Church Needs to Focus More on Orthodoxy, Says Theologian

Article excerpt

A strong dose of orthodoxy is needed if the ailing Anglican Church in North America is to survive, says noted theologian Prof. John Webster.

Like other like-minded, "Gospel-centred" Christians, Prof. Webster fears that today's Anglican Church has capitulated to modern culture, losing its historical theological bearings in the process.

"There's a fear that the basic shape of Christian doctrine that you find in the creeds no longer wins the mind of the church," Prof. Webster said in an interview at Toronto's Wycliffe College where he taught a summer course on the Apostles Creed.

"There's a sense that the way the church makes its decisions and the kind of decisions it makes are not in line with the classical pattern of Christian teaching."

Prof. Webster says that like other mainline Christian churches, the Anglican Church has become ensnared in the rhetoric that any kind of orthodoxy is essentially divisive.

Rather than undertaking its work with the "right kind of vision of itself that is centred on the kind the Creed represents," he suggests the Anglican Church listens to contemporary culture and attempts to adjust itself to that culture.

"If we are going to survive in the future we need to have a much more lively sense of the fact that we are different," Prof. Webster said. "We can't go along with the culture."

The English-born Prof. Webster, 42, was professor of systematic theology at Wycliffe College before being appointed Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. In June he was keynote speaker at a SEAD (Scholarly Engagement with Anglican Doctrine) conference at Wycliffe College.

Established in the U.S. in 1989 by a group of Episcopalians, SEAD seeks to "ensure there is persistent, wide-spread, thoughtful engagement with the theological heritage characteristic of historic Anglicanism," and to promote a "creative engagement between `the faith once delivered to the saints' and the contemporary world. …