Another Adventure with Anglicanism

I have been attending an Anglican church for nearly a year now. I don’t claim to know everything about it; nor do I immediately embrace the Anglican tradition. I am exploring. I am encountering. I am engaging in a form of Christian worship that at some level seems to resonate with part of my soul.

Do I have questions? Yes. Do I have concerns and reservations? Absolutely. While the local church that I am attending is pretty orthodox, and has a sizable population of evangelical Christians, I worry about what is happening at the national and international level of this denomination. Agreed upon moratoriums on ‘hot button topics’ are being ignored and there is a huge sense of activism over unity. Have I figured it all out? No. But I am willing to listen and learn.

What I have found is this: The Anglican services have more Scripture read, preached and sung than any evangelical service I have ever attended. The entire liturgy, even though it is sometimes hampered by awkward wording in order to keep things gender-neutral, is built upon and references Scripture.

Even the ‘pomp’ of the service, from the vestments, to the altar, to the symbolic actions done throughout the service (e.g., having the Bible and a cross walked to the centre of the sanctuary for the Gospel reading, causing the congregation to turn and face another direction), is done in such a way as to visually invite people into the Gospel journey. I admit, I’m not much of a visual learner, and sometimes I have to fight the urge to say, “this is pointless”, knowing that for other people in the congregation, these images are powerful ways to help them enter the presence of God.

I have no doubt that there are God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians in attendance at this church. I also have no doubt that there are pew-warmers in attendance at this church. This is not unique to the Anglican church, and the same can be said for nearly every evangelical church in existence. So why is it that there is arrogant attitude among some who have never even set foot in an Anglican church, that they are quick to condemn all Anglicans as being unregenerate followers of a false gospel?

James MacDonald has a post up reflecting on the Royal Wedding.

He tries to be charitable, referencing his admiration for John Stott and J.I. Packer, men he calls “regenerate Anglicans.” But then he turns his aim at all the bad things that the Royal Wedding demonstrates about the lostness of the Anglican church.

For example:

I am grieved by the religious pomp, contrived ceremony and minimal passing gospel references in the service we and in the end, 2 billion others witnessed. The mumbling singing and distant glare of the couple themselves during the minister’s obligatory rambling grieved my heart deeply, knowing that this is the only church experience most watching will have this year.

I’ve seen a lot of mumbling singing and distant glaring in evangelical services, and don’t get me started on how many sermons have amounted to nothing more than a ‘minister’s obligatory rambling’.

The Anglican community, deeply divided around the world over the authority of God’s word and an orthodox gospel was on display in this wedding seen by as many as 2 billion people. The service was only marginally different than a catholic mass. Reminding us that Anglicanism traces its history not to the heart cries of the reformation: Soli Fide, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christus, but to the convenience of an earthly King who wanted to remain religious while indulging himself in disobedience and unbelief.

How many evangelical churches that trace their roots back to the Reformation, are in existence because of their leaders wanted to do their own thing, being led by convenience and by the indulgence of sin?
Just because a church traces itself back to the Reformation does not make it a good church. Any church that can only see as far back as the Reformation is missing out on 1500 years of Church trying to live out the Gospel. Just because there were mistakes and problems doesn’t mean that all 1500 years should be thrown out. Heck if mistakes and problems mean that we can ignore and throw out entire centuries of Church history, should we not all the more ignore the entire 20th century?

Am I an Anglican? Nope. I’m probably too evangelical to ever fully embrace Anglicanism. But I have learned and am convinced that the evangelical tradition has a lot to learn from Anglicanism. Anglicanism may be having issues and struggles over doctrine and practice, but so too is evangelicalism. The question is, are we willing to humble our hearts and listen to each other as we attempt to listen to the Holy Spirit who points us not to ourselves and to our accomplishments, but to Jesus, the incarnate, crucified and resurrected Lord?

  • Anne Stevenson

    I am glad you quoted from James MacDonald. After 15 years in the Anglican church I forget how some other people view us. I would like to read more of his writing on this subject to try to find out how he came to these rather odd conclusions.
    I left the evangelical church actually because I felt there were too many folk in the churches I had been in who were saying the right words, adhering verbally to the correct doctrines, but did not live their faith in daily life: unforgiveness, slander, gossip, maliciousness seemed fairly rampant. Of course those things exist in the Anglican church as well, but what I discovered was a higher level, for the most part, of personal honesty about all these things; better readiness to admit the reality of their lives. There have been, in my experience, far fewer proclaiming and revelling in their correctness of doctrine while treating their fellow Christians in an ungodly manner as a regular practise. Anglicans can treat each other that way too, all of us being human, but there seem to be far fewer who try to hide it or to use Scripture to justify their actions. My need of correctness in all areas of doctrine has lessened to the point where my question of anyone with any doctrine is first of all how the person treats their fellow believers and then those outside the body. Really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing your church experiences.

  • http://cdntheologianscholar.wordpress.com Amanda

    “but there seem to be far fewer who try to hide it or to use Scripture to justify their actions.”

    That is an interesting observation, Anne.

  • Solus Risus

    I just have to snicker at anyone who thinks “Soli Fide, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christus” is real Latin, never mind real theology.