I can’t comment on your interview with Justin Brierley, since it hasn’t been published yet. All we in the UK have to go on is Justin’s account of the interview and your own account in the latter part of A Blog Post for the Brits. As Justin says, we can only judge when the article is published.
But I would like to respond to some of your comments about the Church in Great Britain.
(1) You address your comments to British evangelicals only. Does that mean that you don’t believe that the other approaches to the Christian faith contend for the Gospel or are fruitful? If that is your opinion, a good many of us who know and appreciate the breath of Christian traditions in the UK would beg to differ.
(2) You state very positively that in Great Britain we live in a context that is more non- or anti- Christian that cities you know well in the USA. I don’t think this is the case. As our Prime Minister has recently affirmed, the Christian faith and the Bible are basic to our culture and our values. Christian bishops sit, as of right, in one of the chambers of our legislature; our monarch must be a Christian; many of our state schools are controlled by Christian organisations; a daily act of worship, which is ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian content’, is a legal requirement in maintained schools. Christianity is still in an immensely privileged position in this country.
(3) Some of our media organs may contain people who are not Christians and who ridicule any sort of religious faith. But there are other media which are very supportive of faith. That sort of environment keeps us all alert, and encourages us to study and to find ways to counter the arguments of the sceptics, which is a good thing. Some believers may have developed paranoia about some legislation, and believe themselves to be persecuted, but in reality there is freedom of religious belief and practice in this country, so long as that doesn’t involve discrimination against others on the basis of their faith, race or sexuality, or infringe the rights of others. Here again, religious organisations actually have a privileged position, since they are exempt from some provisions of equal opportunities legislation. The courts are independent and judge when there are disputes on the basis of the law, which is passed by Parliament.
(4) You ask the British not to compromise on essential doctrinal issues. Your selection of what are ‘essential doctrinal issues’ seems very strange, and not everyone would agree with you that these are essentials, end especially not in the particular way in which you express them. Penal Substitution as the only explanation of the Atonement, and the way you interpret Hell are just two of the ‘essentials’ which I and others would dispute. In the Anglican Church, to which I belong, we base our faith on a combination of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, which leads some us to come to quite different conclusions from yours about what is ‘essential’ to our faith. Sometimes we even disagree about what is essential among ourselves!
(5) I don’t think you need to be concerned that churches are not doing enough to reach people, especially young people, with the Gospel. Every church I know about is constantly doing ‘mission planning’. Many are exploring new expressions of church. However we do recognise that in our cultural context, different sorts of worship, preaching and teaching may be required to reach different groups of people, and the traditional sort of worship in an historic building, may be the thing that brings some people to an encounter with the living God.
(6) Your penultimate point urges us to do more to encourage men, especially young men, into mission and ministry. I believe the majority of church leaders and preachers in the UK are men, but the balance between men and women leaders is gradually becoming more equal, which most UK churches see as a cause for rejoicing. In our cultural context, discrimination between men and women is not generally acceptable, and in many of the mainstream churches, men and women are equally acceptable as preachers, pastors and church leaders. I don’t know what a ‘substantive Christian man’ looks like, but I don’t think many in the UK church are going to sound alarms if we don’t see them, or regard this as a crisis situation as you urge us to do.
(7) I don’t think there is a lack of courageous preachers in the UK, young or old. I would suggest that perhaps you don’t know as much about the British religious scene, in all its breadth and richness, as you think you do.
As you will see from my blog name, I am both female and a preacher, so perhaps that will mean you don’t feel any need to take notice of what I say.
But I remain
Yours in Christ
P.S. I don’t actually like being referred to as a ‘Brit’. Do you like being referred to as a ‘Yank’?