The recent statistics on trending decline in the Anglican Church of Canada came as no surprise to me. I have only been a confirmed Anglican for almost five years and an ordained minister for a couple of months. Before I pitched my tent in the church, I was well aware that mainline churches were in cultural decline. But I believe it is God’s calling in my life—as it is for all those presently in the Anglican Church of Canada—to remain, to work and to pray for such a time as our decrepit and palliative moment in our church’s life here. It is only a moment in our ecclesial life culturally, but the life of the church is invincible, immortal, everlasting, ever-moving—divine. And our divine life is in our Lord Jesus Christ, who will be returning soon to restore everything under His dominion. The church’s life in Jesus is why I press on in prayer, why I can labour not in vain and why I bring one foot forward in hope.
I believe the cultural decline of the Anglican Church of Canada is the work of God. It is the pruning work of the Master Vinedresser to discipline and refine us. He is removing the fence on which many Anglicans have sat too long and comfortably. There can no longer be a limping between two dominions: either Jesus is Lord and God, or He is not. It is God’s merciful action to displace our church from her improper place of cultural power, societal clout, and generational wealth and ease. The church enjoyed the long years of Solomonic plenty but has since been weighed down by corpulence and sloth, miring ourselves in Solomonic apostasy. We were never meant to enjoy our pilgrim days in exile; we were meant to work, to witness and to wrestle in prayer.
As a church, we must embrace again our God-given identity as exiles and sojourners in this world. We must never feel at home here, for our home has not returned from above. Until then, we must prepare ourselves and the whole realm of humanity to be tabernacles of God’s Holy Spirit. This means we must labour for the conversion of people unto the Lord Christ wherever the church exists, wherever Anglicans are present, beginning inside our parishes. We must confront our sins, the sins of our society, and call people to turn from evil and to turn to the gracious lordship of Jesus.
God is summoning us to bear witness to his gospel: to be as John the Baptiser and his ancestral prophets, to warn about divine judgement against evil and to announce pardon, grace, and new creation for all who turn to Jesus. The Anglican church should be making more Christians, inviting everyone in and around our parishes to become followers of Jesus Christ.
We need to recapture and embody our lost and forgotten Anglican virtue of mission and evangelism.
Our church’s biblical convictions have cooled, and most of our parishes are theologically confused, malnourished and erroneous, and have lost creedal confidence in the supernatural power of God’s Word, in God’s Holy Spirit, and in the historic person of Jesus—his virgin birth, his theanthropic life, death, bodily resurrection, bodily ascension, and bodily return. Our church does not need to be more culturally relevant or to be “with the times.” We need to “hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” God’s Word. We need to take seriously and be especially convinced of Jesus’s death on the cross as our only means of being reconciled to God and to each other. We need to take seriously and be especially convinced of Jesus’s bodily resurrection as our only means towards cosmic justice and transformation. Clergy need to preach and teach these things in their homilies and sermons. Parents must teach these things to their children who are baptised in the church. We are not God’s people if we are not people who believe and trust His Word.
I am hopeful that the Anglican Church of Canada will persist 20 years from now. God has granted us still the management of enormous resources, assets, materials and real estate. But those are not our most treasured possessions. We have the creeds, our Bible, our common prayer, our history of missionary and theological enterprise, our liturgical heritage, the beauty of biblical language and sacred music, our global presence and ecumenical relationships, our sacramental conviction and participation—these are our Anglican conduits through which the Holy Spirit still chooses to work. Let us therefore step up, stand up and live up to the historic, apostolic, and catholic richness of our Anglican heritage to declare Christ crucified, to make Jesus known and glorified, to call all people to repent and believe His Holy Gospel, first in our parishes and throughout the places that we are in.