Sunday, 26 June 2011

SPREAD a Little Unhappiness

First off best wishes to the newly named Lesley Crawley and her husband Alan.

As 'low liberals', they won't be too sympathetic to the nature of the new Anglican Mission in England and the Society for the Propagation of Reformed Evangelical Anglican Doctrine. The lead man in this is the unfortunately-named Charles Raven (given the better known and rather different Anglican divine of the same name), who is no longer a member of the Church of England.

As an outsider it is odd that he follows the line given by GAFCON, but which no one really believes, that it is an inside the Church of England reforming body. Yet he states:

Receiving the AMiE as the new wineskin of global Anglicanism could very well be its last chance ’to wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die’ (Revelation 3:2).

Hang on. Doesn't this relate to the idea that you can't put new wine in old wineskins? So you can't have the old Church of England then - if it is to be the new wineskin of global Anglicanism, with overseas or other episcopal oversight as this entryist body AMiE sees fit?

Given that Charles Raven is a 'New Puritan' and has been kicked out of the C of E, his ideological predecessor is more Richard Baxter rather than Richard Hooker. Baxter is also an ideological predecessor of mine, in that I attend the movement derived from the English Presbyterians who left the Church of England but were, in a few senses, more moderate that those Puritans who preferred congregationalism (though both organised using independency). The difference is that the trustee-led Bible only pew renters liberalised over time and then caught the capitalist liberal ideological spirit and later a critical, individualist, spirit.

Raven represents a movement different from the developments in nineteenth century Anglicanism towards liberalism, Catholicism and, for some, a synthesis of the two found today in Affirming Catholicism.

Now Raven and company think they can do church planting to recover reformed Anglicanism where it is lacking. I've news for them - no chance. Why? Well, I have a local story to tell as to why.

I did part of my Ph.D participant observation in an evangelical Anglican Church. It didn't boom in numbers, because there is no magic formula and Hull is tough territory regardless. However, the New Life Church in Bridlington Avenue, supplier of content to satellite Christian television, is going to built a thousand seat media and community church in Kingswood, north Hull. They'll do it by a church plant, splitting their own congregation. I can tell Charles Raven now that the Anglican church nearest, that passes every evangelical test he would set, is doomed. That media church will provide the kind of religious entertainment that attracts the numbers. It will do some community outreach too, on its terms. But this is like a religious vacuum cleaner at this end of the market. The people will drive in and come from around, and the evangelical Anglican church won't be able to compete. It may as well become liberal.

The Anglican Church with its formats and formulas and hierarchy cannot compete with the media church's informality, and the sheer nature of the entertainment that crosses over with spirituality. Just a few of these churches sweep up the available evangelical numbers in a city. Anglicanism is already becoming an acquired taste that no one understands unless they are already insiders. The danger is, too, that those who do join and get coached by an evangelical Anglican church will simply go off to the bigger, better experience.

Perhaps at his end of the market, the compatible folks for Anglicanism are SPREAD more thinly.


Rach said...

How about both/and

And as an evangelical Christian, my own walk is nourished by Vineyard and New Wine particularly resource my ministry and all of this is compatible with life under the banner of the CofE institution.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

It may well be, but when these places open they suck the life out of the competition.

Rach said...

I think all we have to do is remember whose mission it is - brave are those churches who even advertise the mega-church down the road and invite their congregants to try it - mass scale everything does not suit everyone and many leave only to come back to local church again. I know, I am one of them - choosing local church over Trent Vineyard.

Lesley said...

Thanks for your kind wishes Adrian.... Sorry I am so late with the thanks!!!