Great little article [pdf] by Doug Wilson in The North American Anglican:
In other words, what the Anglicans did [in the 17th Century] mattered very much to those outside the Church of England. Their differences were great, but for those disposed to look for it, the commonality was greater. And while circumstances alter, and the current landscape looks very different in many ways, some things don’t change—and this is one of them. Anglicans matter very much to the rest of us, and the spiritual health of the global Anglican Communion should be the prayerful interest of every faithful Christian the world over.
The glories of the Anglican contributions to the larger Church matter very much to those of us outside, and hence the heresies promoted in her midst also matter to us—for the same reason. For that reason I trust that a few comments and exhortations from an outsider will not be taken as impudence.
First, many observations have been made about the orthodoxy of Third-World bishops, and the demographic shift to the South that the Christian faith is experiencing. As Philip Jenkins has observed, the “average” Christian in the world today is an Anglican—not to mention being a Nigerian woman.
Second, God loves to test our faithfulness in situations that look hopeless to us. When Athanasius made his famous contra mundum comment, he was not talking about the mundum of the pagans and secular humanists, but rather the mundum episcoporum, the world of wobbly bishops. That world is with us still, but we should take a lesson from the courage and insight of Athanasius. Things have been this bad before.
And third, unbelief has made the inroads it has throughout the Church in the name of “relevance,” but the history of the Church shows that few things are as irrelevant as the lust for this kind of relevance. God will resolve this story, and when He does, it will be to show the relevance of doctrinal “stodginess” and the ongoing irrelevance of cutting edge unbelief.
And so what is the future of Anglicans? Wilson ends with an interesting observation…
I once worshipped near Oxford in a prayer book Anglican service that was dead enough to make my back teeth ache. And another time I was visiting about this very problem with a friend who is a loyal son of the prayer book. We were talking during the fellowship hour after a very crowded service at an Anglican church that had a low approach to liturgy, but a solid view of the gospel and of teaching. He had come over from his church—which had been very empty—and was lamenting the choice that was presented to him. In my view, though it is often a practical choice, this is theologically a false alternative.
Latimer would not have had the devil say, “Up with the prayer book and down with preaching.” A revival of great expositional preaching with keen application is just what the traditional Anglican communion needs, and because we worship the God of all deliverance, I have no doubt this revival is already underway.
Sitting here in Sydney, I find that fascinating. There is a revival of liturgy and other praxis slowly going on in this low-church place (and rightly so) – nevertheless Wilson points us back to what will always be the foundation of our mission – faithful, Biblical preaching. Let's never lose our confidence that, ultimately God grows His church around Jesus by the Spirit through the preaching of His word.
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We in the Eastern Church are dismayed by both the liberal revisionism that goes on in the Anglican Church and the almost-unrecognisable-as-Anglican Sydney diocese evangelicalism that exists counter to it.
Do you think that Anglicanism’s identity crisis is finally coming to a head?
Will the Anglicanism of the future be more closely aligned with non-denominational “Bible” churches, the barely-Christian liberal faction or the ancient churches?
These are difficult times.
hi Jonathan. I think part of the problem is that “Anglicanism” is being defined far too narrowly by some. Still, would be interesting to hear where you thought the main points of divergence were.