Emmm, is that an example of irony...?
Anglican Mainstream points our attention to an Atheist lobby who have been allocated £35,000 of public money. They are right to not approve but it rather reminds one of the rumours abounding regarding the possible funding of organisations like Anglican Mainstream.
How do organisations like Anglican Mainstream become so influential? I'm going to look at things through a worldly lens. Their root can't be just financial, it is more complex and subtle than that. Once organisations have an almost brand-like identity - like AM and even Fulcrum, we associate them with certain rigid positions, often unfairly and they almost start to take on monstrous appearances due to the tendency that readers have to polarise them. The organisations themselves cease to dwell on what unites them and they become over-dominated instead by their differences, I think AM are more guilty of this though than Fulcrum. Dwelling on difference - we're all guilty of it and here I include myself.
It's got a lot to do with perception. The observation was made at NEAC that the floor was dominated by the white, educated, male, school-tie wearing, upper echelons. Their chair is a conservative evangelical, although he would say that he doesn't belong to any group. I always associate him with Reform, even if that's unfair - it's a flavour-thing. John Richardson made a comment about Reform, reminiscent of comments made about NEAC 5 - that 'When Reform was founded, it would be fair to say that it was isolationist in ecclesiology, upper-middle-class in culture, old-school-tie in its leadership ethos ...'
And this is a type of power too - the power that comes with privilege and education.
There is also a power conferred on organisations who rally the support of others. Anglican Mainstream and Reform are organisations who network with the like-minded.
Graham Kings describes in his 'three streams definition' of evangelicals how conservative evangelicals are committed to the infallibility/inerrancy of scriptures, penal substitution (atonement), evangelism as mission, male headship and combating the promotion of homosexuality, and their methods- church planting across parish boundaries (even without permission and working with fellow conservative evangelicals in their own and other denominations.
They network with like-minded churches, sharing between them vicars of a similar conservative evangelical persuasion. Appointments are made of those who share their stance and and are sometimes funded by the parish who raise money for their stipends. These groups become islands in an ocean of those whom they suspect break with their thinking. Little islands of the like-minded pool all over the country in churches and meeting-places. This only cements in-crowds and out-crowds and it all becomes reminiscent of the playground. The trendy-gang in my school hung out near the school entrance steps and I wasn't part of the crowd but observed them with curiosity from afar, knowing that there was nothing inherently problematic about them because as individuals they were all friends to me and friendly, but as a group they became something I felt reluctant to penetrate.
This 'trendy group' - conservative evangelicalim - has infiltrated (don't like that word, need a kinder one) so many organisations and there we have another way in which power has been established.
In this blog, I have chased the tail of the dog round and round as I've traveled from link, to link, on a journey back to the host where all links become self-referencing and are dedicated to a very particular theological position. And so some of the organisations now 'webbed in' with the conservative evangelical outlook are Reform, AM, Sydney diocese, Oakhill, Matthias, Good book-keeping co, Cornhill, Proclamation Trust, The Church Society, The Fellowship of Word and Spirit, Christian Conventions (London and Northern, Men's and Women's - I nearly went on one of these once until I listened to an old podcast from the previous year's conference to get a flavour of it. I decided not to go to spare myself the charges of being unGodly because I predicted I would be the one walking out of classes on silence and headship), Affinity, 9:38, and CBMW, (Gafcon? Neac, if it had its way? Wycliffe!)
It is very hard to have a voice that will be listened to in the face of such a force because this power is not acknowledged and all power is asserted instead to be God's. It is a particular way of processing and interpreting the word of God which unites many conservative evangelicals, often inerrantists , viewing scripture through a particular lens. The Bible is less about the 'Word of God' made flesh, living, immanent and more about the words of God. Doctrine is very important and becomes another way of sorting the wheat from the chaff. Conservative evangelicals think of themselves as truly orthodox but they have defined that orthodoxy to some extent - it is Anglican, yes, but somehow it has become flavoured with something else one's taste-buds have a difficult job discerning. It is very unsettling when you realise that you don't subscribe, quite, to the requirements, for it somehow has you pondering the whole nature of your relationship with God - but from where I sit, it is this pondering that is the essential thing about being on this journey in relationship with the relational God.
So there you have it, a tying up of some of the loose ends of my thinking on Evangelicalism, as I see it, no conclusion there though really. All prompted by the conversation between Kings and Sugden, Neac 4.5, this morning's rumours about republicans backing AM and my own investigations and experiences.
Feel free to set me right or wrong as you see fit.
See Graham Kings
Ordained Anglican. Thinking out loud about church.