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Five reasons why I am Church of England

Si Walker, 30th September 2019

The Bible

The Bible

The Church of England (C of E) is according to its founding documents, a Bible-centred Church. Its own canons (church laws) tell us that the Bible is meant to be front and centre in everything. While we recognise that the Church of England at large has wandered from this truth, it is our job as members to reform the church*. We still agree with the way that was set out years ago; and so WE hold the title deeds!

Canon A5 says:

The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. (My emphasis.)

'WE hold the title deeds!'

In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.

The 39 Articles

The Church of England requires its clergy to assent to the 39 articles, which are 39 doctrinal truths. While they clearly reflect the issues of the day in which they were written, they are agreeable to Scripture and extremely helpful. For example, feast on article number 11, here:

XI. OF THE JUSTIFICATION OF MAN

WE are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

If all types and stripes of church believed that, we would see Christianity thrive in this country!

The Prayer Book

I used to despise the Prayer Book and most liturgy as a younger person. I have had to change my mind on this and eat humble pie. For me, all liturgy was associated with spiritual deadness, because of the liberal church I had grown up in. I associated robes and liturgy, with a rejection of the gospel and sitting light to the teachings of the Word.

'I used to despise the Prayer Book and most liturgy as a younger person'

However, that was to throw the baby out with the bath water! This year I have been using the Book of Common Prayer (1662) for some of my quiet times and it is wonderful!

Here is the Collect for Peace:

‘O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness, through the merits of Jesus Christ our saviour. Amen.’

Thomas Cranmer who was the main person behind it knew what he was doing. He wanted to get as much Bible into people as possible. And when you sit and reflect on what sort of text would help nourish a daily walk with the Lord and draw us into his word, I at least have concluded that it would be hard to beat Cranmer. That said, the use of the Prayer Book or a more modern form in all our services would be evangelistically disastrous. My own view is that we need fresh expressions of doing church services, that can engage the modern person and give ample time for preaching.

A microphone

We have to actually use the opportunities God gives us to defend the truth

The Church of the nation

The Church of England is the national church, even though the country could not be said to be particularly Christian anymore. The church has a role in some of our major institutions and the Queen is the Defender of the Faith. This creates some unique opportunities, but my fear is that unless we take a moral lead, we will squander it and simply pander to the world. A few years ago, I heard one of the most prominent evangelicals in the country being interviewed on the radio. I didn’t doubt that he had been invited on by virtue of his being famous, but also by virtue of being a Church of England minister, as opposed to a free church person. However, what took place in the next five minutes was the squandering of every opportunity to answer the radio hosts questions

'the squandering of every opportunity to answer the radio hosts questions'

well and to give a clear articulation of what he believed. He seemed completely terrified to say anything Christian, while the non-Christian tried to coax it out of him! We have to use the opportunities offered to us and we have to pray that we will not fail to acknowledge Jesus before men and women (Matthew 10:32-33).

No church or denomination is perfect…but

For myself I have seen lots of divisions between Christians and it seems to me that we can go on dividing forever into new denominations and groupings. However, I recognise that there may be a time when I can no longer minister in good conscience within the Church of England, or I am forced out. I don’t know when that will be (and I hope it does not come), but I do know that we have to start thinking about our future options as a church.

With the emergence of movements like GAFCON and RENEW, seeking to re-new the Worldwide Anglican Communion (of which the C of E is a part) I don’t despair. After all, there are other ways of remaining Anglican and when all things are said and done, the most important thing is to be truly Christian. It is God we give account to.

A final word

My Grandfather was ordained in the Church of England. I grew up in a Church of England Church and continued to attend C of E evangelical churches when at University and afterwards. I want to see the Church of England thrive and I wanted to be ‘in it to win it’. But Lord, have mercy on the Church of England today.

Maybe you are a convinced Church of England member already. Maybe you aren’t. Maybe you aren’t convinced but you attend a Church of England Church! Whatever your position, let us treasure God’s Word and hold firm to the gospel of Jesus in our local church.

* For information on the situation in the C of E and Anglican Communion, you can visit the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) website.