Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A message to Archbishop Welby: "be urgent"

Rumour has it, Justin Welby is about to be announced as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

The media are already describing him as "unashamedly part of the evangelical tradition". That may be so. Frankly I don't really care very much. All I care is that he evangelize. So my own plea to him, in the words of the ASV translation of 2 Timothy 4:2, is "preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season."

Too often when it comes to senior appointments, an "evangelical background" means just that: evangelicalism in the background. And that is where evangelism stays as well, whilst the foreground is occupied by soft-socialism, managerialism or some other personal priority.

What the Church of England needs right now, though, is someone who is clear that there is a gospel, that the gospel is about Jesus, the Saviour and Lord, who died for our sins according to the Scriptures, who was raised from the dead, who is seated at the right hand of the Father and who is coming to be the Judge of the living and the dead.

And the Church needs someone clear on that because the people of England need a Church that will proclaim that message of salvation.

As far as I'm concerned, therefore, Welby could almost be from a Mormon Tabernacle Choir background, provided his foreground now is to seek 'the conversion of England' in the terms put forward in 1945:
“To evangelize is so to present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church.”
Of course, it could still turn out to be someone else, though all the indicators are otherwise. It doesn't matter, so long as they get us all to be gospel preachers and Bible-believers.

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  1. From your mouth to God's ear.

  2. John,
    I agree with your sentiment. & I like a bit of hyperbole. But if someone has wondered from the Evangel I'm not sure I want them Evangelizing the wrong stuff. In fact one of my big criticisms of the C of E system is that it isn't nearly fussy enough about who it ordains... or fussy over the wrong things.

    Darren Moore

  3. Darren, hence I was a bit more specific about the content of the 'evangel' than 'whatever turns you on, baby'.

    My experience, though, is that once you start using the 'e' word (rather than hiding behind 'mission' in all its various forms) you have to start doing some defining.

  4. Whilst I fully agree with the desire to evangelise the anton, Darren's comment about the CofE ordaining anyone has become quite stark to me in recent days/weeks. I have been having various twitter debates with the husband of a family friend, often late at night which is never good for clarity (particularly on Twitter!), which have shown an incredibly liberal view of the Bible from his side, and he is an ordinand! I have a value for the broad nature of the CofE, mainly for the fact that, as I see it, the liberal wing were working for social action and justice long before the evangelicals started going there. I think that the 3 wings have worked well to point the other in the right direction in the past and can do again, but at the moment the liberal wing seems to be disinclined towards being influenced by the evangelical wing and is just going further away from orthodoxy and this is as much the teaching and training as the individuals. And when you have ordinands who are questioning whether Jesus really is the only way to the Father and the validity of large elements of the Bible you find that evangelising becomes problematic because some within the CofE will question the point as there are many ways to God and others will question the content and say that the Bible is not something that helps evangelism.

  5. YP you are right to be alarmed, and right to identify the role of the colleges and courses.

    However, I do think (and experience in Chelmsford seems to bear this out) that if we can raise the profile of evangelism it allows us to address these other issues collectively. The reason is simply that people who are going to evangelize need an evangel.

    Having said that, this is not just a problem for Liberals. Thanks to the 'New perspective' movement, there is now confusion amongst evangelicals as to what the gospel actually consists of, what evangelism is and how it is measured.

    Nevertheless, as in my book, I think the change of agenda can have 'spin off' benefits.

  6. John Mann, Kinlochbervie8 November 2012 at 13:27

    ". . . so long as they get us all to be gospel preachers and Bible-believers."

    That sounds interesting. How might an Archbishop of Canterbury get all his clergy to be not only gospel preachers, but also Bible-believers? A tall order in today's CofE!

    1. I humbly submit my suggestion here a few days ago: put all stipendiary clergy on a new payscale so that they get pro rata according to how much of the Bible they believe!

      That'll soon shake out the hirelings!


  7. YP,
    I think you've got a good handle of how the church might BE, but not how it WAS. Evangelicals lead the way on social action, think abolition, working conditions, feeding the poor. Evangelism and feeding the poor went hand in hand. Funnily enough, chat with a Free Church of Scotland & some PCA folk, they are pretty dismayed how Evangelicals are a bit lasse faire about this. I guess now, conservative types have feared becoming liberal if they are in any ways helpful. But of course liberals have to do something, or else they have nothing to do.

    I think YP, the situation may be even worse than you fear! There are insane levels of liberals, but also liberals who sing choruses who like bits of Evangelicalism (or Anglo-Catholicism). Yet, any boat-rockers are kept out. But actually, a good bit of boat rocking needs to happen. There is a good breadth, coming out of humility that we may not have every issue right. But there is definitely a bad breadth too.

    I agree with John to a point about evangelism. Once you start doing it, you have to define it and the evangel itself. But, I remember in Chester, people were happy to a point, but still unhappy with some of the Bible's rough edges. Paul exhorted the Elder/bishops, "teach the WHOLE counsel of God". Not just the "how to get saved" bit. Otherwise the church is weakened and we end up where we are now, the lack of clarity creeping back into the "how to get saved" bit.

  8. Ok, my history point was more about recent stuff. Look at Soul Survivor, for example, who have been taking a leading role in recent years on getting involved with the local community, but before things like Soul in the City, Slum Survivor and the like the Evangelical church (of which Soul Survivor is a part and was similarly acting) generally was sticking to inviting people to church, following the model of bums on seats in an incomplete version of incarnational ministry. In this context I think my comment holds true.

  9. YP

    "liberal wing seems to be disinclined towards being influenced by the evangelical wing and is just going further away from orthodoxy and this is as much the teaching and training as the individuals"

    A few months ago my vicar (Reform Anglican) asked me to attend a few services and get to know a local liberal Anglican Church.

    My goodness. They call themselves "middle of the road". Middle of the road of the wide path to hell more like.

    Anyway, as you say, they are not "bad" people. Just that once you cross the bridge to sin (Murder, sexual immorality-- guttony! that is my one) you name it the next time is easier. I think that this is their main problem. They have rejected some of the bible so they find it easy to reject more and more until there is nothing left but themselves.... and their desires....which is their new God.

    Sorry but I don’t see any reconciliation anytime soon.