An Apology For Anglicanism

Oh, wait. Don’t tell me. You were expecting me to apologize for something I am embarrassed about as an Anglican? Something I need to make an excuse for? Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. This is not that kind of apology.

I’m using the term in its technical sense, the way a philosopher or theologian would use it. Think of it as more of a defense than an act of contrition. More of an argument in favor of something than a confession or request for forgiveness.

Not that Anglicanism, like organized Christianity in general, doesn’t have some things to apologize for. There are certainly some aspects of our beginnings as a formal church entity that are a bit unsavory, if not downright sordid. But that’s not what this post is about.

As I’ve noted many times, I am not a “cradle Anglican.” In fact, I was born into a Christian tradition (Fundamentalism) that is about as far removed from Anglicanism as you can get and still stay under the “Christian” tent. I came to the Anglican tradition gradually, without realizing I was heading in this direction until I was almost there. But now that I am here, I want to encourage as many people as possible to join me.

Hear me out. This is not the giddy enthusiasm of an inexperienced adolescent. I’ve “been there, done that” before, and I have the embarrassing recollections to prove it. This is the earnest entreaty of a seasoned (read “old”) veteran of four decades of vocational Christian ministry. I’ve seen it all… every type of scandal, conflict, failure, personal affront, and schism you can imagine. I’ve seen the “inner workings” of several denominations, institutions, and agencies. I know how the sausage is made. I “know where the bodies are buried.”

And yet I am still here. I have not surrendered to disillusionment. I have not given up on the church (despite some very public threats to do just that). That’s why I think my apology for Anglicanism is valid. I’ve been banged around a bit, but by God’s grace, so far I’ve managed to get back up every time I’ve been knocked down. Ask me for corroborating evidence, I’ll show you my scars. Ask me for proof of credibility, I’ll point you to those who can verify my claims from their own observation.

It took me almost sixty years, but I’m finally home. Or as near to home as I am likely to be this side of heaven. I was born into Fundamentalism, moved to more mainstream Evangelicalism, spent a quarter-century among Anabaptists (Mennonites) before I arrived at Canterbury. But please understand, my pilgrimage has been a cumulative experience, not sequential. That is, I retain some, even many, of the strengths and benefits which influenced and shaped me as a Christian during my years in each of these traditions. I did not come to Anglicanism as a blank slate. Rather, I came as the product of a wide-ranging journey during which I have been exposed to some of the best (as well as some of the not-so-good) that Christianity has to offer.

Still, I am now an Anglican. I am here because of what this tradition represents. I am here because of what I have discovered here. I am here because I was drawn here by the tradition. I did not come here to try to change things that are essential to the character of historical Anglicanism.

I love the liturgy. Where some of my evangelical friends see a stiff and stodgy formality, I see order and beauty which reflect the heart of Christian worship extending back to the early centuries of the church. Where some dismiss the structure of Anglican worship as simply “smells and bells,” I marvel at the careful, thoughtful ways the elements of the service blend together and touch all the senses.

I love the “big tent” which is Anglican theology. While Anglicanism is creedal at its heart (that is, it affirms the foundational assertions of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds) it is not narrow-minded or legalistic. At its best, Anglicanism embodies the heart of the maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”

One of the things I am most looking forward to as we anticipate the development of St. Patrick’s Anglican Church is the opportunity to introduce seekers, new believers, and those from other traditions to the beauty and balance, the blend of tradition and cultural sensitivity, which is Anglicanism at its best.

I came to Anglicanism with a high regard for scripture (from Fundamentalism), an appreciation for the gospel of the Kingdom (from Evangelicalism), and a commitment to radical discipleship (from Anabaptism). I found, in Anglicanism, a place for all those elements along with the beauty and mystery of worship in the liturgical tradition. Yep, I’m home.