Friday 3 July 2009

That Was Quick

It did not take long for Fulcrum to reply to Charles Raven, a piece that is a collective response and carries no individual authored name.

It's well reasoned, and argues its point that Fulcrum represents a kind of dynamic centre of Anglicanism rather than some political and institutional mid-point: it thinks the centre of the Church of England mission is evangelical and thus pushes for this renewal. It will plead guilty to a moderation itself a "faithful form of faithfulness" via relationships and dialogue.

Nevertheless, it is still quite valid to see things more geographically, that's to say where the whole institution is now, and it is that the triangle has become bipolar, and that unless the Conservative Evangelicals also hive off the line-up is them on the right, then Fulcrum, then the Affirming Evangelicals, Affirming Catholics and Affirming Liberals with radicals at the left edge and off it. The issue from this perspective is not the renewal of the Evangelical Centre (which may or may not be going on) but where the cut comes between those Evangelicals who would rather live doctrinally and dogmatically with Conservative Evangelicals and those whose reasoning makes them happier in the company of Affirming Evangelicals, Affirming Catholics and Affirming Liberals. These are headline organisations that have people like them who are not members, and there is of course a mass of Anglican faithful who just go about their doubts and affirmations themselves rather more quietly.

The real killer point in the Fulcrum reply is this:

While we are delighted if such differences are genuinely able to be overcome and treated as secondary within FCA we wonder why, given this agreement across such great divides, fellow-evangelicals in Fulcrum are so unwelcome and maligned and Bishop Wallace Benn has recently explicitly aligned FCA only with conservative evangelicals alongside Anglo-Catholics and charismatics?

Because, of course, the FCA is the organ of weakening other forms of Evangelicalism first before it can take on the rest of the list represented by the groups listed above. It has always been the strategy and it is there in Charles Raven's piece. Yes, they can find transient Common Cause (!) with traditionalist Catholics on their way out of the Church of England as part of the strategy.

There is a political equivalence here. The Labour Party had to root out the entryist Militant Tendency, but there was another and elite group that left the Labour Party - the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Now Labour people used to oppose the Conservatives but they hated the SDP. That attitude has continued in a ghostly form even now towards the hissed at Liberal Democrats, despite Labour more than covering the ground occupied by the former SDP. It is always those closest who represent competition who are the greater threat, especially when they claim the same broader name.

Thus Conservative Evangelicals will show all sorts of transient agreements with the doctrinal and dogmatic of other kinds, and yet cold shoulder Open Evangelicals. There is a lot of recent historical antagonism between them already.

What is the future of the Church of England and the Churches?

Well one option is that the Conservative Evangelicals are successful in their entryism having seen off the Open Evangelicals and weaken the Church via infiltrating decision making so eventually they have it their way. To do this, though, they also have to take on the Affirming Catholic and Affirming Liberal types, and it is by no means certain that the Conservative Evangelicals will be successful. They say they can build bigger congregations and divert the money, but many others see a limited number of suburban churches and transient urban churches themselves facing competition from media type independent churches that are vastly bigger and suck the life from many an Anglican Evangelical church.

Another option is that the Conservative Evangelicals go the way of the traditionalist Catholics, probably setting up what might be 'hardly very Anglican' churches, probably still with overseas overseers. This would leave the Church of England with Affirming Catholics, Open Evangelicals and Affirming Liberals, a sort of boundary-reduced version of what used to be. It would be a reasonably harmonious Church, though I forsee such a Church also having its liberals ejecting its radicals first because they undermine the harmony of doctrinal reasonableness. It would, in the end, be an inclusive Church, and its Evangelical wing would have come to terms with this - they would just have to do so.

A third option is just continuous infighting, particularly because no one can take the property and because it is rather difficult for anyone to be dislodged. So there would be a Church but not a Church, just different Churches within the Church represented by the groups. As much would be unofficial as official, with its own form of boundary crossing going on.

What is clear is that the formation of the FCA intends to set a dynamic going that will lead to one of these. It may be a bit of a damp squib of a launch - and an important point is just how minor Conservative Evangelicalism is becoming. It lost any intellectual argument long ago. But something is cooking that's for sure already in the divided Evangelical camps.

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