God’s Church for God’s World
Faithful perspectives on mission and ministry
Tom Woolford and Adam Young (eds.)
IVP, 2022 (ISBN: 9781789742244, 218pp, £19.99)
Issues 8114 and 8115 reviewed Parts one and two of this multi-authored book, who main focus is the status of evangelicalism in the Church of England. The third and final section moves beyond, with contributions from Wales, Scotland, and ‘continuing’ Anglicanism, all of which serve to throw light back on the CofE ‘s own situation. The mood in several of the preceding essays was low, but these final three are all the more so, ending the book on dark note, however moderated it may be by the occasional rays of light which the authors draw out.
Both the Church in Wales (CiW) and Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) are small entities, having significantly fewer than 50,000 members – smaller than many individual dioceses in England. Moreover, both occupy a different type of settlement to England. The CiW is national but was disestablished and disendowed in 1920, reflecting a demographic reality which since the previous century had seen nonconformity become the de facto ‘establishment’ in the Principality. The Rector of Bedwas gives a useful analysis of evangelical involvement with the church, while lamenting the damage caused by divisions over women’s ordination and gifts of the spirit. The SEC meanwhile is even further from CofE norms, as the national and established church north of the border is the Church of Scotland (CoS). Had the CofE not developed a preoccupation with sectarian “Anglicanism”, its principal partner across the Tweed, in the grand fellowship of national Protestant churches, would be the CoS, not the small, breakaway SEC. David McCarthy, now of St Thomas’s Edinburgh, is a long-serving minister and is able knowledgeably to begin his narrative of events in Scotland from the time of the Windsor Report.
The paths taken by any two churches will never be identical, but the processes, manoeuvres, and developments in Wales and Scotland do bear close consideration for how they may be seen, and indeed have already been seen, in England. Both Roberts and McCarthy identify the episcopal leadership in their respective contexts as problematic and significantly out of step with the wider consensus at the grassroots of the two churches. This led to extensive unorthodox appointments and the non-consensual introduction of new liturgies, before, ultimately formal changes occurred in both provinces. In both countries a range of evangelical views and differing personal situations have meant the response has been divided, with some departing from parishes and ministries, while others remain, facing a very uncertain medium-term future.
The final chapter, from Peter Sanlon, takes an unexpected twist when, having extolled the Free Church of England (FCE), the author abruptly relates how having left the CofE in 2019, he and his congregation have now also left the FCE and are now somewhat in denominational limbo. Sanlon gives the salutary warning; ‘do not make the mistake of thinking that there are no problems or risks in alternative Anglican structures’. Given that all such structures are, at present, small and fragile, it is no surprise that a few bad apples, where they manifest, can cause major disruption. The poignant reflection on this is that it may ‘be left to a future generation of leaders’ to take the next steps forward.
This book does not seek to present novel approaches to governance or debate but is nonetheless very significant for the manner in which it provides a cross-section of evangelical testimony and reflection. Buy a copy for yourself, for your bishops, and for anyone who might read it for Christmas!
Edward Keene, Little Shelford