Bringing it all together
One of the key reasons why I chose to go to Ridley Hall to study for ordination was because Chris Cocksworth was the Principal. I had come across Chris through my work for Church House Publishing whilst he served on the Liturgical Commission and he struck me as a very wise man. I was particularly attracted to the way in which he, an unashamedly evangelical and charismatic Christian, seemed to hold that stream of church life together with a deeply ‘catholic’ view of the Church and a definite and strong loyalty to the Church of England.
Of course, Chris has now gone on to become the new Bishop of Coventry. Ridley’s loss is most definitely Coventry’s gain. Still, Chris’ approach has made a big impact on me in the last few years. One of the ways in which that happened was getting the chance to read some of the draft chapters of Chris’ latest book Holding Together before the book was published. Now that it’s hit the streets and I’ve been able to fit some reading in around other commitments, I’ve finished reading the entire book and I wanted to blog about it since I would definitely recommend it to others.
Chris is never easy reading. It’s a big book that will probably take you some time if you take it seriously but it is a very deep book and worth spending time in. Chris holds out a vision and tries to engage with the issues that result from an attempt to be gospel oriented (evangelical) in the power of the Spirit (charismatic) but with a firm commitment to the Church (catholic).
I am sure that the people who need to read this book the most won’t do so. Those leaders from places like New Wine and others who would call themselves evangelical and charismatic, will for the most part consider it too verbose, or theologically dense, or maybe too catholic. But this is one of their own writing this; Chris is David Pytches son-in-law, his credentials could not be better. It’s a message that they need to hear and be thinking about.
As I’ve read, I’ve also been lapped by the waves that my own incumbent is causing in the waters through his own studies and PhD on the influence of American culture and American church culture on the British church. His work is part of a wider movement of people who I meet and read and hear about who have been left anything from deeply disillusioned to just slightly uneasy with the outworkings of the last ten to twenty years of British charismatic Christianity.
I guess it leaves me excited for the future. I’m intrigued to follow and work with people like Chris and my incumbent to pray and discuss and do and reflect on how we can be Christians and churches who hold fast to the gospel and the true and strong currents of what it means to hold an evangelical viewpoint, who cast aside the detritus of our culture that we’ve allowed to be part of church and the unhelpful ‘additions’ to the work of the Holy Spirit that seem to gather around so much of what the charismatic movements in our church are up to at present (*cough* Todd Bentley, *cough*, Bill Johnson *cough*), who, ‘stripped back’ from such things, retain our open-ness and readiness to the movement of the Spirit nevertheless and seek His activity amongst us, but through it all retain commitment and valuing of the apostolic faith as handed down through the tradition to us, church fathers and all, always ready to learn from their considerable wisdom.
I think 2009, if allowed to be a year in which such a vision of church is worked out, could be a really interesting and exciting year.