Since 1960 I have been a regular contributor to a Church of England newspaper. “Say whatever you like,” said the editor cheerfully at the outset. I did. I corrected English misconceptions about Scotland, got in some good Calvinist theology, and clobbered the bishops—“Attaboy!” said my wily editor. The maddening thing was that when I met them (bishops and lesser mortals), they would thank me with genuine warmth and say how nice it was to see themselves as others saw them. One prominent clergyman, now elevated to an ancient see, called to me once through a jostling crowd at London Airport, “Hello, Jim, I pray for you every Tuesday.” This left me the target of envious eyes but feeling vaguely threatened.
Over those years I saw the evangelical movement in the Church of England expand in numbers and influence as the two other identifiable parties declined. Anglo-Catholics, dominant between the wars, seemingly found difficulty in adjusting to a changing world. Liberal churchmen, on the other hand, found it fatally easy, and brought to mind a cryptic comment of John Knox about churchmen of his own day: “As they sought the world, it fled them not.”
It was the evangelicals, children of the Reformation and the eighteenth-century Revival, who grasped the need for reevaluation. In a previous age they had been active not only in missions but also in such areas as the reform of factory laws and the abolition of slavery. Thereafter, however, they became more inward-looking, stressing evangelism and personal holiness. Their churches were (some still are) described as “refuges of comfort and safety rather than communities which equip us for the challenge and insecurity of mission in the contemporary world.”
Then came the National Evangelical ...1
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