By Tish Harrison Warren
A significant way that evangelicalism as an historic movement formed its identity was to unite around a “gospel core” that excluded questions about ecclesiology and church governance. In his (essential!) Democratization of American Christianity, Nathan Hatch examines how Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and other leaders in the Second Great Awakening “did not even want to hear the words church government.” They believed that “only by renouncing any institutional forms could the oppressed go free and taste the ‘sweets of gospel liberty.’ ” He adds that, “By their appeal to ‘Bible Government,’ the Christians removed the issue of power and authority from any concrete application.”
These assumptions have flowed downstream, seeping into modern evangelicalism with a now tacit agreement that institutional structures don’t actually matter. As I’ve wrestled with my own (unresolved) questions about what institutional embeddedness should mean in this age of internet celebrities, megachurches, and speaking tours, one thing that has amazed me is that evangelicals on the Right and the Left who agree on very little else theologically often both agree that ecclesiology and institutional structures are unimportant and mostly a matter of personal preference. Institutions themselves are assumed to be, at worst, oppressive and, at best, irrelevant.
But this may be beginning to change. A public conversation has been slowly brewing about institutions, accountability, celebrity, and power in the church. For those following at home, over a year ago I published (in CT Women) what proved to be a controversial piece asking questions about “celebrity authority” and the role of institutions in public ministry. Historian Leah Payne responded to my piece in the following months (also in CT Women) with a look at the role of institutions and celebrity power in historic and current evangelism.
More recently, as we have watched scandals involving prominent evangelical leaders hit the news, Andy Crouch wrote a tremendously helpful piece on accountability and celebrity power in the church, and Katelyn Beaty offered her insights this month in an op-ed for RNS. As sad as I am that scandal has spotlighted the need for strategic thinking about institutions, I am glad we are having this conversation. It is essential that we address the realities of power, celebrity, and accountability amongst evangelicals–including among so-called “exvangelicals,” who differ theologically from evangelicals but share much of the formation and assumptions of evangelicalism. We need to decide together that ecclesiology is worth arguing about.
But this is a difficult and complex conversation to have. Questions about accountability, institutions, and power are not simple or straightforward. I’d like to examine, as a bit of a miniature prolegomenon, the latent tendencies within much of white, Western evangelicalism that make this conversation both particularly fraught and particularly needed in our moment of history.
Accountability has an institutional component as well as an individual.
Evangelicals tend to think about accountability individualistically. When I wrote my piece on how mega-bloggers need institutional embeddedness and accountability, one such blogger responded, “You could have asked me if I had accountability!” And while I truly believe that this blogger genuinely desires and likely has private, elective accountability (that I could ask her about and she could tell me about) that misses the point about what I think is needed. This leader had been sufficiently formed by evangelicalism (even as an exvangelical) that she understandably defaulted into thinking of accountability as individual and personal as opposed to structural and public.
Growing up in evangelicalism, almost all the conversations I had about accountability were individualistic—that is, that individual Christians needed to have “accountability partners.” I remember awkward weekly meetings with my accountability partner where we dutifully drummed up that week’s sins to report.
Though I don’t have an accountability partner anymore, I do have close friends who know (way too much) about my sin and struggles. But, as a Christian leader, that frankly isn’t enough. I certainly need private and personal accountability. I would not last long without it. But I also need institutional structures of accountability as well. Evangelicals have thought too long in terms of accountability partners and neglected wise and fruitful thinking about accountability structures. We need to not only think about accountability in terms of our individualistic pursuit or as an elective group of friends or “community” but, for those of us in any kind of public Christian leadership, we need to think well about institutions, church discipline, and polity. One take away from recent scandals is that accountability is often weakened if those holding a pastor or leader accountable consider him or her a close friend or mentor.
The need for overt and institutional accountability is self-evident with politicians (and there’s certainly a think piece begging to be written on how evangelicals’ tendency toward individualism, populism, and celebrity authority make them easily duped by our sitting president). The need for structures of hierarchy and accountability is clear when it comes to physicians or professors. In each of these fields, institutions exist in part to provide limits to a leader’s power and to provide discipline and censure when that power is abused. When it comes to Christian leaders, we of course need private accountability and transparent friendships, but we also need structures of accountability that are overt, explicit, and public–in part, because the point of accountability is not simply to preserve personal morality but to serve and protect the broader church. We each need to know (without asking) what would happen to our favorite pastor, writer, or speaker if they were accused of grievous sin or error. Having structures of accountability builds trust that isn’t rooted in personal charisma, charm, popularity, or tribe.
Church history can guide us as we try to define good structures for accountability.
Evangelicals need to reap the long wisdom of the church. As we think (and talk and write and debate) together about how Christian leaders need to deal with power, we must recall that we aren’t the first to ask these questions. The church has been talking about the role of institution, power, and accountability for at least 2000 years, and we ought not neglect her ancient wisdom in our current conversation. In the pages of the New Testament, we see the apostles grappling with the kind of character and oversight needed for pastors and elders; we see church structures set in place to both empower leaders and hold them accountable and also to protect the flock from false teaching.
As early as c. 99 and 107 AD (respectively), we see Christian leaders like Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch writing about the need for bishops for accountability over leaders in the church. There is no one-to-one, cut and paste, application here—obviously we live in a different time and culture with different challenges and opportunities. We have megachurches, the internet, conferences, and speakers with private jets and personal stylists, realities that Ignatius and Clement could not have foreseen. Still, we need this long, historic conversation about leaders and teachers, accountability, and power to inform our own. Stanely Hauerwas said, “I think evangelicalism is destined to die of its own success and it will go the way of mainstream Protestantism because …it depends far too much on charismatic pastors, and charisma will only take you so far. Evangelicalism is constantly under the burden of re-inventing the wheel and you just get tired.” When it comes to structures and practices to hold Christian teachers and leaders accountable, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
To be clear, I am certainly not saying that all Christian writers or leaders must be ordained or join a hierarchical tradition or find a bishop. (And Andy Crouch’s piece was particularly insightful because he is a lay leader who is nevertheless seeking to think creatively and strategically about ways to serve broader institutions and put overt limits on his own autonomous power.) Indeed, we must avoid falling into clericalism. But evangelicals are far more likely to ignore any historic conversation about hierarchy, church discipline, and ecclesiology than they are to fall into clericalism. Perhaps the wheel needs to be altered, improved, and creatively appropriated for new circumstances, but let’s not ignore what’s already been invented—and used and refined for millennia.
Matters of ecclesiology are not indifferent or inconsequential.
We have to decide together, as evangelicals, that matters of ecclesiology are not adiaphora or indifferent, even as we acknowledge that different ways of organizing a church or ministry are not sinful. In order to move forward in this conversation, we cannot simply think in categories of good/bad or right/wrong; instead we need to reintroduce categories of wisdom and folly (we’ve so lost these categories, no one even uses the word ‘folly’ anymore).
I do not think there is only one way to arrange church government, institutional accountability, or public ministry. I am not saying that every Christian on earth should have Anglican polity (God knows we have our own problems!), but I do think we need to discuss wise and less wise ways to set up church structures. Do I think it is sinful to have an independent, non-denominational megachurch? No. But do I think that is, most often, a less wise way of structuring church–a way that is more susceptible to all-powerful and unaccountable pastors? Yes, I do.
We can be good members of institutions without giving in to institutionalism.
We, as evangelicals, are wary of institutionalism—and that is a very good thing. As our recent conversations about evangelicals, institutions, and power begin, a storm rages in the Roman Catholic Church as more and more instances of child abuse and clergy cover-ups are unveiled. A few weeks ago, my husband and I stayed up late, grieving, raging, cussing, astonished and angry as we read the Pennsylvania Grand Jury sex abuse report. We are pastors in Pittsburgh, and the many stories of abuse and subsequent cover-ups in our city alone are enough to leave me turning over tables. What is evident is that there are likely hundreds of thousands of clerical sex abuse victims worldwide, and thousands of priests, bishops, and cardinals knew about clergy predators and allowed the abuse to continue. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said, “The cover up was sophisticated. The church protected the institution at all costs.”
If individuals and societies are to flourish, we need healthy institutions. But institutionalism, an idolatry of institutions, where the preservation of an institution is it’s only end, is, in no uncertain terms, evil. Though Christian leaders need to be (overtly) institutionally embedded and accountable, we cannot embrace a kind of institutionalism that overlooks justice, accountability, and the weak in order to gain ecclesial power.
We must seek just and good institutions and systems of accountability, yet there is no ecclesiology, there is no church structure, that will save us from sin. In the words of Artur Rosman, “there are no silver bullets against the werewolves of faithlessness.” Any institution or system we form, no matter how wise, will be sin-soaked. We do not simply need better institutions; we need atonement.
Yet, because ecclesiology won’t rescue us from bad things happening does not mean that wise structures of accountability are not important for a just and faithful church. And the failures of systems of accountability—even massive failure as we see in the current Roman Catholic atrocities—do not negate the need for structures of authority and accountability anymore than plane crashes render void the need for the FAA. Systems fail, and we still need systems. But we need institutions (that like the FAA) will learn and adjust with each failure, each disaster. We need ecclesial structures that are humble enough to repent and radically so.
I do not want evangelicals to give up a wise and good suspicion toward institutionalism, but neither do I want us to live in an anti-institutional reaction to it. We can—and must–embrace institutions and can–and must– never allow mere preservation of an institution to be our end. The end of healthy institutions is flourishing; the end of the church is, not herself, but the glory, honor, and goodness of God. Between institutionalism and anti-institutional individualism lies the difficult work of faithful, humble, and accountable ministry.
Sometimes the boring things are the most important.
Talking about structures of accountability and finer points of ecclesiology is hard for evangelicals and exvangelicals because it is, frankly, kind of boring. As evangelicals and as Americans, we like a thrill. We like moving emotional services. We like the adrenaline of a ‘movement.’ We like hashtagging our just causes. No one goes into ministry or is drawn into the church because we want to sit around and talk about church polity, hierarchy, or accountability. I seem to be talking about this a lot lately because of things I’ve written on it, and even I mostly hate talking about this stuff.
But one thing (among the many) that we can learn from recent evangelical scandals is that, while it’ll never be marketable, oftentimes what is most important for a church—and for the pursuit of justice—are things that are boring, even procedural.
The things that can make or break justice and integrity in a church are the adiaphora and ordinary stuff of HR policies (yawn!) or the way elders are selected (snoozer!) or the procedure to follow when someone brings charges against those in leadership (an article on this would never go viral!). These are the finer points of institutional change that will never get evangelicals lifting their hands in praise or using fire emojis. And this is the stuff of pursuing faithfulness over the long haul as a community and an institution. We as Americans and as evangelicals are addicted to flashiness and trends and the topic of the day, to the gleaming excitement of revolution; we don’t want to bother ourselves with the boring necessities of policy, church governance, and procedure. We have to, as a church, become far less addicted to our own adrenaline and far more faithful in quiet, boring and even bureaucratic ways. This is about as un-American and unevangelical as you can get. And it’s essential if we are to be faithful as a church.
Evangelicals seem to have a particularly acute problem with celebrity and branding.
Lastly, we as evangelicals have to look squarely at our long and complex history with celebrity, power, and the market. Current celebrity evangelists, speakers, bloggers, and megachurch pastors cannot be discussed without talking about the relationship between power and market forces. And American evangelical leaders have embraced “celebrity authority” and market forces for a long, long time. Historian Harry Stout writes that in George Whitefield, one of America’s first evangelical preachers, “Charity, preaching, and journalism came together…to create a potent configuration – a religious celebrity capable of creating a new market for religion.” In the Second Great Awakening (as we threw off institutions to embrace the ‘sweets of gospel liberty’), we also furthered a “celebrity pastor model” as individual charismatic leaders wielded huge influence with little to no oversight. Worship became an entertainment spectacle—complete with pastors breaking chairs and sliding across the stage on their knees to whip up a rock star frenzy. WR Ward describes Francis Asbury as an “entrepreneur in religion, a man who perceived a market to be exploited.”
What this market model resulted in—and still results in—is a hesitancy for evangelicals to question methods or institutional structures as long as a particular person’s ministry seems to be “bearing fruit,” and by bearing fruit we typically mean getting a lot of attention, making converts, and bringing in numbers.
Celebrity pastors and leaders with great charisma and popularity, who lack institutional embeddedness and accountability, are as much a part of our heritage as altar calls and tent revivals. (And abuse of this power is also as old as the movement itself.) If we are to walk wisely and faithfully into the future, we have to be honest about that heritage and critique it. We have to address the power (and as Andy Crouch pointed out, the idolatry) of celebrity and how, as evangelicals and as Americans, we’ve all been raised on this model of leadership since birth. It’s the water we swim in.
For every celebrity pastor or speaker, there are systems of money and power around him or her that are bigger than any one “personal brand.” I am not saying that any individual person or leader is working out of a motivation for money or market share or popularity or brand building; I am saying that when Christian leaders become a brand, there are systems that would exalt and protect their brand over all else. There are systems that seek to maximize power without the limits of institutional accountability. There are systems that seek to maximize profit without regard for the long-term flourishing and faithfulness of the broader church. Systemically, consumerism infects the church—both on the right and on the left.
I don’t actually know how to combat these systems, except to seek to create and hold to institutions that curb the power of the market and that witness—however feebly— to a better, more humble way of human flourishing. To build such an institution—such a church—will require men and women who understand systems and our own heritage and history, who intentionally and overtly embrace institutional structures that limit our autonomy, marketability, and power, and who together seek to build something larger and truer than our own brand.
Tish Harrison Warren is the author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life(IVP) and a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. After eight years with InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries at Vanderbilt and The University of Texas at Austin, she now serves as Co-Associate Rector at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has appeared in The Well, CT Women, Christianity Today, Comment Magazine, Christ and Pop Culture, Art House America, The Point Magazine, and elsewhere. She and her husband Jonathan have two young daughters.
Won’t submit to the Bible’s clear teaching on women in eldership, but will lecture evangelicals on submitting to authority. Sounds postmodern and deliciously ironic.
Look, read some of the literature before you launch in with the hoary old “the Bible’s clear teaching” bit, all right? If you utterly disregard hermeneutics and reception history you’re going to impose a bunch of constraints that are evangelically unnecessary and be bent out of shape others don’t adhere point by point with your biblicism.
Spleen is not a rebuttal. It very may be a case of pot and kettle. Do better than just saying “It’s complicated! Leave me alone!”
With all due respect, Cal, you’re one to wag the finger re: spleen-as-rebuttal. My comment wasn’t a rebuttal (as evidenced by the zero argumentation made): it was a “You must be this tall to ride.” If one is not familiar with the shape of the argument at hand then one has no right to pronounce upon the issue. As for “Leave me alone!” if Paul can say it (Galatians 6:17)… I jest a little. I never said, “Leave me alone!”; what it amounted to was, “You don’t get to steamroll over this issue with your bumper sticker hermeneutics.” We’ve had quite enough “clear teaching” that gives rise to eternal subordination, adoptionism, men not being allowed to ask women for directions, etc.; all of them absurd, and all of them insisting upon what they, in isolation from the history of interpretation and critical exegesis, can read off the surface of the text.
None of those points are relevant to the actual irony: how is it that a call to catholicity is made by someone who’s office stands as obvious violation with little-to-no self-awareness.
Throw out a little history of interpretation or critical exegesis to make the point that this does *NOT* violate this appeal to catholicity. Someone like Alice Linsley, in her work and life, would refute that the objection to women in the priesthood emerges from some sociological accusation that your opponent is misogynist caveman.
You can’t have it both ways, Cal: when I offer the scantest appeal to published argumentation you decry me for “appealing to authority”, and now when I don’t, you knock me for it. This is why I cannot take seriously your “spleen is not rebuttal” cavil, Cal— I don’t know any way in past your God-mode cheat codes you dial in in comments sections sometimes.
1) Sure there might be, but it also might derive from practice which many, temperamentally, would fain to change. So just because someone doesn’t have exegesis to back themselves up doesn’t mean they’re a misogynist either. That’s not necessarily good or bad, but is generally wise.
2) If you’re being serious then you don’t know the difference between an argument and a citation. When you just name drop a series of people without explaining why their argument fits this particular context and why it matters, usually requiring your own interpretive work and some reasoning, then it is just an appeal to authority. That’s because you’re just giving me an important name that people would know and that seems to do the work of extrapolating an argument. It’s really bad when you do it in carpet-bomb fashion, one name after the other. It’s not enough to merely repeat someone’s argument, but to do some of the legwork and synthesis yourself.
Now you know the God-mode cheat code. It’s like the Contra code, but a little different.
Cal, I’m simultaneously serious and knowledgeable w/r/t the difference. Do I have to lay out an entire dissertation in a comments section each and every time I want to make a counter proposal? Or ask, “Have you considered the work of x?” I see nothing inherently wrong with a gesture towards a fuller argument at times, an extrapolation when we’re trying to suss out something we’ve both just read. And yeah, Cal, it’s not exactly like you aren’t prone to the same infelicity: I think of our quick from-the-hip strafes that seem to have nothing to do with anything, like your quip following “The Factitude of Creeks,” decrying Emersonian transcendentalism as if you had just gathered up the essence of the piece in your rhetorical syringe with that phrase. So come on, dude. Can we not just rap about this and every other topic that arises without the “Heads I win, tails you lose”?
Also, the Contra codes are where you shred all the documents, right?
That piece about creeks was rhetorical nonsense. But you’re right, I should offer a little more than a drive by if I wanted to contribute instead of venting frustration. Too bad someone didn’t offer me a corrective.
Well, I was still had the kid gloves on with you then, Cal! You’re just surprisingly hardcore about some things that I don’t understand where the agitation arises from. Here’s my corrective now: go splash around in a creek this weekend, I bet you pesos to pastries you’ll find your heart strangely warmed.
Cal, what you are asking for is a different essay, one defending my bishop’s decision to ordain my wife as presbyter. That is not this piece, nor should my wife have to give a lengthy exposition of the legitimacy of her orders every time she publishes something.
No, I’m not asking for that essay, nor does every time she speak does she need to justify her orders. All I’m asking for is a little self-awareness in appealing to the wisdom in catholicity while simultaneously undercutting it.
And you bet, I can respect a person who charitably engages in the discussion with honest-to-goodness exegesis and comes out in favor of women not being able to serve as episkopos, but you better believe there are oceans of misogynistic cavemen who already “know” in their heart-of-hearts women aren’t fit for any kind of pastoral role whatsoever.
Oh the irony of an Anglican woman “priest” wagging her finger at evangelicals about taking ecclesiology more seriously. “Mere Orthodoxy” seems to be stretching that definition quite a bit.
This piece was pretty good, but it slips up on a few fundamental points of analysis.
1) Cambell and Barton’s Restoration movement wanted to de-institutionalize, but it did so in an attempt to return to biblical categories for ecclesiology. Hence their odd position of both credo-baptism and baptismal regeneration. Did they make mistakes and, in the result, import a whole lot of assumptions from 19th century America into their exegetical biblicism? Sure, but their method should not be tarnished. To call upon wisdom is not enough, and to say “institutions, not institutionalism” is rhetoric. We need an anchor point for determining wisdom (especially when St. Paul tells us that Christ is foolishness to the Greeks, architects of the “love of wisdom”). We need to work carefully here, and be full rooted in Scripture and fully committed to obeying it. Semper Reformanda, which was a spirit that the Churches of Christ attempted to carry, perhaps in the wrong direction ultimately.
2) It’s very Anglican to say institutions! And I totally agree with the sentiment. However, Ephraim Radner made a good point to say that our desire to function like Acts 15 depends upon Acts 2. We need to know how to live and love as those who hold all things in common. There’s no other way to healthy institutions than the ground-level of people who intentionally love one another, treating each other better than one another. This is the destination that the liturgical renewal crowd and Dreherites want, though in epistemically faulty and sometimes morally sinful ways. But it’s ugly and slow, especially when we’re sinners. So yes institutions, but institutions grow out of these organic realities.
3) It’s easy to bash Whitefield, but he did more than most in his day. It’s not fair to pin the blame on him as a sleazy salesman. If the Church of England gave more support to Whitefield and the Wesleys, and there was more zeal to reform the ministerial jurisdictions, maybe there wouldn’t be such a blow-up. Methodists boomed in the new industrial context of England because they did not tarry for reforms, and for that they blessed many of the working industrial poor. Here’s a lesson about attaching the church to any social, national, or political body beyond itself. The end result is being a pagan civil bureaucracy like the Church of Sweden.
I’m all in on the article here, but it doesn’t go far enough. To paraphrase MacIntyre, “which polity? whose accountability?” The big glaring weakness in the argument presented is ignoring the big ecclesiastical mess in the Roman Catholic church right now. They have bishops, disciplinary procedures, public accountability structures, etc. But the system failed. Big time. And apparently for decades.
And in evangelicalism, the system has failed in many respects in more baptistic polities where a single pastor of a larger church gathers so much power as to be unquestioned.
To me, it’s not enough to say, “we need public accountability” and “more adherence to denominational polities.” We need to ask, “which denominational polities more naturally spread power across many people instead of just relying on one?” And any time we ask that question, we need to admit that any bishop or senior-pastor-of-a-large-independent-church does not meet the criteria.
To be fair, she addressed all of those specific instances in the article.
I would say that issues were “brought up” but evaded. She did not address the question of polity specifically. She simply discussed Anglican polity and presented the argument of polity-is-not-fullproof. She did not weigh on the relative merits of particular polities over others. And the elephant in the article is that Anglican polity is similar enough to Roman Catholic polity (with the presence of bishops, albeit with slightly different ecclesiastical duties), so does her own polity contain within it mechanisms to prevent #churchtoo?
Fair enough, but I think that would be a rather flat discussion, given that polities functional in wildly different ways even if they’re, on paper (and that’s not even really true), the same. Your complaint seems to be that a three-dimensional problem isn’t two-dimensional enough. Having mechanisms doesn’t necessarily mean anything: they can be defunct or misused. Not having mechanisms doesn’t necessarily mean anything either: they can be functionally present in a way that defies easy category or institutional presence. I don’t know how useful the answers to your questions would be for the broader issues the article is trying to frame. My sense is not very.
I think the two (so far) complaints about Warren’s inability to even write about the subject is part of the problem.
I largely agree with the article and the need. I also wonder how we, in an era where disagreement often gets labeled as heresy, figure out how to give people enough theological leeway to allow for healthy diversity within the church but not so much that we end up needing to ignore sin because of theological disagreement. Theologically for instance, almost everyone will say racism is sinful. But practically we wouldn’t likely be able to agree on what the definition of racism is.
Another part that I think needs more fully discussed is the role of independent organizations operate, not just individuals. For instance, what do we do with Charisma publishing? He has not only given Mark Driscoll a new platform and publishing contract after Driscoll’s clear violation of publishing ethics and his leadership failures, but he has also been acting as a Trump shill.
It is great to think about the ecclesiology of individuals, but we also have to think about the ecclesiology of non-church institutions. And that gets very complicated indeed.
It’s a black-hole question though. Unless people stop buying this material, it will continue. That is you if you don’t want a church-state or a censorship ministry. Even Rome, without the sword, can’t stop theologians who they officially censure or silence (e.g. Leonardo Boff, Hans Kung). Thus, the authoritarian question lurk underneath these discussions, though many would be uncomfortable, even if some would be amenable to soft forms of it.
Even your suggestion for leeway for healthy diversity is a bit of a misfire. It should not matter, substantially, whether there’s a lot of accusations of this or that, the main concern is whether anyone can do anything about it? The fact that many institutions utilizing their muscle receive howls can obscure whether those howls actually mean anything or not. Everyone has already mostly forgotten about Wheaton and Westminster East’s controversial firings. Maybe flying accusations of heresy are a form of libel, but that’s a problem that only matters if there are serious attempts at unity, and that level of unity can only be built through links, slowly pieced together.
The fact is that for most of Christian history that church has depended upon wielding the sword (or having the sword wielded on their behalf) to solve these problems. And before the sword, the church looked messy with many people (the so-called “Second Church”) who mixed and matched elements of Christianity with various other things. Unless you want a return to the sword, the only other option seems to just start at the ground level and foster the bonds of charity.
I keep haunting this thread because I care about this issue a lot, and it does matter, but the solutions many times (and thankfully the article doesn’t really suggest any!) are fantasies or ignorant of historical context.
‘Christ with His winnowing fan, and working through secondary causes, does His work of purifying the Church.’ –Bishop Robert Barron (Aug. 27, 2018)
As Catholics, our ecclesiology is that the Body of Christ is, indeed, a body, tangibly and visibly connected. We’re one, even when it looks like we’re at each others’ throats. The benefit of this current crisis is that it gives us another opportunity to do our best to demonstrate this. We’ll fail. We’ll look stupid. We’ll not be compelling to observers. We understand. We’ve been through it before and we’ll go through it again. And even if and when people leave, we’ll be sad, but we’ll be one Church, whether we like it or not. We’re just ‘institutional’ like that.
‘We’re not fighting primarily to save our institution…the Church does not depend on institutions…If we cut and run precisely at this challenging time, who will be the prophetic voice on behalf of these victims…This is the moment to fight for the Church.’ –Bishop Robert Barron (Aug. 29, 2018).
And that is what we will do.
What will happen this Sunday—even with some of our people who have given up on us and left?
We’ll be at Holy Eucharist…together. One Altar. One Church. One Big, Happy, Sad, Angry, Loving Dysfunctional Family. Just like we’ve always been. And we’ll keep doing what we can to bare ourselves to the world, in unity as Jesus asked us to do in John 17, so that they might believe.
‘A distinguished literary lady wrote recently that I had entered the most restricted of all Christian communions, and I was monstrously amused. A Catholic has fifty times more feeling of being free than a man caught in the net of the nervous compromises of Anglicanism; just as a man considering all England feels more free than a man obeying the Whips of one particular party. He has the range of two thousand years full of twelve-hundred thousand controversies, thrashed out by thinker against thinker, school against school, guild against guild, nation against nation, with no limit except the fundamental logical fact that the things were worth arguing, because they could be ultimately solved and settled.’
‘The Well and the Shallows’ , GK Chesterton
Molested children are just grist for your propaganda mill, trying to score points on an article only tangentially related. You’re normally insipid and a buffoon, with unsubstantiated romantic claims and witty quotes, but your online proselytism has reached a new low.
This brings up a great point. Even so, several of the comments amply demonstrate why ecclesiology is so difficult within evangelicalism. When disagreements over tertiary matters, such as whether women can serve in leadership positions in the church, are deployed as bases for rejecting fellowship, then ecclesiology becomes all but impossible. We saw the same thing surrounding the recent Revoice conference. I read a handful of the criticisms proffered online, and observed that most of the critics had plainly misunderstood the point of the conference and were largely critiquing straw men that they had concocted for no other reason than to have something to criticize.
[…] connection to your article “Why Evangelicals Should Care More About Ecclesiology,” what do you see as the strengths of the Anglican Church’s modes of accountability and where […]
[…] I’m reminded here of Tish Harrison Warren’s excellent article: “Why Evangelicals Should Care More about Ecclesiology.” […]