Let's keep thinking about the future of the church (at least Down Under) - a future which may or may not have a strong inclusion of things Anglican. This week I'll offer a few thoughts on some of the many insightful if not challenging comments made to last week's post which focused on Anglicanism itself. With a couple of other comments from further afield noted at the end.
(1) There must be converts to Christ in the future of the church. This is a point underlined in the comment below (and by the comment further below, at 3), which also raises the question of what we might do differently.
(My point) whatever we do today as church is different to what was happening in Cranmer's day. And that was different to what was happening in (say) Lydia's church in Philippi. What could or should tomorrow look like?
Back to the need for converts:
BW - May 31, 2022 at 4:45 AM: "A math point: when individual conversion has a network effect, it grows at a steadily increasing rate (eg the Roman Empire). Those accustomed to relying on weddings and baptisms as a church growth strategy miss the importance of the network effect and can inadvertently tolerate or foster an ethos hostile to it.When church shrink comes up, as it has off and on for thirty years, some hear this as a source problem ("we need a new gospel") and others as a distribution problem ("we need to try new ways of reaching people"). Those who want to fix the former are ignored by those who want to fix the latter, and vice versa. Those who want to fix both are ignored by everybody. Can we do better?
Clayton Christenson's Innovator's Dilemma was discovered in business, but may have some application here: to do what can thrive in the future, an organization must often pivot away from offerings that are still popular today toward others only beginning to build a following. Few Americans buy electric cars, but that is so clearly the wave of the future that automakers here up yonder no longer have engineers to design and test any new internal combustion engines. Like most organizations, churches seem unable to bear the strain of that sort of decision. Look, for example, at how hard it is for dioceses to close parishes."
(2) Are we going to win converts to a narrow form of Christianity (or a series of narrow forms of Christianities)? Yes, Jesus spoke about the narrow gate but he did unleash on the world a movement which came up with four versions of the gospel reports of Jesus, as well as Paul's take, James' take, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Book of Revelation. Can we affirm the following comment as we engage with the question of evangelism in the 21st century?
MM - May 31, 2022 at 5:50 PM: "The ocean of grace has many shores.Gosh, we spend a lot of time arguing which boats should enter which harbour."
Speaking of arguing about boats and harbours, I note across the Tasman that we have two further contribtions post-General Synod: first by Matthew Anstey and then a rejoinder by Mark Thompson. I cannot help but think that a comprehensive Anglicanism finds - should find - a way to draw on the best of what both offer!
(3) In reflecting on our life together as Anglicans, bound as we are by a liturgical tradition (even if held to very lightly here and there), we must reckon with what worship means for us, how we are to worship God both faithfully and fruitfully. In the comments to last week Bosco Peters offers an important observation re worship and the five marks of mission. Then there is this comment, reminding us that we can be experienced as something of a "mixed bag":
M - June 3, 2022 at 8:23 PM: "Why do Anglicans keep going to church? I have two faithful Anglican friends. One loves the weekly communion as a special connection with her Lord. The other loves joining in the sense of tradition and history through the liturgy though she has all sorts of theological questions. I go because I am strengthened in spirit by joining in worship regularly. However a young woman, an unchurched believer, strayed into a liturgical service and commented that it seemed as if she had come into the middle of a history book and hadn’t read the first half! Our church has both positives and negatives and will never be more than a small part of the universal Church, but nonetheless precious."
(4) If there is a question of a zeitgeist sweeping all before us, so the decline of the church seems to be beyond our control, then there is, as the comment below reminds us, a counter-question of what the gospel itself looks like when it is the zeitgeist. And another way of talking about "beyond our control" is to talk about "not thinking at the scale of the question posed."
How, indeed, do we nurture our dreamers and prophets?
Back to BW - June 6, 2022 at 3:36 AM : "Before + Peter moves on to the next topic, a final thought that should have been my initial thought: the gospel is spread at grand scale when it is generating cultural capital where it goes, and so, although we do need to know our scales and arpeggios to play, the music is improvised from some larger sense of what cultural capital God wants some people somewhere to have. Jesus himself models this in a way one can only call divine.From another perspective, Graham Kings was able to write about *missionary spirituality* because evangelism is cultural work that requires an alive spirit. It can be done disastrously when religion is pushed as a human work, but there is no higher vocation than to participate in the Spirit's inculturation of the gospel. The present impasse is not that the numbers are bad, but that churches are not nurturing sons who dream dreams and daughters who prophesy.
We are not thinking at the scale of the question posed."
(5) Speaking of Anglican decline, a very acerbic column by NZ's own Damien Grant, this Sunday past, of the Platinum Jubilee weekend, manages to sheet all sorts of worldly ills of decline at the Queen's feet AND spiritual decline as well. But is the Queen, a model Christian, really responsible? Methinks Damien is having some fun at her expense:
"Yet let us not forget that the role of Her Majesty is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England; she is the Defender of the Faith.
It escapes my limited comprehension why anyone would want to belong to a religion founded by a man who beheaded two of his wives, one merely a teenager at the time, and is one of the most morally repellent successors to King Alfred. Yet, that is a task that befalls the British Monarch and is yet another example of failure.
When she was anointed with consecrated oil, the Anglican Faith was a powerhouse of the Christian community. Now it is in terminal decline.
It is projected to collapse entirely in the United States and merely 3% of British youth consider themselves Anglican; at this rate the Druids are set to overtake Anglicism by the end of this century."
(6) Let's end this pot pouri on a much brighter note!
It is "Thy Kingdom Come" time in 2022 and on Twitter I noticed this lovely and inspiring thought by Archbishop Angaelos (Coptic Archbishop of London).
"‘Adoring God is something we are called to do. Not because He requires us… but because when you look at His attributes, His love, His sacrificial nature, you can do nothing but adore.’
Is there any future for the Anglican church here and everywhere which is not a future of praise and adoration?