Where are we and where are we going?

Knowing where you are and where you are going is often vital. Three years ago I retired from parochial ministry and moved to south Devon, close to Dartmoor. Parts of the moor can be quite featureless and not the easiest place for navigating; so I bought myself a walkers’ GPS, and now with a glance at its illuminated screen I can see precisely where I am and where I am going.

The question I want to raise in this article is where are we as Church of England evangelicals, and where are we going? And as an aspect of that, where is Fulcrum, and where is it going?

Let me begin by looking back. I was ordained in 1971. It was still the period when evangelicals often felt pressurised and excluded, and so reacted with a very critical approach to all who were seen as “liberal” or “catholic”. However, it was also the post-Keele period, when evangelicals had declared their intention of staying in the C of E and working as part of it. Consequently, it was an era too when evangelicals were beginning to emerge much more in the C of E, with more evangelical bishops, with a vast amount of Gospel-centred work going on in many fields, led by John Stott and others. It was the era when Eclectics was a strong force linking younger evangelical clergy, and allowing them to think and speak with a sense of freedom. There was the beginning of a consciousness that the Gospel was wider than just preaching for conversion. Anglican evangelical children’s and youth work was strong, coordinated by CYPECS (CYFA, Pathfinders, Explorers, Climbers and Scramblers, the highly energetic youth arm of CPAS). It was an era too when drastic division over charismatic gifts was avoided through such things as the “Gospel and Spirit” document.

Today I suspect we are both stronger and weaker than we were then. Stronger because we play a wider role in the C of E with more senior clergy and diocesan and cathedral staff, and now that we are no longer restricted to “sound” churches. (I remember when CPAS used to publish a list, supposedly a prayer list, but effectively a reference list, of such churches). Stronger too in that evangelical writers and speakers are now more recognised in the wider C of E than they once were. But weaker in that we are more disparate, with some of our evangelical organisations carrying less weight - e.g. while CPAS still does some brilliant work, its youth department has gone, apart from the Ventures, and I suspect it no longer has quite the same kudos in evangelical circles that it once had – and with deeply entrenched differences of opinion on the ordination/consecration of women and on same-sex relationships.

One aspect of the changes is that of the big evangelical Anglican gatherings. The Keele NEAC (National Anglican Evangelical Congress, held in 1967) and Nottingham (1977) were major formative events. Caister (1988) (where the C stood for Celebration, not Congress) much less so. Then came Blackpool in 2003, at which Fulcrum was launched, the story of which can be found on the “Founding of Fulcrum” page on the Fulcrum website. Clearly over these decades we can see change in these gatherings, and some would say decline, although others might argue that the task of such big specifically evangelical Anglican gatherings is done, and has been replaced to some degree by such interdenominational events as New Wine and Spring Harvest. The last NEAC (2008) was the disastrous one-day event held at All Souls, Langham Place, which served only to highlight our divisions and how bad we can be at allowing for open and honest discussion of the issues.

CEEC, (Church of England Evangelical Council) the organisation behind NEAC, appears frankly to be a lame, if not quite a dead duck, with a weakened and perhaps unbalanced electoral basis and a forever out-of-date website. And when did we last hear of AEA (Anglican Evangelical Assembly)? I can find no reference later than 2005.

Of course this may be a very good thing and may be what should happen. When I put sugar in my coffee there is no point leaving it as a sludge at the bottom of the cup; it needs to be stirred in and dispersed throughout the coffee. Is that what is happening? Certainly, many evangelicals, lay and ordained, are happily dispersed around churches that do not wave an evangelical flag, (and that is my situation).

On the other hand, what is happening may be less good and may lead to us being so diluted as not to have much effect, or lead us to a lack of any sense of direction.

And then of course there are our divisions, particularly over women’s ordination/consecration and over same-sex relations. Much of the ground is so well worked over that it needs no further comment here, other than the obvious point that such deep-seated divisions make it much more difficult to see where we are going and to have any unified sense of direction.

And where is Fulcrum in all this? Its strap line is “renewing the evangelical centre”, but I think we have to ask: to what degree is it succeeding in this? Certainly, its existence declares strongly that open evangelicals are truly part of the evangelical section of the C of E, and it balances conservative groups such as Anglican Mainstream. On its website (and many thanks to all who have worked to produce the new version of the site) there is a steady flow of interesting articles of various sorts, and an extremely useful news service, for which I am personally very grateful, (although there is little there that could not have been compiled by a non-evangelical). The forum is useful, but has had a very limited number of contributors, and too often has gone round in circles, with little obvious outcome of setting a sense of direction. I assume the leadership team meets every now and then, but I for one am not aware of the outcome of these meetings – perhaps there is scope for better communication here, maybe with an annual report to Fulcrum members. And of course with the demise of the annual conference the opportunity for face-to-face meeting is lessened. (This demise may of course have been inevitable, but nevertheless does have negative consequences). So, while very much valuing Fulcrum, I do find myself questioning just how effective it is.

 I have tried in this article to raise what I see as important, (and perhaps provocative), questions. It would be good to have comment from other Fulcrum members, and particularly from our leadership team with its new membership, as to where they see Fulcrum and the wider evangelical constituency going in the coming years.

73 thoughts on “Where are we and where are we going?”

  1. Thank you, George and Roger, for so bringing your memories to these threads.

    On the spectrum of evangelical opinion, a membership survey and report might be enlightening.

    George, I am a fast typist, though clearly prone to errrrors.

  2. It’s good to hear from you again George and, like you, I’m disappointed at the silence from Fulcrum’s leadership, especially as you had invited their response from the beginning of this thread.

    I think you might be right about the evangelical associations you list. Perhaps there is a mixture of Fulcrum members not being linked with any of them and others feeling their main relevance is past history. My only historic connections with such have been helping to run a CPAS camp as a student, leading a CYFA group as a young GP, attending a number of SEAC conferences by kind invitation of my then vicar, the Revd Paul Berg, and, during the 80s and 90s, lecturing in pastoral care and counselling at Trinity College, Bristol. I certainly feel that the place of evangelical theological colleges is important still, most of all where the approach is open to insights from other Christian traditions of theology, liturgy and spirituality.

    I appreciate too your quote from David Gillett and join you in urging Fulcrum’s leadership to consider a new member of the team, one with a more ‘open’ view on sexuality, and preferably a woman in that the leaders are mostly men. There are 700 members belonging to Accepting Evangelicals, so such a large minority should be represented in the Fulcrum team.

  3. It’s now getting on for 2 months since my article “Where are we and where are we going?” went up on the website, and so it is perhaps time to take stock.

    First, thank you to all who have commented. Do keep commenting – this post is not meant to be the end of this thread, but just a reflecting so far. Clearly a number of people value the opportunity to debate via the Fulcrum site, and my article has prompted a comparatively large response, although having said that, the overall number of people posting is very low – just 8 people apart from myself. (One is responsible for nearly half the posts – Bowman, amidst such truly welcome dedication I do hope you manage to find time for other things in life than posting on Fulcrum!!)

    While the article mentioned evangelical structures, it has been noticeable that such structures have not featured in the responses – no mention (unless I have missed something) of NEAC, CEEC (apart from a reference to the basis of faith), Diocesan Evangelical Fellowships, EGGS (Evangelical Group of the General Synod), the evangelical theological colleges, evangelical mission societies, etc. I am not sure whether to find this concerning or not – does it mean these bodies are regarded as irrelevant, or perhaps more likely, that the particular people drawn to comment on the article are not involved in any such bodies?

    Roger Hurding in his very helpful post of 5th March that picked up on Graham King’s 3 watercourses illustration agreed that perhaps there is not an evangelical centre and remarked “In terms of OEs, maybe the search is an exploration of the river’s bed-rock rather than a renewing of an elusive centre,” and spoke too of our links with other non-evangelical watercourses “For myself, Christianity is like a braided river system flowing through a great delta to merge and unite into the fullness of the sea. Our limited human minds and hearts inevitably favour our particular stretch of braided water and we are right to embrace its tradition and narrative, while being aware of parallel streams of Christian understanding that may coalesce with ours.”

    Roger continued, “I am not advocating an uncritical mishmash of beliefs and practices, but rather a discernment within evangelicalism that acknowledges the best in all Christian traditions and seeks to learn from other braided streams as we flow (with some turbulence!) in the same overall direction – the welcoming of God’s new heaven and new earth.

    “Fulcrum can, I believe, play a pivotal role in this tide of influence, providing a generous forum for the openness of open evangelicals, and their brothers and sisters, as the way forward is shaped through debate, mutual challenge and encouragement.”

    I would certainly want to align myself with Roger’s points here, but if our evangelical structures do have continuing value I would like to see more discussion of their role.

    The other very noticeable omission in the responses to the article is anything from the Fulcrum leadership team. I do find this very disappointing and definitely concerning since the article specifically asked for comment from the leadership. I know Andrew Goddard posts fresh articles not infrequently and John Watson has written his “Fulcrum sermon thoughts” regularly, but I do feel there is frankly a lack of leadership, and it makes me wonder what is going on to hinder the team from making more comment. So WAKE UP, LEADERS, PLEASE! I (and probably others) await your comments with interest.

    One final point while talking of the leadership team – I heartily endorse the point made by David Gillett in his response to the article by Simon Harvey “Equal marriage – what’s a parish vicar to do?”. David said that “If Fulcrum continues to acknowledge only the conservative view [on sexuality] as the evangelical view it will not be reflecting anything like a diverse enough position for evangelicalism as a whole.” This is not to ask for Fulcrum to abandon its present conservative stance on this issue but is asking that it should give stronger acknowledgement of the fact that many of us who count ourselves as evangelical, including at least some who contribute to the Fulcrum website, do not hold to the conservative view, and perhaps Fulcrum could do this by including somebody of non-conservative outlook on this issue in the leadership.

  4. Where now? for fulcrum!

    I watched the REV last night (I had recorded it) and of course as usual it was topical and of the moment and gave a portrayal of Church and Church Politics.

    I have to say it has perturbed me a little. My main concern is that the clergy are being portrayed as expert deceivers by using words or omitting words in order to condone actions which they feel are right, but Church Law dictates to be wrong. I find it a little bit frightening to think that the clergy are living under so much restraint of pastoral ministry that they resort to lying and justifying that in their minds by quoting the hypocrisy of religious leaders.

    It disturbs me because in leaders having to go to unusual lengths to give pastoral care , it leaves space for abuse. It is far better surely that clergy are enabled to properly minister to the congregations that they have rather than trying to mould the congregations into what Church Law dictates. I think it is a very unhealthy environment for anyone to be in if those charged with leadership are afraid of the administrative side of wherever they lead.

    All the retreats in the world will not help if the clergy involved cannot be honest for fear of having churches closed and monies withheld.

    I have always understood (maybe in my naivety) that the instructton in the bible over this is that “I will prepare a place for you” taking that into consideration no clergy should ever need to resort to dishonesty in order to give pastoral care,

    The issues over same sex unions have caused and is causing and will cause some distress to some people. This distress needs to be in the open. I am genuinely concerned that if it is not that divisions within divisions will occur and that it will be detrimental to the church as a whole. The consequence of this will be undercover activity which will eventually lead to abuse of some kind to some one. History has shown that this is always the case.

    There is a difference between enabling people to be honest and helping them in difficulty and forcing something on someone and putting them in catch 22 situations.

    Although the pilling report for instance refers to supporting clergy, I wonder how that actually translates in action on the ground? As I say my major concern is that abuse will be the result if we have a Church which accepts majority votes but the minority is actually quite high.

    That is why in previous post I have suggested that sexuality should be taken out of the equation when it comes to ministering to people unless of course it is non consenting or the abuse of vulnerable people.

    I also actually think that questioning perspective clergy on their sexuality and sexual beliefs and behaviour is a good thing. Foster Carers have had to deal with this kind of interview for many years and it serves a very good purpose. Knowing a persons sexual persuasion means that they can be in the best place at the best time.Therefore the best and maximum support I given to the best effect.

  5. Because, Roger, the exploration in the writing is about corruption, including intellectual corruption as well as other forms, and about appearance being one thing and reality being another. Early on there is a straightforward given sermon by an obvious believer, and it just seems incredible including to the stable and least affected clergyman (who nevertheless seeks retirement). I’m interested as much in those who think they believe, and yet otherwise live by scientific and this-worldly understandings, as those who struggle, as those who build up artificial schemes (like the Radical Orthodox do) or other forms of self-justification, and those who are simply appearing and have evacuated it all.

  6. Thank you Angela for your gentle corrective toward our wordiness, a good reminder, as you imply, during this reflective period of Lent. I am reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s ‘When God is Silent: Divine Language Beyond Words’ at the moment and finding her exploration of both God’s silence and God’s Word challenging and refreshing. As Job declared in the face of the mystery of God: ‘… I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.’

    And Pluralist, I found myself intrigued the other week by the characters in the book you’re writing, including the ‘clergy scheme person’ with her loss of ‘all belief and intent’, the liberal with an interest in ‘the history of theological change’ and the diocesan bishop caught between Radical Orthodoxy and a post-modern, ‘religious humanism’. I am sure all these characters and their stances are worth exploring, but how about sneaking in a Christian man or woman who is on a journey of discovery with God, still trusting the divine and finding that God is both mystery and wonderfully earthed in the companionship he offers in and through Christ?

    Bowman, thank you for your list of important theological ‘voices’ that we would do well to take heed of. On my own list given earlier, I would add David Ford, Zoe Bennett and Martyn Percy. I like too your idea of contributing to a discussion on such theologians and their take, for example, on the Song of Songs.

    And please Fulcrum leaders, as George has requested, let us hear from you in relation to this discussion of his helpfully provocative article.

    Finally, I’d like to ask the leadership how plans for restoring the Forum are going. I miss this feature greatly as I suspect others do. With that put back in place, we could then engage, for instance, in a focus on the interpretation of the Song of Songs.

    • Roger, you may find that Peter Ochs’s (2011) ‘Another Reformation’ relates to some of your ongoing interests. Ochs’s investigation of Charles Sanders Peirce’s philosophy of sacred texts led to his collaboration with David Ford on ‘Scriptural Reasoning.’ In this book he compares postliberals in America (Lindbeck, Jenson, Hauerwas, Yoder) to Anglicans in England (Hardy, Ford, Milbank) on the particular questions of their retrievals of the OT and their stances on supersessionism. He concludes that where they are free of antimodernism (all but Yoder and Milbank), their strategies of OT reading lead to a necessary rejection of supersessionism and a deepening of Christian ecumenism. His interviews and commentary uncover a transatlantic concern to reform the Church through a more robust engagement with the OT.

      • Bowman, thank you for pointing me to Peter Ochs’ book. It looks as if it fits well with some of my previous reading, so I’ve taken the plunge and ordered it. All blessings to you for Lent.

  7. Lent is not the season for strategic thinking, and so I take my leave of this topic for now. However, i do want to thank George Day, for posing the question as he did, those who directly engaged it with positive ideas, and of course the leadership team and mods for hosting the whole discussion. I hope that they have found it useful, and that all have a blessed Lent.

  8. Christ as your mentor means that you have read and understand the instructions of Christ and that he will guide you to making the right responses, being courteous could in my view , be one of those ways in which you have been assisted by Christ to do that which you see as beneath you by giving me a response. Not everyone can be bothered to do that.

    People do not always talk past each other on fulcrum, sometimes there is proper communication. the value of the communication on fulcrum , is awareness of the battle to understand the gospel and how to apply it in real time. Like George Osbourne has given the Cathedrals 20million pounds Disability Loving Allowance to Maintain and repair their buildings for public use. We think it is the right decision but I guess the atheist and secularist and other religions think it is a lousy decision.

    I am well aware that I am a nobody Pluralist and that some may think that I should be grateful that they bother to respond to me. It is the cross I carry. but well we all have to be somewhere working it out. There also needs to be more balance on fulcrum and I wish there were more worthwhile women than me on fulcrum but there is not any that contribute so my contribution may not mean much to you but it only has to mean a little to someone at sometime to make a difference.

    • Angela, I too wish that there were more women posting on Fulcrum, but I do see how anyone posting could be more worthwhile. To me at least, your intuitions and arguments nearly always make differences, small or large. To your most gnomic ones, the best reply is usually a heartfelt ‘thank you.’

  9. Well, the deja vue is people talking past each other. You’d expect that of me of them or them of me because I do ot have Christ as my mentor, whatever that means. But it’s a little odd that people here are talking past each other. How many are responding either to Bowman Walton or Phil Almond or, indeed, you? (I am to you, Waterangel, but only as a courteous reply and to make this broader observation.)

  10. Well Pluralist I confess I have become somewhat lost in the latest maze of authors co-authors and ghost writers. I sort of feel there is a dejevue about most post. The end is closer than we think, and can we really control it? We can pre-empt it , prepare ourselves for it and if it happens we have done our best. It is when the best is not good enough, we get back yet again to Winnicot “the good enough”

    Church is Church which I have discovered is like a group of people with a short concentration span as we constantly remind ourselves and need to be reminded of who we are in Christ or Pluralist in your case who you would be if Christ was your mentor. But then who am I to say that Christ indeed is not your mentor. After all the literary circle are again a group of people with busy brains with which they feel the conpulsion to share in a thousand words when a simple few would do. I am the simple!! well until I get on the phone that is then I am up with the thousand words like the best of them lol.

    It is lent and I am reflecting , I am thinking and praying and wondering. Where now?? I don’t know yet,

  11. “Or perhaps this– since most churchly voices speaking out against the UK government’s cuts in aid to the poor say that they too favour some reform, what reforms would they prefer? Are they only changes to programs, or do they also include broader changes in the management of the economy? And how are these preferences related to faith in Christ?”

    Tony Benn… Dave, should the Church simply press the cause of the poor as a matter of vocation, or should it also try to frame a scriptural view of responsibility for the economy as a whole? And if evangelicals in England are somewhat wedded to the Conservative Party, how should that influence the way policy is discussed in Fulcrum?

    Even for the sake of argument, I could not begin to suggest exemplary conversational partners, and so I did not try. However, some credible economists would seem essential to establish the baseline realities with which rival policies would contend. Consistent predictive success is a sign of descriptive accuracy. By that criterion, Martin Wolf, Jonathan Portes, and Simon Wren-Lewis seem to be worth hearing, as would be any others who have done as well. A hard-nosed insistence on such credibility would seem essential to avoiding unconscious entanglement with ideology.

    Such empiricism may seem far afield for a religious site, but it is consistent with the approach followed on That Topic, where both the scriptures and the sciences have gotten their scrutiny. And the Church cannot hope to influence an unchurched public with religious ideas never considered in relation to the best common knowledge.

  12. Do I as a passer-by get the sense that there’s a Bowman Walton organising a literate gathering in the local library of worthy human writers on deep thoughts while outside there’s a Phil Almond with a sign stating ‘The End is Nigh’ and a few references underneath? It all raises a smile as one goes about ordinary daily matters.

  13. I fear that some Fulcrum evangelicals are in too much danger of starting to tread a path that leads away from the God and Christ of the Bible to the god of one of Edward Fitzgerald’s/Omar Khayyam’s pots, who, you will remember, said
    ‘Folks of a surly Tapster tell,
    And daub his Visage with the smoke of Hell;
    They talk of some strict Testing of us – Pish!
    He’s a Good Fellow and ‘twill all be well’
    He is a Good Fellow, as evidenced by his loving, gracious, merciful, compassionate invitation, command and beseeching to sinners to come to Christ and be saved. But his goodness is also evidenced by his terrible holiness, his terrible justice, his terrible sovereignty and – his terrible honesty. The honesty with which he spoke to Samuel and Eli; the honesty with which he spoke to King David; the honesty with which he warns us that there will be some in ‘that day’ who will hear, to their dreadful surprise and contrary to their expectations the terrible words ‘I never knew you; depart from me the [ones] working lawlessness’. All will not be well for such as hear those words.
    I beg us all to keep in mind that the gate that leads to life is narrow whereas the gate that leads away to destruction is broad.
    Phil Almond

    • Sorry, Phil, I missed this. Luther rediscovered that Christ’s law/gospel dialectic can start at either pole depending on circumstances, and does not bog down at one pole or the other, . Anything stuck is not from Him, and well-meaning efforts at countervailing ‘balance’ are nevertheless not dialectical, not the gospel, and not in Christ. Otherwise Christ’s and Luther’s opponents would have been right. Perhaps we can discuss this after Easter, and in the meantime, a blessed Lent in the days ahead.

  14. Postscript– it wouldn’t be my dinner party, of course, but perhaps an explanation of the hypothetical guest list above would facilitate some thinking about the criteria behind it. I had in mind a balanced discussion for evangelicals of powerful OT texts, such as the Song of Songs, to which mechanically HGC readings are in some way inadequate.

    Sarah Coakley– Her work on problems in evolution, sexuality, and asceticism gives her a constructive theologian’s experience with issues raised throughout the OT.

    Robert Jenson– A revered systematician who has recently published directly on the topic (eg ‘Canon and Creed,’ and Brazos commentaries on Ezekiel and the Song of Songs). He is in some way a complement and counterweight to every other ‘guest’ on the list. American, Lutheran in communion with The Episcopal Church.*

    Rowan Williams– As a theological historian, he is acquainted with patristic and medieval readings that all agree should be consulted but seldom can. As a poet and critic has the literary intelligence essential to sorting out proposed readings of non-propositional texts in the OT.

    J. I. Packer– A conservative evangelical with a grasp of the sweep of Reformed theology, and a close knowledge of Puritan readings of the OT of perennial interest to evangelicals. Interested in evolution, complementarianism, and ecumenism.

    Tom Wright– His grand project anchoring NT hermeneutics in Second Temple Judaism invites the question how that Judaism and a christology informed by it can be related to the diverse scriptures of ancient Israel. He has done reason work in apocalyptic and has published a popular book on the Psalms.

    Hans Boersma– Missing from my list. An evangelical who has adapted the French Catholic strategy of ‘resourcement’ from patristic and medieval writers for gospel purposes. Dutch Canadian, Dutch Reformed, Packer’s successor at Regent.**

    Peter Ochs– Missing from my list. A Jewish philosopher of sacred texts who pioneered Scriptural Reasoning with David Ford and has written on the retrieval of the OT in the work of American neoliberal and Anglican theologians. American, Jewish.***

    * A systematician; confessionally Lutheran, neoliberal, and American. Had an early appointment at Manchester, Oxford. Sees the Trinity in the OT, but is cautious about the ‘logos asarkos.’ At Princeton, facilitated several dialogues among internationally-respected theologians, including some on evolution. Was somewhat close to Colin Gunton, and approved Stephen Holmes’s dissertation. In retirement, has written commentaries on Ezekiel and the Song of Songs, and a bestseller on conversations with his granddaughter about God. Theologically-serious evangelicals are finally discovering him– http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=3904

    ** http://www.regent-college.edu/faculty/full-time/hans-boersma

    *** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_W._Ochs

  15. Perhaps then, we can connect some dots?

    Although George and I doubt that there is a single centre to evangelicalism, Angela sees dialogue to discover that centre as Fulcrum’s calling. Fair enough, and although other strong contributions seem to accept our point, they do go on to build on Angela’s.

    I’d like to see more focused (less distracted) discussion of concerns that matter to Fulcrum’s readers. One pageview of a thread should give the reader a fair idea of what evangelicals are thinking about it. Non-evangelical comment is helpful to the degree that it is topical and evangelicals are likely to engage with it on that basis. But in tensions between the thrill of the post and the scarce moment to read, I come down, gently, on the side of the reader.

    Picking up on George’s history of NEAC etc, I agree that sponsoring really good discussions among evangelicals is or could be Fulcrum’s ordinary niche. The number of seldom-heard voices, especially women’s voices, that post their thoughts here has been important to me, but several benchmarks of success could be suggested. It would be good to see the new Fulcrum on more blogrolls.

    Dave suggests a reasonable format for organising this sort of discussion in real time.

    Like George, I value the Newswatch, and like Dave, I wish it were discussed more in the village. Newswatch enables Fulcrum to guide villagers toward worthwhile content from other sources, which is an essential capability for the world of social media. Indeed, while I miss the old Fulcrum format, I take heart from the team’s choice of a strong ‘content management system’ that can keep pace with that world.

    It would be a better world, however, if Fulcrum were itself able to cover certain news. Much as I value the posts contributed by several who attended GAFCON II, I myself wish that Fulcrum could have been there to cover it. Apart from its intrinsic merit, George Day’s different wish for more English evangelical news makes a certain business sense. A discussion of what counts as ‘news’ for Anglican evangelicals is probably well worth having sometime.

    Paywalls may make it difficult to link to theological items in the same way that Newswatch links to news items. That said, there is an expanding blogosphere of worthwhile theological comment.

    I miss the thread that formerly linked to singing, preaching, bell-ringing, symposia, and worship. It anticipated the ‘news from everywhere’ reality of social media today by several years– and by the patient work of one nameless volunteer. To her or him, my thanks for many happy and edifying hours.

    Roger mentions several non-evangelical theologians who should get more attention from us than they do, and suggests that Fulcrum has a role in showing them the river. An important feature of Roger’s list is that most of these figures have advanced problem-solving positions on broad concerns– either the way we read scripture or the way we view Christian origins– and some have significant working relationships with evangelicals.

    Connecting some of these dots with a debatable example– could we imagine a problem-solving discussion on a topic that people mention, in the format that Dave mentions, including theologians that Roger mentions, seeking the centre that Angela mentions, that was so excellent that everyone mentions it?

    An example? Oh– how do Sarah Coakley, Robert Jenson, Rowan Williams, J. I. Packer and Tom Wright read some sample OT passages in Christ? No essay required, just the texts themselves with annotations from the invited discussants. Everything divine or human is said to be in the OT.

    Or perhaps this– since most churchly voices speaking out against the UK government’s cuts in aid to the poor say that they too favour some reform, what reforms would they prefer? Are they only changes to programs, or do they also include broader changes in the management of the economy? And how are these preferences related to faith in Christ?

  16. I’ve no idea if this helps or not. I’m writing a story, at some 600 pages plus double spaced at present. It’s a bit Blue Velvet in the distortion of things, but otherwise recognisable. I’m changing one character and her impact, an ordained evangelical but is a member of ‘the clergy scheme’ (as in real world ‘the Clergy Project’ in part funded by Richard Dawkins charitable money) where members of the clergy continue to do their job properly – and sound as they should – but have in fact lost all belief and intent. This is different from the non-realist, who continues to think there is a cultural and postmodern way to present Christianity as a kind of religious humanism. It is different from the Radical Orthodox too, who thinks they can present a premodern Platonist pure religion inside a postmodern bubble. The person in ‘the clergy scheme’ makes no reformist gestures because it’s all over, and the issues are that of a relationship, housing, money and the best way to get out, but it may take years to go.

    An evangelical one minute can become a ‘Clergy Project’ individual the next without a period of liberality.

    The point is the clergy scheme person has lost none of the theological college training, none of the words, can do the job just as before, and for all intents and purposes appears to be the same. The vocation becomes doing a job for the money until something can be sorted out.

    Another character is liberal and attracted to the history of theological change in Reform Judaism. In the past this would have been an old style liberal but theology today is very diverse. A diocesan bishop is somewhere between Radical Orthodoxy and non-realism in a rather dangerous place, although he thinks it is exciting, and a suffragan is, well, so far, corrupt and an organiser of his own amoral and communal world.

    What I am getting at is that appearances don’t necessarily tell of where a person is. And the argument here (in this thread) seems to have an element of ‘what do we want to appear like’?

    ‘Appearing like’ is a kind of skill of presentation, a definition of institutional acceptability to which clever people can conform. Appearances deceive, and it takes a skilled user of these terms to detect what sort of conforming is going on.

    Nobody, of course, has privileged history and so many yet to-be falsified truths do not support many of the assertions of traditional religion. All people dealing in religious assertions work against this difficulty, but some claim there is privileged and special writing, privileged reading, direct divine contact and other forms of gnosis. They are at least ‘genuine’ in their delusions (let’s say) as opposed to those who manage their delusions for positive ends or those who just appear with them and would get out.

    When the question is asked ‘where are we and where are we going?’, is this a debate about appearances then and positioning? What is the point of this set against such theological and ecclesiastical diversity out there?

    • Yes, Adrian, this “helps.” I can’t quite believe that you wrote it or that I missed it. (Roger caught it.) Arguments are interesting, but you are quite right to turn to fiction to make your broader points. I’m off this thread now, but wish you luck and fun with your project, and look forward to hearing more about it later.

  17. The church and Fulcrum needs to be challenged by Tony Benn to challenge people and society:

    My Great-grandfather was a Congregational Minister and my Mother was a Bible scholar, and I was brought up on the Bible, that the story of the Bible was conflict between the kings who had power, and the prophets who preached righteousness. And I was taught to believe in the prophets, got me into a lot of trouble. And my Dad said to me when I was young, “Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone, Dare to have a purpose firm, Dare to let it (be) known.”
    Interviewed by Kevin Zeese in ‘Counterpunch’, December 19, 2005

    [The Labour Party]’s never been a socialist party, but it’s always had socialists in it, just as there are some Christians in the Church, it’s an exact parallel.
    Today Programme (10 February 2006)

  18. Bowman,

    It seemed to me to be a belt and braces operation to select your initial commentators and then moderate them carefully.The situation which may need avoiding is an article which attracts no comments for a few days and then is lost. There have been a few cases where a debate has been set up on Fulcrum by a set of articles which I think have been successful. Most of the time we are on the edge of things. There is an official statement, an article appears and then Fulcrum responds. In other cases a subject that needs discussing is picked up from Newswatch

    It is always good to hear from the author of the original article.

    I note that we can now comment on specific postings. This is good for the flow of the argument but it makes it difficult to see what has been added even if you get e-mails saying it is there.

  19. Dave, I was imagining a process much more dialogical (eg a realtime videoconference on Google Hangouts), yet simple (no new technical steps for a team presently perfecting WordPress), with content that is future-directed (eg as George’s and Roger’s proposals have been) and threads that are open but are topical, engaged, and undistracted (unlike some backward looking threads on George’s and Roger’s forward-looking proposals). At present, lone prophets show up to say that the future will not be like the past and are stoned to death in the threads for saying so. Fulcrum wants to discuss the future, but trials for witchcraft are not worth the bandwidth. What is better?

    You say your idea is less “tame,” so let’s clarify it. Are you suggesting this?–

    (1) Someone calls others for articles on something. (Should we picture a ‘call for papers’ or an editor on the phone?)

    (2) The articles are submitted and selected, as usual.

    (3) The editors forward the whole set to the whole leadership team and others for comment. (Should we assume that the ‘others’ are the writers themselves? Or are they invited referees?)

    (4) After a fortnight, the selected set and any comments received are posted online. (Should we imagine that all go online at once or that ‘target articles’ are released with the comments on them over a few weeks?

    (5) Discussion on the thread begins. (Should we imagine that the authors and commentators are invited to post in the thread for an hour or two?)

    To my mind, there are implicit publicity tasks at each step, but for brevity I have omitted them.

    If that’s your idea, Dave, then it’s more work than what i mentioned, but yes, i agree that it is less tame, and nearer to a process that lets Fulcrum be Fulcrum. Apart from that, content that emerges from an engaged discussion is more likely to make a strong contribution.

    Also Dave, your idea solves an urgent problem that I did not raise– how do we ensure that, when the editors launch new kinds of voices (eg female, ‘right-brained’), they do not meet with silence from the threads or in ordinary chatter? In the world of online media, silence is death. We have asked for these interesting voices, and the editors have found them for us, but then the threads on them are not what we had hoped they would be. In academe, publishing, Hollywood, and anything ‘social media,’ this sort of problem is avoided in two ways– solicited advance comment, and those ‘like’ icons we see on everything. Your idea would bring Fulcrum nearer to the state of that evolving art.

    So lest we seem tame again, let me pose this question– what would Fulcrum have to do for excellent ‘content’ to ‘go viral’ somewhere in the blogosphere? Certainly Fulcrum’s move to a robust ‘content management system’ suggests that someone would like to see that happen. And once in a while, it should.

    Finally, in all these details lurks half an answer to George’s question about Fulcrum’s direction. Whatever the content published– the other half an answer– among organisations for evangelicals, Fulcrum is best placed to be the robust online forum that they need, and that opportunity is a responsibility. As global evangelicalism evolves, not least in the Anglican Communion, a robust Fulcrum may turn out to be more indispensable than anyone knew.

  20. We’ve been round this block before. Anglicans only need nod towards the historic formularies as a whole. But as someone else said, elsewhwere, I only agree with about eight words of the creed.

  21. Bowman, closely moderated guests is a little timid. How about sending the selected articles to the leadership team and selected others say two weeks before publication so that a bundle of items could be published at the same time?

    Perhaps off topic on what Fulcrum can do and encouraging female participation, are there any old items from Elaine Storkey which could be republished – I am thinking of old Thought for the Day items.

  22. George, Angela, Dave, Roger, et al– Dave first mentioned Tom Wright’s pervasive influence here, and asked whether we intended to work with it toward a ‘New Perspective on Anglicanism.’ I merely seconded his excellent motion. But if it seems truly on topic to you all, let’s briefly discuss it.

    I often feel that AEs and OEs are pulled in two directions at once– testing new ways to reach those coming of age in this cultural environment (because that’s what evangelicals do), and maintaining the continuity of the tradition (because liberals doing the same thing often seek attention, ‘street-cred,’ and a certain frisson from disruption to tradition).

    On one hand, yes, there are vibrant souls on Vibram soles who are searching for a practise more personal than what they have seen, but not one so narcissistically ‘all about me’ as to be ungrounded (ie not ‘Sheila-ism’*). This search for the personal (so not mass-produced) yet grounded (so worth the venture out of the self) is the normal form of religious inquiry that I see in actual persons today in Boston. Others see them elsewhere around the world (eg San Francisco, Melbourne), wherever ‘spiritual but not religious; is getting dull. Anglican evangelicalism has a hereditary concern for people like that, and Fulcrum’s active members seem to be of a temper that is, if not quite the same, perhaps kindred.

    On the other hand, alas, the times have also cast evangelicals as Inflexible Defenders of Tradition both in the public eye and in private councils, even though history has better prepared many evangelical constituencies for oppositional suspicion and tactical creativity than for that trust-building, alliance-preserving role. Steven Kuhrt posted an essay that asked– as i remember it– what ecclesiology would avoid the deficiencies of a liberal one, and yet be acceptable to evangelicals? This shows, I think, that Fulcrum has gotten this second memo as well.

    I suspect that we see the potential for a newer perspective within Anglicanism in the fuller use of narratives like that of Tom Wright to not only better offer individuals a safe and sage ground for their personal practises, but also to offer the Church a faithful and reasonable– yet not rationalistic nor (in the bad sense) ‘corporate’– basis for our life in the Body of Christ. However, i doubt that debates in which OEs try to engage CEs who have not gotten either memo has helped or can help. What, in your wise opinions, can?

    It has occurred to me that the editors might build on strength by, from time to time, inviting guest participants to a time-limited, closely moderated, focused thread on a forward-looking article. (You may recall somewhat similar Fulcrum events with Robert Gagnon.) Apart from assuring that discussions were not sidetracked by antiquarians, derps,** and trolls, this would enable Fulcrum to draw the participation of the underrepresented (eg women) by just inviting them to the party, and might facilitate the commissioning of stimulating articles. A new tool for an excellent team. What do you think?


    * In ‘Habits of the Heart,’ a cross-disciplinary study of American religion by Robert Bellah et al, an interviewee named Sheila declared that her religion was ‘Sheila-ism,’ which was the sum of all the things that had ever excited her. The word has passed into the nomenclature of religious studies.

    ** ‘Derp,’ noun (US blogospheric), One who persistently repeats prior beliefs in the face of new evidence or argumentation as though they had never been introduced into the discussion. Is sometimes used as a verb transitive in all tenses (e.g. N. was derping.) but never as a verb intransitive. Similar to, but not the same as, blogospheric usage for ‘zombies’ (q.v.) and ‘cockroaches’ (q.v.).

    [Not yet from the Oxford English Dictionary]

    • George, first let me apologize that I have only picked up with your excellent, probing article in the last two or three days and it has taken me that time to sift through most of the discussion so far. You ask, ‘Where are we as Church of England evangelicals, and where are we going? And as an aspect of that, where is Fulcrum, and where is it going?’

      As you and Bowman have asked, in terms of Graham King’s triple streams of canal (CEs), cascades (charismatics) and river (OEs), perhaps there is not centre to Anglican evangelicalism. In terms of OEs, maybe the search is an exploration of the river’s bed-rock rather than a renewing of an elusive centre.

      I wonder though whether the whole history of evangelicalism, acknowledging its innumerable riches, is nonetheless simply part of the story. Isn’t God’s revelation in Christ through his Holy Spirit and the unfolding story of the Church far greater than any one strand and manifestation within the Body of Christ? This is not to gainsay the value of evangelicalism at its best – Word-centred, Cross-centred, active in proclaiming a compassionate Jesus – but to ask, ‘Is that the whole story?’ Or, to put it another way, will Jesus return as an evangelical?

      For myself, Christianity is like a braided river system flowing through a great delta to merge and unite into the fullness of the sea. Our limited human minds and hearts inevitably favour our particular stretch of braided water and we are right to embrace its tradition and narrative, while being aware of parallel streams of Christian understanding that may coalesce with ours. To press the analogy further, there might be river capture, where a neglected element within God’s ways takes over, shaping a new channel.

      I agree with George, Bowman and Dave in acknowledging the importance of Tom Wright’s biblical theology in shaping the river’s course, especially for OEs, but also encouraging debate among a wider range of Christian emphases, not least in his debates with Marcus Borg. As Bowman points out, there are a number of other formative voices heralding the ‘new perspective’.

      I find myself increasingly influenced by a wide range of voices, men and women whose theologies take Scripture seriously, patiently revisiting it and creatively mediating its treasures. I include such as Walter Brueggemann, Sarah Coakley, Walter Wink, Sallie McFague, Rowan Williams, Ellen Davis, Barbara Brown Taylor, David Ford and Richard Burridge.. God’s evolving inheritance is wider than evangelicalism.

      I am not advocating an uncritical mishmash of beliefs and practices, but rather a discernment within evangelicalism that acknowledges the best in all Christian traditions and seeks to learn from other braided streams as we flow (with some turbulence!) in the same overall direction – the welcoming of God’s new heaven and new earth.

      Fulcrum can, I believe, play a pivotal role in this tide of influence, providing a generous forum for the openness of open evangelicals, and their brothers and sisters, as the way forward is shaped through debate, mutual challenge and encouragement.

      • Roger, it is so good to hear your voice again!

        What I find most appealing about Graham Kings’s ‘river’ is that it draws rain from the sky through many tributaries, mingles the waters in a deeply carved riverbed older than we are, and then returns them to the primordial sea. Our interest in some non-evangelical theologians is consistent with Fulcrum’s founding ‘generous orthodoxy.’ The practical question may be– which theologians matter enough to the good people of Fulcrum to warrant editorial attention? I suspect that the answer involves one big name and a few grand projects.

        Although Tom Wright’s own project is just now entering its final phase, it has long been cutting past oxbows and pushing the delta further out to sea. Dave was right to suggest that assessments of that project have implications for the inner composition of the evangelical and Anglican identities. Like you, I am a fan of the Wright’s dialogue with another Anglican, Marcus Borg, but I suspect that thinkers who revive narrative in our minds and churches will be much more influential in the years ahead than those who salve our epistemological cuts and bruises. And my experience of Borg’s fans here is that they are more interested in having the space to think for themselves than in reframing the narrative faith of the Church around the consensus of the Society for Biblical Literature. So although Wright and Borg disagree deeply, they are often received as symbiotic guides. “I believe Wright when I can,” says a friend, “and Borg when I must.” We may find that our river continues to overflow its banks, drawing some surprising things into the stream, but still rolling on course.

        One notable uncertainty for Anglican evangelicals is whether Wright’s work will ultimately remake or break the ‘reformed’ con evo canal. He has a sincere reformed inspiration, yes, but seems to be overrunning the locks and breaching the levee. Thankfully, the conservative temper is ever with us, of course, but it may have to conserve something else.

        Meanwhile, in America anyway, younger ‘reformed’ theologians are dressing more like George Day, and sounding more like Stephen Holmes. They argue with Tom Wright, but then produce books like Julie Canlis’s patristic and mystical ‘Calvin’s Ladder,’ or Todd Billings’s ‘Union with Christ,’ which mingles communion with social justice. The canal is clearly not for them; their dissertations are too broad to fit the channel. In time, some of them will join us on the river, and that would not be a bad thing.

        As for the most Fulcrum-like projects of your favourite theologians– and some of mine– I’ll have to take up in another post.

    • Bowman ‘Derps’ … really glad there is a word for it. Thanks.

      But is there a word for another approach I have encountered post Pilling. This is a terse dismissal of the material offered for debate with the claim they are actually old ideas that were discussed and discredited way back and not worth the bother of revisiting again? You can almost hear two or three barely suppressed yawns in the process.The advantage is that this claims superior and prior learning, administers a heavy, patronising put down and (handily) absolves from any obligation to actually engage in debate.
      ‘Yawnies’? (Not yet in Oxford English Dictionary to my knowledge)

      • David, I hear you. Over here some have adopted the term ‘zombies,’ not for their intelligent interlocutors, of course, but for arguments that rise and walk again no matter how many times they are refuted. Especially in public policy, some arguments inspire a loyalty not grounded in public fact.

        To be clear, there is nothing wrong with actually renewing an old argument if you actually do the work of (1) adapting it to current knowledge, (2) answering the old refutations of its predecessor, and (3) showing those in the discussion today that they can gain something from reconsidering it. Many now irrefutable arguments had easily refuted ancestors.

        My argument that Genesis 1:28 and 2:18 should be the core of ordinary sexual ethics is surely seen as a ‘zombie’ by most people, but I think ‘virtue ethics’ (eg Craig Uffman on Stanley Hauerwas on Alistair McIntyre) has shown that they can be read in a new and more applicable way, and I see present and future benefit in an ethic that can respond to both changing sexual mores and new reproductive technologies. Yes, I am walking in a very old part of town, but I am doing it in Vibram, not nailed leather.

        The difficulty with the Pilling Report (and, still more, with its Church of Scotland equivalent) is that, for all its merits, it leaves readers confusing reconciliation between polarised factions with the end of polarisation in the Church. When the first fails to happen quickly through officially sponsored processes, people give up on the second in despair (or sometimes perverse elation). This should not have been encouraged.

        In fact, polarisations end by a different process in which centrist positions draw people away from the extremes by solving more problems with less division. Two-sided discussions where people mainly concerned about a kind of biblical authority debate people mainly concerned with a kind of social equality will not bring either insight or unity. What will bring both is the emergence of new facts and concerns that relax the grip of those two memes on the thinking of the future majority. The bible will always have authority, and the dream of equality will never die, but the way they have been formulated and popularised is the source of the division and therefore the Holy Spirit will change both in drawing people to a new consensus around new concerns. When He has done so, it will be more costly to remain divided than to be united and the polarisation will end. Some will regret the return of peace– they never feel alive but in battle– but thankfully God is in charge.

      • David, is anyone at the OED catching all this?

        “Abigail, it seems clear, does it not, that blah blah blah?”

        ‘Of course it’s not clear, Zane, you just keep saying it over and over again, you derp!’

        “I am not a derp. That was not a mere statement of expectations prior to the discovery of new evidence; it was an argument predicting what sort of evidence would be found.”

        ‘But that evidence has never yet been found, so I stand corrected– you may not be a derp, but the argument is surely a zombie.’

        “Apology accepted. But the evidence for wah wah wah is quite abundant, just look…”

        ‘But Zane, wah wah wah is not blah blah blah!’

        “You might like to think that, Aaron, but cha cha cha!”

        ‘And that, Zane is a cockroach.’

        “I beg your pardon?”

        ‘A cockroach.’

        “A nasty little thing that scuttles about in cheap flats?”

        ‘In the blogosphere, an elusive little thing that flees when one turns over a rock.’

        “Flees to where? In the blogosphere.”

        ‘Under a new rock. A virtual rock.’

        “And if you turn over that virtual rock?”

        ‘Off to yet another one.’

        “Abigail, I’m not following.”

        ‘Zane, you keep changing your supposed argument. When I respond to blah blah, blah, you don’t answer– you just scamper on to wah wah wah. And when I take that seriously, you’re off again to cha cha cha!’

        “So I– I?– am a cockroach? That could seem unkind.”

        ‘No, not you, Intelligent Interlocutor, that thing you are talking about that never takes a stable shape long enough for me to discuss it.’

        “You mean that it does not stay put long enough for you to crush it.”

        ‘Well, isn’t that the point?’

        “No, it’s not. It does not like being crushed.”

        ‘Well, with so much practise it is not difficult to crush.’

        “Abigail, I think you are being a heartless yawnie about all of this. You are so dismissive of things that you think that you have heard before.”

        ‘Things I “think” I have heard before? Is something new?’

        “Yes– before I was saying bleh bleh bleh, and…”

        ‘Bleh, bleh, bleh?”

        “Yes. It’s different. Blah is a huge improvement over bleh.”

        ‘Weh, weh, weh?’

        “Yes, that too.”

        ‘And cheh cheh cheh.’


        ‘So you still have a cockroach, but it’s a different cockroach. That is important. And so I guess I have been a bit of a yawnie, after all… O Zane, thank goodness you are not a derp! That would really be so repulsive.’

        “So we can make up?”


  23. So, gathering thoughts from above, D is also for Doctrine (Do we have any distinctive ones?), maybe Dysangelism (Is there risk of unintentionally spreading bad news rather than good?), and probably Do Not Feed The Trolls (For if you do, Gresham’s Law will set in).

  24. Thank you, Phil, for your post of March 1. I will respond briefly.

    Re your first point, I fully agree that doctrinal questions must be included in “where are we and where are we going?” But attempts to answer that by going back to the particular theology espoused in the articles is, as I said, the equivalent of regretting the way Goretex and Vibrams have replaced tweed jackets and nailed boots – such things were in their time good for walking and climbing, but are now seen as not adequate. So, yes, do push doctrinal questions as part of the overall topic, but do not be surprised if your comments are not taken up when they seem to take no notice of where we are now. (Examples of where we are now might include Tom Wright’s approach, to which Bowman has drawn attention on this thread. Or Sarah Cawdell has just written a Fulcrum review of “Just Love: Personal and social transformation in Christ”. And various evangelical (and other) writers have discussed the issues of atonement and judgment and hell, and the fate of those who never specifically turn to Christ. Engagement with such current theology is, I think, likely to lead to more response than going back to the Articles).

    You specifically mention Article 9. This clearly tries to explain what you have rightly summarised as “the truth about the human condition before God”, but it does so in a way that I suspect many of us would be hesitant about today. That is not because we ignore the human condition, both in a general sense, which we try to respond to with pastoral and social/political action, and in the specific sense of the human condition before God, which we try to respond to with evangelism and encouragement of spiritual growth. In particular, though being aware of the hold and effect sin has on us in so many ways, I personally find the concept of original sin at best a limited and somewhat one-sided view of human nature, and a one-sided reading of scripture, (and at times one which has been used in appalling ways).

    • George Day
      Many thanks for your candid reply. In my original post I said, ‘I challenge all who wish to be known as evangelicals and who visit or post to this forum to say with which if any of doctrines 1 to 4 they agree’. Your reply confirms what I also said, ‘We disagree about some fundamental truths’.
      I now think it is fair to summarise your answer to my challenge as ‘None of them’. Do you agree that is a fair summary? Would you also agree that you could not now, whatever might have been the case in the past, make in good conscience the Declaration of Assent required of all candidates for ordination?
      I again call upon the Fulcrum Leadership Team to be equally candid.
      Phil Almond

      • Phil, you do love boxing people into corners, don’t you? Do I fully agree with your points 1-4 as an adequate statement of truth? No. Do I totally reject them? No. And that I guess is the position of the vast majority of Anglican clergy, whether evangelical or not. And of many Fulcrum members too.

        The articles came out of a time when you had to believe exactly what you were supposed to believe, or else! Thank God we have moved from that, and that means that for many the articles represent a far more rigid stance than we would ideally want to take. However, there is no way the C of E is likely to formally ditch the articles as it would involve us in disputes that would probably be far greater than the women’s ordination/consecration disputes, but without the justification of a crying need to sort out a problem. Fortunately the assent that clergy are required to make has been toned down over the decades – I cannot remember the exact change of wording – but it was a recognition that the articles no longer adequately express the faith of those who offer themselves for the ministry of the church. So a degree of flexibility has been introduced. Is this entirely satisfactory? No. Is it just about the best we can do? Yes.

        So to put it another way, I refuse to be boxed into the narrow viewpoint that you seem to require, but I rejoice in having a productive and scripture-based ministry within the Church of England to the glory of God. (And I look forward on Sunday week to preaching on the lectionary readings, which include two bits of Romans 4 and the first half of John 3 – now that is glorious Good News indeed!)

        • George Day
          ‘Do I fully agree with your points 1-4 as an adequate statement of truth? No. Do I totally reject them? No. And that I guess is the position of the vast majority of Anglican clergy, whether evangelical or not. And of many Fulcrum members too’.
          This suggests that you consider there is some truth in my points 1-4 and also some error. Could you please tell us what is the truth and what the error in each of the 4 points?
          Phil Almond

          • Phil, I think it is safe to say that sado-calvinism is not the future of Fulcrum.

            Indeed, even the five points of Philip sound too much like the five points of TULIP for most villagers to actually read them. That may be unfair. As you intended, the two sets are subtly and significantly different (eg #5 “and those invitations are sincere.”). But I suspect that your oft-expressed hope that they will make people miserable has made the deeper impression and deflected more serious attention.

          • I cannot see that your pushing of these narrow theological concerns has any real relevance to “Where are we and where are we going?” I’m sorry, but I have no intention of being drawn into a debate on this.

          • Bowman
            My aim and prayer and hope is that all of us, including myself, and those who believe that Christianity is in some sense true and those who don’t, will by the grace of God face up to who the God and Christ of the Bible are and what they are like and what is our position before him. I agree that when we first do that, it makes us miserable. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear’ is the first work of grace in Newton’s hymn. And my equally fervent hope is that many will have their fears relieved by submitting to Christ in repentance, faith, love, obedience joy and a different kind of fear.
            In his March 2 post George agrees that ‘doctrinal questions must be included in “where are we and where are we going?”’ but goes on to imply that I take no notice of where we are now and calls upon me to engage with where we are now. But I am engaging by disagreeing with where we are now. George is begging the question by saying that we have moved on from the articles. I have not moved on and I am challenging him and the Fulcrum leadership to say where they are now in relation to the articles I mentioned.
            Phil Almond

          • The account of conversion as misery graciously relieved that you accredit is nicely described in your post, Phil, and it was once the standard view. We know that some experience such conversions today, and suspect that there will always be some so graced by God.

            But in the C18, Jonathan Edwards’s unimpeachable experience of grace was not at all like that, which disturbed his confidence in crude ‘ordo salutis’ psychology. His inquiries into ‘religious affections’ established the present view– the sign of a true conversion is not an emotional sequence, but rather is a positive relish for divine things that leads to spiritual fruit.

            Since then, wise evangelicals have been careful not to confuse emotion with regeneration, temperament with theology. Nor do they challenge doctrines on the ground that these ideas do not inspire enough dread, gloom, despair, etc to motivate the ‘misery graciously relieved’ sort of conversion, nor indeed any other emotional pattern ultimately dependent on temperament. Our darker emotions say more about us than they do about God’s work in the soul.

            I suspect that your questions seem negligible to most here because, even if nominally framed in terms of doctrines, they seem to be ultimately, if obliquely, about personality structure. Those who do not have the temperament you describe are unable to engage your thoughts about its emotional processes.

            And there may be some who do not distinguish between advocacy of a standard sort of conversion, and a dysangelical denial of all the other ways in which grace reaches souls. If you would like something to fear, then the small possibility that you are challenging others’ confidence in God’s work in them should be truly terrifying.

            It has pleased the Creator to make and to save many kinds of souls. Fulcrum’s self-definitions show a robust appreciation of this truth and its implications for thinking about God. Its future direction, whatever that proves be, will presumably reflect that reality.

          • Bowman
            Yes, I realized shortly after making my 16 March 2014 post that I would get some such response as your 17 March post.
            I should rather have responded to your 16 March post by asking you to give examples of my ‘oft-expressed hope that they (the doctrines I believe are true) will make people miserable’. Have I expressed that hope often?

            What I have done is to repeatedly state that I believe it is true that ‘The wrath of God is a punitive wrath which is final for the objects of that wrath unless they are delivered from it’ and I have often expressed the hope that all who believe that Christianity is in some sense true would also come to believe that this statement is true.

            In your March 17 post I do not think that you are engaging directly with this oft-repeated statement of mine. Because I have put forward that statement as a true objective fact. God is justly and righteously angry with sinners. I believe in Original Sin. As I understand it, you do not. But this disagreement between us is irrelevant here, unless you hold the view that there have been and are some human beings who have never sinned (apart from Christ of course). And this true objective fact is true whatever the ‘personality structure’ or ‘temperament’ of the sinners. In my response I should have emphasised these points and not got involved in discussing the effect this truth might have on sinners who come to believe it. It is true that we are all ‘miserable sinners’ in the sight of God before we repent and trust Christ for salvation. But I do not believe that a sense of that misery is always the first effect of God’s grace and I apologise that my response could have been reasonably understood to say that.

            I agree that there are ‘other ways in which grace reaches souls’. In a previous post I said, ‘…for the gospel to be fully and honestly preached, the diagnosis/threat of the wrath of God, of ourselves as wrath-deserving sinners and the Biblical picture of the great and terrible God the Bible gives us have to be stated sooner or later, alongside the amazing grace and love and mercy of God in Christ dying for our sins and rising for our justification and all that flows from that redemption. But we recognise that though the need to be forgiven and delivered from the wrath to come is a person’s greatest objective need, subjectively it is sometimes/often not the need that people feel most. Maybe that need is the fear of death, or a low self-esteem, or broken relationships, or inadequacy, or the meaninglessness of life, or poverty, or the struggle with particular sins, or enslavement to certain habits, or the problem of evil – I am sure that you can think of many more. The self-disclosure God has given us has something to say about all these needs and problems. In preaching the gospel, in whatever way, obviously space has to be found to bring that revelation to bear on all these needs and problems and to show that in one way or another, sooner or later, now or in eternity, the great salvation the Triune God has brought about and is bringing about will meet those needs and solve those problems’.

            I apologise if I have missed it but I do not recall you ever saying explicitly that you agree or disagree with me that, ‘The wrath of God is a punitive wrath which is final for the objects of that wrath unless they are delivered from it’. Are you willing to explicitly agree or disagree?

            I am not sure to what you are referring when you mention ‘Fulcrum’s self-definitions’. I note that on the new website there is still the statement ‘We affirm and uphold as the doctrinal core of our unity the Basis of Faith of the Church of England Evangelical Council’ and, as I keep on saying, that Basis on the Fulcrum website includes the statement ‘As members of the Church of England within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church we affirm the faith uniquely revealed in the holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, of which the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are a general exposition’. If I was briefed to defend George Day’s position I would argue that the phrase ‘general exposition’ gives sufficient wriggle room to not totally agree with, say, Articles 9, 10 and 17. But I would blush under my wig as I argued it.

            By the way, what meaning were you intending to convey in your 16 March post by the phrase ‘sado-calvinism’?

            Phil Almond

          • A fine post. Phil, but let’s return it to the topic– Fulcrum is interested in theology that interests ‘evangelicals’ who are ‘open’ to life in Christ today. A Fulcrum ‘conversionism’ must be open to the actual ways in which the Spirit of God draws souls to the Son and to the Father. Each generation, culture, etc is reached in its own ways, and Jonathan Edwards’s influential accounts of the Great Awakening and personal conversion has enabled generations of evangelicals to see how this great variety is rooted in the One. With respect to Fulcrum, George and many of us are interested primarily in theology that enables us to hear and to tell these new stories. Graham Kings’s most recent article, for example, recounts a few of these stories with theological insight, I, for one, look forward to more that take his reflections on experiences as a model. On its theological side, this discussion moves forward as we identify the ‘surprising narratives’ of our own time, and the theology that helps us to understand them.

            Postscript– In my hearing, ‘sado-calvinism’ has evolved from the Arminian insult that it was a generation ago to a ‘term of art’ among some younger Reformed for the excessive (and, systematically, much too convenient) preoccupation with ‘God glorying in human misery’ that, in their view, has made some past systems implausible, if not blameworthy, today. It often seems better adapted to the ideological needs of classes inflicting pain on marginalised people (eg slavery, apartheid) than to the theological needs of those spreading the gospel that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The good people of Fulcrum, whilst avoiding the excess, seem well aware that grace had a cost.

          • Bowman
            ‘A Fulcrum ‘conversionism’ must be open to the actual ways in which the Spirit of God draws souls to the Son and to the Father. Each generation, culture, etc is reached in its own ways, and Jonathan Edwards’s influential accounts of the Great Awakening and personal conversion has enabled generations of evangelicals to see how this great variety is rooted in the One’.
            I still cannot get you to be clear on whether you agree or disagree that all human beings, whatever their culture, personality, life history, intelligence etc. are faced with the holy wrath and condemnation of God. Surely this question is an essential part of ‘where we are’ and ‘where we are going’ and must be right on topic.
            Phil Almond

          • Phil, I discussed ‘wrath’ at length with you and Roger just a few months ago, and answered your questions then. If you do not remember my answers, you should not fault me for forgetting your questions. Nor, since you were saved by the archivist, will I fault you for not answering mine. Do have a blessed Lent.

  25. how can one be a convinced advocate and an impartial host at the same time?

    This is what has occurred to me just a minute ago, having read the responses, “the centre never moves, the centre is always central, however what does move is the peripheries which puts the centre in a different context in terms of how much compacts it from outside”.

    I am not sure if I would say that fulcrum does not have an evangelical centre, but I would say that the peripheries are ever changing.

    I followed this process of thought with questions like is “the bible” the centre or is”Christ” the centre. For me the bible has always been a means to an end, Christ has always been the beginning middle and end, Christ has been the root of my conscience, Christ has been my example Christ has been in some way my nemesis as I have struggled to be Christlike in far from Christlike circumstances, but then I remind myself NO actually I am trying to be Christlike in exactly the circumstances that Christ found himself in. Then I tell myself NO not exactly because Christ was and is Divine (another D for the pot) I am not and never will be Divine. (another D discovery)

    The evangelical centre is as Bowman states “the discovery of” and it is not static.

    I was at St Teilos Church in Cardiff yesterday St Davids.St Teilos Church depicts the Gospel in Pictures /or hieroglyphics .The pictures remain there and I was thinking but who decided to change those pictures into words? The Priest were the only ones who wrote them but how did they know what to write how did letters begin How did we get from Arabic to Egyptian to Hebrew to Greek, now it seems as though the written word has always been part of our lives But actually (Makaton) was the first form of communication. You see this is one of the Peripheries and I think it goes part way to answering Daves question because we can all look at the same picture and see something different but we can be impartial and advocate at the same time because the Central point is the same. Its a bit like one of those puzzles you get where if you stare at the outside of it for long enough it messes with your eyes and they focus to see a picture , but you have to look at it in the right way and long enough to see it. The gospel is like that. Fulcrum is like that the evangelical centre is reached by working together on the gospel with the knowledge of the outside peripheries and staring long enough to see it. Sometimes we see it and it is too simple for us to comprehend, we actually do not understand it because it is simple, such simplicity in amongst the complicated peripheries is difficult to understand.

    “the discovery of”

    The centre is when we know that we are at one with Christ .

    I am trying to use examples which are of the topic, but its not black and white because we are individuals, just like Matthew Mark Luke and John we all see the same actions of the cross in the same moment of time from a different side. The evangelical centre is where right and wrongs meet in a different understanding.

    I am suggesting that the evangelical centre changes with society. Fulcrum is no different.

  26. Thus far, George’s question is being answered, if obliquely, “No.”

    I mean his implicit question whether a visible ‘evangelical centre’ exists prior to Fulcrum’s efforts.

    George himself has pointed back, as I have done, to Graham Kings’s centre-less typology of canal (CEs), river (OEs), and falls (charismatics). Beyond that, George notes to Phil that “Calvinistic theology is not where we are at,” which to me hints at the historical force behind the types that Graham’s metaphors capture so well.

    Angela has twice posted appealing accounts of the daily process of negotiating an evangelical centre in the Forum. But of course if one is negotiating (or perhaps discovering) a centre, then it is because none is now apparent.

    And now Dave points out the relational contradiction in even that negotiation– how can one be a convinced advocate and an impartial host at the same time?

    If there is an ‘evangelical centre’ prior to Fulcrum’s efforts, where is it?

    If there is not such a centre, then how is Dave’s challenge to be answered?

    If Dave’s challenge cannot be answered, can we agree that Graham’s typology still describes our environs?

    And if it does, where is the river flowing?

  27. Thus far, George’s question is being answered, if obliquely, “No.”

    I mean his implicit question whether a visible ‘evangelical centre’ exists prior to Fulcrum’s efforts.

    George himself has pointed back, as I have done, to Graham Kings’s centre-less typology of canal (CEs), river (OEs), and falls (charismatics). Beyond that, George notes to Phil that “Calvinistic theology is not where we are at,” which to me hints at the historical force behind the types that Graham’s metaphors capture so well.

    Angela has twice posted appealing accounts of the daily process of negotiating an evangelical centre in the Forum. But of course if one is negotiating (or perhaps discovering) a centre, then it is because none is now apparent.

    And now Dave points out the relational contradiction in even that negotiation– how can one be a convinced advocate and an impartial host at the same time?

    If there is an ‘evangelical centre’ prior to Fulcrum’s efforts, where is it?

    And if there is not such a centre, then how is Dave’s challenge to be answered?

  28. And D is also for Duty (which some see, with unease or hostility, as Dominance).

    George’s narrative implicitly asks–

    What does it mean for AEs that, in a generation or so, they have moved from the pivotal Stott-Lloyd Jones debate to a large proportion of the episcopate in the Church of England?

    Put more abstractly–

    Given that so much of the evangelical ethos has been oppositional (and according to W. R Ward began that way), how do evangelical institutions and ideas fare as they move from ‘opposition’ to ‘government?’

    Good answers to this question in either of its forms will situate Fulcrum in England and the Communion in ways that are interesting, and maybe strategically useful.

  29. George, I really thought that I had answered some of your points, but I confess I did not pick up on the four “D”s Evangelism. I picked up “on the other issues. Like “what is evangelism” what do we really mean when we use that term. The evangelical centre” I really thought/think is about extreme interpretations of the same gospel coming to the point of compromise in approach, so that ALL may hear the gospel in a way which enhances the faith. The issues about women in the ministry or ordaining clergy who are in same sex relationships are just two of the ways in which the gospel has been on the opposite sides of the spectrum in interpretation, yet we work ever increasingly through prayer and the guidance of God to meet one another in the middle ground for the benefit of everyone.. Anglicanism with its articles of faith and the way it is structured can sometimes bring obstacles to “the evangelical centre” It has to be acknowledged by us all that we have had to adapt the way in which we communicate the gospel, if only by adding modern language interpretation to old language or by as many on here do writing books of guidance from personal study for others to study. Of course every time we do that something may change in translation, but that does not always mean that it is wrong, it means that we have an understanding for the time space we are in, which will lead to a deeper understanding later on. It is no longer acceptable to be telling people who are different from the way we are that they are evil or that their parents are evil, it might be true they are affected by evil or that their actions are evil but people are not evil just because they are Born in a certain way or have certain descendants. But I do concede that moving away from the evangelical centre can distort the word.My answers are also genuine, So I stand by the where is fulcrum going answer, it will continue to debate the gospel and the way in which social issues impact on it so that we can find a way of sharing it , that all may understand and receive Christ as their saviour. Keeping organisations going relies on being able to adapt to all the relevant issues whilst not losing the evangelical centre which is a combination of the old testament and new testament both equally valuable or equally invaluable in the structuring of our society that we currently live in.
    Peace be with you George

  30. The reason I’ve not appeared is that there is nothing here to which I can respond. But then I’m not evangelical or even Christian, and after the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter I think lesbian and gay Christians should leave the Church of England, whatever their beliefs, because the Pilling discussion period is to be followed by a\ predetermined no change. It seems relations with the appalling Ugandan and Nigerial Anglican Churches matter more. There are other choices of Church in the UK.

  31. I think Fulcrum has taken on several roles which are at times incompatible.

    1.Spokesperson for OEs
    2. Counterweight to CEs
    3. Providing a centre ground between OEs, CEs and Charismatics or perhaps within Anglicanism as a whole.

    The potted history presents Fulcrum as set up in opposition to the advances made by CEs which is a different emphasis from the values they espouse. Fulcrum seems to oppose anything coming from Reform, Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans or GAFCON in a way which splits rather than unites. I wonder if this dialogue is of interest to charismatics. Perhaps there is not a distinctive charismatic answer.

    The inclusive of Tom Wright in Fulcrum is so pervasive that I wonder if it’s true calling is to develop the New Perspective on Anglicanism


    • “…I wonder if [Fulcrum’s] true calling is to develop The New Perspective on Anglicanism”

      Dave, I have wondered the same thing for much the same reason.

      Tom Wright’s work * has nudged almost everyone in Christendom** onto ground where ‘biblical theology’ frames questions and leads conversations that were once led only by more or less scholastic systematic theology. That change has disrupted some old perspectives on Anglicanism that mules still tow down the canal, but it has also drawn more tributaries to the working river than many had expected. The swelling channel that results has the breadth and depth to carry more of the freight of Anglicanism than in the past. Should Fulcrum facilitate this more explicitly?


      * To be fair to other scholars, Wright’s prolific output is not the only cause of the change. For example, the gradual convergence of evangelical and neo-orthodox theologies is a long-run consequence of the fading influence of Tillich and the renewed influence of Barth that would have happened even if NT studies were still stuck making hypothetical scrapbooks. The (re)discovery of narrative across many disciplines in the second half of the C20 gave scholars the tools to think cogently yet mostly non-metaphysically about value, virtue, and meaning. Wright’s unified biblical narrative has given developments like these a staying power that they would not otherwise have had, whilst they have shown the wider implications of the narrative he defends.

      ** http://ncronline.org/news/synod-anglican-bishop-star-show

  32. George, thank you for beginning and continuing the discussion.

    The first step of strategy is simply to look around and see what’s going on. Any good that came of the strategic planning exercises that I’ve facilitated have usually been driven by collective discoveries in that first stage.

    Your list seems a useful start for that:

    Dispersion– OEs are not all in E parishes.

    Dilution– OEs have other influences on their thinking than the CE of the ‘canal.’

    Division– OEs do support the AE community generally, but are a part of its divisions in the face of social change.

    We might add;

    Disorganisation– Some E organizations are fading.

    Two further items may be more future-minded:

    Diaspora– The globalisation of AE informs both Fulcrum’s commitment to the Anglican Communion Covenant and its friendly scrutiny of GAFCON.

    Digitalisation– The internet distribution of all things opens new challenges and opportunities for a Fulcrum that is, as technophiles say, ‘content rich.’

    (The alliteration* is play, as serious brainstorming often is. Strategy can otherwise be so dull.)

    What have we missed?


    * You see, I hope, that I coined ‘Day’s D’s’ with gratitude for your perspicuous posts, past and present.

  33. Thanks, Bowman, for engaging with my questions about Fulcrum. (As regards the alliteration, that was certainly not intended, although you are correct that I did use the first 3 of the D’s).

    Picking up on your second paragraph, I think I would really question whether C of E evangelicalism has a centre. Graham King’s picture of 3 watercourses, of which one is “River: Open Evangelicals” is I believe more accurate.

    And even if there were a single centre, can Fulcrum really claim to be renewing it? I suspect that is far too grandiose, and seems to suggest that without Fulcrum this supposed centre would be on its last legs. If the Fulcrum strapline was something like “Representing the evangelical centre” it would be more realistic, (even if less catchy!)

    I certainly would not want Fulcrum to stop. As we have both said, there is a need to balance other voices, and as I said in my article the news page is an excellent service. The debating (in the past via the forum and now by comment on the articles) is also valuable, even though the number of contributors is so limited.

    Should Fulcrum be trying for more than that? Well, that depends on whether or not there are specific directions in which C of E evangelicals (or the OE part thereof) should be going. We must certainly continue to stand for vigorous, Gospel-centred, open-minded, outward-looking Anglicanism, though we will of course be very far from the only ones doing that. With regard to particular issues, we can be glad that the battle for the C of E’s ministry to be open to women at all levels is just about won. (Although it is alarming to see that apart from our esteemed President and Paula Gooder the Fulcrum leadership is entirely male – why? I ask). On the homosexuality issue Fulcrum has a particular stance, but also provides opportunity for open debate in which those of us who disagree with that stance can vigorously espouse a different viewpoint. That is very valuable, but the very fact of this division of opinion among members limits any action that could be taken.

    My questions about evangelicals and about Fulcrum are genuine ones. I rejoice in the way we have a far broader contribution to the C of E than we did when I was first ordained, but I am very unclear as to where we should be going specifically as evangelicals, and that is why I ask these question and why I would really like the Fulcrum leadership to comment.

  34. George, I think you may be asking– what is the meaning of Fulcrum’s ‘evangelical centre’ amid the Dispersion, Dilution, Division, and Disorganisation of evangelicals in the present day Church of England? We might call this the question of Day’s D’s 😉

    It arises for Fulcrum only because it was one thing to insist to a tightly unified community that it actually had a centre of opinion entitled to respect, but is another thing to carry on with that mission now when the community is far less unified in the alliterated ways you mention. Doing the same thing in new circumstances is doing a different thing. Is it a chosen thing?, you seem to ask.

    I don’t hear any suggestion in your article that Fulcrum should just stop, since there is still the necessity of balancing other voices, as there was in the very beginning. Some may see that as mission enough, and think that Fulcrum is getting steadily better at it all the time. Others may want Fulcrum to play a new role in the evangelical community beyond balancing Anglican Mainstream. In any case, your article and comment urge that Fulcrum’s leaders should chart a course that takes the D’s explicitly into account and should let the members at least know what that course is.

    Have I understood your article?


    Esteemed mods and villagers– In this new format, which ties posts to articles, clearer topicality is a service to the reader. That is especially true when the article is as focused as this one is. Each post sends a message to our inboxes; there should be some good reason why it does that. Spam strains the bonds of affection.

  35. Well George, your comments are provocative, but I did not read them as divisive, you have made a direct challenge to the leaders it remains to be seen whether they respond. It would be sad if they don’t, I am wondering what has happened to John Martin he has been missing for a while? Nerson disappeared a while ago and Pluralist pops in every now and then Pageantmaster has also disappeared . The “Leaders” do pop in from time to time although I notice that John Khurt and Gordon have been gone a while and even Jodie. Perhaps they are all stored away on the “proper fulcrum site “lol Hopefully we have not bored them too much. I guess life is busy there has been a lot going on and a lot more to go on so maybe the perceived lack of leadership is that? but more likely its that Fulcrum is in place and has been since graham started it and they see that it is running. Maybe George its about what people are looking for, fulcrum fits my space at the moment it is hard for me to find a place I fit so I share the gospel in this way until that is resolved (if it ever is) When it comes to the purpose of fulcrum as I stated in my previous post its about finding the middle ground, I am just a small cog in that wheel, but I study the word and share alongside the others. I f you think about it that is what we are all doing wherever we do it. It all relies on communication and sharing of the gospel. remembering that we live with the gospel as our guide to serving Christ. Fulcrum enables us to do that, it plays an important part in keeping the wider picture to the forefront, putting people out their to be supported in prayer and action. But you do have a point in the fact that there is a remoteness and lack of connection about it, it can be lonely, that is true I know not the most inspiring answer , but never the less a true one. Anyway its Easter soon how can we make it peaceful , spiritual, safe and inspiring, how can we offer Christ to those who do not know him and reintroduce him to those who do know him? Other than by testimony and sharing,

  36. George Day’s question deserves our full attention here.

    “And where is Fulcrum in all this? Its strap line is ‘renewing the evangelical centre,’ but I think we have to ask: to what degree is it succeeding in this? Certainly, its existence declares strongly that open evangelicals are truly part of the evangelical section of the C of E, and it balances conservative groups such as Anglican Mainstream.”

    From a distance, Fulcrum seems to have three self-understandings–

    (a) AEs who can and do support fair, informed, and open dialogue among evangelicals in the Church;

    (b) AEs in the ‘river’ whose headwaters are the same as those of all Anglicans and evangelicals but whose banks accommodate theological currents not rippling through the placid ‘canal’ of the con evos; and

    (c) AEs who, because of (b), can support a robust ecclesiology (eg the Anglican Communion Covenant), the ministry of women in all orders, and responsible dialogue on sexuality.

    These are broadly consistent and synergistic since each contributes to an independence that the others require, and that we all require to follow Christ. Yet each could be weighted differently as Fulcrum works toward different ends at different times. Whether Fulcrum is ideally effective or not depends on what those ends and times are.

    It may be that, to attract a larger constituency in the near future, (b) will need some further development. Absent a richer ‘theological’ identity chosen for itself, Fulcrum can be seen by default as a point on the line running from Anglican Mainstream to Thinking Anglicans, and that is to be unhelpfully defined by them. And if known only by a thin identity, Fulcrum’s independence can be underestimated, and its positions can be seen, especially to unfriendly eyes, as following social pressures rather than exerting them.

    Indeed, those perceptions have often been the tenor of dissenting comments posted recently against all three of Fulcrum’s main positions. And tellingly, the healthy eclecticism of those positions has not in itself made Fulcrum’s independence clearer– nobody, ‘villager’ or visitor, has posted a comment in the past few years that acknowledged the ‘conservatism’ of supporting the ACC when decrying the ‘liberalism’ of supporting women bishops. The blogosphere seems not to see Fulcrum in a way different from what we see in the Forum. In the heat of a campaign, people often think more one-dimensionally; Fulcrum should challenge them to think better by what it chooses to be, and not only by what it chooses to say.

    Two creative tasks may lie ahead– (1) Thinking through the practise of (a) and (b) together, and (2) Developing (c) with judicious new positions over time– the complex challenge of poverty comes to mind– that further demonstrate the independence to follow Christ. The new leadership team may well enjoy them.

    Of course, things cannot be this simple, and there must be more than two occasions for experiment. But these are the ones that I can observe from New England. As always, I am grateful to George Day for relating Fulcrum to the wider experience of evangelicalism in England, and to many others– founders, leaders, editors, and members– for there being a Fulcrum to see every day.

    • There is nothing ‘placid’ about the ‘canal’ of conservative evangelicals. Aslan – the real Aslan – is not a tame lion. Why don’t you all respond to my Feb 23 challenge, if you are serious?
      Phil Almond

      • Phil, you ask why people do not respond to your challenge. While I cannot speak for others, my guess is quite a lot of contributors feel the same way as I do. I have not responded to your challenge (and sorry if this is going to sound a bit harsh, but you did ask, and you asked for people to be candid) because:
        1. Your challenge is not on the subject of this article, and I for one want us to stay with the topic.
        2. People are reluctant to get involved with somebody’s hobby-horse, which is what this seems to be since you have raised just about the same point many times before on different threads.
        3. Calvinistic theology is not where we are at.
        To illustrate that last point: I began my article with brief reference to walking on Dartmoor. Oliver interestingly picked this illustration up and said he thought we were wandering around in the bog of theology. I am trying to discern if there is a particular direction we should be going in, and I believe that is an important question that needs facing in the light of current ecclesiastical, theological and moral concerns. So I am afraid that somebody doing the equivalent of demanding in these days of Goretex and Vibrams whether we still accept tweed jackets and nailed leather boots is not likely to elicit much response.

        • George Day
          Thank you for your reply.
          In reply to your reply, firstly:
          In your article you said ‘The question I want to raise in this article is where are we as Church of England evangelicals, and where are we going? And as an aspect of that, where is Fulcrum, and where is it going?’ My challenge is about where we are and where we are going doctrinally (what doctrines we believe are true) as Church of England evangelicals and where is Fulcrum and where is it going doctrinally (what doctrines the Fulcrum leadership believe are true). I am therefore surprised that you do not think my challenge is on the subject of the article.
          You are quite right that I have issued this or similar challenges many times on various threads. The reason it seems like a hobby horse is that I have rarely had an explicit clear answer.
          Your third point ‘Calvinistic theology is not where we are at’, and the illustration of what you mean by that which follows it, is an instance of my second point: your meaning is not explicit and clear. I think you mean that doctrines 1-4 in my original post are no longer satisfactory. Is ‘satisfactory’ the right word? Would ‘out of date’ express your meaning more accurately? What about ‘not true’?
          As you will realise, as I see it doctrines 1-4 say nothing different from what Articles 9,10,17 and 31 say. So that as I see it whatever word accurately describes your view of my wording applies also to these Articles. Is that the case? Or would you maintain that these Articles, when truly understood, have meanings which are significantly different from my paraphrases? For instance perhaps you would argue that Article 17 can be understood in an Arminian sense, or that Article 31 means that Christ died for every human being who has ever lived. I am prepared to argue in detail against these understandings of Articles 17 and 31 (if the forum is ever restored to this website). But what about Article 9? I don’t see how my paraphrase is any different from the first sentence of Article 9. And if the dreadful diagnosis of Article 9 is ‘ not where we are at’ then the situation is grave indeed because we are not facing up to the truth about the human condition before God.
          Phil Almond

    • Thank you, Bowman, for your comments, and especially for trying to keep this thread on track. I really would appeal to all who may wish to comment to actually deal with the questions i have raised in my article, rather than going off on to other tangents.
      And I would appeal to our Fulcrum leadership for some comment. At present I feel the leadership is remote and uncommunicative, and as a result Fulcrum is left without any sense of direction. Indeed, I think we have reached a crucial point – Fulcrum can develop into being a really useful body, or it can become just another website among the millions of others. So, please, Fulcrum leaders, let us hear where you think we are going.

  37. Oh dear Phil I am not sure if this is helpful ? take doctrine 1 that we are born inclined to be evil! I do not agree with this. There are many reasons I do not agree with it, but one is you are suggesting that God is creating evil through birth , because God could if he wished put an end to it all, Of course this leads to the nature nurture debate and also one one considers to be evil or not. It is very divisive and quite destructive Lets just say it does not feed ones soul with good things or enable one to have a mind receptive to the spirit.

    The rest of it I can accept because we know that if we do not do the things as instructed by God and in accordance with Gods will we have been less than God intended us to be, we know that making peace brings peace. There are however a lot of grey areas as to what sin is and isn’t and that takes us back to point one .If people are born with certain genes they are predisposed to live out their life in a way that others do not understand, but that is the same for us all. I will never totally understand some peoples ways of living it does not make them sinners.

    But yes we are all invited to accept Christ as Saviour, we are all invited to share the gospel and we all have the same bible but in different language and dialect.

    What we are predisposed to do is to interpret the gospel in a different way to other people, for that is the wonderful gift of God a personalized faith a personalized relationship with GOD it still amazes me all these years down the line , how God can be directly communicating with me by what ever communication method he chooses, and yet he can directly communicate with someone else and it be different, I know the answer is simple God meets us where we are at , our problem is we do not always understand or recognise that God is with us. It is in that place that we are likely to Sin. I
    believe the living word the word that enters my soul and feeds me and guides me and enables rather than disables me. Yet even in disability I am able. God is NOT an article God is a living spirit which moves in us and amongst us

  38. Following the long discussion on David Runcorn’s “And how do I know when I am wrong?” thread, the following answers come to mind. 

    Where are we?
    Wandering about in the bog of theology.
    Where are we going?
    I don’t know, but I think that if we all spend more time in prayer we will go well. 

    I once saw a vision of a great battle, two vast armies, one dressed in white, the other in black. Nobody was killed, but the people were fighting, and when one person was overcome they would turn around and fight for the other side. The white army stretched way back, and most were nowhere near the fighting.
     I saw the White commander coming up from the field, he was barefoot and wore a tattered robe and a crown of thorns and he was bleeding from many wounds. Then I saw the black commander standing aloof, with magnificent black armour traced with fiery gold. But it turned out to be an empty suit. 
    I had to choose between them, but strangely was unable, then he said, I have chosen for you. 

    It’s etched on my memory as clear as day, though it was ten years ago, and ever since then I see all people in a very different light from before.

  39. We disagree about some fundamental truths. These 5 doctrines, which I have posted before, are among the primary truths of Christianity and Anglicanism.

    1. Because of Original Sin we are all born with natures that are inclined to evil and facing God’s wrath and condemnation (Article 9) and curse (Article 17).
    2. Because of the Fall of Adam we depend on the grace of God to give us the good will to turn and call upon God (Article 10).
    3. God has chosen in eternity those to whom he will give that good will. (Article 17).
    4. ‘The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual…’ (Article 31). And that propitiation pacifies the wrath of God against all who repent and submit to Jesus Christ.
    5. God and Christ invite all people to repent and submit to Christ as Saviour and Lord, and those invitations are sincere.

    We are also not being painfully candid with each other. No doubt all those who wish to be known as evangelicals would heartily agree with doctrine 5. I challenge all who wish to be known as evangelicals and who visit or post to this forum to say with which if any of doctrines 1 to 4 they agree.
    Phil Almond

    • Aha, perhaps we can do more to explain those five things in language more people are able to understand.

      For example, we say “because of the Fall of Adam”, and my neighbour thinks I’m talking as much nonsense as if I’d said his sufferings were the fault of Julius Caesar, or an unknown caveman. Or maybe he thinks I am idiot to believe that all humans are descended from Adam and Eve because he has been to Addis Ababa and seen the skeleton of “Lucy”, or observed that children tend always to have the same colour skin as their parents; and if I’m not actually descended from Adam, how can I inherit anything from him? let alone the effect of something he did as an adult.

      And then my neighbour asks, What kind of person would sacrifice their own son for something someone else had done wrong? And what kind of God makes people and then takes offence at their failing to live up to his expectations? Obvious answer: a false one! In real life, isn’t it usually parents we blame for the bad behaviour of their children? And don’t we also say, it’s a poor workman who blames his tools?
      It’s well and good to say “Jesus saves,” but saves us from what? and how?

      And if I love my neighbour, do I ignore his questions, do I write him off as a heathen? Do I quote “do not be yoked with unbelievers” and avoid him?

      Theology is okay, but it takes considerably more study to understand the language of it than most people have the aptitude or inclination for.

      These are things we need first to understand, and then to explain, then we can say we were unprofitable servants.

      That is the task of today – to explain the meaning of scripture in language ordinary people can understand.


  40. George Day tactfully notes, “The forum is useful, but has had a very limited number of contributors, and too often has gone round in circles, with little obvious outcome of setting a sense of direction.”

    Right. With notable exceptions such as George Day himself, and Sister Angela above, it often seems that we Brothers of the Perpetual Adoration of Argumentation differ among ourselves almost exclusively on the single question– is the heart and soul of evangelicalism the twin beliefs that (a) everything true in scripture can be read off the top of the naked text, and that (b) everything found otherwise is presumptively evasive and false? Round and round we go on Those Topics because neither the yes-brothers nor the no-brothers complete their many arguments with an account of evangelical identity. Occasionally someone will cite the CEEB the way one might cite the International Snowball Authority to score a snowball fight in the Winter Olympics, but that is a mere proxy for the real question– how is one’s understanding of the text personally related to one’s evangelical identity?

    • Bowman, that may characterise some immature evangelicals. A conservative approach to scripture demands that we compare scripture with scripture and gather the extra biblical clues which may help us. The Westminster Confession states that “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” This is not reading off the top of the naked text. The question then is if we can find meaning in the text, what do we do with it. On such subjects as a just war and global warming, the bible is meaningless unless we understand the consequences of men’s actions.

      The distinction has been made with regard to worship and church government between a regulative and normative principle. A normative principle allows for development which does not go against scripture. A regulative principle only allows what is found in scripture. Anglicanism can be seen as a pruning of the church from the medieval excess of Catholicism. The radical reformation wanted to get back to the New Testament church.

      I have referred to the CEEC basis of faith, which can be found under the about tab above, because this is part of what Fulcrum is about. This does not answer all our questions but it gives the flavour of Anglican Evangelicalism.

      Fulcrum is a meeting place not only for open evangelicals, but other tribes of evangelicals, other types or Anglican, other Christians and those of other faith or philosophy or none ( if possible). Some state their position , that of others emerge. Perhaps it allows us to see ourselves better as others react to us. Given the range of contributors, agreement is unlikely.

      • It is good to hear your irenic voice again, Dave, but to preserve this thread for George Day’s essay– a higher priority– I will respond to your thoughts in the thread on David Runcorn’s essay.

        • Bowman,

          “twin beliefs that (a) everything true in scripture can be read off the top of the naked text, and that (b) everything found otherwise is presumptively evasive and false?”

          does sound immature to me and does not reflect the general standard of contribution.

          You are right to take us to task for lack of application

  41. Thank you George for this very relevant question and your potted biography of your journey in the evangelical world. I have asked hat question myself, Like you I am grateful for the correspondence that goes on , it certainly helps me to appreciate where people are coming from and what the parameters they are working in.

    There is value in that, being able to explore how we approach the gospel for ourselves and how we share the gospel with others taking on board what we believe alongside the pastoral need of the other as well as encouraging people who approach the gospel from totally opposite spectrums to find a way of “finding the middle ground” without compromising their own faith position. My own approach to it is to listen read and understand the others perspective whilst holding on to my own without the need to force it on anyone. I am always mindful that we are to “share the gospel” not force feed it.

    I cant help but feel that we all sort of know where we are going on fulcrum , we know who we are are and what we want to be or who we want to follow ie we study the text and we too often dissect it and sometimes put it back in the wrong contextual order. We appear to work at respecting one another whilst not always agreeing with each others interpretation of text in context . Surely our role is to check the contextual understanding of the gospel and to try and find a consensus of opinion so we can “share” the gospel in a way which does not lead us to false teaching . False teaching is also contextual ie what is false for one person is not false for another in time and space.

    Fulcrum is an excellent safe space to explore the gospel and its impact on the secular policy and procedures, the “what would Jesus do?” in certain decisions. The aims and objectives are met not at the beginning but at the end of the debating, as we bat opinion side to side and eventually it stops at the centre ground because there is nowhere else for it to go. The question is “does the centre ground which is the place where we meet and agree make an evangelical statement that “stirs” ? someone once accused me of being disturbed I wear the badge with pride as I understand that the day we are not disturbed we are dead. What that person did not realize is that there is a difference between being disturbed and being confused. There are times when fulcrum appears to be both as indeed there are times when we are all both, for us not to be is to be less than human. The approach to those we do not agree with sometimes shows that

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