Saturday 13 December 2008

Something Evangelical

All I'd want to say really about Graham Kings' piece in Comment is Free on definitions of Evangelicalism is that he has provided something broader than Evangelicalism. Actually, he's trying to bung too much in, with reference to the community, patience, "natural" (what's that?), literature, and his walk through his Evangelical perspective on Christian belief, all in a short article.

Here is a summary of the main identifiers:

  • The intrinsic dynamic of God's life in Trinity
  • Good works are a "thank you" rather than a "please" ...offered to God in gratitude for the salvation already freely provided for us
  • Jesus died in our place and rose into new embodied life as our pioneer
  • Assurance of our sins being forgiven
  • An open relationship with God in prayer via conversation with God, through written prayers, and in the study of the Bible
  • Worth sharing with others

This would cover well more than Evangelicals, though it doesn't stretch to the kind of liberal approach I hold. So what is Evangelical? As part of the fourth point on prayer he just adds in this:

The scriptures are not set on a level with "reason" and "tradition" but above them and interpreted contextually by them.

I would suggest that this is all that makes him distinctively Evangelical according to this presentation. He would differ here from some Anglo-Catholics, for example, as well as those liberals who do not give priority to the scriptures.

Meanwhile Fulcrum has responded to the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) vote (after NEAC 5 had a failure to vote and the CEEC said it would anyway). There was also a statement.

It likes the CEEC apology regarding NEAC 5 voting procedure, about taking counsel from across Evangelicals, the use of C of E Canon A5, the CEEC basis of faith, Lambeth 1998 3:5 and 1:10, support for faithful Anglicans, that there is more than one strategy and that Brazil and Canada should be included.

Yet the section on Canon A5 etc. included the Jerusalem Declaration in the package, and it cannot be broken up in this manner, and this statement about faithful Anglicans includes the assumption that there are faithless Anglicans from whom the faithful need support.

Then Fulcrum questions (rather than rejects) in the CEEC vote: the Jerusalem Declaration as a whole, because it is GAFCON action based; the we rejecting the authority of unorthodox leaders because 'we' is too blunt - a we, now including CEEC, cannot give judgment on whole Churches and unspecified leaders; asking the Archbishop of Canterbury to immediately and seriously consider granting recognition to the breakaways of North America, when Fulcrum gives support to Anglican Essentials Federation in Canada and Communion Partners in the USA that would stay in their Churches, that the breakaways should follow due process and relate to the Covenant.

This seems to me to undermine not support the vote taken by CEEC, yet Fulcrum would see the Council and Executive strengthened.

If a resolution says half the things you want and half you don't want (more like one third you want and two thirds you don't), you either get to amend it (and it is not; it was formed in part by prior emails) or you end up saying it has to be rejected. Questioning it Fulcrum might, but it passes into intention and potential action aspects that Fulcrum cannot support. Perhaps everyone is feeling a bit too sore and delicate for the use of plain and clear language.


Gavin Reid said...

Evangelicalism in the English setting has to be seen (I would submit) in the light of two historical developments.
The First is the Reformation where the New Testament was rediscovered and matched against current Church doctrine and practice.

The second was the Evangelical Awakening led by Whitfield and the Wesleys which brought to the fore
the whole business of taking the Gospel the every sort and condition of people.

From the first source we get the tradition of being willing to contend for the truth against error. From the second source we get the tradition of conducting one's life and one's church life for the spread of the Gospel.

There is always an slightly uneasy peace between the dynamics of the two historically in-built emphases and there is always the temptation when times are harder for the spread of the Gospel to take refuge in conducting controversy.

I do not think it is a co-incidence that controversy has formed a biggest part of the public activities of the tradition in the last twenty years or so. The fact is that the fields no longer appear to be so white to harvest now than then.

The truth or otherwise behind that perception is, however, another matter.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

That is a most perceptive and interesting comment.

I think slightly differently that the controversy of the sort we see is evidence of two patterns: one is decline, and conflict over reduced resources of an estate, and secondly that there is life left in the beast.

It can come about that decline leads to nothing more to be said, after which the lights go out, but until then various outcomes remain possible.

It seems to me that the intellectual position of Fulcrum has little more than its relationship to the Conservative Evangelicals, and their intellectual position is bankrupt. It's all an internal argument. I don't relate to any of it.