My news feed has been ablaze with people talking about church and God and life with Christ, and what’s optional vs. what you have to do.
First off, if this is Christianity in its most foundational concerns, I want out. Clearly, the Gospel doesn’t give us a list of options and preferences or a list of do’s and don’ts. Yes, there is an obedience of faith, but I’m not talking about that yet. In the Gospel– in the faith once for all delivered to the saints– we are confronted by the love of a Father who won’t be denied, the hope-filled sacrifice of a Son who won’t be deterred and the joyful presence of a Spirit who won’t be diminished.
Second, The Triune God draws, calls and adopts each of us by name and makes us a single family–the Church. The goal was never, is never and will never be “Me and Jesus.” Or even “We and Jesus.” It’s always been JESUS. And you can’t be one with him if you aren’t one with his Body.
Third, none of our gifts and spirit-empowered passions and abilities can be made sense of apart from (1) the proclamation of Christ and him crucified, (2) the empowerment and refreshment provided by the Holy Spirit in baptism and the Lord’s Supper and (3) the direction and submission to the authorities that the Holy Spirit has made overseers in the Body of Christ. There are no Cowboy Christians. We are all utterly dependent on the Body, which in turn is utterly dependent on the Head–Jesus Christ, who is present through the Spirit and interceding before the Father.
So, in American Anglicanism, we talk about “3 Streams” — Catholic, Evangelical, and Charismatic Anglicans. Some churches consider themselves one of the three. Others try to blend two or all three together. In a class, some of the emphases were described this way:
- Catholics: Fed by Jesus in eating the Eucharist to re-vitalize faith.
- Evangelicals: Friends with Jesus who seek to encounter him in relationship.
- Charismatics: Filled with the Spirit of Jesus to experience God’s power for renewal.
This is deeply dissatisfying. If these are accurate characterizations, they feel very shallow and incapable of sustaining Christian faith, much less the Anglican tradition. Tribes like this can’t. But there are most is certainly distinctive ethos types within Christian faith, but they aren’t what’s above. Instead, we should consider the different ethos types within the Church, understand their place in our personal spiritualities, our corporate spiritualities, and faithfulness to Christian tradition but above all, in relation to our proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s some of the broad types or streams that are legitimately within Christian spirituality:
- Orthodox/Catholic (Eastern/Western)
- Reformation (Lutheran/Reformed)
- Primitive (Baptist/Methodist/non-denominational)
- Pentecostal (Wesleyan/Finished Work/Global)
This is not about legitimating these (conflicting) doctrines or discplines. But setting the tone for legitimate recognition of traditions and spiritualities that provide tangible experience of the Gospel’s proclamation. But a fully formed and mature Church will embrace them all and the Body will be shaped by these spiritualities that are much deeper than silly categories like “Catholic/evangelical/charismatic”.
I’ve been doing a lot of this writing on some assumptions that I haven’t really stated anywhere else. Some of that is because the goal is to redirect Pentecostalism in such a way that as a movement, we’re a benefit to the whole Church. But there’s also a lurking danger here, because a number of these groups in the rest of the Church have “charismatic” tribes or streams present. People in the Anglican Church are used to speaking of “catholic, evangelical, and charismatic” streams within the tradition. So, for the sake of clarity, I’m writing to say this is not that. (more…)