Anglicanism: Catholic, Reformed…and ‘Pentecostal’?

Gafcon’s Jerusalem Declaration brings together agreement that the doctrines of Christian faith based on the bible should control our theology (Articles 1 and 2), with appreciation of liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel (Article 6), and also welcoming God’s work among us in the present: “we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives” (Article 14).

At this time of year we remember the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost, and God’s revelation to his people that he is Three in One: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The giving of the Holy Spirit is dependent on the Ascension. One of the most quoted Scriptures in the New Testament is Psalm 110, where the speaker in the poem attributed to David says:

The Lord said to my Lord, “sit at my right hand 

until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 quotes this and makes the point that neither David nor any merely human being could claim to sit at the right hand of God. And yet that is what Peter is affirming about Jesus. Peter and the other early disciples saw the burial of Jesus; they saw him risen and heard his teaching about the fulfilment of Scripture in himself; they saw him ascend in clouds. And so Peter can say with confidence that Psalm 110.1 has been fulfilled. Jesus, the Son of David, the Lord, has been enthroned at the right hand of the Father, and the final stage has begun in the process of bringing all things completely under his rule.

 clouds

Some questions remain: Who are these enemies of Jesus who need to be subdued? What way will he use to bring this about? And how do we know?

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel faced many enemies in the form of military and cultural pressure from surrounding nations. And yet they were told that just as they should trust in God for salvation not in their own strength, so too the real enemies are unseen: the sin and idolatry inside ourselves and hostile powers of evil in the spiritual realm around us. In the New Testament this is made explicit as Jesus in his earthly ministry faces apathy, ignorance and outright rebellion from sinful human hearts, and demonic forces who possess individuals and cause harm to them and to communities.

The gospels show Jesus subduing these demonic forces - Peter says later in Acts that Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38) and the apostle Paul references Psalm 110 again in explaining the eternal status of Jesus after the resurrection and ascension:

…the mighty strength he [God] exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority power and dominion, ... and God placed all things under his feet.... Ephesians 1:20-22.

So Jesus has defeated sin and evil and is now in the place of absolute and permanent authority. But the task of establishing his rule is not yet complete. His enemies are “under his feet” in law, but have not yet submitted on the ground. Sin still runs rampant in human hearts; the evil powers still deceive, harass, infiltrate, control, and cause destruction.

God’s judgement on these things is being enacted. The amazing good news is that through Jesus a way has been provided to “save us from the coming wrath” (1 Thess. 1:10) and bring us to his perfect Kingdom. He does this through his atoning sacrifice on the cross, and through his defeat of death. Then, the Holy Spirit, poured out by the triumphant saviour on faithful believers, gives power to the church to preach the gospel of Jesus to the nations, so that people repent, receive forgiveness and receive a new nature, as we are transferred from darkness to light and transformed by the renewing of our minds, and become a new body in one Spirit.

How do we know that God has made his spiritual presence available to his people in this way? In his sermon on the day of Pentecost Peter points to the visible and audible evidence of the coming of the Holy Spirit, in the supernatural manifestations of what looks like fire, what sounded like strong wind, and the multilingual praises shouted out by ordinary Jewish men and women who had never travelled outside Palestine:

Exalted to the right hand of God he Jesus, has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. Acts 2:33.

Flames of fire 

So, is the Anglican Church ‘Pentecostal’? It depends.

A religious institution which celebrates as good and holy those sins which need to be repented of, and which follows the agenda of the “principalities and powers” rather than resisting them, can’t be considered as part of the church based on the foundation of God’s word, but rather those who “resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51). They are, tragically,  ‘enemies’ of Jesus who if they do not repent, face judgement. This is why Gafcon stated in the Kigali Commitment of 2023 :

… we do not walk in Christian fellowship with those in darkness [Section 5]…both GSFA and Gafcon Primates share the view that, due to the departures from orthodoxy articulated above…the Church of England has chosen to impair her relationship with the orthodox provinces in the Communion [Section 9].

But a church made up of those who humbly acknowledge sin and God’s grace, a church committed to the agenda defined by God’s word rather than the world and it’s controlling spiritual powers, is a ‘pentecostal’ church in the true sense of one marked by the Holy Spirit. At this time of Pentecost, may faithful Anglicans continue to obey God’s word with the Spirit’s help, to use the Spirit’s gifts among all Gods people across the whole international body of Christ, and may we be open to fresh infilling as we do good works prepared for us in advance.