The Revd Tim Goodbody is a Church of England minister in Stebbing, Great Dunmow in rural Essex. He has been ordained since 1998, and currently shares a job with his wife who is also ordained. His blog is Friends' Meeting House. Though Cranmer's Curate doesn't agree with every statement in this article (he agrees with most of it), he commends to the youth group Tim's honest, winsome and passionate Evangelical apologia for sticking with the Church of England:
I am not an Anglican by birth; I was not a cradle Christian and underwent believer’s baptism by full immersion at the age of 23.
I’m not an Anglican by choice either. Until I was 19 I had never been to church on a Sunday and was completely unaware of the complexities of denominational boundaries; it was even a few years before I noticed there were no women vicars (this was in the 80’s).
I went to an Anglican church because that’s where the people who were praying for me and trying to get me into the Kingdom went. I was so unchurched that I thought all churches would be like that church, so you can imagine my disappointment (it was St Michael le Belfry in York) when after my conversion I went to another one and it was dire.
So why did I stay? I’ve worshipped in and worked with lots of different denominations. They were all curate’s eggs, but nothing made me want to join. The Anglican Church has become like a family to me. A Baptist couple, over lunch one Sunday, upon hearing I was training for Anglican ordination, said: “And so what’s it like to be joining a sinking ship?”
That remark affected me as personally as if someone had just insulted my mother. It was Anglicans who shared the gospel with me, Anglicans who invited me to church, who picked me up from the gutter and who cared for me when I was in need. I’m sure other churches are good at this kind of thing too; it’s just that Anglicans made me fall in love with Christ first, and themselves second. And they never said a word about church politics!
However I am not an Anglican because the Anglican Church is best. Some days I think it’s the worst, and there have been periods even during my ordained ministry when, given the choice, I might have gone to a different church. But I didn’t, and here’s why:
I believe that the Church of England has a unique opportunity for mission. We are the church that people don’t go to; even though they might self-identify as C of E, they never go except for hatch, match and despatch-type events. For this reason whenever I conduct a funeral, a wedding or a baptism I do not hesitate to preach a gospel message and encourage a response.
In the rural context where I minister, the vicar has a role in society as a public figure that gives him or her a wide open doorway for evangelism in schools work, civic chaplaincy, village social events etc.
We are part of the cultural furniture. I do acknowledge that this can be a disadvantage because it makes us prone to wishy-washy wooliness, but it leads into my main reason for still being an Anglican.
This is the “Strangeways Principle”. I believe it is impossible to change a system or institution unless you are part of it. The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrates this principle. I call it the Strangeways Principle because of what happened in the British Prison population following the 1990 riot at Strangeways.
While a refurbishment took place, a large number of prisoners were spread around the other prisons in the UK. Many were Christians, and by the grace of God, other prisoners came to faith, through associating with those who came from Strangeways. This for me is a model of how evangelicals should be within our church.
Sometimes liberalism, paperwork, money, and buildings imprison us, but a great work of the Kingdom is underway nevertheless. Evangelical Anglican ministry is like the yeast in the dough, the wheat among the tares. It may not seem effective in transformation in the short term, but remains a powerful force.
I believe that the Anglican Church needs to change, and this change can only come from within. Evangelicals, following this principle, should stay fully integrated in the life and ministry of the Anglican Church, to be able to influence the changes that we long for.
If Anglican Evangelicals had agreed with Martyn Lloyd Jones instead of John Stott in 1967, and gone off to form their own denomination, we would never have had the evangelical leaders that we have been blessed by since then. We would probably look a lot more like ECUSA (i.e. a mess).
So I want to stay an Anglican, in spite of our problems. Our bickering upsets me. The haranguing that evangelicals get from liberals over sexual morality distresses me, especially since this (Lambeth 1.10) is the official position of the Communion.
However, the Church is a fallible human institution. In many senses, I find my ministry to be more concerned with the Kingdom of God than the institutional church.
Ministers are also fallible mortals. I do not agree with the ordination of practising homosexuals, but I would receive communion from Gene Robinson because my understanding of sacraments is that those who minister them do not defile them. We may receive unworthily, but we are unworthy, not the sacrament (1 Cor 11. 17ff).
My commitment to Anglicanism is founded on theological confidence in its leadership. As a colleague in the deanery here said to me recently: “The bishop would have to instruct me to marry a donkey to a man before I would leave." I trust God that this is not going to happen. Claims of orthodoxy are not pawns in a game but statements about our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith is about relationships; with Christ, and with other Christians. In the Anglican Church, that’s going to mean Christians we differ from. While I may not agree with everything that is said and done in the Anglican Church, I have been enriched by its diversity over the 23 years since my conversion.
This is about vocation; God has called me, the Anglican Church has recognised that calling. Until such time that he calls me elsewhere, I’m staying here.