Archbishop Cranmer Blog on Global South response to Pilling Report—A “missiological gulf”

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The distinctive mission of the Church of England, while based upon the principle of inculturation, cannot endorse uncritical acceptance of the totality of English culture. And yet it operates a territorial ‘church in community’ type of ecclesiology which works with the state to define its worship, and through dioceses, parishes and chaplaincies to effect its pastoral care and compassionate service. Establishment commits the Church of England to full involvement in civil society and to making a contribution to the public discussion of issues that have moral or spiritual implications.

By concerning itself with the pastoral dimensions of wholeness and healing, the mission of the Church of England accords with people’s quest for meaning and an assurance of identity which cannot be found without community, without fellowship. Its fundamental weaknesses, in common with many churches in Europe, is its tendency to demand that people do not merely acknowledge the Lordship of Christ but also abandon their former way of life in favour of that of a peculiar middle-class sub-culture. Notwithstanding some of the excellent work going on in some of the most impoverished parishes in the country, the public perception of the Church of England remains one of middle-class privilege and an élitism which has little relevance to a modern, pluralist, multi-ethnic society.

And it is also one which has very little relevance to most gays and lesbians, and therein lies the missiological challenge.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)Global South Churches & PrimatesSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* Christian Life / Church LifeMissions* TheologyChristologySoteriology

3 Comments
Posted December 18, 2013 at 6:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

As always, “His Grace” is stimulating, thoughtful, and fun to read.  But in this case, I think he’s fallen into a very basic trap and made a strategic theological error of major proportions.  Alas, I think “Cranmer” here displays a typical conservative Anglican failing, he’s stuck in an obsolete and counterproductive mindset when it comes to the fundamental issue of what stance the Church is to adopt in our time vis-a-vis the wider culture in which we find ourselves thesse days.  The putative Cranmer seems to have a blindspot here, similar to that of the historical archbishop, who manifested a fatally servile attitude toward the monarchy in the 16th century.  The English Reformation was driven from the top down to a very large degree, and imposed from above by the powers of the state.  The CoE has been deeply Erastian ever since.

And that’s just the problem.  The same Erastian roots and mindset that favored us for so long, now works against us, since English society, and Global North culture in general, has turned against God, and against biblical, historic Christianity.  And that literally changes everything.

Cranmer invokes the famous classic book by Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, published back in 1951.  That highly influential book is justly celebrated for its clear deliniation of five classic models by which Christians over the centuries have sought to relate to the wider world.  However, Niebuhr’s book is now badly dated.  I have a sharp word for His Grace.  Next year won’t be 1952.  The social world of 2014 will be hostile to authentic Christianity in a way that Niebuhr literally couldn’t have imagined back in the halcyon days of the church-going 1950s, when the Protestant “mainline” was truly part of the cultural mainstream.  But now, the cultural mainstream and the Christian mainstream have parted ways.  An ugly divorce is underway, and all that’s left is dividing up the assets.

More to come…

David Handy+

December 18, 10:47 am | [comment link]
2. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

For a long time, I’ve dreamed of writing a sequel to Niebuhr’s classic book, not least because there are so many of us, like “Cranmer,” who seem to be stuck in the outdated mindset that’s evident in that great book.  You see, it all comes down to this unpleasant fact.  It’s not just up to the Church when it comes to deciding which of Niebuhr’s five models to adopt at any given time and place.  The relationship of the Church and the surrounding culture is a TWO-WAY street.  Back in the 1950s, at least in churchgoing America (England was already much more secularized), it was inconceivable that the cultural elites would turn on the Church with scorn, disdain, and cynicism.  Back then, Billy Graham was regularly voted in polls as the most popular and resspected leader in America.  Clergy were almost automatically accorded respect, just by virtue of their sacred office.  And not least, politicians in Washington and in state capitals actually cared what denominational leaders thought, and listened to the ecumenical leaders of the National Council of Churches (NCC).  My, how times have changed!  Now that’s it’s openly obvious that the NCC only speaks as a chaplian to the left wing of the Democratic Party, no once cares a fig anymore.  And the same goes for leaders of liberal Protestant denominations like TEC, or the ELCA, or the PCUSA, etc.  Who in their right mind cares in the least what the hapless PB syas about anything??

There are HUGE issues at stake here that deserve a far more careful analysis than they’ve yet gotten within the ranks of the conservative Anglican world.  And that’s not surprising, because after all we’re talkiing about CONSERVATIVE Anglicans here.

Let me put it bluntly, in my typical dogmatic fashion.  A very large part of the crisis we’re in within global Anglicanism is precisely due to the fact that Anglicanism now has to be redesigned and overhauled, totally rethought from the ground floor up, in terms of how we Anglicans relate to the dominant culture in the Global North.  Because our Erastian habits are now obsolete.  Our whole inherited sets of assumptions that presumed the possibility of a harmonious, or fruitful relationship with the political, economic, educational, and social powers that be has to be jettisoned and replaced.

Because we aren’t free to choose which of Hiebuhr’s five models we can adopt today.  Society isn’t giving us any choice.  Because the Global North culture is becoming so hostile to authentic Christianity, the ONLY stance that available in our time is the one that Niebuhr disliked and distrusted most, the hardcore Christ AGAINST culture type.  Just look at the unrepresentative and relatively unattractive figures that Niebuhr choose as illustrations of that type, including Tertullain (“What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?”) and especially Tolstoy the idealistic, utopian reformer.  Better would have been Menno Simons or the great monastic leaders throughout history, including Benedict and Francis.

A final installment will soon follow.

David Handy+

December 18, 11:05 am | [comment link]
3. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Namely, my problem with this witty and revealing piece by “Cranmer” is that he uncritically continues to think in the traditional but now obsolete way that Nieburh did about such matters.  The brutal fact is this: We don’t have the chance to play the role of “transforming society” in the same way that Niebuhr took for granted, because we Christians have been shunted to the social margins and told not to bring our faith and values into the publis square anymore.  Put another way, the fundamental reality of our time in the Global North is that we’ve lost control of the culture, and we’re not going to get it back, no matter how much better we get at evangelism.  The Post-Christian, or at least, the Post-Christendom era is truly upon us, whether we like it or not.  The fundamental dilemma we face is that the Christian mainstream and the social mainstream have parted ways, and the Church is now, if it’s faithful to the gospel and to biblical values, locked in unremitting and irreconciliable conflict with the dominant culture.  We need to do some drastic rethinking about these things, and it looks as if Cranmer hasn’t even started to do that yet.  But that’s hardly surpring, most of us conservative Anglicans haven’t.

After all, five centuries of Erastian habits don’t die easily.  In closing, the challenge we face is daunting indeed.  Anglicanism must shed its Erastian ways and mentality and adopt an openly adversarial, in-your-face confrontational approach to the powers that be in our society.  Yes, even in America, much less in England, where the polarization and the process of de-Christianization is more advanced.

Given our state church roots, such a radical, indeed revolutionary change would amount to nothing less than, you guessed it, a New Reformation.  But I ardently believe with all my heart that such a complete overhaul of our Anglican tradition would also be the most life-giving change to happen among us in about 500 years.  In fact, since the time of the original archbishop Cranmer.

The best is yet to come for Anglicanism.  Freed from the shackles of our establishment past, that was so terribly corrupting, Prayerbook religion will at last have a genuine chance to flourish as never before, in ways more faithful to the gospel of Jesus, who was never an establishment figure.

David Handy+
Unapologetic advocate of a sternly Christ against Culture Anglicanism

December 18, 11:20 am | [comment link]
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