Three Streams: Sign & Spirit

by Eddie Green

To unpack further the three streams that flow into the emerging movement.

Sacramental Evangelical.

The Church of England's most prominent Sacramental Evangelical, (and Charismatic) is Archbishop Justin Welby. ++Justin's Spiritual Director was/is Fr.Nicolas Buttet, a specialist in the Eucharist, mission, and experienced in renewal. At a recent Pioneer Breakfast, ++Justin asked me about how sacraments could become a part of fresh expressions of church (I did not get the chance to answer!) ++Justin is not alone amongst charismatic evangelicals in wishing to re-integrate the sacramental into evangelical and charismatic church life and mission. Although non-Wesleyan evangelicals have traditionally shied away from the language of sacrifice there is a language of intimacy and offering found in the theology of sung worship. Sign & Spirt seeks to rediscover the sacraments as worship, more than ordinance, especially the Eucharist so that language of offering & intimacy can find its deepest meaning.

Charismatic (Anglo) Catholic.

Although the catholic tradition has always embraced the practice of spiritual gifts (see this New Advent Catholic Encylopedia entry), the emphasis on these gifts as available for all came with the Charismatic renewal of the 1970's. The tradition has perhaps struggled with integrating the theology of an experiential theology of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the sacramental, baptism and confirmation. Post John Wimber the evangelical charismatic movement has moved in the direction of conversion being the point at which we receive the Holy Spirit, with the call for us to live in the fullness of that gift. Sign & Spirit seeks integrate the sacramental action of the Spirit in Baptism/Confirmation with an ongoing reception of that fullness, whilst recognising that the Spirit is always active in the church, implicitly and explicitly.

Sacramental Alternative Worship

Many involved in Alternative Worship 20 years ago came out of an evangelical charismatic background, yet found themselves drawn to the richness of sign and symbol found in the anglo-catholic tradition. Many groups found a warm welcome in churches of that expression. Groups such as Blessed, Transcendence, and others became for a while the mainstream of worship at Greenbelt, offering worship that whilst not explicitly charismatic embraced the work of the Spirit in creative ways. Those links have become stronger in the last few year through On Fire and other events. New Monasticism has also built bridges between different expressions of church, contemplative and charismatic, evangelical and catholic.  Sign & Spirit seeks to bring those expressions together in more explicitly.

Emerging Sign & Spirit

The nature of Sign & Spirit as a missional movement is still open. The three streams have a diversity which leads to varying views of orders, Eucharistic sacrifice, and liturgical order. In practice it can seem slapdash and haphazard.

But it is my firm belief that God is doing something new and prophetic in His church that draws from these different spiritual heritages.


  1. A very good article and i have been ON FIRE MISSION ONCEand i loved it and i wish many more church members would attend . You leave there on fire in all three different spiritual dimensions.

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