John Richard­son CEEC

The Church of England - - SUNDAY -

Time was when I was in reg­u­lar con­tact with Andrew Brown, pic­tured, the re­li­gious com­men­ta­tor and cor­re­spon­dent for The Guardian. I al­ways ad­mired Andrew’s in­sight and in­tel­li­gence, whilst re­gret­ting his acer­bic tongue. He is not the only per­son whose liveli­hood de­pends on ex­press­ing his view on a be­lief sys­tem with which he has lit­tle sym­pa­thy. Nev­er­the­less, he is gen­er­ally worth lis­ten­ing to, even if not of­ten agree­ing with.

So it was with some in­ter­est I tuned in to his re­cent Ra­dio 4 ‘anal­y­sis’ ask­ing whether the Church of Eng­land is dan­ger­ously out of step with the na­tion.

Not sur­pris­ingly, given the pro­gramme’s fo­cus on dis­putes con­cern­ing women bish­ops and sex­u­al­ity, and Andrew’s aver­sion to evan­gel­i­cal views (heartily shared, it would seem, by the Bishop of Buck­ing­ham), the an­swer, summed up in the pro­gramme’s ti­tle ‘Last Rites for the Church of Eng­land’, was ‘prob­a­bly’.

How­ever the pro­gramme is still well worth a hear­ing, and it also brought out an im­por­tant de­tail to the cur­rent pic­ture, which is the mis­match be­tween of­fi­cial Angli­can ‘ doc­trine’ and the ‘ doc­tri­nal be­liefs’ of the typ­i­cal Angli­can. Once again, this will prob­a­bly not come as a sur­prise, es­pe­cially since the re­search ‘sam­ple’ on which some of the pro­gramme’s con­clu­sions were based in­cluded ‘nonchurch­go­ing Angli­cans’ (or ‘un­be­liev­ers’ as some of us would call them).

But the ob­ser­va­tion high­lights a se­ri­ous point — that teach­ing doc­trine is not some­thing we re­ally do, even in evan­gel­i­cal churches.

Oddly enough, this may partly be be­cause of the change in preach­ing habits and prac­tices ad­vo­cated and pro­moted by the Procla­ma­tion Trust. In my own view, Angli­can preach­ing is vastly su­pe­rior to what was on of­fer even 20 years ago. The text is now, quite rightly, the con­trol­ling fac­tor in ex­pos­i­tory preach­ing. But one of­ten re­peated re­frain is that we should ‘preach the text, not the frame­work’.

Be­hind this is a proper sus­pi­cion of the days when (it is held) evan­gel­i­cal preach­ing was largely top­i­cal and the text was of­ten a spring­board to speak about some pre­sumed fea­ture of evan­gel­i­cal the­ol­ogy. That may be so (I never at­tended those sorts of evan­gel­i­cal churches — or in­deed any sort — in my for­ma­tive years, so it is hard to com­ment), but it would seem to me the re­sult has been a sus­pi­cion of ‘doc­tri­nal’ preach­ing in the aver­age PT type con­gre­ga­tion.

And this, it seems to me, has a num­ber of neg­a­tive ef­fects. For a start, it is very hard to put to­gether doc­trine yourself from the raw ma­te­rial of tex­tual preach­ing. Sec­ondly, we do not get to con­sider the mer­its or other­wise of doc­trines

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.