Two thousand years ago in Israel, the man who is God incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth, led his followers into a life-giving relationship with himself and his divine Father, and was executed for being a revolutionary. Risen from the dead, he charged his followers to make disciples throughout the whole world, promising that he would be with them and equipping them for their mission with his Holy Spirit. The New Testament presents the essential witness and teaching of Jesus’ first emissaries, the Apostles, who proclaimed his truth with his authority. The faith of Christians today, as in every age, is shaped and defined by this apostolic account of Jesus Christ.
Within a century of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Christian congregations could be found from Spain to Persia, and from North Africa to Britain. By this time, the catechumenate for would-be Christians (from the Greek katecheo: “to instruct” — a period of 1–3 years’ instruction leading to baptism at Easter) had become established Christian practice. This pattern of Christian disciple-making continued for some centuries before falling into disuse, as nominal Christianity increasingly became a universal aspect of Western culture.
The Reformation era saw a vigorous renewal of catechesis (instruction within the catechumenate) for both adults and children among both Protestants and Catholics. But catechesis has been in serious decline since the eighteenth century, and much of the discipline of discipling has been abandoned altogether in today’s churches.
This catechism (a text used for instruction of Christian disciples) is designed as a resource manual for the renewal of Anglican catechetical practice. It presents the essential building blocks of classic catechetical instruction: the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue). To these is added an initial section especially intended for those with no prior knowledge of the Gospel. Each section is presented in the question-and-answer form that became standard in the sixteenth-century because of its proven effectiveness. Each section is also set out with its practical implications, together with biblical references. The next printing will also include teaching notes for catechists (instructors).
In one respect, this catechism breaks new ground for Anglicans. The historic Catechism in the English Book of Common Prayer is brief, and specifically designed to prepare young people for confirmation and church membership. However, this present work is intended as a more comprehensive catechetical tool for all adult (or near-adult) inquirers, and for all Christians seeking deeper grounding in the full reality of Christian faith and life.
As such, this catechism attempts to be a missional means by which God may bring about both conversion to Christ and formation in Christ (or regeneration and sanctification, to use older words). This vision of comprehensive usefulness has been before the minds of the writing team from the beginning.
Our guidelines in drafting have been:
- Everything taught should be compatible with, and acceptable to, all recognized schools of Anglican thought, so that all may be able confidently to use all the material.
- Everything taught should be expressed as briefly as possible, in terms that are clear and correspond to today’s use of language. There should be as little repetition as possible, though some overlap is inevitable.
- All the answers and questions should be as easy to explain and to remember as possible.
We offer this catechism to the Church with the prayer that it may serve to build up the Body of Christ by helping many to full Christian faith and faithfulness in today’s increasingly post-Christian world.
On behalf of the ACNA Catechesis Task Force,