by Rev. Richard Crocker, General Secretary
As we begin this new series of newsletters, it seems important to explain how we understand the terms in the title of our organization—especially one as controversial as “evangelical”. The quest for identity is a key concern in our day, and an organization’s purpose and activity may be hampered by neglecting to address the question. Therefore, in the next few issues, I will attempt to define what EFAC means by “Evangelical”, “Fellowship”, and “The Anglican Communion”.
. Some have suggested that EFAC should abandon the word. They hold that it is too toxic due its entanglement with some contemporary political movements. However, it is difficult to find an alternative that will serve adequately. Others suggest hyphenating it, so that some evangelicals may be distinguished from others. This itself indicates that the word, evangelical, is in demand, while its exact content is subject to differing appropriation by an assortment of constituencies.
I was present at the National Evangelical Anglican Congress (NEAC) in England in 1977, when such undercurrents of varied evangelical identity emerged. “What is the irreducible minimum of Anglican evangelicalism?” was the question raised. John Stott, in the final address, gave his Chairman’s response. “Minimally, we are Bible people, and we are Gospel people,” he declared, but then added, “but who wants irreducible minima? We want the fullness of the Gospel, and all that God in Jesus has given us!”
Historian David Bebbington has attempted a definition of “evangelical”,
four primary characteristics of evangelicalism: Biblicism, Crucicentrism, Conversionism, and Activism (shown on left).
Similarly, the 2003 NEAC in Blackpool was subtitled and organized around these three headings: Bible, Cross, Mission. It is these themes that get at the heart of evangelical distinctives. EFAC founder John Stott put forward a
for this approach, offering a trinitarian frame, as shown on the left.
We understand that God is one who speaks, and that his words are intentionally recorded so that we may understand His actions, by the work of his Spirit. This activity reaches its pinnacle in the life and ministry of Jesus, by whose death on the cross we are saved. His resurrection victory, and the growth of the disciples’ witness to the world, is through the work of the Spirit. Note the combination of triumph and invitation in these words from the Gospel of John:
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)
An evangelical is one who takes God at his word in the scriptures, has received salvation at the foot of the cross of Jesus, and with other disciples is about the mission of Spirit in the world the Father has made and loves.
I believe the world needs a church inspired by these distinctives.
The role of EFAC is to serve the increase of this biblical vision worldwide.