Justin Welby – my part in his Archbishopric

Today they’ve officially announced that Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, is to become the new Archbishop of Canterbury. He’s an Evangelical, which is good, though that doesn’t necessarily make him a good Archbishop (or even, given the state of Western Evangelicalism, a good Evangelical). Nevertheless, the word on the street is that he’s potentially both a good leader, a good mediator and a truly committed Christian.

One thing that I take both as a plus and a minus is that his “spiritual home” is said to be Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, now having a membership of 5000 in several congregations and originator of the ubiquitous Alpha evangelism course. The minus is that the Church went down a more charismatic route than I’m happy with, endorsing wholeheartedly the Toronto Blessing of the 90s, about which I had, and have, grave reservations.

On the plus side it’s always been a warm, forward-looking and Bible-centred congregation, and what’s more I belonged to it for a couple of years, and was even asked to stand for its Parochial Church Council, though I had to decline as, newly qualified, I had to move to my first medical job. In one sense you could say I was one of the founder-members, and here’s why.

The Church I actually joined was St Paul’s Onslow Square, a firmly Evangelical fellowship in a damp-ridden Victorian building infested with cockroaches. I’d been asked to play in their Coffee Bar a couple of times, and it clearly had a lot going for it spiritually, so when we got married my wife and I joined. It was interesting because, although not a student church, it mainly consisted of young professional ex-students: young medics, barristers, aid-workers and so on, many of whom have gone on to influence society for good. But for all that, definitely biased towards the young, educated, privileged, beautiful… and evangelically committed.

The time came when the diocesan powers-that-be decided to amalgamate us with a struggling nearby parish, Holy Trinity Brompton. It was chalk and cheese, really – they were almost Anglo-Catholic, with vestments, a choir, and a very conservative (and Conservative) “Establishment” congregation. We, on the other hand, were young Evangelicals with a charismatic edge. Even so we got on well at a weekend conference – their organist turned out to have been at my school in Guildford (and coincidentally in the later megachurch years their worship-leader had also been at my school before playing bass in a rock band and having a US number 5 hit!).

After this successful weekend of fellowship, the time came for an exchange of Sunday congregations. HTB came to us first, and tolerated our choruses, guitars and expository preaching. We treated them to a typical church lunch of bread and cheese and coffee afterwards.

The following week was our turn to go to Brompton, and feel vaguely out of place with chanted responses and the 1662 prayerbook liturgy. But the real cultural difference became obvious when we were invited for refreshments afterwards. It was the first time I’d ever had dry sherry and caviar after a church service.

So the real miracle is not that a successful Evangelical church has produced an archbishop, but that the whole ecclesiastical enterprise didn’t die an early death back in 1976. Somehow the Holy Spirit dealt with the differences and brought growth. Perhaps that’s a sign for the future of the Church of England under Justin Welby. That’s my prayer, anyway.

Avatar photo

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
This entry was posted in Politics and sociology, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Justin Welby – my part in his Archbishopric

  1. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    By the way, not only did my grammar school provide two worship leaders for HTB, which in turn produced an Archbishop of Canterbury, but it also provided a former Archbishop, George Abbott, a translator on the KJV project, whose career was unfortunately blighted by a hunting accident http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Abbot_(bishop).

  2. Gregory says:

    Hi Jon,

    The question arises: you are not an Anglican, are you? Iow, you do not ascribe/belong to the Church of England and are not a member of an Anglican Chaplaincy, right?

    “Evangelical, which is good”

    I guess that’s why BioLogos liberally uses McGrath and Polkinghorne, even though they are Anglicans. The main thing is to support and promote ‘evangelicals’ (or ‘pentecostals’), even if they are ‘heterodox’ Anglicans (which is a hard thing to be in Anglicanism).

    In case it might be of interest:

    Future Archbishop Welby also supports women bishops, which turns away from the Vatican and Orthodox Churches and we’ll wait to see his results on sexuality questions plaguing the Anglican Church (but I’m not optimistic, for a change). He may indeed turn out to be more ‘liberal’ than the liberal evangelicals at BioLogos who draw your ire, Jon. Or otoh you may turn out to be more backwardly conservative (e.g. for ‘closed theism’ against any ‘open theism’) than the younger generation, which is another option too.

  3. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:


    I was baptized an Anglican, brought up in an Evangelical Anglican Church and was a member of two as an adult; married a confirmed Anglican in an Anglican Church, and have helped lead worship in our local Anglican church where my daughter, who belongs to an Evangelical Anglican Church in London, is getting married next month. And the Church of England is the established Church of my country. And my distant ancestor was an Archbishop under the Anglican Elizabeth 1, only that was in Ireland. Is that enough to make me a stakeholder?

    As for the new Archbishop’s policies, we’ll have to see, won’t we: Rowan was a good friend of the (Congregational) editor of the magazine on whose editorial board I used to sit, and turned up a few surprises for us all.

    As for “closed” and “open”, you don’t give up on the facile pigeonholing, do you?

  4. Gregory says:

    Goodness, Jon, it sounds like you hold a stake in the Anglican Church (Established Church of England)!

    It’s hard to imagine that I didn’t know that after a couple of years of dialogue with you. Evangelical, that was obvious and repeated. Reformed, that was mentioned (e.g. as Warfieldian TE). But Anglican, not as I can remember until now.

    The qualified term is Anglican, not Evangelical. So, are the two (or more branches) of the Anglican Church, including Catholic-leaning and Orthodox-leaning framed in contrast to Evangelical-leaning? One can lean toward Catholicity and/or Orthodoxy or away from them. And I understand from above, you are glad incoming archbishop Justin Welby is evangelical-leaning rather than Catholic or Orthodox-leaning. Is that correct?

    That’s what I understood by “Evangelical, which is good.”

    Would Archbishop John Garvey (1527–1595) have been a pre-evangelical or would he have been a Protestant or simply Anglican…?

    To me, an evangelical at the helm of the Anglican Church right now (in contrast with Archbishop Williams and his Affirming Catholic views) is a fairly clear indicator that a schism is just around the corner, as many have supposed, with splinters already started. Let it be in our prayers that Welby may be able to unite or maintain harmony in what is already breaking apart.

    As for pigeonholes, perhaps if you didn’t oppose ‘Open Theism’ so strongly…realising that determinism is a serious topic in ‘evolution’ and ‘creation’ discussions too. But surely you do realise that, just like you realise that ‘methodological naturalism’ is an impoverished PoS, which you nevertheless perpetuate through usage.

    Btw, Remembrance Day blessings, lest we forget!

  5. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory, I’ve never been particularly concerned about denominations, so much as the theology within them. The fellowship in which I spent most time before moving here was an independent church with Brethren roots and links to several different denominations. My current church is Baptist, but as I said I keep fellowship with the local C of E congregations and have belonged to several.

    A large and Established outfit like Anglicanism is going to have many streams within it, and C of E in particular sometimes prides itself on its “diversity”, aka incompatible components (because the alternative is despair, I suppose). Welby appears to be ideal as a mediator, but that may not be enough to prevent streams with completely different foundations from dividing. Sometimes that’s a good thing for all, but is a lot more troublesome for an established Church.

    In John Garvey’s time, the English Reformation was proceeding along Calvinist lines with the brakes put on by traditionalists, including to some extent Her Majesty. Calvin actually wrote to her to encourage her, as he had Edward VI. The Archbishop of C. at the time of Garvey’s appointment was Whitgift, who seems to have been a self-seeking High Church politico, so my ancestor may well also have been less principled than some, though there’s not that much evidence either way. He was related by marriage to the Usshers, who were definitely Calvinist, ie Evangelical and Protestant in terms of those times.

    At first, Anglican simply meant “Reformed English Church”, but the reformation went down uniquely odd lines under Archbishop Laud (not properly Catholic – just liked pretty ceremonies rather than anything) and became a pot-pourri after the Restoration. The 39 Articles are completely Reformed … but regarded as venerable curiosities by Liberals, Broad Church and so on.

  6. Gregory says:

    Thanks for the follow-up, Jon.

    Just curious, do you consider the Catholic and Orthodox Church(es) as ‘denominations’?

    What is surprising to me (since you say not denomination, but theology is most important) is that you continually defend Catholic & Orthodox ‘theology’ at BioLogos, while maintaing an argument with evangelicals (your brethren), which BioLogos obviously represents…in ‘liberal’ form.

    It would seem to me that a serious dose of Catholic and Orthodox thought would do good for BioLogos, even as it tries to reconcile contemporary natural sciences with biblical truths. Don’t you agree? It just doesn’t seem like the ‘evangelical’ church (denomination) has enough to offer them, which is why in your view BioLogos is going off the (conservative) theological rails.

  7. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:


    A couple of responses. The Catholics and Orthodox have been anathematising each other for 1000 years, and each has its own denominations and sects as Protestantism does, so I’m not sure what the right word for “major ecclesiastical stream” is. And like Anglicanism, they’re both trying to be broad churches within single systems of authority, in the first case because it is a state church, and in the other two because officially, at least, they maintain a monopoly on salvation (Vatican 2 wobbling the boat on the RC side, at least).

    Of course I have profound differences with both, partly on actual doctrines but mainly on their basis of authority. Catholics and Orthodox both place tradition on a par with Scripture. This at first was to maintain “what has always been taught by the orthodox”, but in practice it often prioritises tradition and, over the centuries, extends it where it shouldn’t go. And the RCs, of course, insist on papal primacy.

    But in science-faith matters the core of the tradition, and their continued reverence for Scripture, often coincides with the Evangelical doctrine that also derives from Scripture and endorses the central tradition. In fact, since there are Catholics and Orthodox within the “big stream” whose emphasis is on Scripture, one could justly describe them as “evangelical”, just as there may also be liberal Catholics and liberal Baptists. I’ve had some friends of that description.

    There have already been doses of both streams on BioLogos: I remember Ed Feser did a post, RC Ben Yachov used to contribute regularly, GJDS is, I believe, Orthodox, and so on. I guess the handle “Evangelical” in BL’s case is primarily a sociological/denominational constituency, which historically has been theologically Bible-based, but which now has degrees of liberalism and postmodernism in it. So it’s neither just “broadly Christian” nor “strictly Evangelical” (in the theological sense).

    From my perspective most “going off the rails” is down to poor teaching at grass-roots level. In other words I believe that a high view of Scripture can do well with science-faith issues if the work is done well, but too often it isn’t. Science gets swallowed with faulty metaphysics, and that is allowed to re-write theology according to the (always transient) spirit of the age.

  8. Gregory says:

    “each has its own denominations and sects as Protestantism does” – Jon

    Well, admittedly I’m more sociologist than theologian, but that doesn’t seem like an accurate statement. Which ‘denominations’ and ‘sects’ of the RCC or Orthodox Church are you speaking about specifically? Opus Dei, for example, is not a ‘sect,’ but an ‘institution’ of the Catholic Church.

    Again, my question is quite specific: do you consider the Catholic and Orthodox Church(es) as ‘denominations’? Personally, I don’t.


    In most sociology of religion surveys that I’ve seen, Catholics count as 1 and Orthodox count as 1 (even based on national/linguistic/geographical distinctions), while Protestants denominate widely into Bapitist, Calvinist, Lutheran, Methodist, Non-denominational (oxymoron), Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Quaker, Reformed, etc. etc. etc.

    In this sense, ‘evangelicalism’ is basically synonymous with ‘denominationalism’ and ‘discord.’ Protestants seem to quite obviously ‘corner the market’ on denominationalism and division, which is indeed an individualistic ideology based on the Reformation’s Solas. Protestants have willingly splintered into many, many, many denominations as part of their personal interpretations expressed as ‘post-Enlightenment’ Christianity, i.e. because they wish to continue to ‘protest’ outside of Orthodoxy.

    This is part of the so-called BioLogos ‘Wesleyan Maneuver,’ in which you contributed in 2b: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/theology-at-biologos-the-wesleyan-maneuver-part-2a/

    Surely as someone who has worked as a ‘journalist,’ Jon, you appreciate the difference in adding an ‘-ism’ to a term, as if a suffix does have an intentional signification. I’ve never liked the terms ‘Anglicanism,’ ‘Catholicism’ or ‘Protestantism’ for that same reason.

    All the traditions, according to Cudworth have “caved in to liberalism”!

    In regard to anathematising, it does appear that Catholics and Orthodox are much closer together nowadays than either are with Anglicans, especially with the splinters happening now in the Anglican Church. Two main issues: women clergy and same-sex unions/blessings. (Echo with BioLogos ‘liberalism’.) Some Anglicans may be forming unions with Lutherans and the like, but many other Anglicans are leaving or joining the RCC or Orthodox Churches, while more will do so if Welby fails as a suitable ‘mediator.’

    As for the on-going theme here of evolution, creation and Big-ID, the more responsible and ‘authentic’ to scripture views seem to be held by Catholics and Orthodox, not by liberal Protestants. Big-ID is of course made up mainly of conservative Protestants, which is why I’m surprised you haven’t joined ship with them yet, Jon. But perhaps that’s because theology is only covertly part of their ‘science-first’ message. Non-denominationalists, however, usually don’t like accepting labels to define them-selves, which is why I was pleasantly surprised to learn that you call yourself an Anglican (who attends a Baptist church).

  9. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    I had in mind for the Catholics branches like the Maronites, Byzantine Rite, Old Catholics etc; and for the Orthodox the Old Calendrists, Coptic, Armenian etc. The fights at the Holy Sepulchre are between Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Coptic, Ethiopian and Syriac Orthodox, without a Protestant involved at all.

    The “World Christian Encyclopedia” gives 242 Catholic denominations and 781 Orthodox, but defines “denomination” partly in national terms, making for 168 Anglican and about 9000 Protestant. So once again, it pays not to pin down words too closely unless you can make everyone agree on their meaning.

    “Isms” are semantically hard to avoid: personally I only approve of baptism and evangelism. To say that Protestantism, lacking a human authority, tends to schism, is a truism. To say that evangelicalism = denominationalism = discord is unworthy of serious response. And to underestimate the reality and significance of liberalism in world Christianity is also lacking in intellectual rigour.

    As usual, you have read into my remarks what I did not say. To say that I have a stake in Anglicanism is quite plainly not to call myself an Anglican, any more than to reject Open Theism is to promote Closed Theism. You need to be more precise and less pedantic, Gregory.

  10. Avatar photo GD says:

    I have also attended Catholic and (as a general term) Protestant and Evangelical churches – from that experience, I know that each practices their worship in a distinct manner. I find Orthodox and Catholic practices easier to see as having a number of things in common – when Latin was used, this was not so.

    Orthodox churches are distinct in their church service, but are easily identified by nationality – Greek, Russian, Serbian, Macedonian, Egyption and so on. The internal ranglings of most Orthodox churches that I am aware of are usually because of authority and money.

    Historically the way traditions have formed (and broken) seem to me to be the result of power conflicts, which we term politics. On Orthodox theology however, it is instructive to see the rigorous approach adopted when formulating doctrine, and the lengths various factions went to protect their positions. I think the bitterness and at time violence unleashed during these times has been (almost as an undercurrent) part of organised or institutionalised Christianity to this day.

  11. Gregory says:

    Jon, Will you cut me a break here?

    You started with this: “Is that enough to make me a stakeholder?”

    I responded, after accepting that you are an Anglican (if that is really what you were saying!!!): “it sounds like you hold a stake in the Anglican Church (Established Church of England)!”

    Now you retort: “To say that I have a stake in Anglicanism is quite plainly not to call myself an Anglican.”

    I guess there’s just no way to be clear with you then? Heads you win, tails I lose! I thought I was just echoing your position, simple as that.

    Obviously, branches and denominations differ. The point is that Catholic and Orthodox are much more unified than Protestant. Anglican has its ‘leanings,’ which is part of the message from your “Evangelical, which is good,” in contrast to Catholic-leaning or Orthodox-leaning. That Anglican ‘theology’ is mushy in the middle shouldn’t be too contentious to allow.

    “to underestimate the reality and significance of liberalism in world Christianity”

    Who is underestimating and who is over-estimating? It seems one of the great sins you attribute to BioLogos is their ‘liberalism,’ is it not? Thus, on the political spectrum, it makes sense to attribute ‘conservatism’ to the position you espouse. As you already know, Jon, we hold a similar critique of BioLogos, e.g. regarding A&E, but I do not do so as an ‘evangelicalist’ because I reject that ‘leaning.’

    Is Welby a ‘liberal’ because he promotes ordaining women clergy and bishops?

  12. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:


    You’re right about the prevalence of politics of various kinds in ecclesiastical disputes, which is not to deny the reality of theological issues: it seems to me the Great Schism had roots in genuine doctrinal issues, but those become hard to distinguish from linguistic, imperial political and personal issues. The same is (sadly) true of the Reformation, where the real faith issues were complicated by the interests of national states. That’s no more so the case than in Henry VIII’s England – even he appears not to have known where the line between faith and ambition lay.

  13. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    It’s quite simple really – there is a broad range of churches in which Evangelical principles and doctrine are taught. I can’t speak of elsewhere, but Evangelicals in UK usually place their loyalty with Christ and the biblical gospel, and worship locally wherever that is most closely approached (unless they choose to be salt and light in, say, their local MOR village Anglican church).

    So for me, I was converted through an interdenominational Bible Class, taught by interdenominational Christian Unions, attended interdenominational conferences, read books by writers of many denominations, wrote for an interdenominational magazine, helped run interdenominational local missions, worship services and evangelism courses etc. I spent my career in an interdenominational Evangelical medical practice. Links to Anglican churches (and Baptist, and Congregational, and Brethren) fit into that quite easily – but don’t render me “Anglican” or “Baptist” any more than frequenting the best local coffee-shop makes me Starbuckian. But certainly the links I mentioned with the Anglican communion are enough to make me a stakeholder.

    An archbishop is necessarily more denominationally committed than that, but that makes his theological “leaning” that much more significant, especially as the C of E likes to cycle round Evangelical/Anglo-catholic/Liberal in its appointments. But the same issues were around when the Pope was appointed – would they choose a “progressive” or a “traditionalist”? In the event he seems a mixture, like most people.

    “Conservative Evangelical” is a common and legitimate label I’m happy to identify with, provided somebody doesn’t cry “inconsistency” if I were to espouse politically liberal views, or draw conclusions from a conservative view of Scripture that weren’t, say, Fundamentalist.

    My University friend the Evangelical Bishop of Willesden seemed to argue for women’s ordination on “liberal” rather than “conservative” principles, which I never quite understood, so maybe Welby has a similar mindset. But then my friend also got into trouble for tweeting politically republican sentiments. He was a “Baptist” at University, by the way, whilst I was an “Anglican”.

  14. James says:

    Jon, I confess that I at first had the same confusion as Gregory regarding your current church membership. However, you’ve cleared that up, and I see no need to dwell on it further. However, Gregory’s other comments puzzle me. He seems to be using terms in a way different from mine.

    I see things in this way:

    “Evangelical” in the broadest sense of the word is a general stance of Christians toward non-Christians (actively reaching out to them, as opposed to merely leaving the church door open on Sundays in case any of them happen to wander in for a service), and I don’t see why Catholics and Orthodox can’t be “evangelical” in that sense.

    “Evangelical” in a narrower sense refers to Protestants who are active in Christian outreach. Especially in the USA, the identification of “evangelicalism” with Protestantism has been strong enough historically that many Catholics would not feel comfortable using the word “evangelical” to describe themselves.

    Within Protestant evangelicalism, you can have “liberals” and “conservatives.” Many of the TEs are clearly “liberals” on a number of theological issues (and incidental comments reveal that some are liberal on social and political issues as well, but that’s not the concern here).

    Many ID people would proudly own the name “evangelical” but would qualify it with “conservative” — since “evangelicalism” in the past 40 years or so has included an ever-growing liberal wing, which most ID people want no part of.

    So what is often happening between ID and TE people is not merely a quarrel over science (e.g., over Darwinian mechanisms) but a quarrel over theology. Indeed, it is arguable that the quarrel at the deepest level is much more over theology than science, with ID people being much less willing to rewrite theology in order to harmonize with modern science than TEs are. In a sense, ID/TE has become another combat zone in the battle between conservative and liberal evangelicals. (With the fundamentalists, whom I’ve left out of this analysis, siding with the conservative evangelicals.)

    In the British case, there is no reason that Welby cannot be both “evangelical” and “conservative.” I don’t know that he is, but the combination is not self-contradictory.

    And finally, there is no reason why “conservative evangelicals” could not have a great deal in common, doctrinally and morally, with Catholics and Orthodox. So the fact that you have said a number of positive things about Catholic and Orthodox doctrine, as well as about conservative evangelicals like Warfield and Stott, does not strike me as incongruous.

    Is my usage of these terms, Jon, and my analysis above, roughly in accord with your own? If so, then perhaps my comments here will help Gregory to see where you are “coming from.”

  15. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Pretty close on conclusions, James. I’d just quibble over the actual meaning of the word “evangelical”. It was first coined by the early Lutherans about themselves (and then generalised to all the Reformation believers), because of their stress on the good news (Gk evangel) of salvation by faith in Christ alone, as explained plainly (they perceived) in the Bible uncluttered by later additions.

    Hence “evangelical” implies primarily the Bible as prime authority, and therefrom the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone. The word’s often confused with “evangelistic”, which means “pertaining to spreading the gospel”, which they were because it was good news. An “evangelist” is not any evangelical, but someone who preaches the gospel.

    All your other comments apply in practice, but you can see that the original usage is compromised by any departure from sola scriptura and sola fide. But that’s the way history happens, just as “Catholic” strictly no longer meant “universal” once John XXIII accepted non-Romans could be saved, and “Orthodox” is a misnomer if the Eastern Church gets even one doctrine wrong.

    True Fundamentalism (ignoring current pejorative usage about Muslims etc) is a historic (US) manifestation of conservative evangelicalism prompted by a reaction against liberalism and hence tending to literalistic interpretation and anti-intellectualism. It’s been applied as a dismissive insult to all Evangelicals since the 1950s at least by liberals, atheists and Beaglelady… now it’s being applied by liberal evangelicals, which tells you something political and theological, I guess.

  16. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    PS – a nice little résumé of the American situation here: http://evangelicaloutpost.com/archives/2010/09/evangelical-or-reformed.html . It has crossed the Atlantic in various ways, but neverthelss remains a very different situation from that in UK, Europe and anywhere where America is not completely culturally dominant.

  17. James says:

    Hi, Jon. Good point about the original meaning of “evangelical” in its Lutheran context. I certainly never intended to disagree with that, but only to point out the most common American popular usage.

    The article you linked to was helpful. The comments below the article are useful as well, as they show the elasticity of the term “evangelical” in America.

    The article at one point makes a distinction between “traditional” and “missional” (and deplores the fact that Christians should have to make a choice between the two). Perhaps “missional” is a better word for what I was trying to say than “evangelical.” You know, in North America many of the congregations in mainline churches are “traditional” in liturgy (and sometimes even in formal doctrine!), but don’t engage in much missional work or even seem to think it is important. They are often criticized for that by more “missional” Christians who think that any living Christianity must be actively evangelizing; merely “sitting tight” within one’s habitual pattern of weekly worship is deemed inadequate, a recipe for slow spiritual death. And the “missional” Christians have a point; if one isn’t enthusiastic enough about Christianity to want to talk about it to anyone except the members of one’s own congregation, and only on Sundays, it’s questionable whether the Christianity is really an animating force in one’s life, as opposed to a social habit inculcated by family tradition.

    (Of course, for their part, some of the traditionalists regard the “missionalist” Christians as loud and shallow, e.g., standing on street corners shoving pamphlets about the Four Spiritual Laws in people’s faces — and no doubt there is much that is worthy of criticism in some forms of North American evangelical activity. But it is sad if Christians have to choose between dignified formal worship that has no inner life, and zealous salesmanship that preys on the momentary emotions of potential converts and has no inner depth based on centuries of tradition.)

    I think in North America those who are striving to find the harmony of “missional” and “traditional” elements (traditional in liturgy, Christian ethics, and theology) would often refer to themselves as “conservative evangelicals” to distinguish themselves from “liberal evangelicals” who are more concerned about bringing people to Jesus than about getting Jesus right theologically. And they would distinguish themselves from mainstream “non-evangelical” Christians who are merely traditional, i.e., who maintain old forms but don’t really put anything of themselves into their Christian life, and would distinguish themselves still more sharply from mainstream liberal churches which, in trying to become more “relevant” to modern life, have thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

    I would imagine that, if you moved to North America, you would gravitate toward a Church that classed itself as “conservative evangelical” (but not, of course “fundamentalist”).

  18. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:


    That article was good in reminding me of Finney’s part in all this. Don’t get me started on him. One can see your “mission-shy conservative” stream as being reactive to Finneyan “new measures” just as Creationism is reactive to atheist evolutionism and (in the UK) a previous Evangelical tendency to ignoring social issues was reactive to the liberal “social gospel”. If only we just reacted to Scripture!

    The discussion from all on this thread serves to remind us that US and UK are truly cultures separated by a common language. Things can change, though – I became impressed by Billy Graham, who started out in the Finney revivalist mode, and came to see that simply preaching the gospel worked in the power of the Spirit. The first time I heard him I was expecting emotional pyrotechnics, and thought his restrained and rational address showed he was off-form – until half of Sunderland stadium made a response.

  19. Gregory says:

    Thanks for clarifying yourself, Jon. I don’t have much more to add.

    Only this: “Creationism is reactive to atheist evolutionism.”

    Obviously so is ‘Intelligent Design.’ E.g. Dembski and Johnson were/are reacting firstly to Dawkins. This is no secret. And it is why so many people have shown that ID and new atheism are such good dancing partners (but dance poorly and in bad taste with most other ‘contestants’).

    Persons who would join the IDM, e.g. by writing chapters in books for them or articles in a Journal that is fronting for the DI, would have to be naive to think they could avoid being so labelled by the politicisation of ‘science’ and ‘education’.

    Welby will partly define his ‘conservative’ vs. ‘liberal’ legacy in the Anglican church by how he positions himself on issues of schism significance. Right now, he looks quite liberal for an evangelical. That’s why I mentioned your conservative critique of BioLogos and how far that would apply to Welby also, in the sense that you are critiquing your ‘evangelical’ brothers and sisters in both cases.

    “My University friend the Evangelical Bishop of Willesden seemed to argue for women’s ordination on “liberal” rather than “conservative” principles, which I never quite understood, so maybe Welby has a similar mindset.” – Jon

    Indeed, yes, we’ll see what happens during his tenure of Canterbury.

  20. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:


    ID is certainly partly another reaction to evolutionism. That explains both its weaknesses and its strengths, as indeed is the case with Creationism. In both cases understanding what they are reacting to helps evaluates their arguments – which is still necessary, because evolutionism too has a body of “arguments about evolution” as well as stances in the philosophical, sociological and political arenas.

    I really don’t know Welby well enough to critique him – it’ll be harder once in the See, because everything’s filtered by a degree of necessary compromise and, of course, the partisan press. I’d certainly disagree if I disagreed – but only publically if it impinged on my “ministry”. I commented on Rowan’s views only because I was writing for a magazine about Christians in society. That’s a smaller part of what I do now.

    Even so, Justin still went to my church!

Leave a Reply