Friday, 26 August 2011

Tom Wright on How the Church of England Can – and Will – Endure

Tom Wright, ‘Keep the Faith’, The Spectator (20 August 2011).

Tom Wright’s recent Spectator article – ostensibly on the Church of England – is now online.

Wright reminds us of William Temple’s line about the church being the only society in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members. He claims that ‘this vision is alive and well, and that the Church of England, though not its only local expression, is in the middle of it’.

‘This is the real “Big Society”. It’s always been there; it hasn’t gone away. Check out the volunteers in the prison, in the hospice, in charity shops. It’s remarkable how many of them are practising Christians. They aren’t volunteering because the government has told them we can’t afford to pay for such work any more. They do it because of Jesus. Often they aren’t very articulate about this. They just find, in their bones, that they need and want to help, especially when things are really dire. But if you trace this awareness to its source, you’ll find, as often as not, that the lines lead back to a parish church or near equivalent, to the regular reading of the Bible, to the life of prayer and sacrament and fellowship. To the regular saying and singing of prayers and hymns that announce, however surprising or shocking it may be to our sceptical world, that God is God, that Jesus is Lord, that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and active in a community near you.’

What follows are some familiar Wrightean themes, all wonderfully put, about Jesus being ‘in charge’ as ‘king of the world’, and about the church – like Jesus – being commissioned ‘to bring healing and hope, to rescue people trapped in their own folly and sin, to straighten out the distorted pictures of reality that every age manages to produce, and to enable people to live by, and in, God’s true reality’.

I try not to be too polemical on this blog, and I deplore the Tom Wright-bashing that goes in some quarters, and I know it’s a short piece and it’s in The Spectator, etc... but I wish he’d been able to say some more about all this ‘Big Society’-type activity on the part of the church flowing out of what lies at the heart of the gospel, the things of ‘first importance’ – Christ died, buried, and risen again, according to the Scriptures. I know the lordship of Christ is at the centre of the gospel – and Wright is up front here in asserting the lordship of Christ – but it is as the crucified and risen Lord that he is ‘in charge’.

No comments: