There is a clear reality facing the faithful in the 21st Century: The church in the motherland has been in a precipitous decline for well over a century and a half, if not longer. And what is true in England is true wherever the culture of the British People has become dominant. Though there has grown up an Anglican expression of the church in over 150 nations, few of those churches are having a significant influence in their culture, and many of them are in serious decline. It seems increasingly clear that what has been promulgated in many places was often a traditional British Culture, with a Christian Church as part of it, rather than the kingdom of God as preached by the Lord of the Church. This was not what Cranmer saw. He saw a church submitted to Christ.
How did this happen?
The Anglican Church in North America, in their new prayer book of 2019, acknowledges in the preface that “three centuries of colonial expansion…exported the Book of Common Prayer to countless cultures and people groups the world over.” That same preface goes on to suggest that what “Cranmer’s originating vision” points toward a “missional” intent. Yet overwhelmingly the Anglican expression of the faith, in North America and much of the world, takes on a gathered rather than a scattered, or missional, form. The parish church, with a pastoral leader, has become the norm.
Some time ago a dear brother in Christ taught me the following saying: “If you are not doing it, it is not in your DNA.” If we say we are missional, but are efforts, our budgets, our programs, our documents, even our worship, are focused on those who come through our doors voluntarily – are we truly missionary? If the resources of our local congregations are overwhelmingly used to maintain what already exists, or to enhance it, are we being truly obedient?
The Church of England and her progeny have become captive to a pastoral pattern of ministry that is not apostolic in effect, however much Anglicans protest to the contrary.
But how do we know what the Lord of the Church desires? Faithful Christians have only ever given one answer: We must read the New Testament Gospels. To argue otherwise is to separate oneself from all the evidence of the first centuries of the churches existence. From the moment the Holy Spirit moved in the hearts and minds of the witnesses to write down what they had seen and heard, the church submitted to that written Word. Did the Lord Jesus Christ teach us to repent? We must repent. Did he teach us to come to him in faith? We must come to him in faith. Did he teach us to learn from his teaching? We must learn from his teaching. Did he unequivocally teach us that obedience to his word is the mark of a true disciple? Then we must become obedient to his clear word. These are the marks of faithfulness.
Next Week: The Boy Became A Man