Tribalism & Identity

The Bishop of London's lecture at Lambeth has created some great discussion. It is a long read, but worth it.

For me what stands out is the rejection of tribalism, but the acceptance of identity (or different expressions of church).

One obvious source of division was the training of the clergy in party colleges, and an effort was made to overcome this aspect of the old system while eschewing any attempt to homogenise the proper diversity of the Church of England.
The desire to stimulate vocations and to train ordinands in a context in which every legitimate tradition could be honoured had an impact on perhaps the most significant development of the past twenty years: the establishment of St Mellitus College.
In the old system candidates were entrusted to independent training agencies, often founded along party lines.
One of the underlying principles of the past twenty years in London has been that every legitimate strand in the Anglican tradition should be honoured and reflected in the appointments made in the Diocese. There is only one vital distinction which transcends the differences between different strands of churchmanship and that is the distinction between dead church and living church.
I am working with a St.Melitus placement at present and I can confirm the spirit of that community, that they carry out into their work in parishes. I also deeply value my time at Westcott, especially as part of the Cambridge Theological federation. But St. Melitus seems to be doing something different.

The Bishop also recalled Jaroslav Pelikan's take on the difference between tradition and traditionalism:
Traditionalism is the obstinate adherence to the mores of the day before yesterday – the dead faith of living people. Tradition is the spirit-filled continuity of the Church’s life, through which the truth is communicated from generation to generation in fresh ways in order to stay the same.
I suspect that having an identity is vital for a congregation; a narrative or story of which we are a shared part, and one that speaks of growth. Movements in the church are good, healthy and normal. And yet that identity's role must be to act as a spiritual well that we draw from rather than as a fence built to exclude the gifts of other identities. Whilst believing what we believe because we believe it to be true, we must also believe that truth permeates other expressions of church also!

From Bishop Chartres reflections London's growth is prophetic. Not because the practical models used can be duplicated in other contexts (which may or may not be the case), but because those models have come out of a rejection of a tribal fenced in mindset.

In this God's Spirit has worked, and the Church is alive.


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