New denominationalism : tendencies towards a new reformation of English Christianity
The tensions which had over hundreds of years built up in the Roman Catholic Church produced the first Reformation. In England the new Anglican Church could not hold together all its elements, and the Great Ejection of 1662 saw the real beginning of separate denominations. Today another realignment is taking place. In an environment of indifference to churchgoing the Churches must respond. But they are divided within. Some elements desire to convert the world, others wish to defend the Church from it, a number want to absorb the world and others wish to combine these approaches. The differences relate to viewpoints about belief and authority. Historical techniques, scientific knowledge and philosophical models have affected the understanding of the Church, the Bible and models of belief. The result is that liberalism, once outside subscribing denominations, has returned to them. This has created further strains with those of biblical and Church beliefs and authority views. A new holiness movement is sweeping the Churches. A revivalist spirit calling on interpreted individual experience is spreading across Catholic and Protestant structures. This has created both new unity and divisions. Behind the desires for ecumenism, the result within denominations is renewed tension between 'independency' and the 'broad Church'. New denominationalism, the realignment of belief and authority patterns, threatens to become a New Reformation, a structural change resulting from alliances and schism.