Could the Church of England (CofE) be God’s chosen instrument to revive the church? At first sight the question might seem ludicrous, but that proposition may not be quite as absurd as might appear at first sight.
The Anglican denomination has an archbishop who has openly declared that he sometimes doubts whether there even is a God. It has many who support a LGBT agenda and it chases after social issues and climate change initiatives which it (mistakenly) thinks will make it acceptable to an unbelieving and hostile society. At the same time, it has questioned the inerrancy of Scripture, belief in creation and confidence that faith in Christ alone is the only way of salvation.
Most of the calls to return to the biblical standards upon which the CofE was originally founded seem to come from the so-called ‘developing nations’. Nevertheless, within the denomination in the UK, there are still pockets of truly born-again believers who hold fast to the great Protestant doctrines of the faith, perhaps more closely than some churches that would label themselves as ‘independent evangelical’.
Indeed, over the years, Gaulby has become a spiritual home for those not satisfied with the direction of some evangelical churches in watering down the gospel, to make it more acceptable and less demanding (see Luke 14:25-27).
One such representative remnant of believers within the CofE is the Gaulby Reformed Evangelical Anglican Fellowship in Leicestershire. This came into existence under Rev. Ashley Cheesman (its rector from 1988 until his untimely death in 2010).
Mr Cheesman truly believed in the inerrancy of Scripture, preached God’s Word, upheld the Reformed faith and sought to expound the true gospel of Jesus Christ. He was also a genuinely humble man. Although much loved by his small but devoted flock, Mr Cheesman suffered opposition, as do all true servants of God, from those who saw the church merely as a social institution. But he steadfastly stuck to his calling and principles.
Today, the fellowship at Gaulby upholds the doctrines of the English Reformers, subscribes to the 39 Articles of the Church of England and regularly uses the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It continues holding Sunday evening services, a weekly Bible study, a weekly prayer fellowship and a monthly parish prayer meeting.
It has also continued holding the annual Gaulby Festival of Grace, which has become one of the most significant rural church events in Leicestershire.
Prayer has been the foundation for the work at Gaulby and, underpinning that, has been the earnest endeavour to be faithful to God and obedient to his Word, leaving the outcome and whether the work flourishes or not to his divine providence.
Up to now, we have been grateful to see that our Lord has blessed the work in many ways. These include the deepening of the faith of our congregation, increasing its confidence in the inerrancy of Holy Scripture, and increased numbers attending. This we attribute solely to the sovereign grace of God.
Remaining within a denomination that has strayed in many aspects from the doctrines of the Reformed faith creates pressures from without and within, but those same uncertainties ensure that fellowships like ours stay close to the Lord, as they endeavour to be obedient to him.
To those who would say we should leave Anglicanism, it should be pointed out we are not interlopers in the CofE, but rather the true spiritual descendants of Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Hooper and many martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the Reformed faith.
We are praying that God would revive his church in whatever way he chooses. Could it conceivably be that from such remnants our Lord will see fit to begin a work of renewal, so his church can be a light to a nation that has turned so far from him (Malachi 3:6-7)?
We have no right to expect it, and much less deserve it, and we are conscious of our weaknesses, failings and total dependence upon him. But it is often the weak vessels God chooses for the furtherance of his kingdom (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).