Evangelism confusion: Pentecost initiative undermined by Minster heresies

May 10, 2016 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

Some weeks ago the Archbishops of Canterbury and York announced an initiative to unite the Church of England in prayer and recommitment to evangelism during the week leading up to Pentecost.

Archbishop Justin has made promoting the practice of prayer one of the main emphases of his ministry. The Church of England have produced a number of short videos featuring the Lord’s prayer (famously banned by cinemas) and other Scriptures (focusing on the Easter story). Both Archbishops have spoken of their personal faith in Christ and have encouraged members of the C of E, clergy and laity, to be intentional about sharing their faith.

The Archbishop of York has taken initiatives in evangelism in his Diocese, not just as a leader and administrator but personally joining in mission initiatives. In March this year the Archbishops wrote to every serving clergyman in the country, asking them to find ways of encouraging prayer and evangelism, focusing especially on the period between Ascension and Pentecost. Based on the theme ‘Thy Kingdom come”, the initiative explicitly asks clergy and churches not just to hold an extra service or two, but to mobilize for mission:

Jesus Christ calls every person to follow him. As Christians it’s our duty and joy to share that invitation. That’s why the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are inviting every church in England to join a week of prayer this Pentecost, from 8-15th May — let’s pray for every Christian to receive new confidence and joy in sharing this life-transforming faith.

The website has practical suggestions for how to pray for others, and how to pray for ourselves so that we can share faith in Christ with others. The week of prayer for mission will culminate on Pentecost Sunday with several “Beacon Events” – gatherings for praise and worship led for the most part by well-known contemporary worship leaders.

Some people have been cynical about this initiative, opposed in principle to anything the Archbishops do, and saying it is just about getting bums on seats. Others have been more positive. This is what the Church should be doing! The material shows clearly an understanding that we are dealing with a supernatural God who calls us into partnership with him for mission, because of love for us and people around us. It talks about “friendship with Jesus Christ” and encourages those who have this faith to share it with others. While evangelicals might quibble about the content, for example we might wish for more explanation about the message of Jesus that we are sharing, this material can be used as a basis for orthodox Anglican to pray, preach, run courses that explore and explain Christian faith. The ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ initiative brought many negative comments on liberal blogs, often centred around distaste for anything evangelical. That in itself could make it worth supporting!

But while the Archbishop of York is prepared to put his name to this initiative, there are clearly many in the senior leadership of his Diocese who are not. I have seen the May monthly mailing of news and events to clergy and licensed lay readers in the Diocese of York. It does not mention the ‘Thy Kingdom Come” week, or refer to evangelism and the mission of the church. It doesn’t even mention Pentecost. There are advertisements for sessions on Ignatian prayer techniques, the Enneagram, and exploring dreams. Most oddly of all, there is a notice for a quiet day on “Faith and Doubt” led by Canon Chris Collingwood from York Minster who “also practises Zen and began a Zen group based at the Minster two years ago”. A link to the Minster site is given which openly advertises Zen meditation and shows a picture of a clergyman leading a group of devotees; behind him a large statue of Buddha sits on a table.

It is not a surprise that York Minster clergy are offering Zen meditation. Last year Canon Michael Smith gave a ‘blessing’ on the Gay Pride march which assembled in front of the Minster before processing through the city, with the full backing of the Dean. This is a place which seems to have abandoned Christian doctrine in any meaningful sense of the word.

But this does not explain why the Diocese as a whole, under the leadership of the Archbishop of York, is simply not mentioning the big prayer and evangelism initiative which Dr Sentamu himself is promoting nationally. It’s one thing for his Diocese to talk about Jesus publicly while in the background there are some clergy secretly blessing gay relationships or holding Zen meditation. It’s another thing altogether for the Diocese to openly support worship of a different god in the precincts of its main worship centre, and hide an initiative which promotes prayer at Pentecost for the coming of God’s Kingdom and sharing faith in Christ.

This raises several questions. First, who is in charge in the Diocese of York? Second, how can the Archbishop expect to unite the Church of England in prayer and mission when there is such complete confusion in his own back yard about what we believe and whom we worship? Third, what are the realities on the ground for orthodox Anglicans in the Diocese of York? And lastly, are we seeing here the outworking of the policy of “good disagreement”, whereby we are expected to accept and celebrate the ‘diversity’ of the Church of England, and just as in the nation and in our communities, Christians learn to share space peaceably with the ideas of secularists and those of other religions, so we should do the same within the C of E?

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