A Comprehensive Church

Once one of my children said that the biggest problem with the Church was that “we would let anyone in.” It was meant as a joke, but there is some important truth there. Public theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber tells the story about once having a rant to her husband about people’s wrong opinions and him gently reminding her that every time we draw a line between us and others, ‘Jesus is always on the other side.’

We are talking a lot at present about retaining a ‘Comprehensive Anglican Identity.’ Bishop Stephen Pickard wrote a helpful piece for Anglican Focus this week which picks up on the writings of 17th century theologian Richard Field. In post-Reformation Europe there were deep and painful divides between broad Christian practice and a resurgent Puritanism. Field sought to move away from the rhetoric of judgmentalism and argued that it was not a question of being in or out, but rather being of the Church – a small change in preposition that opens to a larger, more inclusive and loving approach.

What does this mean for us, practising our Anglicanism all these centuries later, on the other side of the world? I think firstly it recalls us to the radical nature of our weekly practice of an open table, where all are invited and welcomed to come. Secondly it reminds us, as +Stephen Pickard comments, that ‘a comprehensive Church is an inherently messy and challenging church’ but one that bears witness over and again ‘to the saviour who relentlessly kept the doors of the kingdom open to so many, much to the chagrin and offence of the self-appointed good and righteous in his day.’[1]

As we gather, may we be strengthened by the Spirit to walk this less travelled way of grace that we may create a home that is strengthened by the diversity of the family that gathers under its roof.

Grace and peace,

[1] Bishop Stephen Pickard, “Who’s in, Who’s out?’ https://anglicanfocus.org.au/2021/08/23/whos-in-whos-out/

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