whilst the Church itself has “authority in Controversies of Faith” it cannot “ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written”. It is this commitment, above all, which makes me glad to be a member of that body which bears the name ‘the Church of England’.

"In his magnum opus, Bishop Stephen Neill wrote that the theological essence of Anglicanism is this:

'Show us anything clearly set forth in Holy Scripture that we do not teach and we will teach it. Show us anything in our teaching or practice is clearly contrary to Holy Scripture, and we will abandon it.' (Anglicanism, Pelican Books, 1965, p 417)

"Yet, as some will point out, this is exactly what Evangelicals would claim for themselves. Why not, then, go on being Evangelicals within Anglicanism?

"The answer lies in the fact that evangelicalism no longer has —if it ever had —a unifying theology. The Church of England, however, has at its core precisely that, for it is still (by the grace of God!) tied to the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the Thirty-nine Articles. It is bound to these by law, and it is rooted in them historically via the Reformation itself."

I especially like the quote from Stephen Neill. Read the whole here.

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