My journey into Anglicanism is a long one, one that took about ten years. I came to Christ in a Methodist church, then as a youth joined a non-denominational charismatic church down the road, which was far more exciting than Methodism, this appealed to my youthful spirit. I stayed in this kind of church movement for many years. And while working in Scotland I was exposed to a hyper-charismatic movement, and as the adage goes, “the pendulum swung the other way,” and I joined the New-Calvinist movement which was in vogue at the time. Yet, I felt a disconnection to the Church, my devotion to Jesus fluctuated, and I often felt like a square peg in a round hole, until I finally found what I longed for in the Anglican tradition. It’s a long story, but reflecting on my ten-year journey, these are five reasons why I became Anglican:
1. The Eucharist
The Lord’s Supper was always important to me, even before I began to grapple with its meaning. I would have been happy if it were celebrated every week. Some churches where I fellowshipped, never celebrated it at all! Others celebrated it occasionally when they felt like it, and then it was flippant, and still others did it intentionally once a month, in earnest. Most of the Anglican Church understand the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ, that is, the bread and the wine are the modes for his presence. With a belief like that, who would not want to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every time they met for worship?! At the spectacular realization that the real presence of Jesus is among us at the Eucharistic celebration, the more I wanted to participate in it. I became a sacristan (one who prepares the Lord’s Supper, among other things) at the first opportunity.
2. The Power and Beauty of Liturgy
The liturgy in any of the great traditions is powerful and beautiful. It shifts the focus away from ourselves and places it where it ought to be, on the Triune God, and by doing so our spiritual needs are met. All five of our senses are engaged in liturgical worship, this is truer of the liturgies in the “high churches” (I fellowship at a “low church”). And while it teaches us theology, God both speaks and listens to us in the liturgy, it is an interaction with the divine, as Nicholas Wolterstorff would say. Liturgy truly transforms us! I also love the liturgical calendar which orientates my life and worship to align with Jesus’s life, providing extended times for reflection on every major part of his life. Our earth has summer, autumn, winter, and spring, but the church orientates its seasons to Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and in between, we have “ordinary time”. These celebratory seasons are marked out as a reminder by bright colors on the altar and vestments. Daily liturgy is also an important part of the Anglican’s life, and we have the Book of Common Prayer for that. It is a book of beauty and grandeur. When I pray the morning and evening prayers, before and after work, I am praying with countless other people around the world. It is one of the treasures of the Anglican Church. The Book of Common prayer overflows with scripture. I have rarely read as much Scripture since I began reading and praying through it—a testament to Anglicanism’s view of Scriptural supremacy.
You will be forgiven for thinking that the Anglican Church was founded by King Henry VIII of England so that he may divorce his wife. Sadly, it is an important part of our history. But, soon after his death, his daughter, Queen Mary I fully restored the church to Rome in 1555. Three years later, her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I, ascended the throne and again explicitly rejected the pope’s authority in 1558. She is often considered the architect of Anglicanism and promoted the idea of “both Catholic and Reformed”. However, the Anglican Church precedes both her and her father. It was the ancient church of the British Isles, the church of the Celts, arguably even before Rome intervened in A.D. 596. The historical roots of the Anglican Church are more complex than this for sure, but this offers you an idea of our heritage and connection to the ancient British church. Even as a Christian teenager and young adult with no understanding of historical Christian development, I hungered for this rich and ancient British connection to the Christian faith. The only way I knew to make that connection back then, was to listen to Celtic hymns, in addition to 90’s Punk—I might add.
4. Via Media
Via media is the middle way; an attempt to unite everyone. It is not without debate and controversy, but it seeks to find a middle ground between Protestant Christianity and Catholicism (and perhaps Eastern Orthodoxy), and Lutheranism and Reformed Christianity. It also provides a blend of ancient and new spiritual traditions. I have come to love many expressions found in historical Christianity without becoming Roman Catholic.
5. Holy Orders
In an age where anyone can plant a church and set themselves up as an autonomous pastor, one misses the biblical appointing of presbyters, sometimes called priests. As for deacons, in the various churches I have been a part of, all it meant was that you set up before church and clean up afterward, or at best, you lead a home group. The Holy Orders in the Anglican church are considerably richer and find their lineage to the ancient church founded upon Holy Scripture. Anglican bishops sit in apostolic succession—the transmission of spiritual authority, commitment, beliefs, and mission from the Apostles through successive bishops. Coming under their authority, for me, means committing and uniting myself to ancient apostolic Christianity. Only a bishop can appoint a priest and he is accountable to him, which takes care of the “autonomous pastor”. Priests are also considered part of the laity, and yet they function as ministers of Word and sacrament and hold the very important role of preaching and teaching Scripture. And deacons, while dedicated to serving others, also serve liturgically alongside priests.
Although I feel more devoted to Christ and his Church as an Anglican than I ever have, and my relationship with him has flourished, I am under no illusion that people reading this blog will be convinced to become Anglican. However, I pray it offers you something to think about, if not, I hope you found it interesting. Truth be told, there are many faithful Christians who are truly devoted to Jesus Christ in every church tradition, and because of that, we are brothers and sisters united in him.
Short Bio: Dr. Robert Falconer ([email protected]) is the Masters and Doctoral Research Coordinator overseeing all aspects of student research at the MTh and PhD level.
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