Monday, April 19, 2010

Church, mission, evangelism and programs

Back in the 1940s and 1950s Alan Stibbs, an English evangelical Anglican theologian, wrote a number of very significant articles and booklets on the biblical doctrine of the church. In the 1960s and 1970s very similar things were written, in a very different context, by Donald Robinson and Broughton Knox in Sydney. (In the last decade or so the theological work of each of these men has been collected and made available afresh to a new generation of avid readers.)

In Anglican circles the perspective of these men on the nature and function of 'church' has remained highly controversial. It represents a significant challenge to centralising tendencies present in the denomination as a whole as well as in the individual provinces which make up the Anglican Communion. It privileges the local congregation above the denominational structures, without (it needs to be said) neglecting the relationships with and responsibilities to those in one sense or other 'outside' the group which gathers regularly in each place. It provides away of distinguishing between the normative and the conventional, what Scripture itself mandates and the way individual associations have decided to order themselves within the freedom that Scripture envisages in Christ.

It is important to remember that what has become known as the Knox-Robinson doctrine of the church, or the Sydney doctrine of the church, was never just an idiosyncratic expression of Australian anti-authoritarianism. It arose out of the revival of evangelical biblical scholarship following World War II — Alan Stibbs produced some of his material for Tyndale House conferences in Cambridge and Donald Robinson wrote the article on church for the IVF's landmark New Bible Dictionary.

To read more, click here.

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