Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Review: Anglican Ecclesiology and the Gospel by John Fenwick

I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying the fellowship of John Fenwick at church assemblies for about a decade now.  So when I saw he had a new book out in an area I’ve been studying, I was very interested.

The man is the Primus of the Free Church of England and the book is Anglican Ecclesiology and the Gospel.  And it is a thick book of about 500 pages, but easy reading and well written with Fenwick’s wit and erudition shining through.  I advise not reading it too fast, however.  For one thing, I often found many of the footnotes helpful.

The theme of Anglican Ecclesiology, as revealed in the chapter titles, is apostolic ecclesiology as upheld by classical Anglicanism.  Fenwick focuses on the authority of scripture and tradition derived from Christ and the apostles, apostolic ministry with focus on the nature of the threefold ministry, and the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist.

In the process, he brings out of his knowledge things both old and new.  He frequently and well cites the church fathers, Anglican divines, and, of course, the scriptures.  At the same time, he is remarkably up to date, citing the Jerusalem Declaration and the International Anglican Congress of 2015.  He even anticipates the appointment of missionary bishops for England, which indeed occurred after the publication date.  Warning of possible problems of “well-intentioned, but perhaps not well-informed” consecration of bishops from overseas for England, he urges orthodox Anglican constituencies to work together in England.  (I will exercise an excess of caution and leave it to the reader to find out Fenwick’s current opinion after the Lines consecration.)  He also warns against “the planting of Churches that have little substantial Anglican identity, though claiming the name.”  Perhaps ACNA should take that admonition to heart. (pp. 452, 453.)

Fenwick at times focuses on his Free Church of England and on the closely aligned Reformed Episcopal Church.  But virtually all of his observations have applications for other orthodox Anglican jurisdictions and beyond.

Moreover, I think Anglican Ecclesiology would serve as a very readable introductory text on just that subject.  Those teaching or studying ecclesiology would do well to consider it.  I will go further and say it is a must read for those in ACNA, the Free Church of England, or the Reformed Episcopal Church.  And do not let the meaty subject scare you away.  Again, this is very readable.  I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed Bishop Fenwick’s work.

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