Interesting article from the Economist here. It’s about the alleged rise of evangelicalism in the Church of England. It doesn’t really analyse the increased marginalization of ‘classical’ or ‘conservative’ evangelicals, but you wouldn’t expect them to be aware of the complexity of the situation in the Church of England. I’m not sure I am! Or anyone is. But evangelicalism has increasingly come to be understood as an umbrella term covering over all manner of, let’s say, positions.
If what Peter Brierley and his statisticians say is right, then the future of Anglicanism in this country is of declining numbers of Anglicans but an increased proportion of both clergy and laity who would describe themselves as evangelical. Whether that leads to increased influence in the denomination, brought about by sheer weight of numbers or perhaps by financial clout, remains to be seen. I’m not holding my breath. The trajectory of the Church of England is unmistakably clear. It would take a complete change of direction if evangelicalism was to be regarded as mainstream. God can do it, if He wants. And so there’s hope. But humanly speaking, the writing’s been on the wall for a while now. We press on (at the margins) in CCB. But others are more involved and will stay until they’re ejected. They wouldn’t be the first good guys to be excluded from the established church.
But despite that, you’ve got to love an article that begins with the following paragraph; not so much for the accuracy of the observation but the beauty of expression!
EVER since the 18th century, England’s established church has harboured a suspicion of religious enthusiasm. Anglicanism’s cosy ubiquity as a reassuring, if vestigial, presence in every English suburb and village is regarded as a defence against the sort of fanaticism that leads to social or ethnic conflict. But every so often in English church history, compromise and emollience have triggered a countervailing reaction: an upsurge in faith of a more passionate kind. Such a change may be under way now.
It would be sad if the following observation were true,
Many of the rising generation of keen young clerics already make it clear they wish to work in large evangelical churches, ripe for American-style mission, rather than in slums or charming villages where social views are relaxed and doctrinal purity is not prized.
I suspect the reasons aren’t relaxed social views nor absence of doctrinal purity but an unwillingness to embrace a level of sacrifice that moves us well out of our comfort zone. My friends working for churches on the estates would certainly level that accusation at people like me. And they’d have a point. Perhaps, as I’ve heard Jonathan Fletcher say, when evangelicals are willing to go to the places no one else will we’ll see a revival of true biblical faith in this country. For myself, it won’t be me reaching Brixton from Balham. But we’re going to bust a gut to do what we can to train a great bloke to make it happen. We’ll keep you posted. But it’s be fair to say that we’re not expecting much help from our Anglican Diocese.