Lecture given by Rt Rev Ray Smith, at the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Ambridge, PA in December '00 on the Essentials of Anglicanism. Introduction
I want to share with you today seven defining essentials of Anglican Evangelicalism. These essentials Anglican Evangelicals share with other Evangelicals irrespective of their denomination or Christian group.
There may be those who claim to be Evangelical but do not endorse all of them. Some who do not call themselves Evangelicals will subscribe to some or perhaps even all of them, but will not necessarily give them central place in their system of belief. This latter group may emphasize and give a more prominent place to other beliefs.
1. First Essential: The Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
The first Evangelical essential is the absolute supremacy assigned to the Bible as God's written word and the only rule of faith and practice, the only test of truth, and the only judge of controversy. (Ryle, Knots Untied, p4) The Bible is inspired (God breathed); inerrant (free of error); infallible (true).
The Bible is perspicuous. Its message is clear and plain to the sincere and humble reader.
The Bible is the Church's supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice. (Article 6 of the Articles of Religion). It is superior to the Church Fathers, Catholic tradition, prayer books, contemporary liturgies, human reason, primates and archbishops, the conscience of man, modern discovery and learning.
Our beliefs, values and practices as Christians in the church and living in society must be, either stated in the Bible, deducible from the Bible or in harmony with the Bible.
2. Second Essential: The Doctrine of Human Sinfulness (Romans 3:9-18).
The second Evangelical essential is the recognition that every human being is sinful from birth and is naturally inclined to evil. (ibid.p5)
Sin has corrupted the whole world, society, the church and the created order.
Starting with the first man and women all have fallen from original righteousness. A sinful nature has been transmitted to everyone through natural conception.
Every part of our being is affected, intellect, will, affections, and finds expression in our thought life and the way we behave. Fortunately due to God's restraining hand and His grace we perform kind acts in spite of our natural bent.
Left to ourselves we are at enmity with God. We lack the ability to love and serve God. We resent God and defy him. We are completely absorbed in ourselves.
Humanity apart from Christ stands guilty, in a state of imminent danger and condemnation before God.
We require more than a little bit of straightening out, reform or improvement. We need a radical inner change of our nature. We are in need of a complete transformation.
But we do not have the ability to change or save ourselves from our predicament. In fact we lack the desire or will to be changed or saved.
3. Third Essential: Jesus Christ Saviour and Lord (Colossians 1:15-20).
The third Evangelical essential is belief in the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ as Lord and humanity's only Saviour.
He is God the Son from all eternity become man. He is both truly God and truly human.
Being one with God the Father, He perfectly revealed the Father.
Through His death as our representative and substitute he obtained complete salvation for sinners from the guilt, power and consequences of sin.
Because of His death we can be completely forgiven and justified.
Because He is the risen and ascended Lord we can have eternal life, which consists of a relationship with Him now, through faith in Him. Further we can certain of our own resurrection and heaven when He returns at the close of the present age.
4. Fourth Essential – Inner Work of the Holy Spirit in Christian Living and Growth – Sanctification (Galatians 5:16-26 and James 2:14-26).
The fourth Evangelical essential is belief in the outward and visible work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the true believer.
Being saved by Jesus Christ involves more than intellectual belief along with emotional highs and feelings.
A person who has truly put her or his faith in Jesus Christ is born anew. They have been radically changed in mind, heart and will by God. The Holy Spirit begins and continues to change that individual from within. There is a concern for ones own spiritual growth and for the eternal wellbeing of others.
Far more than outward religious observance is involved. Where the Spirit is, He will always make His presence known. The result is a growth in Christ likeness and a godly lifestyle which will result in changed tastes, ways, choices and habits. Living carelessly in sin will be anathema.
The person who is truly born anew will desire more and more to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be open to His presence. The evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence is a godly life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit which is mentioned in Galatians (Chapter 5:22). There will especially be a growth in genuine love for God and others.
5. Fifth Essential – the Priority Given to Evangelism (Matthew 28:16-20).
The fifth Evangelical essential is a belief and commitment to evangelism. Evangelism consists of proclaiming and sharing the Gospel concerning Our Lord Jesus Christ with non-Christians in order that they might have the opportunity to respond to His claims and become His followers.
Evangelism is the People of God's main mission agenda. The primary task of every Christian, local congregation and denomination is to make the Gospel known so as to give all people an opportunity to respond to the claims of Christian in order to be saved.
The whole of humanity apart from Christ is without hope in this world or the next. The Bible contains God's mission plan to save a people starting with Abraham down through the history of Israel to Moses and David, on then to Christ, concluding with the People of God made up of persons from all nations.
As the People of God today we are called upon by God to evangelize all nations and people groups.
Evangelically mission minded congregations and individual Christian should be involved in partnership together in contacting non Christians, proclaiming and sharing the Gospel, and helping to establish new followers of Jesus Christ.
Planting and growing churches should be on every congregations' and denominations' agenda.
6. Sixth Essential: The Local Congregation as the Basic Unit of Church Life (Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-35; Hebrews 10:23-25).
The sixth Evangelical essential is belief in and a primary commitment to the local congregation as the basic unit of the worldwide People of God.
The local congregation, whatever form it takes, is a community of believers. In it Christian life is nurtured. Believers learn, share, care for one another and hold one another accountable. When the local congregation gathers it reflects the heavenly church assembled before the throne of God.
The Anglican Church in the Thirty Nine Articles recognizes in Article 19 the primacy of the local congregation by defining the church as "a congregation of faithful (people) in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly administered according to Christ's ordinance."
The dynamic activity of the Holy Spirit is essential to the spiritual vitality of the local church. His presence is in evidence in the exercise of faith, the experience of fellowship, and the involvement of members in ministry.
The local congregation is meant to be a community made up of believers and a base for Christian mission. If the presence of God is not evident in evangelism, the planting, establishment and growth of local congregations God's kingdom is not being established.
The Diocese and the Worldwide Communion are not without their place and importance. However, in the Anglican Communion we are in danger of being deceived by the 'Hollywood movie set syndrome.' If you go to the typical movie set everything looks real and splendid at the front. But go behind the set and there is nothing there. Our Communion has an elaborate worldwide organization and high profile in the wider community. We stage impressive services and organize large gatherings conveying the impression our denomination is strong. Often by contrast things are very different at the local level. The local parish is where the life and action needs to be. If it is no happening in the local congregation it is not happening.
The primary purpose of the Diocese and the Communion is to support and resource local congregations.
7. Seventh Essential: The Need for Continuing Reformation (Mark 2:21-22).
The seventh Evangelical essential is a belief in and a commitment to ongoing reformation consistent with the Word of God.
There are a number of reasons why ongoing reformation is essential.
First, because there is no such thing as the perfect Christian era.
Christians of every age have had their blind spots. Since the post Apostolic Age each generation has tended to focus on particular issues and ignored others. They are not to be condemned because of this. It just means given their circumstances attention was focussed in a particular direction. We in our times must address the issues of our day and revise our thinking in line with the teaching of Scripture. It goes without saying we are not at liberty to change anything in a direction contrary to or in manner inconsistent with Scripture. Of course proven beliefs and tradition must not be abandoned or changed lightly.
Second, ongoing reformation is essential because of human sinfulness and flawedness.
Over time heresy and corrupt practices creep into every church. Church history and present day church life bears this out. Over a period of time, sometimes through well meaning as well as evil people, error and damaging practices are introduced. To begin with these things appear to be small but incremental change over a long period erodes Biblical beliefs and values. The end result is a loss of faith, apostasy and paralysed churches.
Third, ongoing reformation is essential because times change. Christ does not change nor does the Word of God change. But different issues, situations and problems arise. Structures and practices become out moded and irrelevant, even unhelpful. Changes need to be made in order to minister effectively to church members and to reach the unreached with the Gospel.
Churches must be willing to change in the present day for the eternal wellbeing of people– especially children, young people and the unchurched.
Traditionally churches are slow to change and adopt new ways of doing things. We have to be willing to make changes for the sake of the Gospel. This will require patience and careful planning on our part. It is important to bring church members with us and not to ride roughshod over them.
Of course we are never at liberty to change or adapt the faith to fit in with the philosophies and practices of the world. Apart from this everything else can be changed.
Evangelical faith is the purist form of Christianity since the Apostolic times. Evangelical faith is the faith of the Scriptures and of the Anglican Church.
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry was founded as an Evangelical Anglican Seminary on Evangelical essentials.
Last Updated ( Friday, 17 May 2013 22:06 )