In his book Reorienting a Church for Accelerated Growth, Bishop Samson Mwaluda makes the point that denominational church growth in Anglicanism depends on the bishop being the chief evangelist and teacher of the diocese, upholding the apostolic doctrine and giving the lead in the proclamation of the gospel.
Yesterday, I actually saw for the first time with my own eyes an English bishop doing the latter.
And here’s an interesting thing. What I was going to write next was that the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, took time out of his busy schedule to visit the Saffron Walden Deanery Mission Planning Group to lead an afternoon on local evangelism — which just shows how indoctrinated I’ve become by a lifetime of not seeing this happen.
Because, of course, in Stephen Cottrell’s case this is not ‘time out of his schedule’. This evidently is his schedule.
One of the points I have made in my own A Strategy that Changes the Denomination is that despite evangelicals being appointed to senior office in the Church of England, the denomination has not become a more evangelizing body. That has been true, in my experience not just nationally but at the diocesan level, where evangelical bishops have direct influence.
I have heard it said, and seen it written, that there is only so much a bishop can do — that he does not have the authority to dictate, perhaps, or that he must be ‘bishop to the whole diocese, not just the evangelicals’.
What yesterday demonstrated is that a bishop does not need any more authority than he already possesses. Nor does he need to compromise his beliefs in any way. Apparently — for as I say, I saw it with my own eyes — he just needs to have the willingness to prioritize one thing above another. When a bishop says, “I have put a line through my diary for your mission weekend”, he has ruled out — literally — doing other things. Such is life. But he has therefore written in what was surely our Lord’s priority: “Let us go somewhere else ... so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mk 1:38).
Now there will doubtless be those who will say, “But Cottrell is a Liberal Catholic. He belongs to Affirming Catholicism, and you don’t like those sorts of people.”
And that is true, insofar as he is (as far as I know) a member of AffCath. But I have often said that the best bishop I have served under (until now) was Hugh Montefiore in Birmingham, who was a bit of a Liberal Catholic himself, but who had vision and determination when it came to his diocese.
Moreover, if any bishop is prepared to stand up and give a personal lead on evangelism (especially if he quotes in his powerpoint presentation the definition used by Towards the Conversion of England and quoted in A Strategy that Changes the Denomination), I will give that man all the support I can and urge others to do the same.
As I said to someone yesterday, I have waited since 1983, when I arrived in this diocese, for this moment. It is a very exciting time.
John RichardsonPlease give a full name and location when posting. Comments without this information may be deleted. Recommend:
28 November 2011
28 November 2011