Anglican Mainstream has linked to a blog by The Urban Pastor which attempts to unravel what is going on in contemporary Anglicanism. He is a conservative evangelical and outlines in a helpfully nuanced way some of the differences of position in those who are lumped together under the label ‘traditionalists’. ‘Traditionalists’ doesn’t do justice to the coalition of evangelicals, charismatics and anglo-catholics. They are morally traditional, doctrinally conservative, missionally innovative but not ‘hardline’ (Ruth Gledhill in the Times). ‘Conservative’ is not a label they are keen on.
There is a fair degree of diversity within the ‘traditionalist’ camp. They are distinguished by their attitude to scriptural interpretation. They are heading towards biblical orthodoxy and away from biblical heterodoxy, trying to steer towards biblical obedience and away from biblical revisionism.
On the other side of the argument, he says, are the liberals, labelled by him ‘revisionists’. What they believe is governed by trying to understand the culture. He is certain that they’re not a monolithic group either.
The ‘traditionalists’, he says, have the gospel. Their churches are growing because people are being converted. They preach the truth, so people are generous and sacrificial with the money God has entrusted to them. (I might think these claims are just a tad arrogant and confirm one of my prejudices about ‘traditionalists’.)
Liberals have the positions of power - the vast majority of Bishops, Archdeacons, Rural Deans are liberals. ‘Traditionalists’ are massively under-represented in England. Though ‘revisionists’ have the power in the Church of England, it doesn’t actually belong to them but to the ‘traditionalists’. The ‘traditionalists’ are doing nothing more than reclaiming what’s rightfully theirs. (I might think this is also a tad arrogant. It also reveals how important the acquisition of power is to conservatives.)
The situation is complicated by a split between conservative and ‘moderate’/'liberal' evangelicals. ‘Moderate’ evangelicals claim to agree with the traditionalists on biblical ethics and the importance of mission but disagree with the way conservatives seek ecclesial reform. ‘Moderates’ think conservatives bully people that don’t agree with them. They are reasonable, restrained and sensible. Infighting between these groups is bad.
‘Moderate’ evangelicals get promoted because they are not ‘conviction’ evangelicals. Maintaining unity is the most important thing for liberal evangelicals. They place church order above gospel convictions. Fulcrum and Graham Kings, recently appointed as the Bishop of Sherborne are under attack here.
Being a liberal evangelical is an inherently unstable position. Liberalism compromises evangelicalism and evangelicalism tarnishes liberalism.
The big issue isn’t homosexuality but the Bible. ‘Traditionalists’ believe that you should do something because the Bible says it, even if the culture doesn’t approve of it. ‘Revisionists’ say that we should do what the culture says because that’s the prevailing view, even if the Bible says that we shouldn’t. These are two different religious systems which are implacably opposed.
This blog is very revealing of conservative evangelical mentality. Life is unfair. Having power is important. They do not perceive those who disagree with them as being Christian. They are the only ‘real’ Christians.
The subtle or not-so-subtle differences between those gathered under the FCAUK banner are also unstable. They disagree not only about homosexuality and the ordination of women but about whether these are first or second order issues. For anglo-catholics, women are a first order issue, homosexuality second order and vice-versa for conservative evangelicals.
Of course, there’s madness here as well. Gay priests form a high percentage of Anglo-catholic organisations which are homophobic in their public utterances. Insane. What is less recognised is the insanity among conservative evangelicals who deny the presence of partnered lesbian and gay people in their congregations when they know full well they are present.
Conservatives want to replace the perceived liberal power base and the broad church ethos of the Church of England. Changing Attitude wants honesty, transparency and integrity - Biblical virtues – and Christian witness and mission which proclaims God as loving, passionate, creative and just. Who is more Biblical?
Wait a moment, Colin, this isn’t about competition or rivalry, who is more or less Biblical. God creates all, loves all, redeems all. Ah, there’s a critical fault line – for conservatives, God does NOT redeem liberals or homosexuals, Jews or Moslems. God is selective, not inclusive.