Bishop: Anglicanism Has Not Lost Its Way Despite Rifts

The Bishop of Stafford has called on churchgoers to celebrate Anglicanism and "proclaim what God has done and is doing for us in Jesus Christ," but to also undertake an honest self-assessment of where they stand with Jesus.

The Rt. Rev. Gordon Mursell made his comments in a pastoral letter printed in the February edition of parish magazines in the Diocese of Lichfield.

In the letter, Mursell says the church only has itself to blame for media reports giving the impression that mainstream churches in the United Kingdom have "lost it," or are in "terminal decline."

"We English Anglicans are extraordinarily good at talking down our church," says Mursell in his letter. "It's frightening to ask yourself: how often have I been in a conversation with non-churchgoers during which I've criticized 'the Diocese' or 'the Evangelicals' or 'the Prayer Book groupies' – or simply failed to use the opportunity to say what I really value about my church and my faith?"

He also took a swipe at the bitter volleying between liberals and conservatives in the wider Anglican Communion over homosexuality, saying that Anglicans are "incomprehensibly obsessed with sex – or at least that's the impression we often give."

"Perhaps we've never really got over the fact that one of our founders (Henry VIII) had serious marital problems," says Mursell.

"But all this is light years away from the real purpose and vision of our church, which is to proclaim and celebrate what God has done and is doing for us in Jesus Christ, who died for us and now lives and reigns as lord and king."

The Bishop goes on to insist that "Anglicanism has not lost its way," pointing to countries where Anglicanism is flourishing, such as Nigeria.

"There are already twenty times as many practicing Anglicans in Nigeria as there are here. I have myself witnessed Anglican churches in Malaysia and Hong Kong that are pulsating with life and faith and engaging with justice and peace issues in their locality. And there are countless signs of hope and new life here in our own diocese," he says, before urging individual Anglicans to check up on their personal faith.

"If you don't see them in yourself, or your church, ask yourself the hard question: how Christ-centered is my church, and my faith?" he posed.

"Or (to put it another way) does your church really behave like an institution (interested in keeping itself going) or like a movement (passionate about its goals and values)?"

He concludes his letter with a challenge to Anglicans to celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ.

"Anglicanism is a living branch of the Jesus Movement," he says. "We stand for a Bible-based faith that is both life-changing and thoughtful, both enthusiastic and challenging, rooted in tradition but deeply engaged in contemporary life and culture.

"A contradiction in terms? Nonsense. It's the faith Jesus came to teach and to live. So let's celebrate it. For nothing less is good news for our world."