Sunday, 6 April 2008

Stick with the Church of England, urges REFORM trustee

A senior anglican evangelical leader and trustee of Reform, the Revd Jonathan Fletcher, has urged evangelicals not to forsake the Church of England.

In a new Reform publication, Back To The Future: Reforming the Church of England - Learning From The Past, Mr Fletcher argues that the Church of England was in a far worse state in the eighteenth century and yet was regenerated by evangelicals remaining within it.

Mr Fletcher, who participated in the watershed National Evangelical Anglican Congress at Keele in 1967, said: 'My generation gave assent to the Thirty-nine Articles ex animo because they express the official legal, historical, and theological position of the Church of England - not the Lambeth Conference, or the debates of Synod, or the deeply-flawed Issues in Human Sexuality. This is where we must stand and it is a heritage that we must not forsake. I believe that the Church of England belongs to us and that we belong to it.'

He continued: 'We must realise that what those heroes of the eighteenth century did was to go to funny little places and make them strategic through teaching the Bible, and if we want to win the country, that is what we must do.

'It is rather sad that evangelicals have got a bad reputation of not going to Urban Priority Areas, such that when St Nicholas' Tooting was advertised as an evangelical church only two people applied for it. We will not win the country unless we can stick with those sorts of places. The model that Holy Trinity Brompton in London has given us of planting in existing parish churches that are about to close and giving them new life is remarkable. We must not lose those opportunities.'

He concluded: 'We have got an enormous battle on our hands. It is vast. The situation is not as bad as it was in the eighteenth century, but we are campaigning for the reform of the Church of England and our sights are set on the evangelisation of our nation.

'The lesson from the past is that we must hold fast to our theological convictions; we must continue to strive for that holiness without which no-one will see the Lord; we must have a loyalty to the Church of England and remember that this is the place to be; there must be a boldness as we think outside the box with principled irregularity; and we must stand together.'

Julian Mann, vicar of Oughtibridge Parish Church and a founder of Reform Sheffield, said: 'Mr Fletcher's comments are hugely significant in their timing. In the short term, evangelicals are facing a period of uncertainty over attitudes to their bishops attending the Lambeth Conference this summer. More fundamentally, many evangelicals are unconvinced that the parish system of the Church of England is an effective way of reaching the nation for Christ. Mr Fletcher makes a convincing historical and contemporary case that evangelicals should not forsake the Church of the nation.'

The full text of the Jonathan Fletcher booklet, based on his address to the Reform national conference in October 2007, is available on this link:

For further information please contact Revd Julian Mann, Reform Sheffield press officer, on 0114 286 2317.

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