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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