A Wedding and a feast and the Economist
This weekend, The Economist writes on the rise of evangelicalism and how it is shaking up the established church. It describes the cosiness of a surburban or rural Anglicanism that does not do enthusiasm or fanaticism. But these often more liberal churches are losing their congregations and Peter Brierley has been number-crunching, discovering that the fastest growing churches are evangelical. 40% of Anglicans attend evangelical parishes; many in the Alpha-driven mega-churches of our cities.
Allegedly a third of clerics are evangelical. Sometimes, as an evangelical, I wonder where this third are. My cognitive dissonance has abounded since getting ordained, in part heightened by my involvement in the Indaba process. My networks are changing as I return to the centres which first introduced me to a radical gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives. This summer I will brave the Junior Evangelical Clergy conference and hope to be accompanied by other women who are feeling called to gospel proclamation and church-planting initiatives, social action and ecumenism.
Ecumenism can be a powerful place for reassurance and company. I am part of a cell group and the only Anglican there. Friends are evangelicals, from those city mega churches that are independent and from smaller, neighbouring growing networks. As I speak today with family members who are also finishing an Alpha course at an independent church, they continue to question my loyalty to the Anglican church. It does me good to re-articulate reasons for remaining committed no matter how hard it is. There are many younger clergy coming through who are themselves products of ecumenical friendships, discipled after Alpha introductions to Christianity and educated at these more evangelical colleges.
From those searching out faith, there seems to be an increasing desire for something distinctive, for something that looks different, counter-cultural. As I reflect on a Wedding that I went to this weekend with a congregation comprising largely of Christians from the Vineyard movement and New Wine influenced Anglicanism, I feel hopeful that the Church of England will continue to discover new ways to introduce the gospel without compromise the message. A generous Anglican priest from a neighbouring parish to mine was happy to accommodate a live band in the church, a preacher from Vineyard and a blessing consisting of the laying on of hands. The liturgy she chose was upbeat and minimal and the message preached by the visiting speaker was uncompromising and evangelistic. This couple had used their wedding ceremony as an opportunity for outreach. The Anglican church affords us these kinds of opportunities and this is one of the reasons that I remain committed. I heard my own calling at an Anglican funeral delivered by a conservative evangelical. There are reasons to continue to consider the glass half-full, even if we see though it dimly.
Ordained Anglican. Thinking out loud about church.