Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Eye on the Ball (III)

In the flurry of statements and maneuvering last week, a group of Evangelical Anglicans called the Anglican Mainstream sent a document that they called a "covenant" that seeks some sort of doctrinal discipline or face the same kind of fracturing in the CofE that is developing elsewhere (read: USA).

The document has created quite a flap from the usual parties, but also in some unexpected places. Many evangelicals have been extremely critical. Outside of the content of the document itself, criticism was leveled at the document because while the writers claimed wide support, they did not disclose who signed it.

Theological issues aside.One sign of whether or not a group is keeping their eye on the ball is when they put out a statement, do they claim to be speaking for people who have never read it. The realingment folks seem to be good at this because they do this a lot. It is linked to the issue of transparency, which these groups are very bad at. (Since then, the names were released and the list is quite short and did not include some of their allies that were claimed to have signed on. They blamed their oversight on Lambeth. Hmmm.)

David Walker commented on this strange way of doing things in this very funny cartoon.

The best critique of this documents comes from Mark Harris, as usual, and two important evangelicals of the Church of England. One by Bishop Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham that is found here. Another is a very fine piece by Paul Roberts on his blog Staring into the Distance called a "A Lament for Evangelicalism" which you can find here. In it he writes as good a case for keeping ones eye on the ball as I have seen to date:

Given that I lectured for twelve years in one of the foremost Evangelical colleges of UK, I suppose this sort of thing should interest me. But in actual fact, after working in a church situation which is not remotely ‘branded’ as Evangelical, I’m filled with a mixture of boredom and pity at such goings-on. There seems to be a sense that the ‘party’ animals in the Evangelical world have become so obsessed with their own importance that they seem to have not noticed that the big wide world is moving on


Sisters (are there any?) and brothers: get out more! Realise that in the UK, Christianity is a minority faith, where your church is rapidly losing hold of both the respect and the grasp on the public imagination that it once had. Spend less time in little clubs of churchianity, working out the latest tactic in your squabbles with your coreligionists. Instead, rediscover that outward-focus, creativity and adaptability which was once the hallmark of Evangelicalism. Remember the glorious liberality (oops, nearly said something else there) with which you worked with other kinds of Christians for the greater good of the Church, fostering all sorts of curious allegiances to bring your gospel passion to the wider Christian community. Remember how you were once concerned above all other things with bringing the Good News to people who didn’t know who Jesus was and what he has done? Now all you seem interested in is sex and church politics, as if without the Church getting straightened (sic) out on this issue, the gospel somehow is powerless. Do you still believe in the gospel? Or are you so concerned about the purity of the Church that you’ve made the gospel a function of ethics or ecclesiology. From where I sit, you seem to have lost your first love, your first passion, your driving force. At the turn of the 21st century, you could have led, harmoniously, the whole of the Church of England into an era of unrivaled creative passion for evangelism. Instead, you ran into a churchy ghetto, became sex-obsessed, and started talking only to yourself.

His observations apply to us in the USA as well.

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