Today I attended quite a satisfactory meeting to mark the morphing of Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream into the Chelmsford Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.
There were about forty clergy and laity in attendance, with apologies from half-a-dozen or more, and we were addressed by the Revd Paul Perkin who has had a key part to play in GAFCON and the emergence of FCA globally. The meeting was chaired by Revd Paul Harcourt from All Saints, Woodford Wells, who has been chairing CAM for some years.
What pleased and impressed me about the meeting was that there was no ‘grand-standing’ — there will be no ‘statements’. Rather, there was just a quiet hope that what has happened in TEC and Canada, and seems to be threatening even in other parts of the UK, will not happen here.
This, however, will be difficult, given that the cathedrals and their associated chairs, the training courses, some of the colleges and much else besides seem to be dominated by theological liberalism, even whilst lip-service is paid at the top of the institution to theological ‘inclusivism’.
Over against this, however, we see an unlikely, but undoubtedly sincere, alliance between evangelical, catholic and charismatic Anglicans who find in one another something they can all refer to as ‘orthodoxy’, even whilst distinctions — and indeed tensions — remain, for example over the consecration of women as bishops.
Even so, in our discussion group we were reminded how divided evangelical Anglicans in particular have become, and how their effectiveness has suffered as a result. I mentioned how, in 1977, the Anglican world seemed to be at the evangelical’s feet. John Stott, Michael Green and David Watson were all in their prime, Riding Lights were revolutionizing the presentation of the gospel inside and outside church, and we had more under-30 year-old candidates studying at St John’s Nottingham than there are now clergy of that age in the entire Church of England.
Thirty years on, many ‘evangelicals’ will hardly talk to one another, and for many of my generation the enthusiasm for, and understanding of the gospel, we held back then has almost entirely disappeared. (John Gladwin, for example, was a contributor to the pre-conference discussion papers, but his evangelical commitment certainly ‘mellowed’ with time.) The ‘empire’ fought back, and we have become quietly institutionalized.
Oddly enough, therefore, one of the encouraging features of the day for me was the sense that we don’t really know what to do and we aren’t sure where we are going. Perhaps this will create the dependence on God that we surely need.
John RichardsonAnonymous users wishing to paste in the comments box need first to select 'preview', then close the preview box. When posting your comments please give a full name and location. Comments without this information may be deleted.