Prayer Walk and Cornboil

Here are the details. After a short (45 min) service.
Please organize your selves into groups as quickly as possible.

*Every person matters Young or old.
*Prayer is the “work” of the Church.
*We are praying “on site with insight”
*Ask God to prepare your heart to “listen” as well as to help you pray
*Prayer is a two way communication.

At approximately 11:15 we will depart in groups to the following places.
Places to pray.
1 Dorothy Buckley’s home overlooking the entire parish. (Max 6)
2 Walking through K-Park
3 Walking along Rothesay Road and along the Shore Road.
4 At the top of the Fox Farm Road. Entrance to the community.
5. Walking or Driving through some of the side streets as the spirit leads

What to Pray
Lord Reveal your heart for this place
Lord what have you already begun?
Lord show us where to join you

When to eat and share
Please return to the Rectory by 12:15 at the latest.
We have asked people to bring a salad or a dessert to share.
Eric will have corn and hot dogs ready to serve. We will eat and then share and note our impressions.
We should be done at about 1:30


Prayer Walk/Drive

Prayer Walk 2016
This sunday is our annual prayer walk and corn boil. We will have a short (45min) service at 10:30 followed by a time to go into the community to pray in a number of designated locations. After the time of prayer you are invited to come back to the Rectory and enjoy some Corn and Hot Dogs. We are asking you to come and to bring a salad or dessert to share as well. Prayer is the work of the church and we hope that you will join us this sunday. Specific instructions and options will be given out during the service. Please call Eric if you have questions. Volunteers would be welcome to help with making tea and coffee and setting out the food.


Education oppoutrnities

Our new ministry training school, Threshold School of Ministry, has an incredible group of instructors who want to see leaders trained and formed who can reach our communities and rapidly changing culture. This fall, we have the following courses scheduled:

October 17-18, 2016 with Peter Fitch, DMin.
You’ll look at and understand some of the major emphases and movements in spiritual formation in pre-Reformation Christian history; highlighting ideas and practices from monks, martyrs and mystics.
Course outline and registration

October 20-21, 2016 with Brian Metzger, MMin.
We will cover the principles for studying the Bible with the goal of hearing what the original author wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The student will be introduced to the important things interpreters and communities bring to the text. Special attention will be paid to the Biblical narrative contextualizing Biblical exegesis in the contemporary world as the revealed Word of God that shapes and informs contemporary life.
Course outline and registration

October 24-25, 2016 with Cam Roxburgh, DMin.
Explore your understanding of pioneering mission and evangelism and ways in which the Church has responded to changing contexts through history, making links with key theological and Biblical ideas.
Course outline and registration

October 27-28, 2016 with Merv Budd, MDiv
We will explore what it means to be Christian witnesses in the current Canadian cultural context. We will wrestle with what it means to be living in a post-Christendom, post-modern and pluralistic society. We will explore how we are to bear witness to our culture in this context and how we might engage with other worldviews and beliefs which are at odds with the Christian faith.
Course outline and registration

It’s not too late to register for one or more of these exciting opportunities to learn from our gifted practitioners. Click here to register. Course outlines and syllabi will be made available upon receipt of registration. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call Wendy at (506) 642-2210, ext 221.



Thankyou for attending and sharing

Thankyou so much for coming out last night to our discussion. Your input was valuable to me and also to Bishop David. It was valuable to me because it showed me the range of thinking and feeling for the parish, which is likely not much different for the Diocese. Some want and need more information. Some continue to struggle with what they will do either in the near future or in three years time. Some have worked out a way to deal with the issue. Some have remained silent.

David’s message to us was clear. He is the bishop of the whole diocese, the mission of Christ is the most important thing and we need to continue to listen to each other and process this. It has wide ranging effects that have not been fully considered.

There will be more to come. In two weeks time the Delegates to Synod will meet meet in fredericton to do much the same thing that we did. Out of that will emerg some kind of way to process all of this. I urge your full participation as we go forward. Surely our parish is worth this effort.

David has Called us to remain in unity for the sake of the Gospel and I call you to that as well.

I would also commend to your reading the work that Chris Smith did in commenting on the report “This Holy Estate”. If you would like to read it then email me or Chris and we will send it to you. There will also be a copy in the church narthex.

Both documents are available below




Some Thoughts on changing the definition of Marriage

To the faithful Members of St. James the Less Church in the Parish of Renforth

This Thursday we meet with Bishop David to talk about the implications of the actions of General Synod. General Synod has passed the 1st of 2 required readings of this motion. The motion redefines marriage by removing the traditional prescription of one man with one woman and restating it as simply two persons. The problem that I have with this action is that the definition that we have accepted for thousands of years has come through the scriptures not through synods. It has never been up to us to define or redefine marriage. It just is as the scriptures say that it is. By doing what they did General Synod has down graded its view of scripture. This is not a trivial thing. They have also in their so called debate preparation taken liberty with methods of bible study and with the nature of the Holy Spirit. I listened to several of our delegates talk about this at our recent clergy conference. The document that was given as the report of purposed change is also deeply flawed and offers no real theologically sound argument. In other words the whole thing was rigged and manipulated from the beginning. Perhaps a better thing would have been to simply remove the cannon on marriage altogether.

To some of you this will not be a big deal. So what? The Church is becoming more and more like society and generally in harmony with the laws of the land. Can’t we just all get along and be fine with it?

Wait a minute; I made a vow before my bishop and God and the gathered public at my ordination: Here is what it says: Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word; and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations, as well to the sick as to the whole, within your cures, as need require, and occasion shall be given? .. and I said: I will, the Lord being my helper.

And so I have to say here in my blog that I believe that General Synod has erred grievously in what they have done. I warn you as people of God to not accept this change in doctrine. Examine the word of God and your on conscience. I would be out of compliance with my ordination vows if I did not say this.

On the other hand… and there is another hand… how do we proceed? How do we proceed as Christ’s hands and feet, light and truth in the community that we are planted in. Should we advocate that we simply return to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” position. That will not work now and was also always sub christian in its values set. This is a real time to ask the very important question What would Jesus do? The world that we live in today is much more complex than the world that Jesus lived in, yet he still walks with us today in this world. The world we live in is much more sexualized and given over to human and individual rights and expressions. This stuff is enshrined in our laws and acceptable practices. You can be shocked by this or ignore it personally if you like, but as a community church that would not be an acceptable position.

I was briefly encouraged this spring when the house of bishops could not find support for the motions and the primate indicated that perhaps a legislative solution was not the answer here, but that direction did not come to any fruition. They were able to create a few more liberal bishops that would turn the vote. Was this sneaky and dirty politics? If only they would have struggled with the scriptures and talked with the rest of the Church around the world.

I believe that there is a way forward for us. It begins with prayer and it begins with Jesus. What do you think we should do? Bring your thoughts and your prayerful self to our meeting this Thursday.

Rector of Renforth


Bulletin for September 4

St. James the Less Church in the Parish of Renforth

September 4, 2016 Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Collect: Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that richly bearing the fruit of good works, we may by you be richly rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

FIRST READING: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15Today I am giving you a choice. You can choose life and success or death and disaster. 16-18I am commanding you to be loyal to the LORD, to live the way he has told you, and to obey his laws and teachings. You are about to cross the Jordan River and take the land that he is giving you. If you obey him, you will live and become successful and powerful.
On the other hand, you might choose to disobey the LORD and reject him. So I’m warning you that if you bow down and worship other gods, you won’t have long to live.
19Right now I call the sky and the earth to be witnesses that I am offering you this choice. Will you choose for the LORD to make you prosperous and give you a long life? Or will he put you under a curse and kill you? Choose life! 20Be completely faithful to the LORD your God, love him, and do whatever he tells you. The LORD is the only one who can give life, and he will let you live a long time in the land that he promised to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

PSALMODY: Psalm 1 (Said Responsively)

1God blesses those people who refuse evil advice
and won’t follow sinners
or join in sneering at God.
2Instead, the Law of the LORD makes them happy,
and they think about it day and night.

3They are like trees growing beside a stream,
trees that produce fruit in season
and always have leaves.
Those people succeed in everything they do.

4That isn’t true of those who are evil,
because they are like straw blown by the wind.
5Sinners won’t have an excuse on the day of judgment,
and they won’t have a place with the people of God.
6The LORD protects everyone who follows him,
but the wicked follow a road that leads to ruin.

Giver of life, save us from the desert of faithlessness and nourish us with the living water of your word, that we may bring forth fruit that will last, in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

SECOND READING: Philemon 1-21
1From Paul, who is in jail for serving Christ Jesus, and from Timothy, who is like a brother because of our faith.
Philemon, you work with us and are very dear to us. This letter is to you 2and to the church that meets in your home. It is also to our dear friend Apphia and to Archippus, who serves the Lord as we do.
3I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
4Philemon, each time I mention you in my prayers, I thank God. 5I hear about your faith in our Lord Jesus and about your love for all of God’s people. 6As you share your faith with others, I pray that they may come to know all the blessings Christ has given us. 7My friend, your love has made me happy and has greatly encouraged me. It has also cheered the hearts of God’s people.
8Christ gives me the courage to tell you what to do. 9But I would rather ask you to do it simply because of love. Yes, as someone in jail for Christ, 10I beg you to help Onesimus! He is like a son to me because I led him to Christ here in jail. 11Before this, he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me.
12Sending Onesimus back to you makes me very sad. 13I would like to keep him here with me, where he could take your place in helping me while I am here in prison for preaching the good news. 14But I won’t do anything unless you agree to it first. I want your act of kindness to come from your heart, and not be something you feel forced to do.
15Perhaps Onesimus was taken from you for a little while so that you could have him back for good, 16but not as a slave. Onesimus is much more than a slave. To me he is a dear friend, but to you he is even more, both as a person and as a follower of the Lord.
17If you consider me a friend because of Christ, then welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me. 18If he has cheated you or owes you anything, charge it to my account. 19With my own hand I write: I, PAUL, WILL PAY YOU BACK. But don’t forget that you owe me your life. 20My dear friend and follower of Christ our Lord, please cheer me up by doing this for me.
21I am sure you will do all I have asked, and even more.

GOSPEL: Luke 14:25-33
25Large crowds were walking along with Jesus, when he turned and said:
26You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot come with me unless you love me more than you love your own life.
27You cannot be my disciple unless you carry your own cross and come with me.
28Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. What is the first thing you will do? Won’t you sit down and figure out how much it will cost and if you have enough money to pay for it? 29Otherwise, you will start building the tower, but not be able to finish. Then everyone who sees what is happening will laugh at you. 30They will say, “You started building, but could not finish the job.”
31What will a king do if he has only ten thousand soldiers to defend himself against a king who is about to attack him with twenty thousand soldiers? Before he goes out to battle, won’t he first sit down and decide if he can win? 32If he thinks he won’t be able to defend himself, he will send messengers and ask for peace while the other king is still a long way off. 33So then, you cannot be my disciple unless you give away everything you own.

Sentence: Let your countenance shine upon your servant and teach me your statutes. Psalm 119:135
Notices and other Important things.

Time with Bishop David this Thursday evening at 7 in the Church. If you are concerned at all with the decision of the Anglican Church of Canada to begin the process of changing the Definition of Marriage from “one man and one woman” to “one person to another person” Than you really need to be here to help us all process the way forward. There are some resources on the Narthex table that may help. I was with the clergy of the diocese and Bp David for most of this past week. It was an encouraging time.

Annual Parish Prayer walk Sept 25th (Bridgetown service at 9:30) and Corn boil on the Rectory Lawn. We have done this several times now and always with real results (Renforth Wharf Days, Health Wellness and Safety ministry to Seniors) We will combine this with Bridgetown at 9:30 and follow it up with a Corn-boil on the lawn to discuss our impressions from God after our time of prayer. We will have a short service at 10:30 and then be sent out to pray.

The Blessing of the Animals at the zoo will take place on October 9th That is also Thanksgiving Sunday but it will be a fun afternoon to bring kids to. 2:00

Alpha will begin the following week Oct 16th on Sunday Evenings Sign up in the Narthex for yourself and friends. Val and I will host the first group, if there are more then 10 we will look for another host family. We will come together for the weekend on the Holy Spirit. The new Alpha Film series will be used. “Alpha as you have never seen it before”


A few changes in dates

1) The Blessing of the Animals at the zoo will take place on October 9th That is also Thanksgiving Sunday but it will be a fun afternoon to bring kids to. 2:00

2) Alpha will begin the following week Oct 16th on Sunday Evenings Sign up in the Narthex for yourself and friends. Val and I will host the first group, if there are more then 10 we will look for another host family. We will come together for the weekend on the Holy Spirit. The new Alpha Film series will be used. “Alpha as you have never seen it before”


An important meeting

Next Thursday at 7 we have planned a time to meet with Bishop David. We have invited him to come an address us concerning the decision of General Synod to take the first step in changing the definition of marriage. (This will not take place for three years)

I am pleased to be able to tell you that he has now joined with atleast 7 other bishops in declaring that this was a bad decision.

The process that was used to bring the synod to this point used a great deal of manipulation.

Chris Smith had written a commentary on one of the main documents that was used at Synod. I believe it is important for each of you to be aware of the tactics that were used.

David will be sharing the process and the hope he has as a diocese.

I realize that for a number of you this is a very disheartening season. I see it as a direct attack on the authority of scripture and the person of the Holy Spirit. It also does extreem violence to our Christian culture and tradition.

I invite the whole parish to come and listen and share. Our future depends on it.

David is a great leader and a man of God. I believe he is a gift to the diocese for a time like this.

Rector of Renforth


It is time to mark your Calendars!

The last days of our summer are upon us and it is time to make plans for the fall season. Here are some tentative dates and activities. If these fall in conflict with other events that you know about please let me know so we can change them if prudent.

Meeting with the Bishop on September 8th. This is to discuss the decision of General Synod to change the Canon on Marriage. I believe as does our Bishop that the Synod has made a serious mistake here. The question is, what do we do about it? Come and let’s sit down and have a conversation. 7:00 in the Church for All

Annual Parish Prayer walk Sept 25th (Bridgetown service at 9:30) and Corn boil on the Rectory Lawn. We have done this several times now and always with real results (Renforth Wharf Days, Health Wellness and Safety ministry to Seniors) We will combine this with Bridgetown at 9:30 and follow it up with a Corn-boil on the lawn to discuss our impressions from God after our time of prayer. We will have a short service at 10:30 and then be sent out to pray.

Feast of Francis of Assisi October 4th CBZ. As you know by now things have changed at the Zoo. Largly because of the ministry of Prayer. Last year a small group of us went on this day and sang to the staff and animals as we toured the zoo. The tiger was particularly impacted by the worship songs. Come and join us this year as we bless God’s creation. Time TBA

Alpha Film Series will begin Sunday Evening October 9th. The new Alpha Film series is completed and we will be running it from the Rectory once again. If we have more than 10 sign up we will either split the venue/night or hold it at the Church. Sign up and or invite someone. Watch for my social media boots regarding this.


What is an Anglican

Anglican Values:
The Sins and Virtues of a Christian Church
Graham Tomlin, Dean of St Mellitus College, London
This article was originally published in the theological journal ANVIL

An email recently arrived in my inbox that read thus:
The ANGLICAN VIRUS: This has no effect whatsoever. It just sits on your computer talking to lots of other computers. By the time it gets round to changing anything, you’ve upgraded your machine and rendered the virus obsolete.

Jokes like this demonstrate that Anglicans don’t have a great reputation for change. However, the world is changing fast around us, and in fact, if we look carefully, the church is changing too – Anglicanism is fast becoming much more varied than it has ever been. The Anglican churches in most British cities display a huge variety in their ways of worshipping and ordering church, and that’s not just to point up the differences between Anglo-Catholics, Liberals and Evangelicals. Evangelical churches, despite an underlying similarity of doctrine, actually express their faith in very different ways: conservative, charismatic, contemporary or traditional. Around the world too, many Anglican churches who don’t have the characteristics we English think of as typically Anglican (for example establishment and a parish system) are also asking what it really means to be Anglican. Again with new ways of being church emerging around us all the time from cell church to youth services, the Minster model to seeker-driven church, there’s a need in assessing all of these to ask whether they are compatible with Anglicanism or should be avoided as unAnglican.

This article seeks to answer this question by going back to a seminal period in Anglican history – the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – a time when the church was reformed (not formed!). It tries to ask what were the central concerns of the Reformers as they re-shaped the church, in a process which has left an indelible mark on Anglicanism ever since. This exercise might in turn help us to identify the particular Anglican ‘style’ of doing church, worship, mission and everything else a church does.

What follows is not an exhaustive list, but identifies six Anglican commitments which at the same time might help us avoid some of our characteristic and besetting sins. It also suggests that there are some tendencies in Anglican history which have contributed to its decline in western societies, and that some of the answers to our predicament may also be found within that very history, especially in these years when the identity of Anglicanism took decisive shape. Perhaps if we had kept more true to our heritage, we might have avoided some of the sins which have sometimes led us into trouble.

1. Scripture

The Anglican church has always been a biblical Church. It has always made an explicit appeal to Scripture, and its laity and clergy are encouraged to read Scripture regularly. If they said morning and evening prayer daily, as they are encouraged to do, then they would probably read more Scripture than that required by almost any other church. It’s worth remembering that one of the first acts of the English Reformation was the placing of an English Bible in every parish church in the land.

Throughout the troubled sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, although deeply divided over many issues, mainly about church order and ceremonial, the surprising thing is that even into the nineteenth century, the Church of England experienced a basic unity over the supreme authority of Scripture. Whether you turn to the seventeenth century Puritans, the ‘High Church’ party of Archbishop Laud and Henry Hammond, or the Latitudinarians such as Edward Stillingfleet and William Chillingworth, all were committed to the principle of the authority of Scripture. Now of course, they disagreed on the nature of that authority. Some, following Luther and later, Hooker, took the position that Scripture taught all things necessary for salvation, but where Scripture was silent, there was liberty of practice. Hence, ceremonial actions, and liturgical nuances not explicit in Scripture could still be permitted. Others at the more Calvinist end of the spectrum such as Thomas Cartwright, the leader of the Elizabethan Puritans, claimed that what was not in Scripture should not be allowed in the church (it is of course the former of these positions that is enshrined in the 39 Articles). Yet the point is that the dispute was over the extent and nature of that authority, not the authority itself.

Now this is not just an abstract point about dogmatic authority. It is at heart an essentially pastoral assertion. It refers to the question of what Anglicans choose to shape their lives, and on what they will feed their hearts, minds and souls. The Anglican belief in the authority of Scripture asserts that Scripture is good for us – it breeds good healthy Christians. As Cranmer put it in his Preface to the Great Bible of 1540: “In the Scriptures be the fat pastures of the soul; therein is no venomous meat, no unwholesome thing, they be the very dainty and pure feeding.”

As a result, the Anglican church places a great stress upon the private and public reading of Scripture, even before it is preached on. Before we speak about Scripture, we must first listen attentively to it. Bishop Jewel, in his Apology of 1562 boasted: “There is nothing read in our churches but the canonical Scriptures, which is done in such order that the Psalter is read every month, the New Testament four times in a year, and the Old Testament once in a year.” How many of us do anything near that today?

Being gradually imbued with Scripture, steadily absorbing its mindset and its spirit (of course canticles and Psalms are Scripture just as much as the readings from the New and Old Testaments), the aim is familiarity with Scripture and basic Christian doctrine. It aims at slowly cultivated holiness of life, rather than dramatic but short-term spiritual special effects. The Book of Common Prayer commends the patristic idea of reading through the Scriptures every year, so that “the clergy… should by often reading and meditation in God’s Word be stirred up to godliness themselves, and be more able to exhort others by wholesome doctrine… and that the people, by daily hearing of Holy Scripture read in the church might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God.” Here is a church that sees the reverent, expectant and attentive daily listening to Scripture as the key to holiness. Perhaps the decline of personal daily Bible reading among Anglicans is both a sign and cause of our plight.

Besides its pastoral function, this Anglican insistence on the authority of Scripture is also a polemical assertion. Scripture is the text that is final and constitutive for Anglicans, not papal decretals, canon law, unwritten traditions, nor even psychological theory, sociology, opinion polls or the voice of the media, however important it may be to listen and learn from them. This is an important assertion of the distinctiveness of Christianity as opposed to any other way of life on offer in our culture. Too often in the past, Anglicans have been seen as lukewarm, conformist, socially conservative. Now, along with so many other institutions in the west, we are disdained as part of an old passing established order. If we were more true to our heritage and identity, we might realise that our appeal to biblical authority is a call to live by the story of the Bible, and no other story; it is a call to be different, to live by a different set of rules, to march to a different drumbeat, to avoid the social conformity which has been one of Anglicanism’s besetting sins.

2. Culture

Another of Anglicanism’s more regrettable characteristics is a form of cultural imperialism, which has insisted on imposing forms of worship, architecture and language on alien cultures. Sitting in nineteenth century Anglican churches in Jerusalem or Lahore can feel little different from sitting in an Anglican church in Surrey (though it’s usually a littler warmer in Jerusalem or Lahore). In the arena of worship, we have often clung to forms of liturgical rigidity and correctness which don’t always take into account changing patterns of life or culture.

The early sixteenth century in particular was a time of great cultural change. As the Renaissance re-introduced the virtues of classical culture into European minds and burgeoning urban life, and as new worlds and continents were being discovered through the explosion of travel and exploration, so this was a period in which those at the cutting edge of developing thought, including the reformers, were very aware of the shifting sands of culture.

As a result, we find in the writings of those very reformers, a refusal to prescribe too closely forms of worship and order for everyone. There is a recognition that the form in which the gospel is expressed, both liturgically, and ecclesiastically is not fixed and must change with changing culture. They tend to see in the silence of Scripture on these kinds of questions, a mandate for flexibility and adaptation. John Calvin had some important things to say on this, for example, in book four of his ‘Institutes’:

“But because (God) did not will in outward discipline and ceremonies to prescribe in detail what we ought to do (because he foresaw that this depended upon the state of the times, and he did not deem one form suitable for all ages), here we must take refuge in those general rules which he has given, that whatever the necessity of the church will require for order and decorum should be tested against these. Lastly, because he has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are not necessary to salvation, and for the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously accommodated to the customs of each nation and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones.”

The same principle is present among Anglican reformers as well. Article 34 of the 39 Articles (it was present in Cranmer’s original articles as well) reads:

“It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one and utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word.”

This is all down to two particular aspects of Anglican theology. One is the Anglican view of authority: that Scripture alone has authority, not any particular interpretation of Scripture, or cultural reading of it, however compelling or contemporary that reading may be. Such a view of authority is very liberating: as a result, Anglicanism has an inbuilt flexibility to respond to different cultures and people, as long as this does not run counter to Scripture. The other is the Reformation doctrine of adiaphora, the belief that there are central gospel issues which are not negotiable, and others that are secondary and changeable. Of course it is not always easy to discern which category some doctrines or practices fall into, yet as Oliver O’Donovan points out, ‘the point of a good theory is not to save us the task of thinking, but to organise our thoughts fruitfully’.

In the 1960s, it was common amongst Anglicans as well as others to hear the opinion that in response to a changing culture, we need to change the gospel message, yet leave the rest of the church intact. Now perhaps we can recognise that this approach has not worked. Instead perhaps we are rediscovering that there is little wrong with the gospel. Instead it is the forms in which the gospel is presented, lived and expressed which need to change. Anglicanism is in fact entirely happy with this approach – from its (re)formation, it has always believed that in changing cultures, customs and habits need to change, and it therefore has an ability to create new forms of Christian living and belonging and worshipping.

If innovation and Anglicanism have often seemed unlikely bedfellows, then perhaps it’s because we have been untrue to our roots. New emerging forms of church and evangelism such as Alpha, Cell Church, Café church, Alternative Worship, so long as they are within the boundaries and under the authority of the Scriptures and relevant church authorities (see point 4 below!), must not necessarily be assumed too quickly to be unAnglican. Instead they must be tested, then if they meet with the deeper essences of Anglican faith and practice, welcomed and embraced. Again Calvin gives us good advice: “love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let love be our guide, all will be safe.”

3. Modesty

Another of Anglicanism’s besetting sins has been arrogance. Ecclesiastically, we have often been condescending to other churches, especially those who have seceded at different times from the established church. We have even disparaged, or even created other churches by our casting out of different groups, such as the Puritans, Wesley’s Methodists or the non-Jurors. Yet again this assumption of superiority is outlawed by the reformers. For example, take the position taken up by Anglicans over episcopacy.

After the Reformation, all churches in Europe faced a choice over what to do about bishops. Some (for example the Roman Catholics and conservative Anglicans such as William Laud) retained the idea that bishops were of the esse of the church, guaranteeing continuity from age to age. Others (‘free’ churches and Presbyterian puritans within the Church of England) argued that they were unnecessary. The position taken up by the mainline Anglicanism reformers was different from either of these. It was that bishops were not essential to the being of the church, but useful for guaranteeing good order – they were of the bene esse of the church. Most Anglicans (even Laud himself!) didn’t argue that the three-fold order of bishops, priests and deacons was the only possible pattern for church leadership – they simply argued for it on the basis of long custom in the church and that it provided a good workable system of government.

What they refused to do was to unchurch non-episcopalian Christians. Whereas the Roman church effectively decreed that in the absence of bishops there was no real church at all, most Anglicans held back from this, seeing episcopacy as a matter of pragmatism, not dogma, a matter of external government, not necessary for salvation. Continuity of the identity of a church depends not on the presence of an office or person, but on the presence of Jesus Christ through the Spirit and the good news of his grace, expressed in word and sacrament. If that is lost, then there is no church, no matter how many bishops it has!

The result is a church which acknowledges the right of other churches to exist. Perhaps the fruit of this came in 1689 with the Act of Toleration, at the time of the ‘Glorious Revolution’. This act, which allowed dissenting congregations to meet, and took away the right of clergy to compel attendance at Anglican churches, was on the one hand the surrender of the Church of England’s claim to be the only legitimate form of Christianity in England, but on the other, a right and proper act of humility and modesty, true to its reformed and catholic identity.

Here, Anglicans ate a good slice of humble pie, and rightly so. The particular decisions taken about episcopacy in the sixteenth century are an illustration and indication of the principle of Christian modesty which lies at the heart of Anglicanism. Since then we have hopefully learnt from, rather than disparaged Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists. Maybe today we can learn much from Vineyard churches, Korean Pentecostals and home churches. In particular, western Anglican churches must adopt the same modesty, humility and willingness to learn towards their younger and more vigorous sister churches in Southeast Asia and Africa, rather than feeling superior to them, insisting they fall into line with western (and often failing) ways of doing things.

4. Accountability

Having said all this, the Reformation in England did insist on keeping hold of bishops. Apart from the brief and chaotic period of the Commonwealth in the mid C17th, the Anglican church which emerged from the Reformation retained the medieval threefold order of ministry, of bishops, priests and deacons, rather than move over to a Presbyterian system as many Elizabethan Puritans would have preferred.

One of the ongoing tendencies, particularly true perhaps of evangelical Anglicans, has been a tendency to go it alone. Richard Berridge in the C19th, for example argued that he was quite entitled to cross parish boundaries without permission, on the grounds that his neighbouring clergy were not preaching the gospel: “if they would preach the gospel themselves, there would be no need of my preaching it to their people; but as they do not, I cannot desist.” Charles Simeon on the other hand held the more mainstream evangelical Anglican view that it was right and proper to keep to one’s own patch: “a Preacher has enough to do in his own parish”. Sometimes evangelical impatience with the rest of the Church of England has led to a spirit of independence, autonomy and, dare we say it, spiritual pride, claiming that God speaks to us alone, and no-one can argue with that.

The Anglican commitment to episcopacy in this context is not a claim that only episcopal churches are real churches. Instead it is a commitment to right and proper accountability within the church. It derives from a healthy theology and spirituality that knows that left to myself, we are quite capable of getting it wrong, reading the signs badly, and mistaking God’s will. We need other Christians, older, wiser and more experienced than us to check our bold ideas, discern whether they are of the Lord, and to ensure our vision and passion does not trample on the ideals and godly plans of others. And so, while Anglicans can dream up new ways of being church, new styles of worship, new approaches to ministry, we try to do this with right and proper consultation, and submitting ourselves duly to authority – the authority of those God has placed over us, just as the Scripture says (1 Cor 16.15-16).

Of course, this sometimes feels uncomfortable. We may often feel that bishops get it wrong (and being human they sometimes will). However this is, at least so Anglican tend to think, far better than the alternative, sometimes glimpsed in the more radical wing of the Reformation (and in some forms of popular American Christianity) where everyone who wants to plant a church does so, regardless of the needs of the wider church, ending up with a different kind of church on every street corner, and the Christian witness broken into a thousand tiny fragments.

Accountability is a sign of health and not inertia. It connects us to others, and prevents a damaging spiritual independence that ignores the whole body of Christ in favour of the particular part of the body which may be my responsibility. And that is what episcopacy preserves. It connects the local church with the regional, national and global church. It maintains the Christian virtue of humility and correctibility. It is in other words a manifestation of the biblical doctrine of sin – my tendency to see and do things my way. Yes there are limits – bishops themselves need to be held accountable to the will of God revealed in Scripture, and due processes in place to ensure that happens. Yet that does not take away this precious and vital Anglican value – the discipline of accountability.

5. Politics

The churches of the Reformation related to their respective state powers in a bewildering variety of ways. Calvin’s Geneva was a city state, independent of wider regional powers, and established a delicate balance between the roles of minister and magistrate in the order of a Christian society. Zwingli saw state and church in Zürich as two sides of the same coin, so that as a pastor, he could play both a political and a pastoral role at the same time. Lutheran churches often saw religion imposed and protected by state authorities. Calvinist churches in France operated under suspicion and distrust from the state, having to function largely as underground movements.

In England, the Church that emerged from the Reformation was tied closely to the realm, with the monarch as supreme governor of both church and state – a unique arrangement among Reformation churches. Clergy were both pastors of the church, yet also servants of the monarch, taking a strict oath of allegiance to him or her, a position which has not been without its tensions then and ever since. Naturally not all Anglican churches remain established in this same way, but this historical fact still has important implications for Anglicans today.

As a result of this history, the Anglican church has always been a political church. Not in the narrow sense of being allied to any particular political party, but in being concerned for the polis, the city, the public life of the wider society and community. We have never been keen on the gathered church model of a pure group, separate from public life, but instead have wanted to be involved in and committed to society, even if that sometimes is a difficult place to be. This has imposed upon Anglican churches a prophetic role. We may prefer to avoid this – our leaders will get criticised for poking their noses into ‘political’ matters, but to be true to our identity, we must not run away from this responsibility. Whether at a national or local level, our history of intimate relationships with government means that we must take an interest in issues which affect all the people in our parishes, not just the Christians, and articulate with boldness the principles and vision which should shape public life. It is part of our care for whole people, not just disembodied souls. This is in a sense a central part of a distinctive Anglican missiology. How do Anglican churches relate to the wider society? Yes by evangelism, but also by taking a keen interest in the whole of life, not just the religious aspects of it.

Since the Enlightenment, the temptation for all religion in the west has been to buy into what Leslie Newbigin calls the split between private values and public facts. Thus Christianity (and Anglicanism) can be tolerated as a spiritualizing force, speaking only about the inner life, a retreat into the private sphere of beliefs, not the public world of facts. There is a real temptation to build separatist church communities which glory in their vertical privileges, but shun their horizontal responsibilities. Our identity-forming history denies us that option. By sticking close to our heritage we can avoid the temptation to pietistic withdrawal and public irrelevance.

6. Community

Among many other things, the English Reformation was a reassertion of the importance of the laity in church life. When worshipping, the reformers insisted it must be done in the vernacular – an end to Latin, the private language of priests and theologians. Clergy were to be like other Christians, married, bringing up children, no longer the only ones allowed access to the cup in the Christian family meal. Holy Communion was just that – communion both with the Lord at his Supper, and with each other. The distinction between clergy and laity was primarily to be one of function not status. Children were seen as included within the covenant, belonging to the family, still baptised and welcomed. Luther’s belief that the rite which confers the right and responsibility to engage in Christian ministry was baptism, not ordination, also finds an echo in our Anglican formularies. Printing made Bibles available to all, so that Cranmer’s preface to the Great Bible of 1540 could urge lay people to take responsibility for their own reading of the Scriptures: “for the Holy Ghost hath so ordered and attempered the Scriptures, that in them, as well publicans, fishers and shepherds may find their edification, as great doctors their erudition.” Not put off by the possibility that they might not understand it, he urges them to read it for themselves, due to the great benefit they will derive from it.

At least this was the theory. The practice was a bit different. The laity were in fact only partly ‘released’ by the reformation, as clericalism soon raised its head again, and catholic priests were often replaced by protestant preachers, every bit as authoritarian as their forebears! One only needs to read the novels of Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope to get a sense for the way in which Anglican churches soon developed a clerical monopoly that effectively distanced lay people from true Christian liberty and responsibility.

At least the idea was there. And that ideal remains, of a church as a community of people ministering to one another, of every believer as a priest, standing in the place of Christ to offer counsel, encouragement, even absolution to Christian brothers and sisters. This was a distinct move away from the medieval notion of church as a place where the laity were largely passive recipients of grace dispensed by the clergy in the form of sacraments.

This was a vision of church as community rather than institution. Lay people were intended to be active ministers, not passive observers, taking responsibility for their own & each other’s growth in faith, understanding and holiness, even for the church itself. If we had remained a little more true to the vision of church laid out in the time of the reformation, perhaps we might have avoided clerical domination, another besetting Anglican sin.

The past often contains the secrets of the future. As we search for a way forward for the Anglican churches into the twenty-first century, these commitments made in the sixteenth and seventeenth may help point a way ahead. If we can rediscover a church shaped by Scripture, quick to respond to cultural change, humbly willing to learn from others, properly accountable, committed to the public life of society and with a strong sense of mutual life and community, then perhaps God may be able to use us as he has done in the past.

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Bray, Gerald, ed. Documents of the English Reformation. Cambridge: James Clarke, 1994.
McGrath, Alister E. In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible. New York: Doubleday, 2001.
McNeill, J.T, (ed.) and Battles, F.L. (trans). Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion. Vol. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960.
Newbigin, Lesslie. Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture. London: SPCK, 1986.
O’Donovan, Oliver. On the Thirty-Nine Articles: A Conversation with Tudor Christianity. Exeter: Paternoster, 1986.
Potter, Phil. The Challenge of Cell Church: Getting to Grips with Cell Church Values. Oxford: Bible Reading Fellowship, 2001.
Smyth, Charles H.E. Simeon & Church Order: A Study of the Origins of the Evangelical Revival in Cambridge in the Eighteenth Century, Birkbeck Lectures ; 1937-8. Cambridge: CUP, 1940.
Spencer, Nick. Parochial Vision: The Future of the English Parish. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2004.
Ward, Pete. Youth Culture and the Gospel. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Zahl, Paul. The Protestant Face of Anglicanism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.


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