Posting recently on 'post-Anglican' recently generated unusually high readership, a guest spot on David Virtue's website, and some circulation among clerical colleagues!
Today I am at an event where part of our time will be spent reflecting on the first chapter of Michael Moynagh's Church for Every Context - 'the' theological blockbuster on 'fresh expressions' of church. A lurking question around 'fresh expressions' as Anglicans think and act upon this 21st century missional ecclesiology is whether it is Anglican, post-Anglican or even unAnglican!
In that chapter Moynagh takes the reader through the early days of the church in which, effectively, a 'mixed economy' developed in which Jerusalem and Antioch, Jewish flavoured and Gentile flavoured churches existed side by side, sometimes with considerable tension (see the build up to the Jerusalem Council and Paul's letter to the Galatians). At one point he offers this observation:
'Yet for all its strains, the Jewish-Gentile 'mixed economy' survived by allowing space for two different notions of Christian identity to exist side by side-one with a Jewish and the other with a Gentile flavour.'
That leads to an intriguing question for Anglicans as we contemplate developing fresh expressions of church. If those fresh expressions are 'unAnglican' (at least in perception by critics), for example, because worship does not
Of course this question is rumbling away in the Anglican Communion in other perspectives, such as whether the mixed economy of those favouring blessings of same sex partnerships and those not, or those favouring a distinctive network of conservative Anglican dioceses and those not (within the same geographic area).
It is not as though the Anglican Church has never experienced mixed economy with all its tensions and potential for blowing apart. We could think back to the 19th century and the vigorous debates, sometimes ending in court, over whether the identity of Anglicanism should be Evangelical, Broad, or Anglo-Catholic. We could also think back to the identity of Anglicanism in the 18th century as it wrestled with the rise of Methodism, an undoubted 'fresh expression' of its day, a wrestling match which ended in departure (or ejection) of Methodism, almost certainly to the detriment of the development of a strong global Anglican church through the 19th century.
The most important question today for the church in these islands is not the 'mixed economy' of responses to questions of human sexuality, it is the question of whether we can be adaptive to a changing environment. A changing environment in which as secularism rises the kinds of churches Christians identify with are much more diverse than Anglicanism has traditionally included. The 'mixed economy' approach allows for the continuation of traditional Anglican life and the emergence of a different way of being Anglican. But the question as I see it which is on the minds both of those developing 'fresh expressions' of being church and of critics, is what degree of divergence from notions of 'Anglican' can be held within the one church? Associated, of course, is the question of how 'fresh expression' Anglicanism can be contained alongside traditional Anglicanism. (Additional comment: a complex question to be sure as 'fresh expression' Anglicanism would always have Christian traditions within it, such as baptism, eucharist and ordination).
Moynagh's assistance in these reflections is to remind us that the New Testament church managed to contain considerable diversity in Christian identity in one church (one baptism, one faith, one Lord). If they could do it, so can we!
Further/added comment: if this post seems to have a 'binary' quality to it when life is more complicated than that, then 'Yes' and 'No.'
Yes: life is more complicated; we are Anglicans on a spectrum; a parish may have a 'traditional 8 am service' followed by a 'family communion at 10 am which more or less follows the prayer book' and then a youth service which follows no known Anglican format!
No: I see some aspects of Anglican life as 'binary'. I find that at many Kiwi Anglican events there is only one form of worship modelled: worship according to our NZPB. This creates an environment for our church in which any deviation from NZPB is 'the other' and thus we are in a binary environment: NZPB or otherwise.
Perhaps our dilemma is this: how do we foster the unity of our church through 'common worship' (i.e. services we all use) while fostering the Christ-centred mission of our church through 'uncommon worship' (i.e. services which are shaped to fit different contexts)? Answers on a postcard ...