Not every Christian author can attract clergy and lay people from the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Ordinariate and the Anglican Mission in England to a launch of their latest book. 30 people from these branches of the Church in England gathered in London on September 21 for the launch of Michael Nazir Ali’s latest book “The Mission and Ministry of the Church in England” (T and T Clark).
Monsignor Michael, as he now is, described by the publishers as ‘a prominent evangelical churchman’, and a prelate in the Roman Catholic Church was prompted to write it as nothing had been written on the history of the English Church since Bishop John Moorman
( of Ripon)’s ‘A History of the Church in England’ in 1976. He recalled how the liberties of the ‘Ecclesia Anglicana’ had been preserved by Magna Carta in 1215 in the context of the papacy and European monarchs. He explored the engagement of the church with the state by noting that Bishops are in the House of Lords because ‘they were there at the beginning and were its creators’. He noted that the Dominican and Franciscan orders began as preaching orders because the parish clergy were not preaching. He noted elements in the history of the English church which impel towards Christian unity, and which are currently being lost in the Church OF England.
He pointed to two poles of mission: embassy, going out locally, nationally and internationally. Many originators of the English Church were itinerants; evangelists went to continental Europe to plant churches in the early centuries, and the evangelical and Catholic revivals in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries sent people to Africa and Asia. Your reporter notes that out of fear of being ‘colonial’ CMS is no longer doing this. From these Churches he also drew lessons and models of current mission.
The second pole is hospitality, welcoming those who come in. This means that it has been a characteristic of the English church to model incarnation ‘externally’, and thus minister not only to the gathered congregation but to the community around about. Your reporter notes that some evangelical parts of the Church OF England are also losing this aspect.
He stressed the role of evangelism in the life of the English Church but noted that many do not now have the courage to do it. A courageous example was cited of St Patrick’s Church Soho who during COVID fed 400 people a day for 6 months, at the request of the Local Council. The church agreed to the request on condition they could bring the sacramental life of the church to the streets; so the priest, Father Alexander Sherbrooke, sat outside the church offering people the sacrament.
Throughout its history he said, the Church in England has sought to express the faith in Englishness, with a biblical, creedal and conciliar English expression of Catholicity.
The printed book will be available from November.
Report on page 15 in the Church of England Newspaper September 28th 2023