The Roomiest Church in Christianity or (Born to be Episcopalian?)

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[I] really wanted to find a spiritual home where there is room at the table for everyone.” -Dr. Brene Brown

I consider myself “Anglo-Catholidoxpalian,” a word I invented to reflect my ecumenical, multi-influenced “Tradition” within the larger Religious Tradition of Christianity itself.

However, the “Palian” in that comes from Episcopalian. The only Tradition I’ve ever claimed to be born into and was made to be a part of was the Anglican Tradition of which Episcopalians are a part. I’ve never made a claim of being born to be anything else in my life!

The gravity of such a claim about my own reality, my own existence, my own ontology, my own spirituality, my own faith has come back to me in recent months! It’s been the point of my pondering about the spiritual life and faith for quite some time. What does it mean? Why did I once say that about Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church and no other Tradition to which I’ve belonged or by which I’ve been influenced? Why am I now, in recent time, just being reminded of such a claim?

Reflecting on the seriousness of that claim I made about my love and infinity of Anglicanism, manifested as Episcopalian, years ago has been on my heart and mind a lot lately. I have a lot to ponder with the remembrance of this claim, this declaration, this pontification…

Wonder do I about this all! Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on me.

I want to re-share my blog I wrote about joining the Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion that I wrote on my old Blogspot on 9-29-2010. It’s a reminder to me of why I fell in love with the Anglican Communion. Enjoy:

Reflections on The Anglican Communion or (Why I Joined the Anglican Communion)

Blessed by God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.

Tonight, I was confirmed into the Holy Anglican Communion, known to some as the Church of England or the Episcopal Church here in the U.S. I reaffirmed my Baptismal Covenant before the witnesses of my Ascension family and God. I reaffirmed my renunciation of evil and renewed my commitment to Jesus Christ and with His grace I will follow Christ as my Savior and Lord.

The vow to me is a very serious thing. In a society where we tend to neglect the spoken word and not honor our vows I have come to take words very seriously. Here is the Baptismal Covenant:

The Baptismal Covenant

Bishop: Do you believe in God the Father?

People: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Bishop: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

People: I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Bishop: Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?

People: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Bishop: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

People: I will, with God’s help.

Bishop: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

People: I will, with God’s help.

Bishop: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

People: I will, with God’s help.

Bishop: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

People: I will, with God’s help.

Bishop: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

People: I will, with God’s help.

That’s a pretty serious statement of faith that I happen to believe and take seriously. I have made a vow before men and God that I want to honor with all my power and God’s help.

The first time I went to an Anglican Eucharist was on April 11th at St. John’s Cathedral here in Knoxville. They are a very high church, but all the rituals and practices at first weirded me out; I felt a tugging at my heart beginning to start. I was really drawn in my the liturgical, Eucharist-centered services. I want to list a few reasons why I felt lead to join the Anglican Communion and what drew me to the Communion:

1. The Eucharist as center of the service. I had always felt a void in the typical 3 songs and a sermon routine. Not that that is wrong if one feels plugged in, but I did not. I felt plugged into God via the Eucharistic-driven service of the Anglican Church. When Eucharist is the center then what a man preaches or what we sing doesn’t matter because it is no longer about us, but about responded to what God has done by the moving liturgy surrounding Holy Eucharist.

2. The liturgy/The Book of Common Prayer. One thing that just stirred my heart almost to the point of tears is hearing a cathedral full of believers praying in unison and out loud. The liturgy is what connects all of us Anglicans. Because when someone gets up and just prays we may or may not like what they are praying, but with liturgy it is all agreed upon. We’ll unified by it. Drawn in by it. It’s “beautifully mysterious and mysteriously beautiful” as one once said. Communal prayer is a very deeply spiritual thing, it’s very moving. The saying of the Lord’s Prayer out loud together gives me goosebumps every time (UPDATE on 12-29-17: I just told my wife this recently about the BCP: My wife recently asked about Traditions to pass down to our kids; during an Episcopal Xmas Eve Mass, I held up a Book of Common Prayer & told her that that is a Tradition we pass on. Outside the Bible, the BCP is the greatest book given to the English-speaking world! I adore it).

3. The reverence towards God. The Anglican Churches have a practice of standing to sing, sitting to be taught, and kneeling to pray. I like the holiness that is practiced through piety in the Anglican Church. Coming in and genuflecting towards the alter and honoring the presence of Christ there with us. The crossing of one’s self for me is symbolic of Christ coming down from Heaven to the belly of the earth to drive Satan away from my heart and to protect it. I also like to bow at the name of Christ to show respect and honor to His name.

4. Unity in Difference. In the Anglican Church the motto is “Unity in difference”. And that goes back to the liturgy. We can all disagree theologically or have our own opinions about things, but in the end we’re followers of Christ. This is both a blessing and a curse at times. The high call of unity in the Anglican Church, despite our flaws, is essential and really drew me in.

5. Their use of Sacred Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason.

6. Their theological doctrines and the Creeds of the Holy Church (The Catechism and The Articles of Religion).

7. The governing structure of the Episcopal Church. Episcopal comes from Episcopate, which means governed by a bishop basically. The hierarchy was a point of interest for me because I think the NT makes it clear on having a since of authority within the Church.

I could think of many more things which drew me to the Anglican Communion. We in no way pretend we have it right especially here in the Episcopal Church of the U.S. We have our problems. There’s fractions and splits and fights and disputes, but for the most part I see a great sense of unity within the Communion.

I want to share with you part of Christopher Webber’s view of Anglicanism:

Uniquely among the churches, the Anglican vision from the very beginning has been not centered so much on organizational unity or doctrinal unity as on a community united in worship. At first, Anglicans looked back to the early centuries of the church to find the essentials around which Christians could be united, but increasingly Anglicans have come to understand that the early church was not united and that the unity God wills for the church lies in the future. As the church moves through history, new challenges arise and old answers become inadequate. Jesus did not tell his disciples that he had left them with all the answers, but rather, ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth’ (John 16:13). So the discovery of truth is a continuing journey guided by the Holy Spirit, and the answers we find are always provisional answers. They may have been satisfactory in the past but that offers no guarantee that they will be equally satisfactory in the future. Jesus himself, is the truth, but statements about Jesus will not necessarily be able to capture the whole of that truth in terms that a changing society needs to hear. Likewise, the structures of the church that have been vastly different in different periods of the church’s history may need to be further changed to meet the needs of a new millennium. Bishops have been pastors in the Celtic church, administrators in the Roman church, democratic leaders in the American church, yet always symbols of unity across time and space. Episcopalians are confident that bishops will be at the center of any further steps toward unity, though their exact function in a reunited church must still be explore.
Above all, Anglicans have never claimed to be THE Church. On its title page, the Book of Common Prayer say that it contains forms for the ‘Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church…according to the use of The Episcopal Church.’ We do it this way, in other words, but we are only a part of the whole church and make no claim that this is the only way. In the words of Canon Edward West, ‘There are other ways of holiness, but this is the only way I understand.’ It is, Episcopalians believe, a good way. It is a way, as former Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey once said, that ‘converts sinners and creates saints.’ Until God shows us a better way, that is all we can ask.”

I hope this has given you a good, basic explanation of why I joined the Anglican Communion. I was confirmed on September 29, 2010, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the future. My plans are to graduate from JBC and enter into seminary at Sewanee University to obtain my Masters in Divinity then one day be ordained into the Holy Priesthood of the Anglican Communion. But that’s up to God to open those doors, I must simply trust.

This explanation by Father Joseph Fort Newton is by far the most profound and concise explanation of the Episcopal Church I have yet to hear:

Something deep in me responds to the sweet and tempered ways of the Episcopal Church. Its atmosphere of reverence, its ordered and stately worship, its tradition of historic continuity, linking today with ages agone; its symbols which enshrine the faith of the past and the hope of the future; its wise and wide tolerance; its old and lovely liturgy — like a stairway, worn by many feet, whereon men climb to God — and, still more, the organized mysticism of its sacraments — all these things of beauty and grace move me profoundly.
More vital still, if possible, is the central and strategic position which the Episcopal Church holds in the confused religious situation of our time. It is the roomiest church in Christendom, in that it accepts the basic facts of Christian faith as symbols of transparent truths, which each may interpret as his insight explores their depth and wonder. Midway between an arid liberalism and an acrid orthodoxy, it keeps its wise course, conserving the eternal values of faith while seeking to read the word of God revealed in the tumult of the time. If its spirit and attitude were better understood, it would be at once the haven and the home of many vexed minds torn between loyalty to the old faith and the new truth.
After all, there is one church of Christ. It may wear many names, but its faith is one, and finally, soon or late, it will be one fellowship, drawn together by creative desire or driven together by sheer necessity of facing the forces of destruction in our day, which, if they have their way, will end in materialism and futility. Each man should labor where he can do his best work in behalf of our common Christian enterprise; and I look forward to happy and fruitful service in a great and gracious fellowship.”

Thanks for listening and reading.”Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit. Thanks be to God.”

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Amen.

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