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The Happy Burden: being Anglican in the new world

I have this habit. It is an impulse, really. And that is that I always want to invite my friends to church with me. It is not that I think I am at the best church, but sometimes I meet wanderers who need a body of believers to come around them and simply love their souls, right where they are at.

It only takes a few seconds after I tell people which communion of believers I attend that they ask, what is that? Well, it is simple really. You see, my wife and I have recently become bad Anglicans. In other words, we aren’t very good ones yet, given we haven’t really memorized the creeds nor absorbed the catechism. Truly, Anglican is a daunting word for most people, but I always find myself having to explain it in detail, and yes there are some benefits to confusing people at church. I’ll spare you the typical answer we give to those who ask, What do Anglicans believe? And we say, simple, we believe the truth.

One primary benefit is that “they” never assume they know what Anglicans are about. This is unlike my experience with being in standard evangelical/charismatic churches where the heathen doth assume (small joke).

Often the response is enough to generate a meaningful conversation, which is hard to get if you already attend a church that has “bring in the lost” plainly stated on the website. This is misleading, if I am to be honest. The church is to be who she is first and foremost: a bride adorning herself for the coming of her groom, not wearing as little as one might object to in order to bring in other suitors. But when I am asked about what it means to be “Anglican,” I am struck by three words: Ancient, Open, and Christocentric.

Ancient.

Unlike many of our fledging non-denominational expressions, whom I love dearly, Anglicans tend to carry the happy burden of being connected deeply to church history. Every liturgy, service, and bible study is almost always peppered with thoughts from the church fathers, along with rich expository preaching and the unified confession of the Lord’s Prayer and perhaps even the creeds. My wife and I had never been surrounded by such a community, and had barely memorized the Lord’s prayer before attending, but after 6 months we can confidently say that our faith is ever strengthened by these confessions. We were in a season where we were unsure what was good for us to pick-up and what we were to set-down. These times of ancient mystic connectivity have helped us to hold onto the good and let go of the trivial.

Open.

The Anglican Way is a wide hallway, full of colorful characters of a wide variety of shapes and sizes. We have historically martyrs, novelists, famous professors, and comedians in our communion, and that can primarily be because at the center of the Anglican practice is the adoration of Jesus as celebrated in the Eucharist, or the table of the Lord. We have Bishops, canon, lay-leaders, and everything in-between who believe differently about all kinds of things, with our unity being in the Spirit (as the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians) there is a unity in our diversity that is pivotal if we are to be the church Jesus started. It is common for us to go from having a conversation about Ephesians to the Coen Brothers’ films. Anglicans consume good aesthetics in their worship and understand that there is no such thing as a religious preoccupation. Everywhere and in every place it is liturgy, and the gospel of Jesus is a liturgy that actually sets us free.

There is not this contempt of learning in the community. Nor is there a trivializing of theological work that is necessary for the church to carry on with her mission in the world. Learning is celebrated and encouraged, especially for those who have the vision such ventures.

Christocentric.

Now I know this claimed by every church, and certainly this is true theoretically, but Anglicans try to make sure that at the center of everything is Jesus. Not the atonement. Not the Birth narrative. Not the power. Not the salvation story. Simple. It is truly all about Jesus. And this necessarily includes the story of Israel, for Jesus is Israel’s King come to open the way for healing to come to the nations. The true Israelite, Jesus makes the inner swords turn into plowshares, as the work of the Kingdom of God takes precedence over every thing we do. We reject a purely practical life, for the disciples had moments where they missed what Jesus was doing entirely because of their desire to simply get things done. We straddle the tension between heaven and earth, in order for the true rulership of our Shepherd Jesus to invade the consciousness of men and heal our world, here and now.

I have purposefully left details out wherever I felt it better for the comments section. With that said, feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to give some sort of response.

On earth as it is in heaven.

Jon

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