Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Only Fittest Anglicans will Survive Cataclysm

Sydney is a truly great city. Last week we spent from Tuesday to Friday there, taking in many popular sites/sights and even more shops (of which there seemed to be no end). I found very little to dislike in Sydney. There were some annoying flies and one day the temperature hit 37 degrees (Celsius). But everything else was likable. Australia is the lucky country and Sydney is its star (cue outrage from commenters living in Melbourne ...). Sure, there is poverty and we saw signs of that through a few homeless beggars on the streets of the CBD. But everything else spoke of a prosperous country, attractive to a swarm of immigrants (it was difficult to ever actually hear an Australian accent) and deeply appealing through its natural gifts. Is there, for instance, a more beautiful setting for a city anywhere in the world than Sydney Harbour? (How lucky to have Botany Bay 'down the road' in which to direct cargo ships and piles of containers, keeping Sydney Harbour free for scenic views, expensive houses and flash launches!)

Thus in a context of material plenty I did a little bit of reflecting about the course of the gospel amidst its adherents called Anglicans. One thing that struck me from a very brief visit to St Andrew's Anglican Cathedral, replete with its emphasis on Bible studies and de-emphasis on communion (its table-altar was wheeled to the side of the building), was a thought about Anglican evolution.

Yes, I (and many others) are keen on a noble view of centrist or mainstream Anglicanism: Word and Sacrament, via media, moderateness rather than extremism, Communion mindedness, balance in everything. Such keenness would be perfectly satisfied with a much more monochrome Anglican Communion, theologically, liturgically and ritually.

But past Anglicanism has not spawned a present Anglicanism with family characteristics from previous generations clearly replicated in the now vast generation spread around the world. Rather, more like Darwin's account of evolution, a vast array of 'animals' now populates the 'Anglican Menagerie'. To be sure there are family resemblances, some more striking than others. But some differences are perhaps like the differences between tigers and leopards, or lions or the domestic cat: it is tempting to give the strikingly different members of the Anglican family different names!

My insight in the city of Sydney this past week about the Diocese of Sydney is that (to the extent that there is an identifiable 'Sydney Anglicanism') it should not be critiqued for its perceived shortcomings in the light of a noble view of mainstream Anglicanism. Instead it should be appreciated for what it is, an evolutionary development in Anglicanism. Ditto the strange (at times) life of my own church, ACANZP, and the various species around the world which look just a little bit odd from the noble perspective (including, these days, the C of E which looks a little bonkers for not being able to go faster towards women bishops than the Scots, Irish and Welsh)!

Thinking in this way, of course, we welcome GAFCON, and ACNA as evolutions in global Anglicanism. And, yes, just before someone hits the Comment button, TEC and its life today.

This is not to say that all Anglican animals are equal. Some have (so to speak) two legs and some have four legs. Whether we view two legged animals as better or worse than four legged animals will depend on other values. For those committed to what I have called a noble view of the Anglican mainstream, then all deviations from that stream might be viewed negatively. For those committed to the importance of local contexts shaping forms of Anglicanism then expression of Anglican mainstream might be viewed as implausible: surely, it could be said, a true grasp of the importance of context should shape local expressions of Anglicanism away from the mainstream. Further, there is always the possibility that any given evolution of Anglicanism has produced a beast which has little or no connection to orthodox Christianity (e.g. Spongism).

What might be important to consider about evolving Anglicanism is whether what has evolved is fit for survival in a changing environment. Such environments pose challenges for the life of the gospel and for the living church in those environments. Life adapts to change or dies! From this perspective it is too early to tell whether (say) the Diocese of Sydney has made the right decisions about the course it has pursued these past few decades as it has engaged with modern and post-modern, secular,materialistic Sydney. Similarly, despite some statistics pointing towards conclusions, it is likely too early to determine the success or failure of TEC as it has engaged with a changing USA or ACNA as it seeks to adapt Anglicanism differently to mutating North American societies.

Global Christianity is (arguably) facing a cataclysm of opposition. Here it may be a tide of unbelief threatening to sweep the faith before it. There it may be the direct, violent opposition of militant Islam. Nearly everywhere the idolatry of 21st century materialism draws Christians away from discipleship in gospel terms, following Jesus the possessionless Master.

Time will tell which forms of Christianity, let alone Anglican Christianity will survive. Let's be honest, no one form of Anglicanism is doing really, really well in the West. Sydney Diocese, arguably, has as good a case for predicting the survival of Anglicanism within its city as any Anglican church has in its city or region or country.

Only the fittest Anglicans will survive the cataclysm. That is, Anglicans which adapt best for the circumstances which now face them have a chance of surviving to be Anglican one hundred years from now. Those who do not attempt to adapt will suffer extinction.

One of the salutary ironies of Christian history is that some New Testament churches became extinct. Possessing an orthodox letter from Paul did not save them!


liturgy said...


The evolutionary model is an interesting one, Peter. But you will need to convince me that the USA, NZ, Aus niches are so significantly different. Would Sydney Anglicanism survive differently in Melbourne? And Melbourne Anglicanism survive differently in Sydney? Does Kiwi Anglicanism flourish better in Christchurch than Sydney Anglicanism? Would TEC fare significantly differently in Sydney, and Sydney Anglicanism fare significantly differently in USA?

Or can we look at the pros and cons of each iteration, understanding that the USA, NZ, Aus niche/context is not that different?



Dr Edward Prebble said...

Peter, I agree with you (and with Bosco) that this is a very interesting way of looking at the phenomena you discuss. you may very well be right.

I have a question to which I do not know the answer. You or maybe Bryden or others may know. I am interested in how well non-anglican evangelical churches, and for that matter, other non-anglican denominations are flourishing in Sydney. (The same question could apply to Nelson as well).

My own guess, but I have no evidence for this, is that Sydney Anglicanism has prospered in part by cornering a market among those who respond well to the sorts of emphases typical of evangelical Christians. If I am right, then it is likely that Baptists, Pentecostals and other Independent churches struggle a bit in Sydney, and that Presbyterians, Methodists and others do a bit better than they do say in most of NZ.

Do you know the answer to that? The only evidence I have is two anecdotes. When my uncle moved to Nelson in retirement 30 years ago, one of the factors that made him switch to the Roman Catholic Church was that he could not stand what was on offer in Nelson Anglican churches. And when Anglican friends of mine moved to Sydney, they quickly found themselves more at home in a Uniting Church.

If in fact the patterns among non-Anglican Christians in Sydney are no different from those in Melbourne or Auckland, then your case is stronger.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Yes, we can look at the pros and cons of each iteration. I think I am pleading for a sympathetic evaluation, allowing that what constitutes local Anglicanism here and there today is a result of choices made in the past about engaging with the local context.

It would be interesting to (say) transplant some TEC congregations into Sydney and some Sydney congregations into the States. (I am sketchy on the details but I think that effectively there is some Sydney Anglicanism in Melbourne).

Viewing (with some alarm) the craziness of Republican America at the moment, I am not quite as convinced as you seem to be that the USA context is not that different to the context of NZ and Aus. Ted Cruz makes Winston Peters look like a Churchillian political genius :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Edward
This is not an answer to your questions as such but I suggest answers re Sydney and Nelson would include the following observations:
(a) Sydney is home to the flourishing Hillsong church (the largest church in the Southern Hemisphere? Describable as 'Prosperity Pentecostalism'? Certainly catalyst for great worship songs enjoyed in many churches around the globe).
(b) Nelson is home to (by NZ standards) several large churches (technically Church of Christ, Baptist and Brethren; but the first has strong links to Hillsong, and the last eschews the term 'Brethren' because Nelson is also, wait for it, home to flourishing Exclusive Brethren churches, and the Open Brethren do not want to be confused with their Exclusive cousins).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not prepared to publish statements which are judgements on Christians and their character. I am prepared to publish the following.

""Further, there is always the possibility that any given evolution of Anglicanism has produced a beast which has little or no connection to orthodox Christianity (e.g. Spongism)." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Well, Peter, you might indict Bishop Spong on his doctrinal (in -sufficiency, but never on his love for humanity. [...]

I, too, was appalled by Sydney Cathedral's 'disposable' altar - as though The Word had never become flesh and dwelt in our midst!

Anonymous said...

Hi Edward,

I can offer a partial answer to your question. It is often overlooked that Sydney Anglicanism is not mainstream evangelical. Both it's theology and liturgical roots are in classical Puritanism. SA is distinctly unfriendly to Pentecostal and Charismatic forms of Christianity. The reception that John Wimber received from representatives of SA was hostile to say the least.

So I suspect Evangelical Charismatic and Pentecostal churches have not experienced any competition from SA. I know that Sydney has a thriving Vineyard movement from what I heard during my years in the Vineyard NZ.

Hi Peter,

I wonder what things look like if we apply your model to global Christianity as a whole.

I suspect we might find a large tribe of dinosaurs and only one animal fit for the times and the future, Pentecostalism. In less than a hundred years it has gone from a tiny curiosity to one of the largest, and by far and away, the fastest growing form of Christianity. In Latin America it is replacing Roman Catholicism at an astounding rate. It is exploding in Africa and Asia, and is one of the only forms of Christianity, possibly the only one, bucking the trend in the secular West. When even standard brand Evangelical churches struggle in the US, Pentecostal churches keep growing.

So I suspect the future does not bode well for many of the current Anglican wildlife, including Sydney Anglicans.

P.S. I am not remotely alarmed by US Republicanism. It seems far saver than the weak tea of the NZ Right.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter. Really! Was not your comment about Bishop John Spong the very thing you have cautioned to refrain from - with regard to the ex-Archbishop of Sydney - "A slight on his character" - But then, you are the owner of the blog, I suppose. However, it would be good to have one rule for all - including the administrator!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
You could well be right about Pentecostalism. I like your image of the dinosaurs ...!

My alarm about the crazy Republicans is their seeming willingness to throw the whole world economy under the bus of American internal politics.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I mentioned 'Spongism', not John Spong!

It is okay here on the blog to express an opinion about the content of a theology or set of theologies or an -ism, and in the particular content of the unravelling of the Anglican Communion to evaluate whether such content is orthodox or not.

What I am trying to stamp out is comment on commenters, judgments of a general kind on other people which is not related to specific things said or written by them and able to be referenced to them.

If I ever write here, "Some US Republicans are crazy" by all means refer to me as antagonistic to some US Republicans. But if I am generally liberal and social democratic in my opinions expressed here then it is not fair comment to (e.g.) say that I am unloving towards Republicans and Tories.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

The world gas already been run over by the bus, and the bus is backing up to have another go.

The status quo is no longer acceptable.

John Sandeman said...

Comparing Sydney to Melbourne:
1) It's worth noting that 80,000 Anglicans go to church each Sunday in Sydney, 20,000 in Melbourne.
2) as Peter points out Sydney is home to Hillsong, but also the lively C3 Pentecostal movement.
3) Presbyterians are doing well in Sydney. (But unlike NZ they are a conservative group).
4) Anglican , Uniting, Baptist, are further "left" in Melbourne.
Rather than displacing the conservatives out of other denominations, Sydney Anglicans may have encouraged conservative movements within the other denominations. This is definately the case with the Baptists. "Sydney Anglicans skew the city to the right" is how some of my more liberal friends would put it.

Anonymous said...

John Sandeman's numbers confirm what is happening globally across all denominations. Pentecostal churches are thriving, as are conservative evangelical churches, and conservative movements within mainline Protestant denominations are growing, while liberal-left churches are declining (individual exceptions not withstanding).

The experiment of liberal theology and churches has failed. Such churches do not speak to the real needs of people in this age, because they have surrendered to the spirit of the age, rather than offering a real alternative.

Anonymous said...

Edward Prebble writes: "When my uncle moved to Nelson in retirement 30 years ago, one of the factors that made him switch to the Roman Catholic Church was that he could not stand what was on offer in Nelson Anglican churches."
I can't speak for your uncle, but if he was Anglo-Catholic by persuasion, joining the RCC wouldn't have been too difficult, especially since NZ Anglicanism was then (and still is) taking a liberal direction). I've yet to hear of a liberal Protestant becoming a Roman Catholic, but I suppose it can happen.
As for Sydney, IIRC it has about 20% of Australia's population but about one-third of Anglican churchgoers, so it seems to be currently outperforming the rest of Oz Anglicanism. The powerhouse for this continues to Moore College, which also trains leaders for other denominations. The challenge for Australian Anglicans is to break out of cultural Englishness and reach the increasingly ethnically and culturally diverse mix of new Australians, especially Asians receptive to the Gospel. The most clued-up, missionary-minded Anglicans are on to this.

Father Ron Smith said...

The very word 'cataclysm' speaks to me of 'End Times' - the parousia without any vestige of hope. This is not how I, personally, see the future of our Anglican Family of Churches.

Yes, there will be those dogmatists disappointed with its trajectory on their patch who will move out. But perhaps that is their particular destiny, with no direct connection to what is going on for the rest of us. We are all in God's hands - unless WE decide otherwise.

That may be where 'cataclysm' lies. It's really up to us. If we are looking for 'cataclysm, it may just happen. It does, though, sound rather like the Monty Python theme: "Always look on the bright side of life". We conjure our own darkness. Not much Gospel there!

Fr. Dave Halt said...

I have to chuckle every time I hear the "love of humanity" line, as I am always reminded of the quote from The Brothers Karamazov , "The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular."

To say that, because someone loves humanity, we can not debate, dismiss, or criticize their theology is a non-sequiter.

I have no doubt that Arius loved humanity. I have no doubt that Pelagius loved humanity. Name any of the great heretics, and I am sure you will find someone who loved humanity. At least in their minds.

Love for humanity does not excuse one, or us, from theological errors or outright heresy. To call someone out on errors, or heresy, is not to say they do not love humanity, or are evil, it is to note that in such a case they are wrong.

Although, if one truly does love humanity, and even particular humans, I would expect that teaching a correct understanding of God in Christ would be proof of that love.

But I could be wrong, besides in my own life I have often found the ending of the above quote true, "But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity."

Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Anonymous said...

Good post Dave.

I would argue that it's actually not possible to "love humanity." Human live is concrete and particular. We are made to love personally, but "humanity" is a generalization. God of course loves humanity, but only because He can love each human personally. We are not God, thus we can only love those we are in personal contact with. This does not mean we can only love those we know well. We can love, by behaving in loving ways, a complete stranger we may meet for only a few minutes, because there is person to person contact. Love is always personal, it cannot be abstract, it is always I-Thou, not I-Them. So the claim to love humanity is meaningless.

Father Ron Smith said...

Despite the above derisive comment on 'loving humanity' as a sign of being 'en Christo' - One can hardly forget the words of Jesus:

"They'll know you're my disciples by your love". (not yr judgement!)

That doesn't prevent one being 'a sinner' needing redemption. We are all in the same boat - even Pope Francis acknowledges himself to have that in common with all of us! not just Bishop John Spong!

Bryden Black said...

The most clued-up, missionary-minded Anglicans are on to this - Martin.

One of the real tragedies of the Australian Church is the untimely death of Abp David Penman of Melbourne in 1989. He understood well the significance of Martin's comments re serious cross-cultural mission and notably the founding of ethnic congregations among a broad Anglican fold. Sadly, that vision and the allocation of resources towards it died pretty well with him (even if it has resurrected here and there).

Anonymous said...

I was not being derisive, merely pointing out that "loving humanity" is not the get out of jail free card for heresy (my tendencies included). In fact, it is a false category, as Shawn has pointed out, and as I believe Dostoevsky meant in the original.

Now as to the veiled derisive comment "(not yr judgment!)" you are absolutely correct, it is not my judgement. It is the Church's judgment, as provided by Christ himself to Peter after the latter's confession.

If that is not acceptable, in your judgment, then I will accept that the judgement is God's. So, I will never judge the state of someone's soul, but I can make a moral judgement on behaviors, and yes, teachings (in this case not moral issues, but creedal ones) that are not in line with the "faith once delivered".

So, you criticized our host for criticizing Spong as a person, which he did not do, yet declare in righteous indignation that my comment was derisive and an exercise in judgement. Where, then, is the difference between I and Thou in your reasoning? I do not mean this as an attack, it is a question seeking an answer. If I am judgmental in offering reproof, how are you excused from the charge in offering the same? Is your motive different than mine, are you more ritually pure because of your theological position than I am because of mine? Are you offering reproof to me in Christian charity?

I,too, believe that reproof is a Christian value, and that it needs to be offered lovingly, and is a sign of love. If a brother, or sister, is in error, it does not do them any good to allow them to continue in their error. (And, if Jesus is to be taken seriously regarding millstones, it does not do those of us charged with cure of souls any good either!) Even if we are making no judgement as to the state of their soul, I am convinced it is better to see them living in the fullness of the revealed Truth (Christ himself).

Of course, this is the classic dilemma is it not, which is the more loving, and who is the more loving? But that debate will continue to rage, I suppose.

Then again, if my salvation is dependent on my loving, or any of our loving, we may all be in a world of hurt. Thanks be to God, that Jesus died for the unloving and unlovable.

Fr. Dave Halt said...

My previous may have been published under my daughter's account, please excuse.

Anonymous said...

Then stop judging us Ron.

"Loving humanity" is not a sign of being in Christ. It is not a sign of anything, as it is not possible to love "humanity." It is only possible to love real human beings.

Jesus told us to love real human beings, not abstract generalizations, and we can only do that personally.

Anonymous said...

David Penman was one of NZ's good gifts to Oz. I know that the Archdiocese of Sydney has promoted gospel outreach to Asians (with a Chinese bishop and an Asian congregation that meets in the Cathedral) and it was gratifying to read recently of a new Asian congregation in suburban Adelaide. Anglicanism is certainly capable of doing it!

Kurt said...

If the American Episcopal Church were to set up in Sydney, folks would likely find that these parishes would have similar characteristics to what is presently found at St. James King Street. The theology and liturgy of St. James seems to me to be typical of the “average” TEC large city parish church.

Despite Shawn’s more favorable assessment, if Pentecostalism is the “wave of the future,” then truly, I think the future of Christianity is stark indeed. Serious consideration of Christianity as a way of life among educated people would undoubtedly plummet. Indeed, it seems that fundamentalist denominations of all kinds—Christian, Hindu, Moslem, etc.—are all on the rise among the educationally deprived and economically exploited classes worldwide. Disturbing and destabilizing trends that do not portend well for the future of the human race.

Kurt Hill
Enjoying the fall foliage
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not going to publish comments about Pentecostalism which take a rather large brush and a lick of superficial tar and attempt to paint it all with one brush stroke of description.

Anonymous said...

A Scriptural response to Kurt.

"I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes Father, for such was your gracious will.". --- Matthew 11.25-26. ESV

"Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?". --- 1 Corinthians 1:20

""The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.". --- 1 Corinthians 2:14

Anonymous said...

Jesu our Lord and our King, Ancient of Days and bringer of signs and wonders, have mercy on the wise of the world. You have given us authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Bring the wisdom of this age to nought, and let the foolishness of the Gospel reign to the ends of the Earth. Amen.

Father Ron Smith said...

"You have given us authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over the power of the enemy" - Shawn -

Some American sects have taken this scriptural verse literally, for their own purposes, using it as a test for authentic belief. A very dangerous and foolish practice, in my opinion, with sometimes deadly results.

Likewise, in my own experience, in New Zealand, some sects still use 'Tongues-Speaking' as a test of belief. Again a very dubious and, in this instance, un-scriptural practice. (see 1 Cor. 12:29,30)

Anonymous said...

Actually Ron, the "sects" you speak of do not use snake handling as a test of faith, but as a sign of Christ's victory over death. Nor is it taught in those churches that people will not die if bitten. They understand that's a possibilty, but proceed anyway as a sign that they do not fear death. While the practice is not my cup of tea, the theology of it, Christ victory over the serpent and death, is perfectly Biblical.

While I do not agree with some Pentecostals that tongues is a necessary sign of election, it is a Biblical practice, and one that I believe is very important for Christian spirituality.

John Wimber was right. If we are to truly follow in the steps of Jesus we should be doing the works that Jesus did, miracles included. The power of the Holy Spirit must be more than just liturgical lip service.

Anonymous said...

It pays not to box Pentecostals. From a quick web search, I found that the senior pastor of the Elim Christian Centre in Dunedin has two Master's degrees in theology from St Andrews and handed in his PhD thesis in May 2013. He is an adjunct lecturer at Otago. I'd go and listen to him any Sunday.


Kurt said...

“Some American sects have taken this scriptural verse literally, for their own purposes, using it as a test for authentic belief. A very dangerous and foolish practice, in my opinion, with sometimes deadly results.”—Fr. Ron

Yes, indeed, Father Ron! In West Virginia in 2012 the Pentecostal preacher and snake handler Mack Wolford was killed from a rattlesnake bite he had received while performing an outdoor revival service. Apparently this foolishness runs in families, since his father was killed by a rattler under similar circumstances in 1983!

Snakes also performed a prominent part in pagan mythologies and religious ceremonies long before the Judeo-Christian story of the Garden of Eden. The snake has often been regarded as a fertility symbol.

In fact, the famous American, comedian Robin Williams, who is an Episcopalian, lists this feature in his Top Ten Reasons on Being an Episcopalian:

10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry - none of the guilt.
2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:

1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting discussion to give a bit of historical perspective to our thinking:


The Revd. Martin, Vicar of Bray

Anonymous said...

OK, it's too good to keep to myself, if you haven't come across this unsurpassed paean to Anglican Comprehensiveness:

In good King Charles's golden days,
When Loyalty no harm meant;
A Zealous High-Church man I was,
And so I gain'd Preferment.
Unto my Flock I daily Preach'd,
Kings are by God appointed,
And Damn'd are those who dare resist,
Or touch the Lord's Anointed.
And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

When Royal James possest the crown,
And popery grew in fashion;
The Penal Law I shouted down,
And read the Declaration:
The Church of Rome I found would fit
Full well my Constitution,
And I had been a Jesuit,
But for the Revolution.
And this is Law, &c.

When William our Deliverer came,
To heal the Nation's Grievance,
I turn'd the Cat in Pan again,
And swore to him Allegiance:
Old Principles I did revoke,
Set conscience at a distance,
Passive Obedience is a Joke,
A Jest is non-resistance.
And this is Law, &c.

When Royal Anne became our Queen,
Then Church of England's Glory,
Another face of things was seen,
And I became a Tory:
Occasional Conformists base
I Damn'd, and Moderation,
And thought the Church in danger was,
From such Prevarication.
And this is Law, &c.

When George in Pudding time came o'er,
And Moderate Men looked big, Sir,
My Principles I chang'd once more,
And so became a Whig, Sir.
And thus Preferment I procur'd,
From our Faith's great Defender
And almost every day abjur'd
The Pope, and the Pretender.
And this is Law, &c.

The Illustrious House of Hanover,
And Protestant succession,
To these I lustily will swear,
Whilst they can keep possession:
For in my Faith, and Loyalty,
I never once will faulter,
But George, my lawful king shall be,
Except the Times shou'd alter.
And this is Law, &c.

Martin Erastian

John Sandemam said...

Can I correct a figure? Having refreshed my memory of attendence figures by looking at some official figures, the Sydney Anglican attendeance should be 60,000 not 80,000.

Anonymous said...

Episcopalians, for whom pride is not a sin, have always believed in their intellectual superiority over lesser breeds. Perhaps this was a consequence of being the cream of American society: rich and thick. On the educational standards of the clergy, my impressions agree with Shawn's. Many of the Baptist and new charismatic church leaders I know appear to have a deeper theological grounding than their Anglican counterparts, a growing number of whom are from the 'mum's army' running small churches. Certainly there is much greater biblical knowledge among more conservative church leaders and the willingness to undertake the hard slog of learning Hebrew and Greek. Most Anglican clergy I know (a great number) know only a smattering of Greek and no Hebrew. I cannot say the same for neo-Pentecostal church leaders.


Anonymous said...

The things of the Spirit are foolishness to the natural man.

As I stated above the practice of the lifting up of snakes in the Church of God with Signs Following is not predicated on the belief that God will protect believers from being bitten, or dying if they are bitten, but that the practice is a defiance of the power and fear of death/Satan, a sacramental affirmation of Christ's victory over death.

This is foolishness to the modern person, because to be enslaved to modernity is to be enslaved to the fear of death. At it's core, modernity, and Liberal Christianity, which is really just the spirit of modernity in theological clothes, rejects the pre-modern worldview that the spiritual world and this world are profoundly and deeply intertwined, and effect each other. This is why Don Cuppit, Loyd Geering and John Spong have effectively reduced God to a mere metaphor for "being" and the Kingdom of God to a metaphor for a global socialist State.

To those seeking refuge from and an alternative to the sterility, shallowness and despair of modernity, in short, those seeking deep spirituality, this form of theological modernism is profoundly unattractive. That is why Liberal Christianity in general has failed to grow churches, plant churches, and expand. Yes there are individual exceptions, but overall the numbers are clear, Liberalism, modernity in theological clothes, always means catastrophic demographic decline for Christian denominations.

Finally, the Church of God with Signs Following is a very small movement that exists almost exclusively in the Appalachians. It is not remotely indicative of global Pentecostalism. If the intent of bringing it up was to disparage Pentecostalism in general, it's a very poor attempt.

And finally finally, there is no such thing as "fundamentalism". This is just a mythical bogeyman used by some Liberals to scare themselves and others. And even if we refer to the movement that grew up around the tract 'The Fundamentals' then neither post-war Evangelicalism nor Pentecostalism are "fundamentalist".

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be deliberately provocative, Peter, if you will let me, but I want to make a point and prevoke a response. On the web, I can find Anglican evangelicals, pentecostals and (from my own tradition Catholics)who have degrees from the world's smartest universities. Where do the liberals go?


Peter Carrell said...

It is silly, Nick and others, to start evaluating churches or 'wings' within churches on the basis of how many degreed officials each has.

Peter Carrell said...

I will only take further comments on this thread that have something positive to say about any church, practice or theology.

Anonymous said...

May I add, then, as someone who has spent longer in education than was good for him, that traditional academic qualifications in themselves give little indication of pastors' ability in teaching, preaching, counselling or church planting, or of their personal spiritual lives. Many German clergy have spent the best part of a decade in higher education, which has made them quite useless for anything in a post-Christian continent. I have much more confidence in the kind of hands-on or apprenticeship-type training that the more effective churches are practising, combining study, prayer and ongoing practice of the work of ministry. The liveliest churches I know - both Anglican and new charismatic - are doing this, and they are producing a good crop of young people with skills for ministry. It must also be stressed that if you want churches to grow, priority must be given to preaching, teaching, worship-leading and faith-sharing, not to psychology and counselling, as in the therapeutic-pastoral model that has dominated too much of the oldline denominations.


Kurt said...

"I have much more confidence in the kind of hands-on or apprenticeship-type training that the more effective churches are practising, combining study, prayer and ongoing practice of the work of ministry."--Martin

I agree, Martin, this is probably the best way to do it. That's one reason why my alma mater had (and still has, I believe) the "Winter Field Period" between semesters.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY