The myth of the Evangelical takeover

Apr 29, 2018 by

by Fr Craig Huxley:

In this week’s edition of the Church Times, Angela Tilby published an article lamenting what is, in her view, an Evangelical takeover of the Church of England. She argues that it is no more apparent than in the Thy Kingdom Come initiative, spearheaded by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

But is the whole Church of England really the victim of some Evangelical coup? As someone who is Anglo-Catholic to the core of his being, I’m here to tell you to remain calm – it is not and I have a message for those who think it is: stop being a victim.

Back in November, I took a group of GCSE Religious Studies students to London, so that they could experience different kinds of worship, as required by the new course. It was a fairly obvious decision to pay a visit to Holy Trinity Brompton, the birthplace of the Alpha movement and one of the most vibrant and active churches in the Church of England.

When I called to ask if we might visit, they were delighted; when we arrived, the greeters on the door couldn’t have made us more welcome; when we found our seats (they’d reserved a whole corner just for us) the professional AV system was playing music and scrolling through the countless number of events to connect with in the coming week. The atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation and my students were hooked. If I’m honest, so was I.

The worship was predictable in its content (then again, so is a Common Worship Eucharist): worship songs, readings, sermon, Communion and prayer ministry. But oh my, did they sing the songs with passion and listen to the sermon with ears pinned back and receive Communion with reverence and ask for prayer with confidence.

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking: this is quick-fix faith, a religious shot in the arm, which requires ever-increasing doses to keep the feeling alive. The more authentic, slow-burn approach of the Church of England’s “middle of the road” is what will turn hearts and minds for the long term. Maybe. Maybe not. But we can’t hide from the fact that their churches are full. Perhaps it’s time we asked ourselves why that is and if there is anything we can learn from it.

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