Evangelising Nominal Anglicans 

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I remember years ago hearing about two twenty something Anglican Christians who as part of their church’s outreach ministry visited homes in their parish in order to invite people to their up and coming Easter Services. On one occasion they encountered an elderly lady and when the pair introduced themselves and told her that they were from the local Anglican Church she responded saying:

“What? What church? Anglican? What sort of church is that? I am not interested in you Fang-dangle Anglicans or whatever you call it. I have my own church”.

When they asked her what church she belonged to, with pride in her voice and quick as a whip she said “I belong to the Church of England”.

Working hard to contain their laughter, the pair informed the lady that Church of England had changed their name to Anglican. “When did they do that?” She piped up? And so they told her, “1981”. Her response was one of shock “Well I don’t remember that! No one told me that”.

This is a funny example of what I believe is an encounter with a nominal Anglican, that is withan individuals who identify as being Anglican but is for various reasons is disconnected from the church be it physically, relationally or doctrinally. Nominal Anglicans may believe in God, or they may not. They may be good living people. They may see the church as belonging to them even though they may rarely if ever attend. They may define being a Christian is being good to one’s neighbour, and say they are Christian, even though they don’t know or read the Scriptures and the Lord Jesus is more like a distant great Uncle than a close intimate friend. They may even attend church regularly but interpret committed Christian discipleship as extreme.

Judging by the latest census results[1] fifteen percent of the population identify as Anglicans, compared with percentage of Anglicans who are committed to being part of a Anglican faith community on Sundays, which implies that there are a large number of Nominal Anglicans.

But as interesting as it is to ponder the question of how many people there are in our diocese who identity as Anglicans yet never attend church, the more important and if may be so bold to say, urgent question that we do well to ask is this:

 How do we reach them with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?

While I am absolutely no expert on reaching nominal Anglicans, here are some thoughts to that question:

  1. Keep preaching the whole Counsel of God – If you have a preaching ministry. Preach through the Bible, the OT, the NT, The Gospels, The Epistles. All of it. It will not only serve to ensure that your people don’t become nominal Anglicans, God has given us his promise that his Word will not return empty. If you don’t have a preaching ministry, encourage your minister to do this
  2. Keep preaching the Cross – We preach the Cross because it God’s power to save, we preach the cross because we should not assume that everyone in our parish is saved; we preach the cross because we don’t know whom may come to one of our services on any given Sunday. And we preach the cross because it will give your people confidence to invite their non-church going friends to come to church knowing that if they do come they will hear the life changing message of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus! Again, encourage your preachers do this if you do not have a preaching ministry.
  3. Don’t assume that all non church goers are rabid secularists or athiests – Yes, there are rabid secular athiests out there, but for every rabid secular atheist, you will meet people who identity themselves as Anglicans, (whether it be due to family history, a baptism, a funeral, a good experience with a previous minister or member of the Anglican Church), whom may believe in the God of the Bible and have a high regard for the Lord Jesus. Because of this, you have a point of connection.
  4. Don’t assume that your church does not have nominal Anglicans– while the majority of nominal Anglicans don’t attend church. Your parish will have nominal who dutiful attend, ranging from twice a year Easter and Christmas to monthly, and even weekly. Some may come out of duty, guilt, habit, or some may even come because they simply enjoy church and it is something that do out of habit. This is where morning tea and supper are so helpful (and important). These are wonderful opportunities to talk with nominal Anglicans about the Lord Jesus, about our faith and we are in church so we should not be shy to talk about our love for God, his Son, and/or how and why we were challenged or encouraged by the sermon, or moved by the taking Holy Communion. Nominal Anglicans don’t usually talk about such things, but your conversation with them could be the seed that God uses to germinate a saving faith in their heart.
  5. Connect without Compromise – Build bridges, our parish has a church fete which I believe is a great point of connection in our community. There are many opportunities in which we as God’s people can connect. There is of course the traditional means, Weddings and Funerals, and Baptisms (though this is a tricky one). There are also events such as  having services designed to invite those who identify as Anglicans, Come to Church Sunday Services, or Back to Church Sunday Services or a Welcome Back Sunday service. Perhaps some thinking out of the box is in order. I am working on starting something within our Op Shop called Op Chop where those who are in need can have a hair cut for $5 or $2 or $1. Even nominal Anglicans need a haircut!
  6. Don’t Hide Anglican Quirkiness – This may seem rather contentious, but there is the false theory out there that says we must make our services as appealing, as palatable and as ‘normal’ as possible in order to win the outsider. As if we are saying, “We promise this experience will be exactly what you’re used to.” If you were dating someone and your pitch to them was constantly that you were unfailingly average and totally a good fit for anyone! Your partner would never feel like you were a good fit for them specifically. And our denomination has some delightful quirks that not everyone will enjoy–but a sizable portion of the population will be able to connect with and even like and enjoy. And if we reveal those quirks boldly, well, that’s when people fall in love. Sure, some will walk but some won’t.
  7. Pray – This is the given, the non negotiable, yet so often is the one activity that we forget to do. Pray that God will enable us to build bridges with those who identify themselves as Anglicans, and that in his grace God will open their eyes to the truth that a true Anglican is one who loves and trusts in Jesus, and that they will cross the bridge.

 

[1] http://stat.data.abs.gov.au/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=ABS_CENSUS2011_B14

which says that 3, 679, 907 people identify themselves as Anglicans.

 

From the Archives – New Anglo-Fudge is the Same Old Liberal Brand

 

unknownThe Anglican Church of NZ has been deliberating over the whole same sex marriage issue for the past number of days.

In essence this motion is a fudge because:

 

  1. It is contradictory – It says:

The Church has received and articulated an understanding of intimate human relationships which it expresses through her doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman, and is life-long and monogamous. We uphold this traditional doctrine of marriage

But then says:

We recognise a diversity of voices about what constitutes a right ordered intimate relationship between two persons regardless of gender. At this time it is the will of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui to respond to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Although we are far from unanimous in seeing the way forward, there is a broad recognition of the dynamic nature of doctrine, and the call of the prophetic word to be attentive to the movement of the Spirit

I fail to see how this motion can uphold the traditional (Biblical) doctrine of marriage and at the same time acknowledge “the dynamic nature of doctrine”.

 

  1. It is relativistic

This General Synod resolves to appoint a working group to bring and recommend to the 62nd General Synod

a. A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is contrary to scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law, will not be required to perform any liturgy for the blessing of same-gender relationships, will continue to have integrity within the Church, and will remain compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction;

b. A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture, doctrine, tikanga and civil law may perform a yet to be developed liturgy for blessing same-gender relationships in a manner which maintains their integrity within the Church, is compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction, and can remain in communion under scripture, doctrine and law

So instead of acknowledging the white elephant in the room, this motion attempts to say that both views,(in spite of the fact that they are mutually incompatible with each, in spite of the fact that they both originate from different Gospels [not different understandings of the Apostolic Gospel]) are correct. This is a classic ploy of revisionists within the Anglican church who often say “All views are legitimate, what matters is that we are united as Anglicans”. Thus the term Anglican is not theologically defined.

 

  1. It’s promoting false unity – The unity promoted is not true unity, it is organisational unity that stresses unity based on the most common denominator, the thing that we can all agree on, which is “We are all Anglicans”. When the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Ephesus he says some very important things pertaining to unity. The Apostle Paul writes:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

We maintain the unity by living lives worthy of the calling that we have received. All who trust in Christ alone are called to live a holy life, called to live a blameless life (Paul says this back in 1:4), we to be humble, gentle, patience with each other, we are to be loving. This should not surprise us, after all, we are all sinful, we are all human, there are times when some will find traits in us hard and even annoying unity but we are commanded to maintain it.

But what stands out to me is that Paul exhorts the Christians at Ephesus to be eager to maintain the unity they already have, not create unity. And the unity that we are to maintain has already been established by God. And the way he established the unity it was by creating a new humanity and the way he created the new humanity was through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus propitiatory death on the cross that creates this new humanity and  it is cannot be maintained by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator amongst all those who profess to be Christians.

For example an ecumenical group can invite everyone of different traditions and say  “what unites us is our shared faith in God”.  It sounds lovely, but this ecumenical unity is not gospel unity. The only the former unity will be maintained is by no-one saying anything about anything because the moment they do, they offend and the unity is destroyed or they fudge it and say that both groups are correct. The Anglican Church of NZ has in essence done the latter and in either case this is not the unity that we are to maintain.

 

  1. It will not achieve what it claims it will achieve

There is an old Irish saying I heard years ago:

“Paper does not refuse ink”

One can write anything but this does always mean it matches the reality of what takes place. This motion claims that it upholds the traditional view of marriage and that the blessings that Bishop are allowed to practice are not marriage. But what will happen in my view is that these so called “blessings” will be treated like marriage.

In every denomination the process on issue of contention that liberals have wanted and been granted has led to coercion. An example of this is the ordination of women to the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Church of Scotland. It was decided at General Assembly of the Kirk that women could be ordained to the ministry. Then the shift when from woman could be ordained to should be ordained. When the decision came to pass, the official view moved from women should be ordained to women must be ordained. Notice the process:

  1. You could

therefore…

  1. You should

therefore…

  1. You must

therefore…

 

in practice those who in good conscience do not hold to women’s ordination are excluded from discernment. There are many examples of the shift occurring within the Anglican Church. When women’s ordination came about there was the same talk from revisionists saying “oh yes, those disagree are free to disagree etc etc”. The rhetoric is the same within the C of E regarding the current debate over women being ordained to the Episcopate. But with women’s ordination there is no freedom and it is often used by revisionists bishops as a way of preventing Reformed Evangelical clergy coming into their diocese. What is the best way for a revisionist bishop to prevent a Reformed Anglican candidate being ordained/ordained clergy entering into their diocese? Ask them what they think of Women’s ordination. If they don’t agree, tell them

“Sorry I think it is God’s will that you don’t come in as it would not be a good fit for you”.

 

Fast forward four or five years. Reformed Evangelical cleric/candidate wants to enter the diocese, the revisionist Bishop asks him/her “What is your view of the practice of same sex blessings?” If the cleric candidate says they don’t agree, they are told the same thing,

“Sorry I think it is God’s will that you don’t come in as it would not be a good fit for you”.

 

All in all it is a very very sad day for the Anglican Church across the ditch as the new development is really the same old liberal Anglo-Fudge on offer, the only difference is that it comes from one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

What is the go with the term ‘Priest’?

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First of all, two questions…

Is the Anglican Church Protestant and Reformed?

Yes. The Anglican Church has often been described as being the Via Media (the Middle Way), and mistakenly that has been understood to mean that the Anglican Church is somewhere in between Rome and Geneva and thus Anglicanism is reformed Catholicism. However the reality is that the Anglican Church is the via mediabetween Martin Luther’s Wittenberg and John Calvin’s Geneva. It is both protestant and Reformed.

When we say in the Creed that we believe in “One Holy catholic and apostolic church, we mean catholic as in in universal, not Roman Catholic?

Yes, the term catholic comes from two Greek words which means “according to the whole”. When Anglicans refer to the Anglican Church being catholic, they do not mean Roman Catholic.

So why do Anglicans technically call their pastors “Priests”? Isn’t that a Roman Catholic thing?

Perhaps you may be thinking that this is left over from the Roman Catholic Church, a vestige that the Reformation did not quite get round to eradicating when Thomas Cranmer sought to Reform the Church of England?

Or perhaps there is another explanation? Well read on…

In the NT there is a word that refers to an elder and that word is presbyteros (for those into Greek, in Greek the word looks like this; πρεσβúτερος. It is the NT word designated for church leaders.When Christianity came to England in the Anglo-Saxon period, people did not speak NT Greek, but a form of Old English. So they pronounced the Greek word presbyteros as preost. Over time the word preost became “preest” or, “priest” in Middle English. And the understanding of this word “priest” was the same as the NT meaning of the term presbyteros.

The role of the Prebyteros was to pastor God’s flock, there primary role was to preach and teach and care for God’s flock, like a shepherd. They in no way function as someone who has the power to ABC (Absolve, Bless, Consecrated) and to offer sacrifices to God.

So why the misgivings about the term ‘priest’?

I think there are three reasons and they are extricably linked: the Roman Catholic Church, language and usage.

The Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church has different understanding of the role of a Priest. They interpret the term ontologically. This means that according to the RCC, when a man is ordained as priest there is a change to his very nature. This ontological change confers power and authority to the priest to be able to offer sacrifices to God, to act as a mediator between God, and to be channel or conduit of God’s blessing (be it upon people, animals and even objects)

Language 

The Roman Catholic Church translated the Greek NT in Latin, (known as the Vulgate, translated by a man named Jerome) and the NT word Presbyteros was translated into a Latin word whose meaning does not correspond with the Greek term Presbyteros. Jerome used the Latin term sacerdos or sacerdotes which literally means one who presents sacred offerings (sacrifices) on behalf of people in order that they may be reconciled to God.  In essence the Roman Catholic Church has incorrectly and unbiblically redefined the role of the presbyteros (elder/church leader) to a role that has no Biblical basis.

Usage

Unfortunately the Roman Catholic Church has not only mistranslated the word Presbyteros  to Sacerdos, it also used a English word to serve as the designation for the term Sacerdos and the word they used? The word Priest, even though the word priest means something entirely different.  In short the term Priest has become hijacked and redefined to mean what it was never meant to mean.

Dealing with the Confusion

Although the notion of a sacrificing priest is entirely absent from our [Anglican] Ordination Service (as there is nothing sacerdotal provided in the ministry of our Church), the word ‘priest’ is equivalent to the term ‘presbyter,’ and so when an Anglican priest uses this word, this is the meaning. However the most common way that Anglican Priests deal with this confusion is to drop the term Priest altogether and  use the term pastor (which comes from the NT word meaning shepherd) or the term minister it with the term Minister, or the original Greek NT term Presbyter.

Sadly, there are Anglican priests who do think and believe that they have some sort of sacrificial role as priests (due to their imbibing of Roman Catholic theology that was trendy in Anglican circles in the mid 1800’s, known as the Oxford Movement) and so they use the term Priest and define it sacerdotally. So in response Anglican clergy who hold to the Biblical definition of the presbyteros  drop the term priest all together out of fear that they will be deemed to be ‘Catholic’ (as in Roman Catholic) either by people generally or by other clergy who hold to the Biblical definition.

So should Anglican Clergy use the term?

The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal still retains the term priest, in the ordination service, the term priest is still retained.

The Rev. Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas, Principal of Wycliffe Hall?, Oxford, in his The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the 39 Articles elucidates as to what the role of a Priest is and what the role of a priest is not:

“We [Anglicans] have Bishops, Priests and Deacons, but the Priests are Presbyteri not Sacerdotes… in the New Testament and the Prayer Book [Book of Common Prayer], it is essentially pastoral, never mediatorial, but always concerned with the work of preaching, teaching, and guiding the flock. The minister is a prophet from God to the people, and not a sacrificing or mediating priest” [p. 321].

The term may have been hijacked by the Roman Catholic Church, but this does not mean that Anglican Christians should abandon the term. The Book of Common Prayer still retains the term priest, in the ordination service, the term priest is still retained.

PS, the good news is that the term Priest is interchangeable with the term Presbyter, so in the diocese I serve the term Presbyter is used. And in light of the fact that most lay people don’t know the history of the word priest and see it in sacerdotal terms, perhaps this is a good move. Though I am not sure if the word Presbyter is recognised.