Moment #3: Losing the Bigger Picture

In the last two posts I wrote a lot about Anglicanism, Anglicans, and Anglican achievements. Anglican stuff is kind of a big deal to me.                                                      There is a richness in the tradition, there is a refreshing revival happening, and there is a whole world full of events that daily impact the global Anglican Church.

But honestly, it is easy to get wrapped up in it and have an elitist spirit.

Remember when the disciples argued about who was greatest until Jesus rebuked them?  John then proved he didn’t take in a word of what Jesus said by his very next words:

“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”

Jesus showed remarkable patience with John

Jesus showed remarkable patience

Here’s the thing: the Church of Jesus Christ is way bigger than one denomination.           Our Bishop regularly reminds us that Jesus Christ said He will build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It’s a Church that Jesus is building – and it’s a wonderful, glorious, beautiful Church made up of Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Non-denoms, Copts, Congregationalists, Mennonites, Russian/Greek/Syrian/etc. Orthodox, Pentecostals, Lutherans, and believers from the  roughly 32,993 other protestant denominations.

"Guys, next time let's invite the Protestants...relax Bene, it's a joke" "Very funny, Bart,  you know we haven't room for them all.  Let's change the subject. We're making Rowan insecure."

“Guys, next time let’s invite the Protestants . . . relax Benedict, it’s a joke”
“Very funny, Bartholomew; you know we haven’t room for them all.
Anyway, we should change the subject; Rowan’s getting insecure.”

C.S. Lewis, a faithful Anglican, compared the Church to a house, in which doors lead off from a hallway into denominational rooms. He challenges us to choose the denomination that seems to contain the most truth, the most holiness, and the one our consciences draw us to, not merely the one that our tastes, preferences, and pride would choose. But he also tells us “be kind to those who have chosen different doors.”

I have chosen a door. It leads to a room that’s familiar and strange, ancient and new, with many righteous leaders in its ranks and many unrighteous decisions in its history, and with much awkwardness to be found inside.

Let's pretend we don't know who this is.

Can we pretend we’ve never heard of Henry VIII?

But it’s not the only door. Others will find good things in other rooms because Jesus is Lord of the other rooms, and Holy Spirit can dwell in members of the whole household. I don’t want every Christian to be an Anglican – I want every Christian to seek truth and community – to be a stone in the building, to be every joint that supplies, to be the hand or foot, ear or eye they were made to be.

We need each other.

The dear Baptist ladies that teach Sunday school and preach the love of God through felt and crayons.

The Catholic radio hosts that encourage us to boldly choose love and life without compromise.

The shy charismatics that swallow fear to step out and pray for your healing because they think you are more important than their personal comfort.

The faithful mommas and papas that have struggled against all that the world, the flesh, and the devil threw at them, but remained faithful for decades.

The preachers that ask, “what are your thoughts on that?” and don’t use it as an excuse just to preach some more.

Memorialists that lead us back in time to remind us of the price He paid to have us and The Sacramentalists that tell us Christ still gives himself to us if we will have him because we are still worth it to him (even after last week’s failures).

A house with that many rooms is bound to be awkward at times, but that’s what love for. Before Jesus died he prayed for our unity, that the world would know that he was sent by the Father. That is the big picture; let’s not settle for anything less.

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Moment #2: “What’s the name? Ant-lickin?…Angel-what?”

Despite being the third-largest Christian denomination in the world with an estimated 80 million members (that’s more than the populations of Portugal, Sweden, Ecuador, Switzerland, Serbia, Estonia, Belize, and Canada combined), many Americans have never heard of the Anglican Church.

Not to be confused with the Republican Church...

Not to be confused with the Republican Church…

...or the Pelican church                                 (you thought passing the peace was awkward in your church)

…or the Pelican Church
(they always greet new guests with a holy kiss)

In part this is because American Anglicans have usually gone by another name: Episcopalians, which when said slowly, sounds like a group of extra-terrestrials specialized in performing ghastly medical procedures.                                                                                      It really just means that the leaders of the church are bishops (episkopoi in greek) that can trace their succession back to the twelve apostles.

"take me to your leader"

“take me to your leader”

The reason for the name change involves a little thing called the American Revolution. This prompted a mess of awkwardness, as the British monarch’s title happens to be “Supreme Governor of the Church of England”. Bad feelings between the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion resolved themselves eventually.

…that is until a more recent awkward story involving not a little heresy, a half-dozen African nations, and the revival of the label “Anglican” to connote orthodoxy.

Anyhow, one shouldn’t know about Anglicans just because there is a lot of us –     Anglicans have made amazing contributions to the Church throughout history.

Can you quote the original King James Bible? … compiled by Anglicans.                             Did you or a friend take the Alpha Course? …  produced by Anglican priests.                  Have you vowed, “till death do us part”? …  from the original Anglican marriage rite.    Want America to return to the faith of the Founding Fathers? …most were Anglicans.    Fan of the Chronicles of Narnia? … C.S. Lewis was – you guessed it – an Anglican.

In spite of all this, conversations tend to follow the same basic pattern:

“What kind of Church do you go to?”

           “Well, it’s an Anglican Church.”

“What is it?

           Slower: “Anglican”


          “Yeah, Anglican.”

…blank stare… “Do you eat the blood of pigs?”

Just kidding, that last part only happened once.

And when our Church ordered a projector from a Christian office supply company, the customer service person never could pronounce it right.


It is silly, and makes for a good awkward Anglican moment,                                                   but honestly prior to meeting Anglicans I was just as clueless.

My point in bringing this up is not to piss and moan about being unrecognized. Rather, the true awkwardness lies in the Body of Christ being uninterested in, or just unaware of brothers and sisters that don’t denominationally look, sound, or smell like them.

"Ab illo benedicaris in cuius honore cremaberis"

“Ab illo benedicaris in cuius honore cremaberis”

We may not have to agree on worship styles or how to conduct a Sunday morning celebration, but we do assemble weekly to glorify the same God.

          “ For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body…and we were all      given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:13

If we’re part of the Body of Christ, we should know who else is part of it too.

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Moment #1: Describing Anglicanism as Exotic

When I first heard a priest describe Anglicanism I wanted nothing to do with it. It wasn’t that it was particularly offensive; it was just so different from anything I had experienced.  I didn’t have a grid for this kind of church. It seemed, as I told him, exotic.

Now this is exotic.

Like this exotic arboreal octopus

Anglicanism is difficult to fully describe because we usually divide the Universal Church into nice neat categories. You can be Catholic or Protestant (or Eastern Orthodox, but who remembers them?), your theology may be Calvinist or Arminian, Sunday morning worship should be traditional or contemporary, you handle snakes or you run from them.

Because of this, when we hear that a congregation raises their hands during worship, gives testimonies of healing, and prophesies over each other we think we have them figured out. Ah charismatics, we say – if you’ve seen one flag-waving, twitching, whoa!-er on the floor with a modesty blanket you’ve seen them all.

This only happens on high feast days when the incense is particularly strong.

They’re actually cessationists; this happens because they inhale too much incense on feast days and get really excited about the Sursum Corda.

However, when we hear that they call the pastor ‘priest’, read prayers from a book, and cross themselves half a dozen times during the service our neat category is ruined.         Just when we label them crazy heretics we hear they practice evangelism, support missions work, and preach solid expository sermons.

All stereotypes are out the window at this point.

Liturgical. Evangelical. Charismatic.                                                                                         These three “streams” of religious expression all flow together in the Anglican Church.

Weird huh? Maybe even exotic?                                                                                                        At least that’s what I thought.

The Anglican Church has its roots in England (very awkwardly, I might add…more on that in future posts), which makes this whole situation ironic, because when you think of exotic a bunch of stodgy-looking old Brits isn’t what usually comes to mind.

Thomas Cranmer (1485-1556) Known for authoring the Book of Common Prayer and for Holy Laughter

Thomas Cranmer (1485-1556)
 Contributions to Anglicanism: The Book of Common Prayer and Holy Laughter

These fellows and their colonial counterparts operated in the three streams and led some of the greatest revivals this continent has seen. (Think George Whitfield and the Wesleys.)

I’ll admit three-streams Anglicans are (for the moment) fairly rare in this part of the world, and I suppose that makes them exotic. Globally, however, Anglicanism is exploding and quickly becoming commonplace.

‘The average Anglican is a black woman under the age of 30, who earns two dollars a day, has a family of at least three children, has lost two close relatives to AIDs, and who will walk four miles to Church for a three hour service on a Sunday”

She most likely crosses herself, prays in tongues, and can quote more scripture than the average American Christian.

In fact, there are many more charismatic, liturgical, evangelical Anglicans in Nigeria than there are Christians that belong to any denomination in New England.

It kind of makes you wonder: just who really is exotic?

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