Navigating the “Three Streams:” Some Second Thoughts about a Popular Typology

September 3, 2012

Here is a wonderful essay on “three streams” Anglicanism. I am so pleased that Dr. Gillis Harp has had the courage to say what I have only been thinking.

As theologically conservative Anglicans have in recent years sought to cooperate in constructing an orthodox Anglican province in North America, many have referred to the process as a coming together of “three streams.” Usually, they are referring to Catholic, Evangelical (or Protestant) and Pentecostal (or Charismatic) traditions or “tributaries” being channeled into a single “river.” It is difficult to determine exactly where this model originated. Church of South India Bishop Lesslie Newbigin wrote a short book, The Household of God, back in 1953 that referred to these three elements and how their distinctive characteristics complimented each other.[i]

More than thirty years later, Gordon-Conwell church historian Richard Lovelace wrote a brief (though influential) article for Charisma magazine that argued that “there are many signs that history is moving” in the direction of organic unity between Catholic, Protestant and Pentecostal streams. Among the signs he cited was the work of David du Plessis with Roman Catholic and Protestant Charismatic groups, and pointed to a large rally of Catholic and Protestant neo-Pentecostals held in Kansas City in 1977.[ii] But not only Charismatics are fond of this “three streams” language, since the late 1970s, this terminology has come into favour with evangelicals of different sorts who have discovered church history and been drawn toward liturgical Christian traditions, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and, most significant for readers of Mandate, Anglicanism. Many of the goals that the “three streams” advocates identify are laudable. Those of us committed to classical Anglicanism can endorse the first three put forth by the late Robert E. Webber:

1. A restored commitment to the sacraments, especially the Lord’s Table.
2. An increased motivation to know more about the early church.
3. A love for the whole church and a desire to see the church as one.

Yet the thinking behind these goals and the ways some have sought to blend the three streams call for further, less sentimental reflection based upon better historical and theological analysis.

Read it all here.

VirtueOnline – News.


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