Ollie Lansdowne encourages us to look to the theologians of the past as we work through the struggles of the present.
I miss church, but I’m already getting used to the distance.
I miss unscheduled conversations, but I’m already nervous about talking to the stranger I’ll meet when we return. I miss looking around at my church family during the sermon, but how will I cope without the option to turn my camera off? On Easter Sunday my actual stomach grieved not celebrating the Lord’s Supper, but now I only miss it when I remember to. I wish that my heart was resilient enough to keep missing church, but, as it happens, my heart is more malleable to circumstance than I’d realised. Distance makes the heart grow fonder? Maybe, maybe not. But time seems to make my heart settle. My heart is forgetting the blessing of church.
One of the practices that’s kept me going during lockdown has been remembering that my brothers and sisters are singing and saying the same words as me. “All things come from you, O Lord”, and if we had ears to hear it, we’d hear the same response springing from my family now scattered around the globe; Hannah in Fitzrovia and Pelé in Singapore, Jia in Malaysia and Jonny in Belfast: “and of your own have we given you.” When I’m too weary, or too distracted, or too anxious to say the words with confidence, the strong voice of the Spirit-anointed church carries my own weak voice with it.
That strong voice carries across centuries as well as miles. If we had ears to hear it, we’d hear the Spirit animating each tongue through time; Elizabeth in 16th-century London, John in 7th-century Damascus, Monica in 4th-century Hippo, and Makko in 19th-century Busega: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”. Maintaining some degree of common liturgy has been one of the ways that the church has coped with distance. Common words for a common faith ─ and a church that is stronger for it.
In this week's episode, Ros Clarke, Amanda Robbie and Lee Gatiss discuss the issues of racism in our churches and society, and the intersection of gospel and politics.
This week on the podcast we’re talking about the problem of racism in the UK, in the Church of England, and in our own hearts. We’re also asking when and how bishops should speak out on political matters, and we have a whole host of recommendations.
Lee Gatiss unpacks the Anglican doctrine of the visible church, which has been misunderstood by those who force their own theological frameworks onto the Anglican formularies.
There has been some confusion amongst evangelicals recently about Anglican polity. Some have claimed that Anglicanism is rightly understood as being Congregationalist, such that authorities outside of the local parish gathering can be safely ignored (such as bishops, especially those who are unorthodox).
In this in-depth talk, I examine such claims about the structure and leadership of the church and especially Article 19’s teaching that ‘The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.’ This simply does not mean what some have taken it to mean, which I demonstrate by looking at the historical and polemical context and how such statements were used by other Reformers at the time. Some have badly twisted the Articles because they have forced their own theological frameworks onto them and imported meanings into key terms which would have been foreign to those who wrote them. Just as we object to those who do this in biblical interpretation, so we should also object when it is done to other theological texts, especially those which define confessional Anglicanism.
I also look at how Congregationalism was a small minority opinion in the 16th and 17th centuries even amongst the Puritans, and at how its bitter divisiveness led to the failure of attempts to reform and renew the church. The talk also looks at the Anglican doctrine of “the marks of the church” and the often neglected aspect of godliness within that. Churches can err in their doctrine and ritual, but also in their “manner of living”. Hence the vital nature of church discipline for the Reformers, and for us today.
The talk concludes with 10 challenges which a proper understanding of Anglican ecclesiology brings for us today.
This talk is based on a much longer scholarly article published in Evangelical Quarterly 90.1 (2020):25-49, which interacts with Thomas Cranmer and the English Prayer Books, William Tyndale, John Jewel, John Ponet, and Alexander Nowell as well as the writings of John Eck, Cardinal Bellarmine, Martin Luther, the Augsburg Confession and statements about the church parallel to Article 19 made by Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger, Huldreich Zwingli, John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and Reformed confessions, which are placed against the background of evangelical discussions of the structure and governance of the church and the meaning of the Thirty-nine Articles from the early modern period (e.g. Thomas Rogers, Richard Hooker, Thomas Hooker, and the Reformation Legum Ecclesiasticarum) as well as more recent evangelical reflections from David Broughton Knox, Alan Stibbs, Colin Buchanan, Donald Allister, David Banting, Melvin Tinker, Nathan Buttery, Peter Sanlon, and Gerald Bray.
In this extract from his article in the latest edition of Churchman, Andrew Hollingsworth examines Paul's teaching on justification in the light of speech-act theory.
The earliest instance of Paul mentioning the theme of justification is in his letter to the churches at Galatia. Paul has written to the Galatians as a result of their turning to a different gospel than the one he delivered to them (Gal 1:6–7). Wright comments, “The question at Antioch (2:10–14) concerned table-fellowship: were believing Jews to eat with believing Gentiles or not?... the context indicates well enough that these themes are to do with membership in the people of Israel’s God; in other words, they were ‘covenantal.’” The fact that Cephas abandoned fellowship with the Gentiles in order to dine with the Jews evidenced division among those en Christo. This was a major problem because one of the implications of the gospel was that God had been faithful to his promise to Abraham to give him a single family through which the entire world, all the nations, would be blessed. This family was to be a united family not a divided one. Paul explicitly claims that Cephas’s behaviour was inconsistent with the gospel (Gal 2:14). Paul states, “But when I saw that he was not walking consistently according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew then how can you compel all the Gentiles to Judaize?’” (Gal 2:14). This is the context in which Paul discusses justification. Paul claims,
“For we are Jews by nature and not Gentile sinners, but we all know that a man is not declared in the right according to works from the law but through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah, and we ourselves have trusted in Jesus the Messiah so that we might be declared in the right because of the faithfulness of the Messiah and not because of works from the Law, because no flesh will be declared in the right from works from the law (Gal 2:15–16, italics mine).”
H-F Dessain reviews The Church of England’s booklet Everyday Faith: reflections and prayers to help you find and follow God in everyday life
As part of the Church of England’s Setting God’s People Free initiative comes the Everyday Faith discipleship campaign. Building on the LICC’s project connecting Sunday services to Monday-Saturday life, The Church of England has produced a 21 day bible and prayer booklet to encourage Christians to live out their faith in all of their lives, not just at Church on Sundays, as well as suggested prayers to use throughout the day to remind us of God’s presence wherever we are. The three weeks of material are structured around the Corinthian triad (faith, hope, love) and are interspersed with stories showing how hairdressers, policemen, teachers, transport workers and plumbers are living out their faith in their work.
There are a number of positives in this booklet, not least the centrality of prayer in the life of a Christian. The idea of praying multiple times a day, thanking God for his goodness and his continued presence in the life of a believer, echo’s Paul’s “pray continually” (1 Thess 5:17). Another helpful aspect was the concept of the ‘examen’ to encourage self-reflection and counting of our blessings from God at the end of each day. The stories of how others were living out their faith in their lives was an encouragement as there were multiple “I could do that” moments as well as showing that being a faithful Christian is not exclusively confined to whether you evangelised your colleagues that day.
Andrew Towner and James Cary join Ros Clarke for this week's edition of the podcast.
This week in the podcast, Ros Clarke, James Cary and Andrew Towner discuss what sleep is, why we need it and what the Bible says about it. James explains what the Archbishops Council is and how he came to be on it, and Andrew tells us about his role as chair of the Diocesan Board of Education in Carlisle diocese. And all three share some recommendations for reading and watching.
Isaac Pain reviews this helpful book from Brian Seagraves and Hunter Levine.
Has there ever been a cultural moment when it was more challenging to bring up children faithfully in the truths of the bible? It’s difficult to say. But it is certainly true that there has never been a time of greater resources to aid in this task, and this short book by Seagraves and Leavine is a welcome addition.
The majority of the book’s text is divided into three sections that seek to equip parents for communicating the biblical understanding of gender to the different stages of development: up to 7 years, 7-11 years, and 12+ years. Theological foundations such as God as Creator, sin, and the truth of Scripture are introduced with suggested age appropriate tips and questions for exploring these doctrines with children at the end of each chapter.
A briefing paper for curates who have been asked to volunteer for the government job retention scheme.
A number of dioceses have already asked curates to volunteer for the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and more may do so. This is a complicated and unusual situation, and there are a number of important factors for curates, their training incumbents, and parishes to consider. We have put together this paper looking at the legal, moral and practical issues for curates considering furlough in order to help them make wise decisions in this extraordinary circumstance.
In this extract from his article in the latest edition of Churchman, Christopher Beckham shows us Luther's commitment to the educational value of primary texts.
Luther is a worthy role model for teachers because he understood something important about curriculum: study in the core, primary texts of a discipline is often a far more rewarding and helpful experience for students than immersion in secondary works that are “about” a disciplinary subject. There is a difference between knowing about and really knowing something. A deep knowledge of a primary text is best formed by studying the text itself, not by wading through a parade of commentaries on a text. Commentaries and derivative works are helpful, but they are not good substitutes for reading the text itself.
Throughout his working career, Luther’s main responsibility was to serve as a professor of the Bible at the University of Wittenberg. Once the Reformation was underway, Luther began to argue for his students to read and know the Bible itself, not only what the commenters on the Bible had written. In his era, that was not the practice, and while this would seem to be common sense, it was simply not the case. He worked to reform the curriculum at his university to bring it in line with this view of his. A clear exposition of his curricular ideas can be found in his Address to the Nobility of the German Nation (1520).
In this treatise, Luther laid out the case for the princes to get involved in the church reform movement. Luther cited the specific ways the Roman Church had insulated itself from reform by building certain doctrinal and political “walls” around itself. Toward the end of the document, he attached 27 articles consisting of concrete steps the princes needed to take to adequately reform the German Church. One of the necessary steps was to authorise a thorough-going curricular reform of the universities in Germany.