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Sorry to single any one group out here, but some Reformed Anglicans from America are under the (mistaken) impression that Europeans see things the way they do, none more so than those of British ancestry.

A few days ago I witnessed an extraordinary display of repeated car-crash commenting at a well-known English blog.  I shall keep details quiet so as not to cause the American any further embarrassment. However, this post is intended for all who might be similarly inclined.

Suffice it to say, banging on about ‘winning the world for Jesus Christ’ is not going to earn one any converts on this side of the Pond.  Europeans have not viewed the world as a theonomist’s playground since the 19th century at the latest.  I’m thinking of France, which as late as 1905, firmly enshrined into law the concept of laïcité.  There’s Church for those who attend and there’s State for absolutely everyone.  There are both good and bad points about that.  Unfortunately, Europe generally leans towards the bad in mistaking the State for God.  However, what it does mean is that church stays in the God box.  We have no dominionism here.  We find Western theonomy a peculiarly American concept, even if it had its origins among European Calvinist theologians.

At some point I’ll research this in depth, but, possibly because Church and State have been violently entwined throughout our history, the man on the street has become suspicious of established churches and prevailing traditions, whether Protestant or Catholic.  So, an American who starts a bun fight with a group of Europeans about what is mostly a social and civil issue and starts waving the orthodoxy card about the C of E is in for a pasting.  He will probably walk away and say, ‘Those jerks.’  They will say, ‘Typical American, foisting his churchy enthusiasm on us’.

In addition, no one loves an established church more than its descendants in the United States.  I do not intend this as a criticism, as it is highly admirable.  However, exclaiming that the Church of England ‘used to be Reformed’ is not going to win empathy, even from low church English Anglicans, one’s natural allies in such a debate.  Quite frankly, as I have explained in other posts on Anglicanism, this comes later in the process.  The defectors are going, so let’s continue to pray for better clergy, liturgy, a renaissance of the 39 Articles of Religion and take it from there.  Granted, some of us are lukewarm, but many of us are not.  To capture the hearts of those who can help support their points, however, Americans need to be a bit more conscious of our mindset.  Our turf, our rules: subtle persuasion, please.

I’m not asking these well-intentioned people to evangelise through our culture as much as I am telling them how we in Britain think as Christians, nominal or fervent.  We’ve had enough religious strife in this country, for better or worse.  We don’t want any more.  We don’t romanticise or sentimentalise what happened centuries ago, even up through the 1990s with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, but we accept it and make sure that people today can worship according to their faith and their conscience.

Finally — again, a message my regular readers have seen several times before but not all casual readers have — it is customary in Europe for many to adopt pseudonyms online.  American Calvinists seem to have difficulty accepting this.  To which we would say, ‘When in Rome …’  If you want to spell your name and/or home town out on every post, that’s fine.  However, we expect bylines from career journalists, not layman bloggers.  We understand that Christians are marginalised, even though, as one Reformed American minister put it on his own blog in a demand for real names, ‘we don’t live in the Middle East’.  No, we’re not as cruelly persecuted as Christians in the Arab world and parts of Asia.  Nonetheless, saying that you are a Christian in Europe opens you up to potential unemployability.

Several years ago I read of an American expat working in England.  He had an English boss who rode with him to another office one day.  The American enjoyed listening to sermons and Bible readings on the way into work.  His cassettes and Bible happened to be scattered on the passenger seat of the car.  The Englishman said, ‘I would be very careful and quiet about all this, if I were you.  People might think you are stupid.  Even I’m beginning to wonder.’

Many Britons recall that Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell told the former Prime Minister, ‘We don’t do God’.  We most emphatically don’t.  I’m not saying that’s a good thing, just telling you the state of play.

So, to my Reformed Anglican friends  — with their legalistic accusations of cowardice — I have one thing to say: Teach, don’t preach and — for some — please stop shouting.

There is a great potential for you win souls for Christ here in Europe, particularly Britain, but not the way some are currently going about it.

Why not adopt a John Gresham Machen approach instead: considered, intellectual and persuasive?  That really will win the world for Christ.

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