No doubt there are some people, who ‘enjoy’ the present administration of the ‘Peace,’ where often people greet each other as they move around the assembly, [who] do not like to see the ‘Peace’ made into a one-way movement (from the Trinity to the baptized believer). For them it is a horizontal and demonstrative sharing of what God has previously through the celebrant given to be shared. The truth of the matter seems to be that the traditional Anglican service of the classic BCP is very much dominated by what may be called the heaven to earth dimension, while the modern Anglican services are more dominated by the sense of community and sharing in the presence of the immanent God.
– Dr Peter Toon, 2008
The Rt Revd Graeme Knowles, sometime Dean of St Paul’s.
God is always apprehended, experienced, and conceived as a Subject, never as an object.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets (New York: Harper, 1962), 485.
WHEN we show up on a mission trip to Ghana, or Kenya, or Haiti, we don’t expect the people there to hand us a deviled egg or a cucumber sandwich. We are made to feel welcome by the warm extension of whatever the local tradition has to offer us, and we are glad to be shown something that is beautiful and meaningful for the people who offer it.
If this is more than primitivism, or more than our romancing the “savage,” if we are truly moved by this show of hospitality and not merely condescending to humor “quaintness,” then why do we imagine that our appropriation of other cultural traditions in the church is how best to show welcome? Why do we believe that white Episcopalians’ singing Gospel music, or Zulu music, or Cherokee music, to white congregations is somehow a sign of hospitality rather than a sign of self-indulgent, self-satisfied fakery?
In celebration of HM Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday today, a royal instalment:
THERE ARE far worse things than closed churches. The far deeper problem is not dwindling attendance, but the loss of the heart of the Gospel among those that do attend…. I have found that people – in general, in the churches – do not understand what the central message of Christianity is. And so there’s a vacuum at the very core of the Church’s existence, and that affects the whole church, no matter how much one congregation might be an exemption.
There are other messages that masquerade as the real thing and those other messages are more insidious than you might think, because on the surface, they sound more friendly, more inclusive. This mindset has affected our whole culture – including Canada – and it’s becoming more difficult to understand the difference between general spirituality and biblical Christianity.
It’s interesting to see how much this has taken hold in the Church. Spirituality is thought to be more inclusive than Christianity, so people have become a little bit afraid of a robust Gospel. I have a dear Christian friend in Rhode Island, who wrote me of her distress that people in her church don’t want to hear too much about the specificity of Jesus Christ – what we scholarly types call the “scandal of particularity” – because they think it might make someone feel excluded.
Well, yes, it might make someone feel that way. It all depends on how it is presented.
What we need to remember is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when fully understood, is infinitely more inclusive than any “spiritual” program.
The Revd Fleming Rutledge, sermon preached at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, Toronto, November 1, 2015.