Tuesday, 28 June 2011

AMiE More and it Gets Personal

Clearly this launch of the Anglican Mission in England is causing a few ripples, particularly among other Evangelicals. It is another example of the old story: the nearest competitor is the fiercest opposition. When the Social Democratic Party broke away from Labour, Labour carried on opposing the Conservatives but it was the former Labour people they opposed with venom.

One of my comments to an open evangelical's blog was rejected because it mentioned a real person, and whether open evangelical boundaries would be drawn against that person. I understand the sensitivities here, but in the end all this jockeying for position comes down to people - actual people - who are either included or excluded. The Fulcrum Statement on Interventionist Anglican Mission in England makes the demand:

We affirm...

...the concern to continue the pressure for maintaining the Anglican Communion's conservative view on sexual ethics within the Church of England.

The real people I know about, in the Church of England, are completely and totally opposed to this position.

Given that such people exist, in holy orders or not, and with Church jobs or not, all the 'indabas' in the world are not going to create some result that is both the Fulcrum affirmation and the opposite, inclusive, view. One of them has to give way.

However, the AMiE strategy is as much against the so-called "liberal evangelicals" as against liberals proper, given how they were described by the Principal of Wycliffe College in his now infamous Reform lecture in 2006. In it Richard Turnbull stated that:

And thirdly, I want to note the challenge that liberalism brings to us. We are all aware - in this room you don't need me to say or to explain to you the challenge that liberalism brings to the Church at large. I need [?] also want to warn against the nature of liberalism within our own midst. What I mean by that is this whole idea of what it means to be evangelical being broadened so that it encompasses everybody and everything. If the liberals seek to capture the theological colleges in order to exercise strategic influence, the first step will be to encourage liberal evangelicals to capture the evangelical colleges.

In other words, to reverse this around as to what he actually meant, the first step is to take on the liberal evangelicals and then be able to tackle the liberals proper.

The point about AMiE and the whole GAFCON industry is precisely to have alternative episcopal oversight so as not to have the institutional compromises of the Fulcrum kind.

My own view about the future is this: the Church of England under present management will bend hell to get the Anglican Communion Covenant through. Whatever it's overall effect in broader Anglicanism, its effect on the Church of England must be to freeze the institution because the Church of England provides the Archbishop, on of the Instruments of Unity. So there will be no inclusion or indeed anything that compromises this provision. The Liberals have one chance now to bust the Covenant, and if they do, that it is somehow unworkable, they will save the Church of England to at least allow it to evolve sometime in the future (and they might just get rid of this dreadful Archbishop Rowan Williams - again, it comes down to real people).

If the Covenant is passed, then really the need for a sectarian inside approach for evangelicals will be just silly, or rather completely entryist. They will want to be the lead evangelicals regardless, rather as Militant wanted to set the agenda for Labour in the 1980s.

But we know what happened. They didn't have a Rowan Williams who could duck and weave and force through some kind of appeasement to the entryists at a higher level, but a Neil Kinnock who in the end realised he had to pull the plant up and dig out the roots. Doing that meant the SDP became unnecessary in and of itself: later, of course, Labour forgot what it was at all and drifted off in the opposite direction, to the benefit of the left of centre Liberal Democrats until - oh dear, they got into bed with the Tories.

I remember at the time trying to go our with a socialist woman, an ex-Roman Catholic (and boy did that show through - all the stronger rejection and yet it was a wopping shadow over her). She referred to entryists and the like, by which she turned it around and meant the Gang of Four. But she was wrong because the Gang of Four were leaving anyway. That was the point.

I'm like one of the Gang of Four. I've left. But there are the Denis Healeys and Callaghans left behind, and even those who are equivalent of the ones who were to the right of them. The Internet person I'm referring to basically blogs religious humanist arguments and plenty of psychology. Yes the correct doctrinal headline buttons are pressed every so often. Even her now husband when interviewing her for a tiny temporary radio station asked about any references to the Bible - and he is an Affirming Liberal. So what about the Affirming Liberals and their equivalent, all of whom will be inclusivists?

My tradition is that of Richard Baxter. I mention him because even some of those who left the Church of England in 1662 did so despite being regarded as 'sober' - not all Puritans were raving extremists. The chap whose money pays for my house and, pretty much, the church, was strict but not a raving extremist. Nevertheless a point is arriving again where something has to give. Either the liberals ought to go, or the extremists of the evangelicals.

Usually what happens is that the broad people and the liberals hang on, as well as the compromisers. The extreme or principled or whatever usually design their way out. The Puritans did; the Methodists did. AMiE looks like a design for a way out, in that at some point entryism results in the bodies involved being removed (or you get compromised and compromised - Methodists and Puritans were both entryists in their day). I'm just suggesting that if the Covenant goes through, then Rowan Williams won't have just betrayed his friend (twice), but he will have shafted every person who agreed with his original objection to Lambeth 1998 1:10 and who saw him as intellectual ballast and a thinker of reasonable religion.


Erika Baker said...

"Usually what happens is that the broad people and the liberals hang on, as well as the compromisers. The extreme or principled or whatever usually design their way out."

And this would be a bad result because...?

Battersea Boy said...

Remind me again, who was it who told his disciples not to forbid others using his name because "he who is not against me is for me"?

I welcome AMiE, even though it may turn out to be little more than Charles Raven's unvoiced desire to return to the Church of England.

Unfortunately though, I predict that AMiE will have a greater effect on those attending evangelical and charismatic churches of any and alll denominations than on the traditional, broad church, wing of the Church of England. I say this because it seems to me there is a movement amongst evangelical Christians to produce a "one size fits all" mould that encompasses theology, lifestyle and worship. And those who are attracted to fit into that particular mould tend to be the same people who will drive for miles on a Sunday morning simply to say they go to the same church as Rosemary Connolly (for example) looking for the most professional worship and teaching in the style that fits their feelings at that moment.

Those of us who attempt to cater for spiritually-minded folk whose walk of faith is a little different from that mould will still continue to grow - as we have been over the past few years - by honestly reflecting the cultural norms of our society in our approach. For instance, being inclusive enough to welcome single-sex couples, who wish to participate in the life of the church, without making a song and dance about it.

Rach said...

Hi Adrian,

'One of my comments to an open evangelical's blog was rejected because it mentioned a real person, and whether open evangelical boundaries would be drawn against that person.'

No shenahigans, just simply that because you are better placed to express your impression of the theology of 'said person' than me because you have more of a relationship and can make perhaps a better informed assessment of these things (done so from the point of having a relationship/friendship), I thought it was best handled over at your site than mine.

You do raise some interesting points regarding the feeling of current Anglican evangelicals regarding AMiE. I will read Raven's book. Have you read it?

Erika Baker said...

Battersea Boy
The real question is whether the CoE will go the same way as TEC in America, where parishes left with "their" property which then resulted in financially and spiritually costly legal action.

Battersea Boy said...


Getting rid of huge numbers of expensive-to-run, sometimes ill-placed churches that don't meet the needs of today's church would be seen by many as a positive advantage!

Erika Baker said...

Battersea Boy

Yes, if those were the churches we'd get rid of!

Even then, this is not something the CoE can legally accept and it would have to fight for each church, each collection of hymn books, each piece of altar silver...

The public image of the church, already in shreds because of its misogyny and homophobia, will be shredded even more.

And the pain within the parishes concerned will be appalling. I don't know if you have followed any pro-ordinariate blogs in the run up to people moving to Rome. It was horrible to see how pain and disappointment on both sides caused people to lose every shred of charity about each other. There were accusations of theft on both sides. Some of those scars will take a long long time to heal.
When you throw genuine theft into the equasion... it really doesn't bear thinking about.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I admit I shall not read the book written by the present Charles Raven. My interest in Raven and company is in the effect he and they will have on people of a broader, liberal persuasion whether in or out of the C of E. Plus, to buy his book would be to contribute to his income and I don't want to do that.

Lesley said...

Hmmm... I'm so vain :)

AMiE are surely bullies? We need to set some boundaries about oversight and jurisdiction and then respectfully ask them to honour the boundaries. If they don't then we declare that they are acting in a way that is obviously undermining the Church of England.