Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about the direction of my spiritual life and the direction of the Church, a process sharpened by the news of the scandals in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Having a little experience among Charismatics and Pentecostals, I also scan material labelled as “prophetic” on a regular basis. That is not to say that I accept everything I read; but neither do I reject revelations out of hand. Recently, I have also taken to listening to the “Anglican Unscripted” series on YouTube, which focusses on problems in the Anglican Communion. My overall sense is that this is a time of change for all denominations.
The widespread endorsement of the modern -isms among the Anglican hierarchy puts me at odds with the establishment. For that reason, I am in sympathy with the GAFCON movement, but I see little chance of it making inroads in the UK. So many Anglicans have already left the Church of England, many becoming Catholics, others joining Orthodoxy, and a few have gone to the dissenting Protestant churches. Lutheranism has little presence in the UK, so there is no real liturgical Protestant option for those who want that experience outside of the Church of England.
I genuinely believe that God will do a great work of reformation in this country, but what the end results will be is hard to say. “Come out of her My people!” The meaning of this verse in its original context may be quite different from its use as a rallying cry for independent churches – nevertheless, that rallying cry has an effect. Unity is important in the Church, and while there are advantages to having clear denominations, centred on specific doctrinal positions, the overall appearance of a divided Church is a source of sadness for Christians and scorn among outsiders.
I very much believe in building the content of faith from the ground up. The chains of tradition can be a hindrance to this position, and that is why I will never formally join a church that takes an ultra-traditionalist line. Reformation is a way of life for me, not merely a point in Church history. While I disagree with individual conclusions of particular Reformers, I take their spirit with me. This should not be confused with the idea of change for the sake of change; rather, I believe it to be an intellectual virtue. We should be always seeking for Truth and willing to let things go that hinder us on the road. I remain a Protestant not because I am specifically Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, or Reformed, but simply because I cannot conform myself to the fundamental positions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
Going forward, I believe all Christians will need to examine their fundamental positions in the light of what they are hearing from hierarchies in the various churches. A valuable lesson I have taken from the work of Von Mises, the Austrian economist, is that everything is a choice. Those who hold the traditionalist line against the Vatican establishment, those who hold Benedict XVI to be the true Pope, are making intellectual choices. We must all choose.