Bobbie and Dessie: Does a 1980s Photo Tell Us Anything About Anglicanism’s Future

BobbieAndDessiePictured: the Bobbie and Dessie show, I would guess around 1985. 28 years is more-or-less a generation, and the ’80s, the first decade I can remember in any meaningful way, are now starting to be a long time ago. The ’80s, in hindsight, marked the apogee of Liberal Catholic power in both the Church of England and Anglicanism more generally. It would have been hard to see the rapid rise of Evangelical power from that vantage.

And it is hard from here to see what might come next, other than to note that a generation is a long time, and that all proud empires pass away, including Anglicanism’s mini-empires of the mind that we call “churchmanship”. The Anglican pendulum moves in at least two dimensions and swings constantly.

One often overlooked point is that the terms Evangelical and Charismatic, so often yoked together, are not the same thing and not necessarily in consonance. Another point is that “Charismatic” is basically a term us emotionally dry Western European whites use for those among us who have adopted the practices and ethos of the most important new Christian tendency of the past 100 years, Pentecostalism.

Pentecostalism is most deeply embedded in Africa, where Christian political and cultural power is probably nowadays vastly greater than anywhere else on the planet. It is also a major force in Latin America, especially among poorer people. There Pentecostalism has driven mass conversions from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, and usually independent Protestant denominations, on a scale that was still inconceivable when the photo here was taken. The interaction between Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism will develop considerably in the 28 years that lie before us. How it develops in Africa, in particular, is probably the most important question for the future of Anglicanism that no-one is talking about.

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