“Theologically, the Church is in a mess.” The Rev. Leonard Evans of Toronto went on to say to those gathered for a prayer breakfast in Montreal that today’s existential theology confuses rather than enhances Christian proclamation.

At a laymen’s conference in Newfoundland last fall several men expressed the same view. The man in the pew is “genuinely confused” by what he hears from the pulpit these days, they said, “What should a man believe?”

Last week I listened to a Church of England clergyman who styled himself “avant-garde.” He was from the “Left Bank” of the Thames and was an avid follower of the Bishop of Woolwich. His remarks seem to reflect the “mess” and confusion of our times.

Confidently he exclaimed that “the Bible is rubbish” and “the institutional church is dead.” Clergymen in the Anglican church are frightened to leave the institution, he said, because they cannot compete in society for their livelihoods. He had not heard of the charismatic movement but was certain it must be either Pentecostal or Jehovah’s Witnessy. In any case, it surely wasn’t important and surely, like Billy Graham, was setting back God’s purpose by 100 years.

If the Bible is rubbish, the Church decadent, the clergy incompetent, the Holy Spirit non-existent, and the people unresponsive to the Christian message, what is left, I asked? “I am contemplating leaving the Church for secular work,” he replied. “I can be more Christian earning my living at a secular job than as a rector in a church.”

English theology has challenged the Church to be honest to God. Either Left-Bank honesty, London style, is right and everyone else is on a butterfly chase, or it is wrong and the apostolic faith stands. With scriptural authority in question, cut and thrust ...

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