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HOLDING ON TO POWER

HOLDING ON TO POWER
The Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC) has re-emerged after being somewhat dormant over the last decade.
PHOTO: EFAC Council members who met in Nairobi in November

By Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden

That it is re-emerging with global participation and recognition among clergy and lay leaders in national groups indicates where apostolic succession truly lies -- in the faith deposit entrusted to the people of God. For the news that EFAC was starting up again was met with instant brand recognition and welcome from evangelical Anglicans around the world.

This tells us that evangelical Anglicanism is a grassroots movement, a representation of the priesthood of all believers. EFAC has not been revived by bishops or hierarchies, though some have been consulted, but by people of God concerned to continue faithful biblical witness in and through the Anglican Communion.

Flaws

As we view the scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, and the way many in the CofE hierarchy are crumbling under the incessant pressure of Western culture to abandon any form of Christian sexual morality (witness the latest Ad Clerum* from the bishops in Oxford diocese), we have to conclude that hierarchical leadership has some serious flaws.

Because hierarchies are accountable to no one but themselves, they are vulnerable to the pressure to hide, protect and perpetuate incompetent and even sexually abusive leaders. They collapse under the pressure of culture change. Thus bishops in many parts of the Anglican Communion have proved unable to protect the entire church or faithful people both from the depredations of immoral people and the promotion of unbiblical teaching on sexuality.

Apostolic succession

The sleight of hand that keeps hierarchies in power in churches of the Catholic tradition is the confusion of the notion of apostolic succession with the hierarchical succession of leaders. The question for the Anglican Communion is whether commitment to the apostolic deposit of faith means a commitment to a hierarchical leadership structure.

For over 40 years evangelicals in the Church of England have prayed and campaigned for greater representation in the House of Bishops. But what has happened to those evangelicals so placed in those positions? The culture of the house is so powerful that some have abandoned their earlier commitment to biblical orthodoxy and even become standard bearers for revisionist teaching; others have sought to maintain their own orthodoxy, but without obvious influence over the House as a whole; and others have resigned their posts early out of frustration.

The role of Canterbury is that it has not just a hierarchical position, but also a spiritual capital to use and distribute based on its historical role and heritage.

But Christian capital is not with those who have a place in some esoteric succession, but the capital of the Scriptures and faithful ministry based on it by all believers. So evangelical capital has remained with people in local situations who have maintained the faith, tested and tried.

EFAC -- a grassroots movement

It has been necessary for GAFCON to operate through a hierarchical leadership structure to secure the adherence of whole provinces such as Nigeria and Uganda, or dioceses such as Sydney, to a new entity in the Communion. However a hierarchical structure on its own cannot ensure theological resilience. What is needed is grass-roots evangelicals in parishes engaging in faithful biblically-rooted mission who have a flat leadership style that enables all the people of God to exercise their gifts in ministry, and be far more than a congregation coming to listen to a gifted preacher or take part in an inspiring liturgy.
This is what EFAC is all about: fellowship groups committed to evangelical belief and therefore to that extent ideological, but without power, and providing solidarity and mutual support against the cultural assault on the gospel and societal sin. They can also be cultural action groups addressing the cultural changes colluded with or even enforced by the hierarchy since they are where culture is lived and not dictated or merely analysed.

* A statement made by a church leader and intended only for the clergy https://www.e-n.org.uk/2019/01/world-news/holding-on-to-power/

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