Non-conformist conformists?

Earlier this week it was announced that Rev Richard Coekin had won his appeal against the loss of his licence. Whilst I, for one, am pleased by this decision (since it seems to me that Rev Coekin is doing a great job in proclaiming the Gospel in Southwark diocese) I do not feel adequately qualified to comment on the Canon Law implications of this case, or indeed the implications for the Church of England.

Ruth Gledhill of The Times gives a comment and a fairly comprehensive list of links to many of the arguments/sources in this case, if you wish to explore that further.

However, this morning on BBC’s Sunday programme there was an interesting interview with Nick Baines, Suffragen Bishop of Croydon. (I will provide a link to the Real Audio stream when available). In it he made an interesting comment about Richard Coekin really being a non-conformist.

Now it is important I put my cards on the table and say that I am a non-conformist (by virtue only of my theological convictions about Baptism) in Anglican clothing (since I currently work for an Anglican church).

But as a partial ‘outsider’ to the Church of England, I follow the debate about “conformity” with interest. Since the foundational 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England seem to me to be an essentially ‘evangelical’ or reformed, how can someone who is seeking to uphold this historic understanding of the Anglican faith be seen to be non-conformist?

The sadness to all of this is that we are failing pretty badly in our witness to the world. The niceties or subtleties of theological position are not the sort of thing that the general media is well equipped to deal with, still less the man “on the Clapham omnibus”. And this means that to the man or woman on the street, it simply looks like we are falling very far short of Jesus’ command for us to love one another (John 13:34) which was to be the very sign that we were His disciples (John 13:35).

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