David Jenkins—What Kind of a Parish do Anglicans Really Want?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

William Temple, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said: “The church exists mainly for those who are not its members.” All parishes should concentrate on attracting people who are not Christians or churchgoers. Whether or not they are living out of wedlock up with someone — of the opposite or same sex — is immaterial. The hope, though, would be that their perspective and lives gradually change as they become followers of Christ in his Church.

I would much rather attend a church with a high percentage of un-churched gays who are honestly seeking to live according to the Gospel than one with a high percentage of straight cradle-Anglicans who are not. And I don’t think that this would necessarily be unappealing to a gay or straight non-Christian. To say, “we believe in trying to live according to Biblical principles, even though we all may fail to varying degrees” has, I suspect, a more honest ring than the note of desperation in, “come to our church and do or believe what you want”.

St. Hilda’s has always attracted more than its fair share of single mothers, misfits, waifs, strays and assorted eccentrics — especially artists; the more the merrier. Many have passed through gaining sustenance along the way and some have made it their home. Sometimes it is chaotic: the pious have likened it to a circus. But unwelcoming? Never.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryAnglican Church in North America (ACNA)Anglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Canada* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* TheologyPastoral Theology

10 Comments
Posted June 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Marvelous piece, ably and winsomely countering a common misconception about conservative Anglicans. 

It reminds me of the memorable slogan of the first church I served after seminary, a thriving little charismatic Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Albany.  Their motto?  “A hospital for sinners, not a museum for wax saints.

But the point is that the church wasn’t just hospitable and welcoming to people struggling in various ways and who were sick and in need of help.  The church is meant to be a hospital, where the sick actually do get well.  Where sin-sick people are cured and transformed, by the grace of God in Christ.

I note that Kendall has retitled this one, instead of using the author’s title (as he normally does).  And if I were to ansswer the question he poses, my answer would be that the kind of Anglican church I want is the kind where peoples’ lives are being manifestly transformed by Jesus Christ.  For in the end, we’re not just in the worship business, or the religious education business, or heaven help us, certainly not the social change business.  Rather, I like to say, we Christians are in the life transformation business.

David Handy+

June 23, 1:03 pm | [comment link]
2. MP2009 wrote:

“I would much rather attend a church with a high percentage of un-churched gays who are honestly seeking to live according to the Gospel than one with a high percentage of straight cradle-Anglicans who are not.”
As if that is the choice before us.

June 23, 1:34 pm | [comment link]
3. DonGander wrote:

Yes, we want congregations to be places where anyone can come and grow but it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the congregation was to be the place of evangelism as a first priority. Until then, as far as I can tell, the christian congregation was first a place of worship of Jesus and the celebration of His resurrection and the resulting good news that this brings. Winning the lost works best outside the worshiping congregation. We lose worship to an attempt at evangelizing which doesn’t even work well. We also become far too lazy if we expect we can bring family and friends to church so that they will be saved.

June 23, 1:36 pm | [comment link]
4. Pb wrote:

I guess no one was ever saved at 11:00 on Sunday morning in TEC.

June 23, 1:48 pm | [comment link]
5. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

I agree with this guy, because sin is still called sin in his church. I think there is a problem where the regulars, such as I used to be, put on a clean but false outer skin, and don’t witness thier sinfullness and weakness to the newcomers. David Handy +; our lives are transformed, but we are still sinners, simul justus et peccator. Should we consider that one reason God has not sustained TEC is that it was not only the liberal churches that were the problem?

June 23, 2:21 pm | [comment link]
6. evan miller wrote:

I’m with you #3.

June 23, 2:36 pm | [comment link]
7. nwlayman wrote:

#3 is right.  The eucharist isn’t evangelism, it’s for those who have *been* evangelis*ed* and are in the marriage relationship with the church.  In earlier centiries (I’m starting to see how sensibly) a catechumen was invited to leave before the eucharistic canon began.  The eucharist was the bedroom of the church, not the living room.  Today when marriage means literally nothing the idea of separation of catechumen (whatever that might mean in the 21st century in Anglicanism) from instructed believing layman (and communicant) also means nothing.  A communicant might include someone who freely confesses Islam and is also a layman in good standing.  Something is really broken.
A hospital, to use that image, is someplace you go when you know you’re sick in order to be healed.  If you utterly deny any kind of sickness and just want to be told how healthy you are, well, you look up a different kind of hospital from the 2000 year old kind.

June 23, 4:44 pm | [comment link]
8. Cennydd wrote:

DITTO, evan miller!

June 23, 5:17 pm | [comment link]
9. Calvin wrote:

Samuel Crowther was a 19C African convert to Christianity who was later ordained a priest in the Church of England and sent to his own native Yorbaland (western Nigeria) to do missionary work among his own people (later was he was consecrated bishop and was sent to the Niger River Valley). 

His tremendous success as a missionary in Yorbaland was notable for two reason: (1) he and his fellow Anglican missionary priests were themselves Africans and were themselves converts, this was the Pauline model of devolving leadership to local elders (presbyters) and when followed by white missionaries it worked very well.

(2) More to the point of this story—Crowther allowed his converts to proceed at their own pace in destroying their idols / festish objects.  While Crowther wasn’t affirming of these idols, he let the converts realize in their own time how they could no longer hold on to the idols and worship Christ.  He patiently preached the Gospel, and allowed for New Creation.

June 23, 5:34 pm | [comment link]
10. MichaelA wrote:

The Apostles teach us that we should expect unbelievers to attend our services, and make provision for them:

So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some inquirers or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
[1 Corinthians 14:23-25]

Christian worship services have always reflected this reality. Therefore, those who are sensitive to the doctrine inherent in the service will realise that it is BOTH an act of corporate worship AND a call to repentance and conversion to any who are in need of same, at the same time.

The Article by David Jenkins is excellent. It is timely reading both for orthodox Anglicans and for liberals, both of whom may at times forget that our church services will always have an evangelistic purpose, as well as a worship purpose.

June 24, 1:10 am | [comment link]
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