Imagine someone asked you, ‘What sort of Church is St. Paul’s?’ What would you say?
You might say any number of positive things:
– We’re a friendly church
– We’re a supportive church
– We’re a prayerful church
– The music and singing is lovely!
– We love to welcome new people
– There are lots of opportunities to learn and grow as a Christian
– We are committed to serving the local community
– We take the Bible seriously
– Lots of people use their gifts in a variety of ways.
But suppose, wanting to know more, they said, “That’s good to know, but what does St. Paul’s believe and teach?” What would you say then?
You could, I suppose, quote Church law. Canon A5 says, “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.” It is reassuring to know that the official teachings of the Church of England are grounded in the Bible. But what specifically do we believe? If someone looking for a new Church were to come to St. Paul’s on a typical Sunday, what might they expect to hear in the sermon? This question matters a great deal, especially to people looking for a new church. Many people won’t even give us a chance if they can’t be sure what sort of church we are. It is not enough to tell people that we’re an Anglican church, because there are many different kinds of Anglican Church. We need to help people know what to expect.
To help people (especially those outside the church) grasp what we believe and teach, you can now direct people to the church website where there is a new page entitled ‘What We Believe’. At the top of the page it says this:
“St. Paul’s is an evangelical Anglican church. We are Anglican because we are part of a worldwide family of churches that all follow the same basic pattern of organisation and worship. As anglicans we are a part of the Diocese of Salisbury. We are evangelical because we believe the Bible is God’s word and we want to submit to its teachings.”*
The page then lists some basic Christian beliefs. For example:
“…we worship one God in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
“We receive the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the wholly reliable revelation and record of God’s grace, given by the Holy Spirit as the true word of God written.”
“We believe that Jesus Christ came to save lost sinners…”
“We maintain that the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion proclaim the Gospel as effective and visible signs of our justification and sanctification, and as true means of God’s grace to those who repent and believe.”
These beliefs are not new or novel. They simply summarise what anglicans have always officially and traditionally believed and taught.
It is my hope and prayer that this summary of what we believe, and the sort of church we are, will give us some much-needed clarity, and help people who don’t already come to St. Paul’s, choose to come along and join us.
Revd. Matt Williams
Vicar, St. Paul’s Church
*A church is evangelical if it believes and teaches the biblical gospel, since the word ‘evangelical’ is rooted in the Greek word euangélion, which means ‘gospel.’ It is therefore appropriate to describe St. Paul’s as being an evangelical (lowercase “e”) church since we proclaim the true gospel every Sunday, and strive to preach God’s Word faithfully from the Bible.