What does charismatic renewal bring to the Church?

Christopher Landau is being commissioned as the new Director of ReSource, formerly known as Anglican Renewal Ministries, on Wednesday 8th September. I asked him about the organisation, his own experiences, and renewal in the Church today.

IP: What is ReSource? Where did the organisation come from, and what has been its role recently?

CL: One way of expressing ReSource’s purpose is as a call to remind the church that the renewing work of the Holy Spirit is for every kind of church, in every kind of context. It can be too easy to think that ‘charismatic’ equals large gatherings, contemporary music, little or no liturgy, and an emphasis on networks rather than local geography. I think ReSource has an important role in helping churches—particularly English parish churches—come alive in the Holy Spirit regardless of any particular ‘tradition’ label they might own. So we work in local churches, and online, providing training and retreats alongside a suite of courses and other resources. A particular recent focus is the ‘Saints Alive’ course, and we are about to launch the Alongside scheme, providing prayerful mentoring support to clergy and other church leaders. 

The history really begins with a central London curate receiving a frankly unexpected spiritual awakening in the early 1960s. Michael Harper’s decision to leave his curacy at All Soul’s Langham Place, to launch the Fountain Trust, was a pivotal moment. The Trust provided a focus for charismatic renewal throughout the 1960s and 70s, both within and beyond the Church of England. When the Trust was dissolved in 1980, a group committed to seeing that work of renewal continue within Anglican contexts formed Anglican Renewal Ministries (ARM). ReSource continues the work of ARM and was launched in its current shape in 2004, bringing together that renewal history with a focus on mission, inherited from the Springboard initiative. 

One critique of charismatic movements is that they can become focussed on religious experience at the expense of everything else; I think ReSource’s focus on the work of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of mission helps avoid that. When a Christian is filled with the Spirit, his or her faith often comes alive in a new way; when this happens to several within a church it can transform their corporate engagement with a local community. Mission in all its forms is then inspired by this outpouring from God, rather than simply being the best humanly-originated ideas of some people of goodwill.

In that sense ReSource is called constantly to highlight the spiritual realities at the heart of the Christian faith, inviting people to encounter the fullness of God’s presence – enabling them to do so in ways that are sensitive to their current context and understanding. 

IP: Why were you drawn to being involved in the organisation? What do you see as its potential?

CL: We desperately need more bridges and fewer walls within the church. I know of too many people who have, in effect, shut down the possibility of any kind of unprompted or unexpected personal encounter with God—perhaps because of how they perceive ‘charismatic evangelicalism’, or perhaps because of previous negative personal experiences. I think ReSource is well-placed to share some of the insights and riches of what can be called ‘charismatic renewal’ with the wider church, in ways that recognise the hurdles some face but ultimately rejoicing in the kinds of encounters with God which were undeniably central to the growth of the early church in the first place. We also support churches that experienced something of the charismatic renewal of recent decades, but are looking for a new injection of life. 

ReSource often emphasises that its work is with ‘little, local and ordinary’ churches—celebrating each of those characteristics rather than seeing them as problems. My curacy was in two ordinary local parish churches in inner London, and I came across the work of ReSource while looking for an organisation to lead a parish weekend. Subsequent conversations with the current director Kevin Roberts (formerly archdeacon of Carlisle) led to my working for ReSource for nine months after my curacy, leading a review of the ministry’s purpose and helping to discern its future direction. What fascinated me during those months of conversations with other churches and agencies working for spiritual renewal was that they could all see the valuable purpose of a ministry that championed the work of the Holy Spirit in recognisably Anglican contexts, unafraid of liturgical prayer or traditional hymns, and thus delighting in the diversity of the church. 

With all the current debate about the future of the parish system, I feel ReSource has an important role to play in helping ordinary parishes see what is possible in terms of renewal—not merely for personal spiritual development, but so that mission to a local area is enlivened. There is something important and even prophetic about bearing hope for even the smallest and perhaps most overlooked parishes. I very much hope we can be a particular source of inspiration for those heroic clergy responsible for increasingly large groups of churches.  

IP: What has been your own experience of the Holy Spirit at different stages in your Christian life? How will these experiences shape your approach to leading ReSource?

CL: Having grown up in a traditional Anglican market town parish, before a choral scholarship reading theology in Cambridge as an undergraduate, I then attended an HTB plant in London and saw my faith come alive in the most unexpected of ways. I received the gift of tongues while saying Evening Prayer aloud in a hotel room in China on my final foreign assignment as the BBC World Service’s religious affairs correspondent, before beginning ordination training.

I absolutely understand that some aspects of ‘charismatic’ religious experience mystify or even concern some faithful Anglicans. I hope, under God, I am able to engage in a ministry of translation between those of different traditions and backgrounds. In essence I think much of the church in the west has a profoundly impoverished view of the Holy Spirit, and ReSource can help churches appreciate and experience the dynamic living reality of the third person of the Trinity. 

Because of this personal history, I bring with me a genuine understanding of, and respect for, the breadth of the church. I certainly understand the suspicion some have of large charismatic churches and ministries; I know (and lament) the levels of mutual mistrust and the ways in which we so easily erect barriers between those of different church traditions. I may be unique, for example, in having trained at (the liberal catholic) Ripon College Cuddesdon and subsequently having been licensed to (the charismatic evangelical) St Aldate’s Oxford. In Anglican contexts, people often seem to react strongly to one or other of those! But I do genuinely love the church as the bride of Christ, and believe ReSource can be one organisation among many that prompts the church to live in its full potential. 

IP: What do you see as the primary needs for renewal in the Church today?

CL: I think we need a recovery of hope. There are so many obvious ways in which the institutional church fails—so part of our challenge is to be reminded of the unshakeable hope of the kingdom, and try to receive that as a gift that shapes the life of the church… not because of our own striving, but because of our willingness to be open to God being so much bigger and more extraordinary than our own best efforts. 

Someone at Christ Church Oxford told me after my final sermon there this summer (as an honorary cathedral chaplain) that in the week before, they’d had to type my name into a number of rotas and orders of service. Instead of ‘Christopher’ they’d kept typing ‘Christhoper’. I rather like that—and took it as a prophetic encouragement. It’s easy to spend a lifetime criticising the church (and as a religious affairs journalist I was sometimes accused of exactly that), but I do believe that I personally, and ReSource as a ministry, are both called to hold out the hope of life in Christ to a church that can get overly distracted by its own internal affairs, and forget the glorious relationship between us and God that should underpin everything else. 

IP: You have written recently about disagreement in the Church, and how we can handle this better. Where do you think we have gone wrong in the past? What are the opportunities here to learn to handle our disagreements better?

CL: We have become so quick to ‘other’ fellow Christians, and it seems to me that we are particularly poor within the Church of England at recognising that Anglicans with different convictions remain part of the one Body of Christ. If this is true, it surely has an impact on how we seek to engage in disagreement, because the person with whom we are in discussion is a brother or sister, a part of the vine, one whose feet I might be called upon to wash. There seems to me a particular irony that some Christians apparently find it easier to love a foodbank client of another faith, or a homeless person without faith, than they do to love a fellow Christian with whom they disagree on an issue like sexuality. 

A key point I make in my book A Theology of Disagreement is about the work of the Holy Spirit—in particular, whether we are willing to see the fruit of the spirit as a paradigmatic text for how Christians relate to one another. If a ‘fruit of the spirit’ test were applied to Anglican interactions on Twitter or at General Synod, for example, I believe the manner of our arguments would be transformed.

Sometimes it really is as simple as asking, am I visibly loving my Christian neighbour with whom I disagree? And do they see and appreciate at least my attempt genuinely to love in this situation? That doesn’t mean abandoning the pursuit of a singular truth that sets us free, or indeed removing the possibility that there may be grounds in future for a split or schism. But it does mean taking seriously what it means to love our fellow Christians and give real consideration to how conflicts might be transformed, were there agreement about the importance of what I characterise as loving disagreement. 

IP: What do you hope ReSource’s main contribution to the Church will be?

CL: A core belief for us is that no church is too small, too old, or too isolated to experience spiritual renewal. The Hebridean Revival is a good reminder of that, and I think ReSource is called to encourage hope and expectation of who God is, and what he can do through his church—including the local parish churches of England. Too much church life risks becoming functionally atheist, in relation to actual reliance on the prompting and presence of God to shape how we choose to spend our time or money.

There are so many church communities which are ageing fast, and where it really isn’t clear where the next generation of worshippers is coming from. Of course one option is to plant something new. But I believe ReSource has an important role in the next decade or so to remind us all what is possible for the God of the impossible, seeing existing churches revived and renewed, and serving their local communities. 

IP: How can we pray for you in this new role?

CL: For wisdom from God about how best we can serve the church. We want to meet clergy and other Christians where they are, and provide resources and input that genuinely serve their presenting needs. Of course like all such ministries we pray for the financial support to maintain and expand the work.

Please pray too for the expanding team of ReSource Ministers who carry out so much of our work with churches and individuals—and that in all this, more Christians in this country would know the joy and hope that comes from a faith that is alive in the Holy Spirit. 

Christopher Landau is the incoming director of ReSource for Anglican Renewal Ministries. A former BBC World Service religious affairs correspondent, he has a DPhil in Christian Ethics from the University of Oxford, published this summer as A Theology of Disagreement (SCM Press). He was previously an associate minister at St Aldate’s, Oxford. He is married to Carolyn and they have three young children.  

His commissioning service, including a sermon from ReSource’s Patron Mark Tanner, Bishop of Chester, is at 4 pm on Wednesday 8th September. The service will be broadcast live online here.

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36 thoughts on “What does charismatic renewal bring to the Church?”

  1. “CL: We have become so quick to ‘other’ fellow Christians, and it seems to me that we are particularly poor within the Church of England at recognising that Anglicans with different convictions remain part of the one Body of Christ. If this is true, it surely has an impact on how we seek to engage in disagreement, because the person with whom we are in discussion is a brother or sister, a part of the vine, one whose feet I might be called upon to wash.”

    On what grounds does a person have the right to be called an Anglican?

    Phil Almond

    • Is it really rights based, Anglicanism, Phil?
      On what grounds does an Anglican have the right to be called a Christian?
      Is it an inevitable distinction without a difference? Does one automatically follow the other?
      First and foremost, I’m a Christian who worships in, and is part of, an Anglican church. Frankly, I’m unconcerned whether I have a so-called right to be called an Anglican, it’s not at the forefront of my very being and belonging and identity. I belong to Christ, blood bought, part of his body. The Anglican church did not die for me, though it may or may not be an instrument of the Gospel message.

      • Sorry Geoff, I expressed my meaning badly. My question about the definition of an Anglican was a preliminary to the point I am trying to make which is to question the assumption that “Anglicans with different convictions remain part of the one Body of Christ”. That is the same as saying that Anglicans with different convictions are all members of the elect, are all born from above. That is saying too much. In any case we should always disagree with courtesy and fairness no matter who we are disagreeing with.

        Phil Almond

          • Jon
            If Spurgeon said that he was mistaken. The Bible makes it clear that God chose who he planned to save before the foundation of the world.

            Phil Almond

          • If that particular author in the bible really believed that then they were either mistaken or have been badly misunderstood.

          • ‘The Bible makes it clear that God chose who he planned to save before the foundation of the world.’

            It is so odd for you to assume that all the long and informed theological debate on the question of providence, predestination, free will and God’s sovereignty can be dismissed in a sentence.

          • Ian
            I was stating my conviction. Why don’t you start a thread and we can recapitulate that ‘long and informed theological debate on the question of providence, predestination, free will and God’s sovereignty’
            Phil Almond

          • Ian
            Ephesians 1:3-7 (among other statements in the Bible) is clear that God’s choice and predestination was before the foundation of the world. ‘Simple’ is your word that you are reading into what I said. I did not say it was simple. I am reasonably aware of the profound mysteries associated with this doctrine. But my conviction is that those mysteries do not overturn the clarity of this truth. I am only saying what Article 17 says.

            Phil Almond

  2. Christopher – I am thrilled by your appointment at this crucial stage for the church. I love your vision for spiritual renewal of all parts of the church. God has given you the vision and the gifts for such a time as this.

  3. There seems to me a particular irony that some Christians apparently find it easier to love a foodbank client of another faith, or a homeless person without faith, than they do to love a fellow Christian with whom they disagree on an issue like sexuality.

    It’s obvious why. Non-Christians are seen as the mission field, whereas somebody you disagree with who claims to be a Christian must be seen as a heretic of some sort. Then the question is what differences one decides to tolerate and what differences one decides not to. Different people put the line in differing places…

    • Matt 18:15-17 to me suggests that the worst outcome of a disagreement should be to treat them as a Gentile (unbeliever). So treating unbelievers more favourably than Christians with whom you disagree is wrong. Even if you think they are not Christians because of the source of the disagreement it is still wrong!

  4. ‘churches—come alive in the Holy Spirit ‘ – what does this actually mean?

    ‘One critique of charismatic movements is that they can become focused on religious experience at the expense of everything else’ – yet when asked about your own experience of the Holy Spirit, you give speaking in tongues as the example.

    ‘When a Christian is filled with the Spirit’ – did the apostle Paul not tell Christians to be continuously filled with the Spirit?

    ‘called to hold out the hope of life in Christ to a church’ – if the church is the body of Christ, does it not already have life in Christ?

    ‘than they do to love a fellow Christian with whom they disagree on an issue like sexuality.’ – the problem is that Paul castigated a church for tolerating overt sexual sin, as did Jesus in Revelation. Is the Holy Spirit now contradicting both and encouraging ‘loving disagreement’?

  5. I imagine Christopher would have serious issues with the writer of this letter then: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.. do not even eat with such people… are you not to judge those inside?”

    We are to be more discerning of those who claim to be brothers and sisters and yet fall short of the biblical and historic teaching of the church in matters of sexuality, not less. And simply assuming it’s another valid expression of Christianity seems to be at odds with the same letter writer when he wrote: “the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”

    • Well, he might want to respond! But I would simply observe that some Christians (in some periods in history) are too keen to separate on secondary matters, and others at other times are not willing enough to do so.

      • Thanks for engaging Thomas. If it isn’t a cop-out, I would encourage you to read my book! A lot of what I consider there is a prior step to questions of whether a presenting issue is first or second order; rather, if a conversation is happening among members of the body of Christ (even if they dispute how valid another’s membership might be) what does the New Testament have to say about *how* those conversations might proceed if they are to be authentically Christian? Apply a ‘fruit of the spirit’ test and debates might arguably become less intemperate, and instead recognisable examples of neighbour-love, even when facing fractious and difficult disagreements…

        • Like Christopher, I worked in the World Service Religious Broadcasting department – back in 1985 and under Pauline Webb in my case – and the kind of conversations we were able to host on the radio between those of different faiths were an inspiration to me for conversations that should be possible between those of quite different faith perspectives. Pauline was a pioneer in that regard, and her work with Methodism in this country and the World Council of Churches, where she had served as the first woman Vice Moderator, was and remains inspirational. Not least her passion for justice in the areas of ordination and sexuality.
          Thank you Christopher – and thank you Pauline.

        • Having had the privilege to be both a colleague and a friend of Christopher’s, I have observed him to be a man pursuing the Spirit of Holiness for Christlikeness, a commitment to the Spirit of Truth for doctrinal faithfulness and desire to experience and express the fulness of God’s love and power (Eph3:18-19).

          But perhaps what he has taught me most, by word and life, is Paul’s burden: Eph4:3 “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The future for Re-Source under his leadership is very exciting for the CofE at the critical juncture – and I hope he is inundated with opportunities to teach, encourage and lead God’s people further up and further in.

          • Yes – so long as we all take seriously Lewis’ preface to ‘The Great Divorce’. He was speaking about Blake’s ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ but his wise words apply also to doctrinal disagreements:
            ‘The attempt is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable ‘either-or’; that, given skill and patience and (above all) time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found…. This belief I take to be a disastrous error…’.

            Phil Almond

          • And if I may add, Simon, you have demonstrated that grace too. We may not come at everything the same, but you have really shown me grace, and I can honestly say you have blessed my life. I love your book ‘Amazed by Jesus’ and have passed that on to others. In some way you have helped me reclaim some of my early Christian and evangelical fervour.

            As for the vision and hopes expressed by Christopher: well how encouraging! Imagine if this vision inspires and spreads. This country of ours is in desperate need of spiritual renewal.

            God longs to renew our lives and communities. I first experienced the baptism with the Holy Spirit in the months after born-again encounter with Jesus in 1989 following a serious car crash in the Scottish Highlands. Seeking prayer for the fear I had of getting back in a car, members of the Kilmartin Fellowship laid hands on me and I found myself speaking in tongues. That has been part of my Christian way of life ever since.

            I have described it all here: http://www.speakingintongues.uk

            Gentleness was a big part of how charismata came across to me back in that period. No big drama, just like a gentle wind moving through church fellowships.

            I know people worry that charismatic experience can seem a bit emotional and self-centred between a person and God, and it’s true that charismata tend to be sort of a stepping stone in a Christian’s life, because the whole point of the ‘Baptism’ aspect is to die to self, and give and be given to God, and live that out in the hard nuts and bolts of Christian life and the human need all around us.

            The Baptism with/in the Holy Spirit is not intended to just be emotional self-indulgence, and I do see some places where it seems to be the ‘end product’ of what people flock to some churches for – for the experience. It’s really about opening our hearts to the flow and the power of the Love of God, and that’s costly, often mundane, often unseen, often seemingly unspectacular.

            So I hope that many church fellowships allow themselves to be open to the Spirit in this and many other ways, serving their secular communities, and not just themselves. I believe in the supernatural. I believe in the power of God. As a nurse that has involved cleaning people up when they’ve soiled themselves or soaked their beds, giving enemas, cleaning up vomit. The power of God is not all glamour. I end there to contextualise ‘speaking in tongues’. The Way of Jesus is also blood, sorrow, pitiful need, and death. And yet the Psalmist says:

            “You send Your Spirit to renew the face of the Earth.” Come Holy Spirit, we beseech you, Come.

          • Dear Susannah
            what a beautiful things to write
            I am profoundly grateful for our conversations
            and for your grace and patience with me
            I learned so much

      • “Well, he might want to respond! But I would simply observe that some Christians (in some periods in history) are too keen to separate on secondary matters, and others at other times are not willing enough to do so.”

        Ian, if they really are secondary matters then surely there can be no justification to separate at all.

        Even if they are primary matters then both sides should always by civil. History does not show this always happens, now or in the past.

  6. Time was, under jovial Lawrence Hoyle, ARM gave charismatic input and support to those of us in churches of broad or more catholic nature. The next regime seemed to expect us all to move to explicitly charismatic churches (as there were then plenty around), and ARM sadly refocussed on Spiritual Warfare.
    We lost a valuable resource, and the wider church lost out on this gentle spiritual input.
    Some return to the loving nature of the truly charismatic, with area gatherings, would be much appreciated.

  7. Thank you, Ian and Christopher.

    A positive and hopeful interview/conversation.

    We should never underestimate the power and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit, and the importance of community, givenness, alongsideness, grace, and love… while also recognising the cost, and what it cost Jesus.

    I came to faith at the Kilmartin Fellowship in the Scottish Highlands under Ken MacDougall. Although I think the Fellowship was a bit too detached from the local secular community, and there are lessons there somewhere, the Holy Spirit really came and was present, and renewed lives and mine, and I will always be thankful for that.

    ‘When the Spirit comes…’

    How this country needs spiritual renewal. The Spirit works in all kinds of ways, some supernatural, some very practical and caring, but at heart God longs to grow our trust and hope, to quieten us, quieten our spirits as we pray, and know once again that quietness that comes from trust, and that mutual exchange of love.

    Come Holy Spirit, and please be present among us in community.


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