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EFAC Australia

General

Lampada alicui trado

My pompous Latin heading indicates that I am, this issue, passing on the torch of the Essentials editorship-in-chief to others and leaving the Essentials editorial team. In God’s providence I have recently accumulated two new ministry roles, and after six years’ involvement with the Essentials editorial team, I took this as a cue to resign from this rewarding, but involving, responsibility.

I have used a pretentious Latin heading, not only because I think Latin should be more widely known, but also because Latin lends an appropriate sense of gravitas (more Latin) and tradition (from Latin trado; hand over, bequeath) to the activity of producing Essentials. EFAC represents Anglicans who are formed by, and love, the reformed and evangelical character of the Anglican Church. We are convinced that the faith of the disciples of Jesus Christ is well preserved and articulated in that reformed and evangelical understanding of the gospel, of the Christian life and of the church and her ministry, and we want to encourage one another in it and commend it to others. Essentials plays a part in that mission, and I hope that it has done so by returning consistently to the things which unite and animate us: the gospel of the grace of God in Christ, the Scriptures, evangelism, the life and ministry of the local church, prayer, Bible study groups, training new ministers, mission, addressing the issues of the age in the light of the eternal truth of God, and celebrating those who have gone before us, inspired and mentored us. I also hope that Essentials continues to be read and appreciated across Australia, and addresses the concerns, circumstances and labours of EFAC members in a positive, irenic, creative and thoughtful way.

I have tried to put together this summer issue in a way that showcases these perennial evangelical emphases. Small group Bible studies, prayer, training new clergy here and abroad, reflecting on the Scriptures, music in church, and more besides, all receive attention here. I trust these articles are not simply one more tired repetition of well-worn themes, but are fresh, current, encouraging reminders of what we are convinced will honour Christ and serve his people well. Essentials is, from here, in the capable hands of my fellow editors Gavin Perkins and Mark Juers. God willing, there will be new names joining them to carry the torch. As always, we encourage you to be in touch to let us know what you have appreciated, or what you’d like to see treated in these pages.

BEN UNDERWOOD

 

As I write this it seems that everything has changed. A number of media commentators have already begun to speculate as to what life will be like once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased. Will there be a new ‘roaring 20s’ post-pandemic as there was post-WW1 and Spanish Flu? Will there be a reassessment of value and meaning after so much upon which we have come to depend was so radically upended?

In 1625 an outbreak of the bubonic plague killed more than 10,000 people in London, during which time the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral was the poet-priest John Donne. In his biography of Donne, John Stubbs writes of the fear that gripped London during lockdown.

‘Certain of waking up with the telltale sores on their bodies any day, people were gripped by criminal fearlessness to seize and enjoy what they could while they were still alive. Donne understood what motivated the spirit of suicidal hedonism that was loose in the city. [In a sermon he] described those who said to themselves, “We can but die, and we must die… Let us eat and drink, and take our pleasure, and make our profit, for tomorrow we shall die, and so were cut off by the hand of God”.’ (John Stubbs, John Donne: The Reformed Soul, Norton and Co. 2006, p. 424-5).

Will we see a revival of this same worldly fearlessness and hedonism, much like was witnessed in the 1920s? What we can be certain of is that even as the world stops its ears to theAs I write this it seems that everything has changed. A number of media commentators have already begun to speculate as to what life will be like once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased. Will there be a new ‘roaring 20s’ post-pandemic as there was post-WW1 and Spanish Flu? Will there be a reassessment of value and meaning after so much upon which we have come to depend was so radically upended?

In 1625 an outbreak of the bubonic plague killed more than 10,000 people in London, during which time the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral was the poet-priest John Donne. In his biography of Donne, John Stubbs writes of the fear that gripped London during lockdown.

‘Certain of waking up with the telltale sores on their bodies any day, people were gripped by criminal fearlessness to seize and enjoy what they could while they were still alive. Donne understood what motivated the spirit of suicidal hedonism that was loose in the city. [In a sermon he] described those who said to themselves, “We can but die, and we must die… Let us eat and drink, and take our pleasure, and make our profit, for tomorrow we shall die, and so were cut off by the hand of God”.’ (John Stubbs, John Donne: The Reformed Soul, Norton and Co. 2006, p. 424-5).

Will we see a revival of this same worldly fearlessness and hedonism, much like was witnessed in the 1920s? What we can be certain of is that even as the world stops its ears to the word of God and lives for the present moment, the word will not be chained. The eternity set in the hearts of each person will certainly be reawakened for some by the failing of earthly confidences and the collapse of worldly forms of security.

This edition of Essentials includes good food for thought in our ‘lockdown’ state, as well as continuing to make a contribution to issues that will no doubt return to the prominence in the not too distant future. Jodie McNeill reflects on some flexible ministry methods and opportunities during the recent bushfire season, and now during the suspension of public services. Chase Kuhn asks a theological question about the nature of church particularly relevant to those with an ecclesiology centred on gathering and fellowship—are we still the church if we cannot meet? Chris Brennan thinks through the issues of ministry resilience, expectations and burnout. In two separate but related pieces Andrew Judd and Steven Daly contribute to the ongoing conversation on same-sex marriage and human sexuality. We also join Ivan Head as he leads us into the deep riches of Romans 8. Finally, the issue also includes several book reviews, on the assumption that, while some of us are working frenetically at the moment, others among us might have some spare time to dig into a worthy tome!

Gavin Perkins
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What will the church be known for in 2020? This is the question that I’ve kept coming back to time and time again over the last few months. Will we be known for suddenly unleashing a bandwidth surge of low budget worship services onto the internet like a great wave every Sunday? Will we be known for watching on helplessly as society and the economy crumbles, all our normal strategies for practical support hamstrung by physical distancing? Will we be known for losing half of our young people who didn’t like the way we “pivoted”? Perhaps there is even a longer and sadder thread that we will only become aware of as hidden stories slowly start to surface. Or perhaps we will look back at 2020 and retell a story of greater fruitfulness and missional creativity! I certainly hope we are known for our love and unity in Christ.

Welcome to the autumn Essentials, a road trip that will take us through all manner of country. From the seven deadly sins to the four rules of evangelical longevity; from a bishop-to-be expelled from the Anglican Church in his ardent youth, to the return of psychedelics; from Christian work amongst WA school students, to the preaching of eternal hope at Sydney funerals: all this and more is here between these covers.

Topical sermons done well can season a basic diet of working though Biblical books for both preacher and hearers. I share some of my adventures in topical preaching on the Ideas Page. The funeral of Bishop Anthony Nichols was a significant occasion for members of EFAC WA, and we have a version of Anthony’s wife Judith’s eulogy included here. I am sorry not to have been at the New Cranmer Society Breakfast last year to hear the talk that Rhys Bezzant delivered there, but the next best thing is to read it here. Rhys achieves a rare combination of integrated theological and personal reflection in this engrossing piece.

2020 has the potential to be a significant year in the national Church and in the communion as the business of the Appellate Tribunal, the General Synod and Lambeth all unfold. We have news and opinion on these matters from Stephen Hale, Matthew Brain, Kanishka Raffel and Karin Sowada.

There are reflections on fresh work being done in WA as CRU West begins to fly, and on past work done in Sydney, as Peter Bolt draws our attention to the first Australian-born clergyman, 44 years the Dean of Sydney, the eternity-minded William Cowper.

The Bible Study might have been better in time for Christmas, but there’s nothing wrong with meditating on the birth of the Messiah in prophecy at any time of year. Thanks Michael Bennett for this encouragement. The book reviews are (I hope) a stimulating mix of secular and evangelical titles.

I also hope you are enjoying our new journal design (thanks Clare Potts). We are back to black and white printing this issue, but the team is continuing to think about how we can give Essentials the most bang for your buck. We are thinking about three 24 page issues per annum, and wondering whether this will allow us to afford colour printing. Let us know what you think about the frequency, length and level of production you think Essentials should aspire to. Let us know what you liked and what didn’t work for you. We hope to stimulate, connect and encourage EFAC members and others across Australia. Drop us a line.

Ben Underwood

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