Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stool for survival or foundation for flourishing?

In a week when some are reflecting on the average regular weekly attendance for the C of E heading for the 800K mark, questions about the future of Anglicanism in the West are underlined. Survival or flourishing? Decline or turning point?

Convictional Anglican draws our attention to a lecture by +Paul Barnett, delivered in Australia, in which +Paul as an evangelical makes a point re fellow Anglican evangelicals and the direction some are heading in. Its title is Remember to Survive. The key to the survival of Judaism has been its remembering its past through present continuation of ritual. The future survival of Anglicanism (at least in its 'classical' expression is remembering and to this end +Paul reminds his audience of the virtues of the three legged stool of BCP, Ordinal and 39A.

Convictional Anglican is worth reading and I won't repeat the post here. But from the lecture PDF itself I offer this:

"1662 gave us a three-legged stool – the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 articles of
The BCP was the public face of Christianity with liturgies for Sunday and liturgies for
the ‘occasions’ of life – birth, marriage, death.

The Ordinal set out the beliefs and practices to be followed by Bishops, Priests and

The 39 Articles of Religion specified the doctrines of the church.

The BCP: three Realities

First: The BCP expresses a faith that is ‘catholic’.
The word means ‘whole’ or ‘complete’.

It means a ‘complete’ account of Christian truth, based on the canonical scriptures. In
the early centuries ‘catholic’ defined those committed to the great creeds – belief
about the incarnation of the Son of God, his bodily resurrection and his revelation of
the Divine Trinity.

In contrast to the ‘catholic’ were those who were deemed ‘heretic’ or schismatic’.

The BCP expresses ‘catholic’ Christianity as defined by the Ecumenical Creeds of the
early centuries.

Second: The BCP expresses a faith that is ‘reformed’.
The medieval church departed from the NT in important matters.
•Jesus commanded 2 sacraments – baptism and the Lord’s Supper – the Roman
church introduced 5 others.

•The gospel teaches that sinners are saved by grace; the medieval church taught that
sinners were saved by religious works.

•Jesus taught that divine authority is found in the Bible; the medieval church taught
that authority was located in the Pope.

In response Cranmer provided for extensive church reading of the Old Testament,
New Testament and the Psalms.

Reading of the Bible is the central part of the services of the BCP.
Following the reading of the Bible comes the creed.
We the people make our response to God’s Word in the Bible by saying, ‘I or We
believe...’ .

Cranmer made the Bible central in BCP services.

Cranmer was influenced by the teaching of the Apostle Paul in chapter 14 of First
Corinthians: ‘If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual man let him acknowledge  8
that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord’ (v. 27). The written
word is authoritative over what others speak.

Also based on 1 Cor. 14 Cranmer insisted that Church services must be intelligible to
the mind. Without the engagement of the mind there is no edification.

Furthermore, Cranmer understood well that Church services need to be orderly for the
sake of edification.

Third: The BCP expresses a faith that is defended liturgically
Liturgy is not for aesthetics but employed to defend truth.
•By confession of sins acknowledging the need for forgiveness.
•By sustained reading of the Bible followed by the Creeds.
•By using a church calendar for the great festivals and their doctrines:
 -Incarnation at Christmas and the atonement and hope at Easter.
 -The call to repentance in Lent.
 -The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
 -The Ascension of the Lord on Ascension Day.
 -The reality of the Trinity on Trinity Sunday.
 -The Second Coming at Advent.

Each needs to be emphasized throughout the year.
But the Calendar gives opportunity to highlight these.
The calendar provides ministers opportunity to preach doctrinally.
The ‘collects’ are prayers that ‘collect’ great doctrines of the faith."

+Paul makes some points I myself would want to make to fellow Kiwi Anglican evangelicals: the liturgical shape of Anglican life provides great structure for our patterns of worship and content for what we say in worship than our regular practice in some places suggests.

Yet I wonder if this lecture takes us as far as we need to go at this present time?

It is a good thing to survive and if survival is our only option, +Paul has thrown us a lifebelt. But is there not also a question of flourishing?* Are we doomed as Anglicans in the West to decline and decline and ... death?

Is there a future in which we turn around from decline and begin to grow again?

If so, how helpful is the three legged stool going to be?

I wonder if we need a four legged chair. Is a lot of our talk these days about finding and settling on what the fourth leg should be?

NOTE re 'flourishing': a commenter below rightly asks what I mean by 'flourishing'.

Here are possibilities, any one of which would be a good thing, all of which would be best.

1. numbers recorded (e.g. attendance, baptisms, weddings, funerals, confirmations, ordinations, census allegiance) trend upwards rather than downwards.

2. individual ministry units have signs of regeneration (e.g. a balance of generations participating in church life (compared with many congregations in which 80% regular attenders are aged over 60 or even 70) and/or new 'fresh expressions' of church life are being planted among the missing generations.

3. From within flourishing congregations people are called to leadership in mission (church planters, priests, missionaries, youth workers, etc).

4. New Christians join congregations, new disciples are made in response to proclamation of the gospel.


Anonymous said...

Peter, I have given up commenting for Lent and probably for much longer, taking a leaf from Shawn's book. Feeling as I fancy Jeremiah did in 587 BC, I have grown tired of the wrangles and ad hominems, and no doubt those of a different persuasion feel the same about me.
I don't know if there will be a Return of Martin (a la) Guerre, but I cannot bid goodbye without paying tribute courtesy of your site to Wallace Marriott. Wal was a wise pastor and a good friend to me and a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, and I will always be grateful for the Christian life and leadership he modelled.

Ave atque vale,
Martinus Tacitus

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin,
I hope you do return but respect your decision whatever it finally becomes.

Thank you for paying tribute to Wal Marriott - who recently died here in Christchurch - indeed a wise pastor and a good friend to many and a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.

Mark said...

Hi Peter. As I've said in previous posts I'm not Anglican so you can tell me to keep out of the conversation as its none of my business. I'm challenging my own thinking at the moment about how churches function hence my interest in how the Anglican church does things.

I have two questions regarding this blog:
1) What does a flourishing church look like? What constitutes a flourishing church?
I haven't provided an answer to that in this post but you may be able to outline what you mean Peter.

2) Are the 3 legs of the "Anglican Stool" the right legs for the Anglican church or any other church to grow and flourish?

In my opinion there are 2 things that both individual believers and churches must have to function as they should - God's Word & prayer.

God's Word is His Word to us. Prayer is our "word" to Him.
And that's called a relationship.

Without the relationship we have with God nothing a church does will make it flourish. I guess the Anglican BCP and 39 articles are the tools the Anglican church uses to teach God's Word to it's members and to respond to God in prayer.

Which leaves the 3rd leg (not much of a stool with only 2 legs!!) and that's what the church does in response to the other 2 legs. Or simply put, how the church operates. In Anglican terms the Ordinal.

My answer to the question is that I have to say Yes - the Anglican church has the right "stool legs" to some degree at least. However, IF the church is declining then you have to ask yourself whether there are aspects of the 3 legs that need to change or strenghtening.

God's Word never changes but how you present the truth of God's Word can. Is the way the Anglican church presents and explains the truth of God's Word effective?

Both individual believers and churches can pray at any time, in any place to the same God. Does the way the Anglican church pray make it or provide opportunity for a personal relationship between the individual and God?

Churches can be and are run in many different ways. That's not to say any of them are right or wrong, just that the different ways appeal to different people. Does the way the Anglican church run it's services display the personal relationship between man and God? Does what the church do outside of services reflect what is taught and done during services?

You can apply these questions to any church but the real answers will only come out if people are genuinely honest in their answers.

That's my 2 cents worth. Apologies again for hijacking an Anglican blog!!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark
Good thoughts all. Thank you.
I will add a note to the post itself re flourishing.
Don't apologise for being a non-Anglican commenting here.

Joshua Bovis said...


Ahh, this explains all the hits I am receiving from across the ditch!

I actually stumbled upon this lecture by accident. I was reading through The Melbourne Anglican archives and found the article then went to the lecture. The article I very much resonated with. I remember in 1998 visiting a church in the Upper Blue Mountains and thinking the church was 'High Church'. It wasn't. It was a normal Anglican communion service from the Prayer Book.

+Barnett observes something that I have thought for a long time. My take is that Evangelicalism transcends denominations, however it does not nullify the characteristics that distinguish one denomination from another. Sadly it seems that much of Evangelical churches are what I would deem 'Generic Evangelical services' - one can go to a Baptist Church, a Presbyterian Church or an Anglican Church and find them to be pretty much the same in terms of the forms. I think this is a sad thing. Anglicanism has so much to offer. Why throw out the crown jewels (prayer book, liturgy, etc)?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua
The invoice for your increased traffic is in the post!

Generic Evangelical: the denomination with no name :)

Joshua Bovis said...

That is ok, the NZ dollar is not that much here anyway!

Bryden Black said...

Hi Josh: just heading for parity!

Joshua Bovis said...

Hi Bryden,

Ah yes I know! Hey don't hear me complaining. I am one of those Scaussies (half Aussie half Scot) who loves NZ. I cannot help myself.
NZ - A Microcosm of the world
NZ - It is Middle Earth!!! (LOTR fan here)
NZ - If the surf is rubbish due to onshore winds, just a wee drive to the other side and the surf is great due to off shore winds.

Janice said...

Well, it would help if those in key leadership positions (primates, bishops, etc.) actually believe what they're supposed to believe. We're getting a new bishop some time or other. I guess I'll hang around till then, and a bit longer, before I decide whether there's any reason, any longer, to have confidence in the administration of the Anglican church here and elsewhere.

MichaelA said...

"If so, how helpful is the three legged stool going to be? I wonder if we need a four legged chair. Is a lot of our talk these days about finding and settling on what the fourth leg should be?"

I don't know why you are setting your sights so low, Peter. A five legged chair, for the Gospels and Acts. Or a seven-legged chair, for the seven deadly sins.

Let's learn from the Roman Catholic Church:

"Reg: I don't know. Mr Wentworth just told me to come in here and say that there was trouble at the mill, that's all - I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

[Jarring chord. The door flies open and Cardinal Ximinez of Spain enters, flanked by two junior cardinals. Cardinal Biggles has goggles pushed over his forehead. Cardinal Fang is just Cardinal Fang.]

Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise ...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... our TWO weapons are fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency.... Our THREE weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our FOUR...no... AMONGST our weapons.... amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again. (exit and exeunt)"

Peter Carrell said...

Apparently, Michael, low sights are useful for picking low hanging fruit :)