Thank God for the Reality of Hard Cash
By Julian Mann
Special to Virtueonline
February 25, 2010
Thank the good Lord the Holy Spirit did not inspire 'money is the root of all evils' to be written but rather 'the love of money is the root of all evils' (1 Timothy 6v10 - RSV).
As postmodernism strengthens its grip on the Western mind, money is one of the few inescapable realities left in the institutional Church. At gatherings of Anglican clergy at the local level, Laodicean self-delusion is now pandemic. If there is a worldview unifying the diversity of 'traditions' around the room, it would be the religion of the new Volkswagen advertisement - Dudeism.
The dude has a worldview suited for the times, he's in touch with the modern world, he doesn't get hung up on old doctrines - in fact he's inclined to satirise them with a dry one-liner. But the satire towards others is balanced by the self-mockery on the T-shirt, which shows that the dude is basically a nice guy.
Dudeism is comfortable driving through ambiguous ideological terrain - in fact the vehicle has been designed to do that - and it is chilled about picking up the passengers of the permissive society.
Amongst the dudes in dog-collars, the most extraordinary theological opinions are affirmed as insightful, even by professing Evangelicals. If the dudes are exercised about anything, it is about the 'quality of relationships'. But don't expect to hear the dudes mention biblical holiness as a quality that should be characterising these touchy-feely 'relationships'. And of course to state categorically which ones should be genuinely touch-feely and which ones not and with whom would be to commit the one cardinal sin for the dude - 'judgementalism'.
It is such a relief that in this clerical Avatar world of in-your-face 3D theological diversity there is the God-given and inescapable reality of hard cash. This cosy, postmodern, all-affirming, dudeistic love-in cannot escape from the reality of the diocesan budget deficit. It cannot escape from the reality that sustainable churches are those with enough regenerate Christians whom the Holy Spirit has moved to give real money generously and sacrificially to the work of Christ's Kingdom in and through their local church. In their behaviour within the institutional Church, Christlikeness demands that these viable churches should not become arrogant or bullying or reactionary. Their financial generosity is a work of God's unmerited grace in them as the Holy Spirit has applied the Word of God to their minds, hearts and actions.
But the problem now facing these orthodox churches is that they are becoming the victims of their own success. Unlike churches that have dwindled into non-viability because of a liberal-induced famine of the Word of God down the years, they can afford a vicar and therefore they are liable to get one. But God spare them a new vicar in the form of one of the dudes posing as an Evangelical.
This mainly affects medium-sized Anglican Evangelical churches, Conservative and Charismatic. The megachurches are able to call the shots with dioceses over appointments. But Evangelical churches that are viable but not mega are much more susceptible to pressure from liberal-led dioceses to take a soft Evangelical incumbent or one who will turn out to be less than a fighter for biblical truth, one who is not going to threaten the dudeist status quo.
Unfortunately, this practical downside to the inside strategy of Evangelicals trying to operate within the structures of the institutional Church is happening on the ground. Generous, godly, viable churches with an evangelistic track record are being sold postmodern dudes for pastors.
The Apostle Paul's prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 is so very urgent for local churches facing appointments in these increasingly dangerous times: 'And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God' (RSV).
Orthodox Anglican churches facing vacancies really do the need the spiritual discernment to spot the dude at the interview and issue the Archdeacon with a firm no thank you.
Otherwise, institutional neo-liberalism, which is dudeistic in theory but not in political practice, could win by stealth.
----Julian Mann is vicar of Oughtibridge Parish Church, South Yorkshire, UK. His weblog is www.cranmercurate.blogspot.com
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