Tim Carter asks whether Anglicanism must die.
Recently I was leading a training session for a group of curates on discerning God's call in a fresh expression context. As part of the session I emphasised the importance of the principle of dying to self and asserted that those called to engage in fresh expressions ministry must be willing to die to their own preferences. We are not called to create a church for ourselves, but to enable the people to whom we have been sent to become church. The question came back at me, 'How does that square with it being an Anglican fresh expression? Are you willing to die to being Anglican?'
I've been reflecting on that question ever since. I do believe that the Anglican tradition lends itself well to finding local expression. It has a heritage of self reformation and it is a broad church that has worked hard to maintain unity in diversity. Having said that, I think that this question is worth engaging with. What of its own core identity is the Church of England willing to allow to die in order that the Church might live?
It seems to me that this question might be expressed in different ways at different levels. At each level there are elements of what might be considered Anglican identity that might have to die.
What must die in the national institution?
Common liturgy and forms of worship? Ordering of bishops, priests, and deacons? Geographical coverage of the country?
What must die in the local church?
Is it necessary for inherited churches to die if new churches are to live? Is support for fresh expressions an optional extra from surplus resources, or a core ministry that will be prioritised?
What must die at the personal level for ministers?
Do ministers have to allow ministries that we find personally fulfilling to die? Is it right to kill off branches of church life in the face of the pain of those who live amongst those branches?
I pose these questions without knowing the answers, but to provoke conversation. As we engage with them and others like them, I invite you to join with me in prayer.
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I find it easy to suggest things that need to die when others will face bereavement or the work of consolation. May God forgive me and give me the grace to die well and the courage to console others in their grief. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Amen.