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I'm Just a Layperson 3: "I'm not sure I can stay..."


In the face of the increasing heterodoxy of bishops and senior clergy, it is not uncommon for lay people and clergy to question their future in the Church of England (or other

Canterbury-aligned Anglican churches) and sometimes they come to different decisions. The first of this series of blogs looked at how clergy can find themselves institutionalised, the second considered how the sense of calling may affect them.

This rest explore the different situations lay people may find themselves in, suggesting ways they may continue to serve God faithfully, whatever their circumstance.



For a lay person, who is unsure as to whether they can in conscience continue to worship in the Canterbury-aligned Anglican structures, patience can be an underrated fruit of the Spirit!

Drift can’t go on for ever and nor can people be expected to continue to worship in contexts they find unacceptable, nonetheless it unlikely that acting in haste, rashly or aggressively, is going to help.

Previous blogs [I'm Just a Layperson 1+2] offered some thoughts on why clergy and laity might find themselves of different minds, and time taken to understand the reasons for differences of opinion, and how legitimate it is, will probably not be wasted. Similarly, any delay in action can be used purposefully.

Is there an Anglican future?

For many lay people, who are unsettled by the decisions being made by the leaders of the Church of England, the easiest response is to leave the parish church (quietly or not so quietly) and find an independent church to worship with. But before doing that, it is worth considering the extent to which they would rather remain an Anglican.

Of course, some lay people are steeped in Anglicanism, but many are not. There are a good number of “accidental Anglicans” who have ended-up so because of family habit or where they studied or live. It would be hoped that after the discernment, selection and training process, in general, clergy would normally be a little more intentionally Anglican. Indeed, the differing degree of commitment to Anglican polity and order may explain some differences of opinion.

So, time spent exploring the nature of Anglicanism will be time well spent, because the answers will impact the three key questions: should they stay and support their presbyter, should they leave for another Anglican church, or jurisdiction, or would they, in fact be happier in another denomination?

Some resources that might help such a study:

Why be Anglican – Rev Philip Jensen (Australia)

Why Anglican? - Scot McKnight (USA)

The Confessional Identity of Anglicanism – Rev Canon Phil Ashey (USA)

Why I am an Anglican - JI Packer (Canada)

The Accidental Anglican - Todd T Hunter (USA)

What might an Anglican future look like?

Many laypeople who wish to remain Anglican but are struggling in the Canterbury-aligned structures feel very isolated. Anglican Futures understands this and seeks to provide spaces where like-minded people can gather.

  • Close to the Edge – is a fortnightly online gathering which offers clergy and laity the chance to share concerns and ideas about the future, ask questions and pray for one another. This might offer some a temporary respite – details can be found here.

  • On The Edge - a confidential, free, 24 hour residential gathering to think through the theological, practical and pastoral issues for those unsure as to whether they can remain in the Canterbury-aligned structures. It is not a conveyor-belt and is open to lay people and clergy seeking to work out how they can best serve God in the coming years.

  • Those willing to be a Rallying Point for others should contact the Anglican Futures office for more details of the scheme.

An online congregation

Some may consider joining an online congregation of the like-minded. The Anglican Convocation in Europe (ACE) recently launched its first such meeting, led by Bishop Ian Ferguson. At the meoment they meet at 5pm on Tuesday evening - those interested can sign up for more information.

Whether or not laity feel able to also stay in their regular congregation, a virtual congregation might provide both short-term breathing space and the possibility of linking up with others to form a future fellowship, should circumstances allow.

A new Anglican gathering

In some cases there may be a number of lay people in the same area with similar concerns. It would be most unfortunate, if it were preventable, to undermine the future work of an orthodox vicar who is currently committed to staying. So, if a good number of the congregation cannot in conscience remain and wish to form a new fellowship, thought should be given to previously unexplored avenues for mission. Not replicating what already exists could avoid any unnecessary 'competition'.

Examples might be a lay-led evening Service of the Word, if the parish has no evening service, or a lay-led compline on Saturday evening. Both could incorporate aspects of Bible teaching/study, sung worship etc. and could take place in a home or hired room. Alternatively, some lay people in this situation have set up a Messy Church service in a village hall, as another way of reaching those not currently served by their parish church.

The Anglican Convocation Europe (ACE) is able to offer episcopal oversight to lay-led 'Ministry Units' - they can be contacted here.

Such a gathering could both provide a place where those whose conscience causes them to need to separate from the Canterbury aligned structures can worship while multiplying the gospel witness in the area. It may also provide a space for those not yet convinced of the need to leave to find a home in the future, thus intensifying the need to prioritise doing what is needed to promote good relationships even when separation is needed.

 

Want to know more?

Anglican Futures offers practical and pastoral support to faithful Anglicans

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Thank you to Hovsep Misakyan at Unsplash for the image



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