Saturday, June 16, 2012

Commitment - Integrity - Evangelism

Just over a week ago I spoke at the end of Synod dinner for the Anglican Catholic Church's Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic States at the invitation of Bishop Lerow, their Episcopal Visitor.  The address was not recorded, neither was I speaking from notes, but this blog post is an attempt to reproduce something of that talk.

As some of you will know, I am something of a railway enthusiast, and in particular for Irish Narrow Gauge railways.  These were latterly owned by the Irish National Transport company C.I.E..  Don't worry, I am not going to talk to you about railways, but about a different C-I-E, one that the church needs to follow in order to grow.  The CIE of this talk is


because without these qualities a church has little chance of sustaining itself, let alone growing.

The first aspect I want to look at is Commitment.

The first quality one should look for in a church is commitment.  Not commitment to the denomination, a particular worship style, or program, but to Christ.  In order to grow a Church must be Christ centered, and the reason for the decline of so many mainline denominations in the USA has been their failure to retain a clear and unequivocable commitment to Christ. Jesus tells His disciples that he is "the way, the truth and the life" and we, as baptized Christian need to live as though we believe that to be utterly true.  Our salvation comes not through performing works of the Law, or propitiating an angry deity but from faith in Christ.  Therefore Christ has to be at the center of our lives, at the heart of everything that we do, both as a Church and as individuals.

The faith to which are committed as Anglicans is revealed in the Scriptures - both Old and New Testament - taught by the ancient Fathers, and defined by the seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church.  That faith ultimately is nothing less than God's revelation of Himself to humanity.  However, these ancient Fathers and Councils are not independent authorities to Scripture, but expositors of God's Holy Word.  We now live some two thousand years after Christ, and we are far removed from the original cultural context of the Gospel. Yet what His Word tells us is what we need to teach, what we need to live by, and what we need to pass on to the next generation.

This desire to learn, live and pass on the faith should be at the center of our lives as Christians, because whatever denominational label we carry, we need to first and foremost carry the name of Christian.  We are born again of water and the Holy Ghost in baptism, and that effects a change in the character of our souls; and we have, as it were the mark of Christ upon us.  In confirmation we affirm that commitment that was made in our name at our baptism - we renounce the Devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the word, profess our faith, and commit ourselves to be soldiers and servants of Christ, and, through His grace alone, to work against sin, and for the Kingdom of God.  We are strengthened for that task through the Scriptures, the Sacraments, Prayer, and Good Works; and we should keep our eyes fixed upon Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

As Anglicans we also need to pursue the integrity of our tradition.

There was a time back in the eighteenth century when the Anglican clergy were the stupor mundi - the wonder of the world for their learning.  Berkeley gets its name from the great eighteenth century Anglo-Irish philosopher-bishop, George Berkeley of Cloyne, whose form of Positivism was very influential in Anglican circles in the mid-1700s.  I very much doubt he would approve of the philosophy taught in his name sake city today, and that bankruptcy of our academic tradition is something that has negatively affected the Anglican Church in this country!   John Kaye, who was Bishop of Lincoln in the 1820s and 30s got his bishopric in part for producing the standard English translation and a critical edition of the works of St Justin Martyr.  This seems to me a far better reason for being made a bishop than being able to tick all the right PC boxes, which seems to be what gets you to the top in so many denominations today.

What I am trying to say is that the integrity of the Anglican tradition lies upon good scholarship.  Back in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries scholars honestly endeavored to discover the traditions of the Early Church in belief and Worship.  The Anglican Reformation, although influenced by Luther, Melancthon, Bucer, Calvin, and others, always looked beyond the contemporary reform movements back to the Early Church, the Church of the first seven centuries.  This influenced its liturgy and organisation, as well as helping to drive the scholarly tradition that was so much part of the old Anglicanism.

We also have to be aware that after 450 years our church has a tradition and an integrity of its own.  I find too many Anglicans are a bit too self-conscious about their Anglicanism and look over their shoulders at what the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, or the "Methobapticostals" are up to.  This seems to me foolishness - especially in view of what I have said about the Church needing to look unto Christ as the author and finisher of the Faith.  Anglicans are Catholic without being Roman; Reformed without being Puritan; and Evangelical without falling for the semi-Pelagianism of Revivalism.  Our safe place, our identity very largely derives from a doctrinal commitment to the faith of the Church as revealed by Christ and explained by the Ancient Fathers and Councils, and the 'worshiping form'  given to that theological commitment by the Book of Common Prayer.

There is a major need today, especially when so many new Anglicans, and even new Anglican priests have come from other traditions to educate them thoroughly.  Every diocese and ever parish needs to have programs of education not just for those entering Holy Orders, but also for lay readers and for the laity themselves.  In order to propagate the Gospel, we need, as a church, an active and educated laity.

This talk of Education brings me to my 'E' - Evangelism.

Anglicans, like some Presbyterians, have a reputation for being God's frozen chosen.  Evangelism is usually something that Anglicans know they should be doing, and have a guilty conscience about, but when it comes to doing anything - zip, nada, nothing!  Well, perhaps an advertisement in the paper on Christmas and Easter.  The was a time when we got away with this quite well - brand name and the fact that we were decent and none too demanding carried us along nicely, as evidenced by the year on year growth of the 1920s, 30s 40s, and 50s.  The old Episcopal Church peaked in 1963 with a membership of 3.4 million.  Since then, there has been considerable shrinkage.  I believe the current number is somewhere around 2.6 million and falling, and of those about 850,000 gets themselves through the door with reasonable regularity on a Sunday.  The fact of the matter is that no-one has to go to Church anymore - Walmart is open!  A large element in the media, and in political life look down on those with a traditional Christian faith as being narrow, bigoted, and backwards.  There are very, very few positive images of Christians on TV, and the cultural Left in this country seems to be engaged in a Kulturkampf against the Church.  Yet despite all this preaching from the TV of a new humanity, which does not need the old moral restraints, man's basic problems of how to be at peace with God and with himself still remain.  The moral battleground today is marriage, which the secular progressive wish to reinterpret away from its tradition ends of the procreation of children, the avoidance of sin, and the mutual help and society of a man and a woman such as is laid down in Scripture beginning with Genesis into some sort of a free for all based on the concept that only erotic love is important.  I am taking bets on whether it will be a Unitarian or an Episcopalian minister that performs the first human-animal marriage.  What is evident is that most of the mainstream church's have ducked out of maintaining traditional doctrine, tradition morality, and evangelism, and in many respects have co-opted themselves as handmaids of the new Paganism.

If I were to ask you which is the largest province of the Anglican Communion I am sure that many of you would answer England.  Up until a few years ago that would have been correct.  With 26,000,000 baptized (most of whom never darken the doors) the Church of England was the biggest Church in the Anglican Communion.  However, they have been surpassed - can anyone tell me who by?

(voice off - Nigeria)

That's right - Nigeria.  The last time I checked there were 26.4 million Nigerian Anglicans, against 25.8 million English, and what is more to the point most of those Nigerian Anglicans are in church on a Sunday, not down the English version of Lowe's or Home Depot.   Why is the Church in Nigeria - or for that matter Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, or Rwanda - so successful?  They have the commitment to Christ, and the Integrity that I spoke of earlier.  And besides this they Evangelize.  American Episcopalians and Anglicans have a bad habit of saying that evangelism is the clergy's function - but it is not.  IT IS EVERY CHRISTIAN'S RESPONSIBILITY.  Every member of the Church needs to be an Evangelist.  Everyone of us has to have that commitment, that desire to bring folks into the Church.  That way our churches will grow and more importantly more people will be committed to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

One thing we need to realize is that the mission field is no longer Africa, India, Korea, but here.  The mission field starts two inches outside of that door.  American Christianity is widespread right now, but it is not very deep; hence the success of the non-denominational mega-church with its feel good worship and soundbite preaching.  American Evangelical Christianity is ripe for a collapse, and who will succeed it - Islam?  Socialism - that great secular religion? Or will the old churches come back again?

The whole church needs to commit to outreach and Evangelism in the new American Mission field.  The best news of all though is that it does not involve you preaching on street corners, or dishing out tracts, or knocking on the doors of strangers.  We simply need to take to heart something that the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Nigeria say is the foundation of their growth.  It involves a very simple commitment that every member of the Church bring one new person to church each year, and then mentor them for three years - 1 + 1 + 3.  Imagine what that could do in your parish 30 become 60, then 120, then you have to start thinking about planting a new Church.  We need that sort of growth not just to grow but to survive and become a living and vital force, preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ in this country.

That brings me back to my C - I - E.

We need to be, as Continuing Anglicans

Committed to Christ; be faithful to our Anglican Integrity; and Evangelize.   If we commit ourselves to be this, and do this, then the Church will grow, and Christ will be Glorified.


Fr. Robert Hart said...


Kevin D. Johnson said...

The Anglican Reformation, although influenced by Luther, Melancthon, Bucer, Calvin, and others, always looked beyond the contemporary reform movements back to the Early Church, the Church of the first seven centuries.

This is an inaccurate statement--what you are doing is muddying the waters in at least two ways. First, all the magisterial Reformers worked in thinking that their understanding of the faith was calling the church back to her early more catholic centuries and that assertion does not merely rest with the work of the English Reformation. So, to say the English Reformers did this and to ignore that they relied on the magisterial Reformers for their view in this regard is a bit of loose play with history on the part of an Anglo-Catholic view. How is it they accepted the early church Fathers as orthodox except through the same view they had in common with the magisterial Reformers? Second, the English Church usually looked as Andrewes did--to the first five centuries and the first four general councils--and not to seven centuries and seven councils. This is what secures her overwhelmingly Protestant and Catholic identity (Reformed Catholic, as William Perkins would say in 1597 before being a Puritan held such a stigma in certain circles).

The tragedy of continuing Anglicanism is its love affair with the Oxford Movement--the very thing that precipitated the move toward liberalism in the episcopal churches--and its refusal to do anything but accept a revisionist account of the history of "the faith once for all delivered" in Jesus Christ. Peter Nockles makes this quite clear in his book on the history and work of the Oxford Movement. I recommend it to all who are looking for a detailed history of the century that led up to the eventual split between the mainline branch and "the continuum".

Fr. Wells said...

"Anglicans are Catholic without being Roman; Reformed without being Puritan; and Evangelical without falling for the semi-Pelagianism of Revivalism."

The words should be carved in granite in a prominent spot in every Continuing Anglican Church.

Fr. Wells said...

"Anglicans are Catholic without being Roman; Reformed without being Puritan; and Evangelical without falling for the semi-Pelagianism of Revivalism."

The words should be carved in granite in a prominent spot in every Continuing Anglican Church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Kevin Johnson:

Archbishop Robinson is NOT an Anglo-Catholic. And, the difference is obvious: Anglicans have maintained such things as the Apostolic Succession of bishops.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Someone else wrote to the Abp. Robinson to tell him that his church has no moral standards and has accepted gay marriage. Obviously, the commenter has confused the UECNA with the Episcopal Church. Anyway, I'm not publishing it because it wasn't impolite.

Kevin D. Johnson said...

Fr. Hart,

I wasn't commenting on Bishop Robinson's identity but on the historical errors present within his post. You and others are welcome to rebut the substance of what I have already outlined. Not all the English Reformers embraced Apostolic Succession in the way it is commonly portrayed today as Cranmer made quite clear.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The Church of England had very strict laws from the beginning, and despite many attempts to show otherwise, never allowed any person to presume to exercise the offices of bishop, priest or deacon without consecration or ordination by a bishop with Apostolic Succession. At one brief period Cranmer was under pressure from Henry VIII, who was angry to be told a king didn't have the power merely to appoint men to these positions. The quotation was from that brief time, never acted on, and died a quick death.

Canon Tallis said...

I, for one, am and have been long sick of the worship of the "magisterial reformers" who are quoted by certain who conceive themselves to be both Anglicans and Christians but who are totally unwilling to conform either themselves or their churches to the text of 1662 or the classical Anglican prayer books which have succeeded it. Kevin Johnson seems not to realize that as Anglicans we are not Cranmerians and that the Church of England was not the creation of either Henry VIII or Cranmer as the continental churches were essentially the inventions of Zwingli, Luther and Calvin.

When I look at the "Churches" created by the "Magisterial Reformers" I see almost nothing of the 'doctrine, discipline and worship' of the Church of the first five centuries, but instead something so far from same that the bishops and doctors of that era would have a very hard time even thinking it "Christian." Where would they find St. Luke's "apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and the breaking of bread and prayers . . . ?" Those things are to be found in every classical prayer book since 1559, all of which reflect everything which we know of the worship of the earliest church as expressed in the New Testament and the extant writings of the earliest fathers and bishops.

Kevin Johnson is also wrong in that it was not the fathers of the Tractarian and Oxford movement who opened the door of Anglicanism to the modernest heresies that are currently destroying what is left of the Episcopal Church and much of establishment Anglicanism. Instead it was Pusey who saw its growth in Germany during his studies in the German universities and sought to stem its tide in the Church of England and beyond by doubling down on full obedience to the Book of Common Prayer, knowledge of the Bible and the writings of greatest of the English divines of the Reformation and post Reformation period. It was Pusey's translation of St. Augustine's City of God that I read as a teenager while priests of low church and puritan sympathies were pushing books advocating the idea that God was either dead or absent upon me and others.

As to Archbishop Robinson, he is in my judgment an "Anglo-Catholic" but not an "Anglo-Papist" such as those who need to ape Rome in all things to convince themselves that they actually believe in "the . . . Catholic Church" as we find in classic creeds in our prayer books and in the universal Church before the rise of the papal heresy.

Fr. Wells said...

To be fair to Kevin, he does have a couple of points. The continental Reformers were just as interested in Patristic studies as were the English; and indeed, Peter Martyr Vermigli (whom Cranmer brought to Oxford) seems to have been a positive influence on Patristic scholarship in England. Anglicans have no right to be snooty or condescending toward Calvinists and Lutherans in any field of scholarship, least of all in Patristics.

As for Apostolic succession, the French, Swiss, German and Scottish Churches lost episcopacy not so much deliberately but through default. I am glad that the Church of England wound up where it did with the threefold ministry and a priestly understand of this ministry. But that was as much a providential accident as a doctrinal commitment. Kevin may know that in a letter to the King of Poland, Calvin lamented the lost of historic church-order.

Kevin D. Johnson said...

I shouldn't be misunderstood here--I don't see the episcopal model as necessarily problematic, but Fr. Hart is simply incorrect. Cranmer was not the only one who viewed apostolic succession as I outline over on my website at the link above. Rather, Richard Hooker also had similar views and they represented a view thoroughly acquainted with a continental understanding of the matter which while not equivalent to the Reformers certainly shared certain presuppositions. Chief among them was a careful read of the Fathers that showed that the early church did not have the same orders we view as appropriate today in terms of function and design. Of course, Anglican divines in later centuries like Lightfoot and Beckwith would demonstrate the historical validity of their concerns. And, by the time we arrive into our era even Roman Catholic scholars like Burtchaell force us to admit that what many call the traditional understanding of Apostolic Succession since the advent of the Oxford Movement is simply not in line with earlier divines nor the early history of the church.

Last, to your point Fr. Wells, it was not just that both the continental Reformed and the English Church valued church history but the English Church most certainly borrowed many of her views from the continental Reformers and both groups had much in common--so much so that the 39 Articles make it quite clear that England over the last five hundred years has been overwhelmingly Protestant. It was not just Vermigli that came over but Bucer himself had a great influence on the Prayer Book and Anglican liturgy and these ministers were received with no problem even though many of their jurisdictions had already abandoned episcopacy. And, of course, the REC properly picked up on this and such facts had no small part in its founding.

Anonymous said...

Kevin D. Johnson, perhaps then you can refute the Rev'd Canon Arthur Middleton's book, "Anglicans and Fathers," an excellent book published by Gracewing that shows the commitment the English Reformers and their successors had to the early church fathers in distinction from that of the continental reformers.

To be sure, all of the reformers thought they were going back to what the ancient church actually believed and did. But some actually did that more successfully and accurately than others... especially the Anglicans, who preserved the historic episcopate, among other things.

Your criticism of the Oxford Movement is wildly wrong. Perhaps you are in a position to refute the excellent classic work in English historical theology by Princeton University professor Horton Davies called "Worship and Theology in England." His assessment was that that if anyone was responsible for laying the groundwork that lead to the liberal turn Anglicanism eventually took it was F.D. Maurice... who was not associated with the Oxford Movement at all.

Nockles' book is okay (incidentally I think he is convert to the Roman Catholic Church). But you need to read other accounts of historical theology as well to get a more well-rounded and therefore accurate view on this topic.

I recommend these two works to you.


Canon Tallis said...

It must be recognized that their is a tremendous difference between the study of the Fathers and attempting to emulate their practice in doctrine, discipline and worship. The continentals were certainly no slouches in terms of their scholarship, but failed to make its way into their practice, into their most fundamental documents as it did in those of the Church of England.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Kevin Johnson:

I don't see how you can say that Hooker "also had similar views and they represented a view thoroughly acquainted with a continental understanding of the matter which while not equivalent to the Reformers certainly shared certain presuppositions." In light of his critique of the "Genevan Discipline" early on, and in light of everything he says about the Episcopate in Book VII. The position of the C of E was stated early on in the Ordinal with its Preface and in Canon Law. The first consecration that is even relevant was that of Abp. Matthew Parker where more than expected and standard care was exercised to maintain Apostolic Succession, including the fact that all three bishops said the entire consecration as insurance.

Canon Tallis said...


Overwhelming Protestant? And just what is that worth? Other than in the strictly Anglican view as has been set forth on this site by the very excellent writers, I think very little. The prayer book itself requires us to twice daily affirm our belief in "the Catholic Church" and additionally so with the celebration of Holy Communion. Where, as Anglicans, are we ever asked to affirm our belief in "Protestantism?"

Bishop Cummins and his REC tell us that nothing happens in Holy Communion except in our imagination and also that nothing really happens in the ordinations of priests and deacons. If that is so, why bother and I guess that might just be the reason that a great many who have called themselves Anglicans have have - in spite of their ordination vows - so neglected the proper celebration of Holy Communion as the central work of the Church as clearly intended by the text of the classical prayer books. Strangely, even Cummins always took exceptional care in consecrations to the episcopate rather than simply accepting some one from one of the 'protestant denominations.'

The thing which has always astounded me has been those men who have so greatly desired episcopal ordination in the Anglican tradition only to denigrate the theology and practice of the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles at every opportunity. Why even pretend to be an Anglican if you are unwilling to accept the "doctrine, discipline and worship" found in the Book of Common Prayer?

Laura said...

I don't dispute anything this author says, because his message is truth. Why argue the details, which carry NO burden in the message, unless you deny the message? I suggest that instead of double- checking your history books, you should instead focus on reaching out to your brethren in love and asking them if they know Christ. (And to clarify, because I'm Sure you'll ask: by brethren I mean "the people around you"... The guy bagging your groceries, the kid who knocked a baseball over your dense and came to ask for it back.)

All of that said (with much love) my little church is a thriving testimony to this author's assertions. And if I can add anything of value, it would be this: I pray continually for an outpouring of the Holy Ghost within our parish, for without the Comforter, we cannot do anything at all. And remember, if we are to question the truth of any matter, it should be tested against the Bible, as many of the epistles urge. The BCP and the 39 articles are invaluable to to a believer, new or old, but that's the cart before horse! Get the lost sheep in the door first!

+ Peter said...

Kevin - to be blunt I know the history of the English Reformation and the views of the Reformers perfectly well, but when one is speaking publically to a group that contains a proprtion of Anglo-Catholics, there is absolutely no point smashing their faces off the facts unless you want them to get so angry that they stop listening. Even Luther avoided confrobntation when it did not serve the greater purpose!

Anonymous said...

There is another kind of integrity besides theological that of the promulgators of the faith, both clergy and laity, which is vital to the life of any part of Christ's Kingdom and is only gained and maintained by scrupulous attention and intention, transparency and accountability.