Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The power of God versus the politics of churchianity

Following a visit to a church on Sunday which I last visited a decade or more ago and noting the dramatic decline in numbers at worship, I have been reflecting on what turns churches round. In the end, helpful though our activism expressed through planning, training, teaching, and performance of ministry tasks, from welcome to hospitality, from worship leading to preaching and so forth, the converting of people to Christ, and the convicting of our hearts that we should be at worship regularly is the work of God. Where is the power of God these days? Or, in the Western world, where is the power of God working to convert and to convict people in the way of Christ?

Following my bloglist here at ADU, I think you and I could be forgiven for thinking that the one question we do not ask ourselves in the Anglican world is about God's power to change, challenge, and transform us! We seem more interested in the politics of the church, that is, in how we can organise ourselves to our own or others' advantage. We might, it is imputed, be thinking of suing the church for having been cast aside as a bishop. We might be entangled on one side or another of a long-drawn out process of suing one another over property. We might be trying to rev up one another in respect of belonging to a political group or committee, or, for that matter, trying to sidle away from such responsibility.

From a human perspective there are good and worthy arguments for working on these matters in a political manner. There have been upsets, hurts, deprivations: what to do to obtain remedy?

But what about the divine perspective? What is God saying to us about a godly manner of responding to difficulties within the life of the church? Might God be chiding us to seek his power at work in the church so his glory might be seen in the church?

In the end, I do not think one person will be won to Christ if someone becomes a bishop by judicial challenge, or a property is retained or obtained by recourse to the courts. We need God's power to work among us powerfully.


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, despite the title of this thread seeming to be about 'right worship' versus what you have called 'Churchianity'; you have included within it a link and a reference to the news that Dean Geoffrey John has threatened to sue the Church of England.

On this subject, I have just posted an article on 'kiwianglo' written in 'The Independent' by Chris Bryant, who sees the Church of England as being deceitful in it's treatment of Geoffrey John. I tend to agree with his view.

However, on your substantive theme, I do believe that one of the reasons the Church is not gaining too many coverts at this time is that so many of our churches are so concerned with ritual purity, that they seem to have forgotten the important fact that 'Jesus Christ came into this world to Save Sinners - that's all people - us Christians as well.

Sometimes the Church is so hypocritical on matters of gender and sexuality - forgetting that the writers of the Scriptures had very little idea of the extent of sexual diversity in human beings - that young people, especially, can no longer bother with teachings that are out of date with reality.

The hypocrisy that has become evident in the Geoffrey John case in England - where it is well-known that there are many clergy - even bishops - who are homosexual - simply puts the Church at risk of being deemed irrelevant, not only to those who happen to be L.G.B. ot T. in their sexual-orientation, but also the many Christians who are either related to them or who support them 'as they are'. They are not 'self-willed' or perverse in their sexuality, but human beings made in God's Image.

And then, of course, there is the problem of 'Sola-Scriptura-ism', which denies the charism of Reason-able discourse on God's intention for God's diverse creation.

Father Ron Smith said...

Apologies for my last post!!

Not for the burden, but for the spelling - of the name of the Dean of St. Albans, which is:

Jeffrey John (not Geoffrey John)

mea culpa!

Tim Chesterton said...

I remember reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones once, talking about how, in the Methodist chapels in the days of his youth, if things weren't going well, the elders would call the congregation to a day of prayer and fasting. Now, he said, we try to organize our way out of it. He wrote that in the 1950's- I wonder what he would think now?

Thanks for this, Peter - a good reminder.

Andrew Reid said...

One of my great heroes in the Bible is Nehemiah - a man of prayer and action. He relied on the power of God to overrule the heart of the most powerful ruler of his day and thwart his enemies, while working and planning tirelessly to re-establish Israel in their own land, worshipping God alone.

In the Anglican Communion, if you'll excuse the generalisation, we have tended more towards the prayer and less towards the action. I would suggest that over the last generation or so that has been reversed. Internally, the women's ministry and human sexuality debates have drawn many into political struggles. Externally, the decline in church attendance has led to a plethora of strategies and approaches to reverse that trend.

Perhaps, as you suggest, that has led to more reliance on our political skill and ministry strategies than on the power of God. May God help us to be more like Nehemiah.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Andrew. Amen to your prayer

liturgy said...

I would have thought the solution was obvious: spend huge amounts of time, energy, meetings, discussions, synods, money, drafting, flights on..... an "Anglican Covenant"!!!...

Wait! Isn't that the politics of churchianity?




Peter Carrell said...

It would be good, Bosco, if we could agree on the Anglican Covenant because it expresses truth we agree with as Anglicans, and a process of ecclesial discipline to which we subscribe because we believe that God works most powerfully where God's truth is proclaimed harmoniously!

To the extent that we will only have a Covenant because of adroit politicking the Covenant will be a failure - a kind of ecclesiastical sticking plaster over a large wound.

As you know I am doing my best to persuade people via blogging rather than politicking. Success is just around the corner ... :)

Father Ron Smith said...

A lot would depend, Peter, on what you consider to be 'God's Truth' - in order for it to be proclaimed

There would appear to be different understandings in the Church (not to say versions) of what 'God's Truth' really is - especially in areas of sexuality and gender - and what the Bible says, or does not actually say (because of a lack of up-to-date knowledge) about them.

While the Covenant seeks to rule out new understanding of these element of human existence, there may not be a 'harmonious' outcome, and therefore, presumably, in your estimation, no Covenant agreement.

hogster said...

Re: While the Covenant seeks to rule out new understanding of these element of human existence, ....

Does it? Would it be fairer to say it rules our what you believe should be a new understanding etc etc .... ?


Father Ron Smith said...

Yes, Hogster. And what many other 'No Covenant' enlightened Anglicans around the world 'think about it' too. I am aware of your own thoughts on this, and of our host on this site. I just don't agree with them. - Agape -

hogster said...

Re "I am aware of your own thought on this". As I have not shared them specifically that makes you a very insightful man. :-)