By Richard D. Meadows, Jr.
Although our writings in Introduction to Anglican Thought have been dominated by the historical approaches to Anglicanism, there is one strand that runs through each of the writers work. That is, in spite of the difficulties and struggles, the continuous formulation and evolution, of the church has continued throughout the ages. Because of Sacraments, Biblical understanding and continuous struggle, by persons of God inspired character, it has led the evolutionary changes that have occurred since the end of the post colonial era. The growth of the church globally, yet protected by the government of England can be said to have been the original intent, of the Church Fathers, a result of liturgical renewal or evolution of Liturgy and society. The unity and communion of Anglicans has held fast through each phase of history.
There has been in the midst of the evolution, of the church, men and women who have believed in a church, that is connected to the God who created the heavens and the earth. Glaring faults have arisen during the pre and post colonial age, and yet those of Anglican beliefs and traditions have held fast. They have held fast, to the belief that this is an inspired and consistently transforming catholic and apostolic Church of God. The Anglican Communion has become a force for good and can finally claim, it has in theory relinquished the fears of old, that would hinder provinces of other cultures and countries from gaining self governance, growth and self sustenance. A set of terms and goals older than the writing of Roland Allen. Roland Allen’s writings explain the original intent and expectations of the Mother Church. In conjunction with the government of England, the church was protected and supported to grow as large as the Kingdom. Everywhere there was the Kingdom, the church would be there with the understanding of religion and society would walk hand-in-hand.
Evangelism, education and creation of a civilized society in foreign lands could be socially and theologically distinctive and central to the Anglican identity of the Anglican church. Where else did the church have the protection and support of the most powerful military in the world? Only Anglicans who proclaimed the “Sun never sets on the kingdom” had a church who could develop along side of the government. Central to the claim of Anglican identity is that the people would see God first, and then society and government. Also historically, the indigenous people as they came under the control of the kingdom would also see God, order and government. The financial cost of this endeavor can possibly never be calculated. This is the esoterically to what would have been Anglican identity at the time, that no matter what it cost in money or lives, the world wide kingdom would be established. This statement is more political than theological, but if there was no general distinction between political and religious as the kingdom was established, my statement is justified as is.
Development of clergy is central to process of establishing the church globally. The goal of developing faithful men that would be dedicated to nurturing God’s people was one of the arguments Roland Allen makes. Training of clergy, which could seem to be a non-issue becomes a hindrance to the creation of a truly indigenous church. Allen, states the original intent of the Apostles was to receive men who were called by God. This calling of these men was proven by their heart’s desire to serve God’s people, and more importantly answer God’s call. Roland Allen believed the calling of the priest, to serve was not to be precluded by formal education and training but by the Holy Spirit. The opposite was occurring during Allen’s time. Men were being afforded the opportunity based upon their formal training and education. It can be implied that this would delay and stifle the growth of the church by the missionary minded Allen. The distinctive here is that vision by Allen was spiritual and the vision of the Anglican Church was more natural. Theologically central to the idea of establishing the church was to have clergy to supply those churches. Deployment of clergy as a vocation could be interpreted by Allen as, God’s people will be nourished and under the control of the Holy Spirit and not the government.
Allen was not anti-establishment, only pro-Apostolic. He promulgates the idea that the establishment of the church of the people, should be indigenous and that would make it truly the church of the people. A church of the Spirit as Allen would make reference to would be one where, the gospel is preached. Allen believes, through the preaching of the gospel, which is necessary and vital, and with the consciousness of power, the indigenous attain the consciousness of the soul. It is preaching that moves men’s souls and is the powerful medium upon which the church is established. When this is not the way of the church Roland Allen seemed to be a victim of his own righteous indignation, he attributed to the martyrdom of Stephen in the writings of St. Luke.
Roland believes autonomy of the indigenous people, along with supporting their infrastructure is vital to the success of the church being established in foreign lands. The support is both spiritual and financial. In the statement I have drawn from, it simply states that, the church if established, will do so, by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Christ sufficed to all conditions.” St. Paul’s words and the work of the Apostles, abiding in the Holy Spirit, could carry forth through the centuries to allow the indigenous to carry out the work of the Lord. The condition of controlling the church and not allowing the indigenous church to become independent created a struggle that involved castigating Indians and Africans as “uncivilized and degraded.”
The Holy Spirit is manifested to express success of the evangelistic work of the church, growth of the indigenous church and the spread of the gospel.# By embracing the work of the Holy Spirit the church globally awakens to the work of the Spirit of the Acts of the apostles. Allen exhorts the church to go ahead and err on the side of caution, to proceed with missionary zeal and open to world the benefits and actions of the Holy Spirit. To continue in succession of the teachings of Jesus, and the establishment of a catholic church, there must be faithful men and women, who will continue to struggle in the midst of surmounting challenges of faith, and fundamental ecclesiastical life.
Our readings reflect the struggle of early divisions, and civil strife, limited to the Church of England. They also reflect the struggle, to merge with an imperialistic government, become a state church, and the latter realization that the church, has become a victim of its own ambitious goals. However, the church evolves and can no longer join with the state and governmental ambitions but must stand as Jesus Christ implied to prevail against the gates of hell. Overcoming the evil of the world and joining with righteous people with righteous goals for mankind and the church.
The post-colonial example of Desmond TuTu’s approach to the various problems of how the church of South Africa has been used to not only promote the health and welfare of the state and government, but the church has become a bystander in the polices which promoted the venomous hatred for the indigenous and people of color. The liberating call of Christ to set captives free, and deliver into their hands the kingdom of Christ comes through the radical power of liberating struggle of Desmond Tutu. Tutu who is English educated returns to South Africa bringing fulfilling Roland Allen’s dream, to establish a church free from oppressive controls. Tutu identifies not only his own struggles within the church, and how the church is partner with the oppressive regime, but is strengthened by the struggles of political freedom for his people by his successes he experienced with the Anglican Church, I.e. the Office of Bishop of Lesotho.
The structure of the governmental oppression is destroyed, through the dismantling of the systems, which held Coloreds and Blacks from religious and political freedom. There were to be no reforms of the system of government but, the system had to be deconstructed, which is a major theme of Tutu’s theology. This however could not be accomplished with Black power alone. Tutu finds other ecumenical organizations, Coloreds, Blacks and sympathetic Whites who would join in the fight for Liberation. This new coalition of the Rainbow People of God, is created to increase the demands and the pressure for economic, social and political equality.
He is able to complete the mission by linking the potential freedom fighters, who were willing to die for the cause with the mission of Jesus (Luke 4). Jesus came to preach liberation to the captives and the global community along with global religion brought the final blow through economic sanctions and the threat of violence that would destroy the systems of Apartheid and destroy a nation.
Theologically Tutu makes the leap to bring the struggle to all churches through the South African Council of Churches. The struggle is now theological as it is political. His demands of change in the face of violence, strengthens his call for non-violent resistance by the people. His work is grounded spiritually in “God sending his Son to effect reconciliation to bring about the at-one-ment that would achieve the peace, justice, friendliness, compassion…God was reconciling the world to himself.”# For Tutu there was no separation of the church and the world. The priestly work of Christ has now become the priestly work of the church. Suffering, death on the cross and reconciliation were the seamless robe of Christ, that unites the church and the world, politics and religion, struggle and freedom.
Tutu accepts the call of the Apostle Paul, “As he has enlisted us in this service of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) he references the power and actions demanded by Koinonia. If the church is to remain in fellowship and unity it must take up the struggle. I take Roland Allen and Tutu, merge their theology and struggle with Allen’s statement, “He (Holy Spirit) led them to reach out further and further into the Gentile world, breaking down every barrier which would hinder its witness of prevent them from receiving into communion men the most remote from them in habits of thought and life.”
Tutu said, Apartheid was evil, because all human beings were created in God’s image, Jesus work of reconciliation was primordial and it prevented Koinonia. Apartheid would hinder the wok of the church and prevents the total Sovereignty of God. History, Jesus and the country of South Africa now according to Tutu have something in common, the mission of Christ on earth and reconciliation of the people of South Africa. This confirms Tutu’s connection with the Holy Spirit that the freedom derived from the struggle was Holy Spirit inspired but very Christic in its goals of freedom and unity of the people.
What currently is central to Anglican Identity is Koinonia of the Anglican Communion. It can be implied Allen and Tutu argue, that a church in fellowship honors what makes Anglicans unique or magnifies its distinctive. Within the fellowship Anglicans declare through creed, and being an apostolic and catholic holy church, the history and faith, that we are one. In South Africa Roland Allen’s desire to see a more provincial church with indigenous control has come to pass. The Anglican Communion is also today, very provincial. Diversity and culture have not always been appreciated to its fullest, but the connection between the church and historical context have added a richness to the evolution. The growth of the church has been statistically stagnant, or in decline in some provinces, and exponential growth has occurred in other areas of the world. There could be an assumption and resistance to the fact, that men and women have relinquished the church to its indigenous and faithful members. This can only mean Roland Allen and Desmond Tutu’s work have not been in vain. To the revolutionary, it has not been enough and to the evolutionary it has become what God would have it to be, the Bride of Christ.
In conclusion, where there has been resistance to change, the universality of the church has moved to the forefront and the church has at times joined with the earthly struggle of freedom and justice. The church has been able to become a functional partner in the global and local development of the church and its leaders. Many Provinces have grown from the strife ridden single island church of the 1500’s. The growth of Anglicanism globally has been astounding. What has remained constant has been, the lineage of the priesthood by the laying on of hands, Baptism and Eucharist, the primordial belief in the incarnate Christ as exemplar and the primacy of scripture. This is anchored by tradition and the words of the inspired through the Book of Common Prayer.
The church now becomes the church of the people, that will be indigenous, liberating, reconciling and allows for and Holy Spirit inspired. Once this freedom of the South African people occurred, through the church’s unity and struggle, it illuminates Roland Allen’s work. The struggle has changed, vis-à-vis, oppression by a minority upon a majority with race/skin color as the only determinant. The Anglican Church has stood in the face of apartheid, its people have suffered the persecution (as Jesus did), and hoped for a future of equality and peace.