I have been interested to read some views on remaining in the Church of England from Evangelical voices recently. These are not standalone comments from single individuals but are categories and arguments that I have seen advanced from a number of different sources. In my opinion, there are significant questions for these positions.
The view, which comes in a few different hues, we might call the ‘effective independent’ position. The argument insists that, in reality, each individual local church essentially acts as an independent entity. They argue the Church of England is not really a denomination and thus whatever the Church of England decides to do is really an irrelevance. There is, they aver, the local church and the universal church (a view held by independents). Thus, they argue, we are in effect independents functioning independently of the Church of England hierarchy.
Interesting as that position is, here are a few questions that arise from it:
- If you are independents, what are you seeking to remain part of as you remain within the Church of England?
- If you are independents, why are your buildings, jobs and a host of other things linked to the Church of England?
- If you are independents, how do you conceive of the existence of bishops? What is a (Church of England) bishop in that understanding?
- If you are independents, what is the purpose behind the arguments for remaining part of the Church of England?
- If you are independents, why do you not function like independents? Why, for example, do you need special permission to set up colleges or licenses to preach?
- If you are independents, and thus what the Church of England do is ultimately irrelevant to you, why have you (even quite recently) made loud noises about how problematic certain moves have been within the Church of England?
- What, exactly, does it mean to ‘contend’ for an organisation from which you are independent and what it does is deemed an irrelevance?
- What is the purpose of General Synod – and particularly those you send to it – if you are independents?
- How do you view your church officially being a state church whilst insisting that you are independent of the state church?
- Why are the legal matters concerning the Church of England binding on you, if you are independent, but not binding on, for example, my church that is independent?
- How does canon law relate to your independent church and the Church of England’s irrelevance to it?
- If there is no such thing as a denomination, only the universal church, what exactly is the problem with leaving it?