November 12, 2013

Song of Another Simeon

Charles Simeon was a leader in the Evangelical revival of the Church of England, calling the clergy especially to a high standard of devotion and practice. Among his more influential acts is his role in the founding of the Church Missionary Society in 1799 — a strong force in the outreach of the Church of England around the globe. Among those he influenced was the young Henry Martyn, who traveled to India and the Middle East, translating the Scriptures and the Book of Common Prayer into the languages of the people.

Let us pray. O loving God, we know that all things are ordered by your unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see your hand; that, following the example and teaching of your servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve you with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

8 comments:

MadPriest said...

There is a dark side to Simeon's legacy. He institutionalised sectarianism by founding the Simeon Society which existed (still exists) to control the livings of evangelical parishes so that they always remain evangelical. Secondly his influence, via the East India Company on the choosing of ministers for India changed the Christian ethos in India from latitudinarian (including a respect for and interest in native religions) to hardcore, uncompromising evangelicalism that was, to a large extent, responsible for the civil unrest of the 19th. Century that led to death of thousands of people.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Jonathan, for the reminder. In addition to the points you note, one can chart many of the current woes of the church in Africa to the various areas missioned by CMS and SPG respectively. There is a dark side to evangelicalism, with its stress on individual salvation, that sometimes misses the more "catholic" notion that the church is a corporate body in which people are responsible for and to each other.

William R. MacKaye said...

Actually, Tobias, SPG (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) missionaries to Africa were mainly Anglo-Catholic as were (even more so) the missionaries of UMCA (Universities' Mission to Central Africa. And the CMS was far from monochrome. Max Warren, CMS general secretary from 1942 to 1963, and one of the Anglican greats of the mid-20th century, would have been horrified by the narrow mindedness that reigns today among the majority of Nigerian, Ugandan and Kenyan bishops.

Tim Chesterton said...

'There is a dark side to evangelicalism, with its stress on individual salvation, that sometimes misses the more "catholic" notion that the church is a corporate body in which people are responsible for and to each other.'

Tobias, that may be true in theory, but I have to say that I've had most of my really close experiences of Christian fellowship in small group Bible studies in the context of evangelicalism. On the other hand, some of my most isolating experiences of Christian worship have been in Eucharists in high church parishes where people have come in, avoided each other, gone up to receive communion and then left. So I don't think either evangelicalism or Anglo-Catholicism has a monopoly on either Christian community or individualism.

Tobias Haller said...

Indeed so, Bill. The more "catholic" view of the SPG contrasts with the more evangelical of the CMS. And I don't mean the extremes, but the difference in focus. This isn't the space to go into a long explanation of the differences between these philosophical views, but I think they have implications for how the church works. Nor do I think that evangelicalism is "narrow-minded" though that is certainly true of some evangelicals, as it is of catholics!

Tobias Haller said...

Tim, I'm sure your experience is common, as I too have found many Evangelicals to be warm and friendly and Catholics to be cold and distant. Still, even this observation reveals to some degree the philosophical or "theoretical" difference: that is, for the Evangelical the personal experience is primary, for the Anglo-Catholic it is the corporate experience. Again this is a broad brush, not meant to apply to all individuals within each group, but as a general trend of the group as a whole. And I don't mean to be understood as declaring one view to be right or wrong, or narrow-minded. I'm simply trying to articulate the focus of evangelicalism on personal salvation and personal faith, as opposed to the catholic notion of salvation through and within the faith of the church. I think it fair to say that this is a major part of the differing theological emphasis in two schools of thought. It would be caricature to reduce these both to "I accept Jesus as my personal savior" and "Extra ecclesiam nulla salus" -- but those tags are actual texts from the two traditions.

Tim Chesterton said...

I think that's fair enough, Tobias. i also think that the historical reason for evangelicalism's concentration on individual faith (a fear of a merely formalistic participation in a state church in a Christendom situation) is fading fast as churchgoing becomes less and less fashionable.

Tobias Haller said...

Tim, I agree. The next years will be testing times for Christianity in both "schools." The rise of individualism will be dangerous to the Evangelical faith as individuals trend towards other modes of salvation than Christ -- be it yoga, meditation, or hedonism; and the decline in worship will be costly to the catholic tradition in terms of its ability to maintain the literal edifice.

Some day perhaps I'll reflect more on the differing emphases in these traditions, each quite sound in its own way, but each having seeds of failure. One of the reasons I rejoice to be an Anglican is that our tradition embraces both "schools" without too much open warfare... unlike the more extreme forms of ecclesia that tend to choose only one possible path... whether Reformed or Roman!

One interesting illustration of the difference that occurred to me in light of my saints and icons project is the differing degree of emphasis on the Saints themselves in the two traditions. Anglicans seem to be able to embrace the extremes of "exemplar" and "mediator" within the evangelical-catholic spectrum.