Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why Anglican/Episcopal?

Yesterday I wrote some initial thoughts on why I have decided to start the (unofficial) discernment process of ordination.

As to "Why Anglican/Episcopal?" I have a variety of answers, again, none of them full in themselves.

I will give three reasons for now. First of all, some of the people I have been nourished by the most in my studies have been Anglican. In particular having John Goldingay as a professor and reading the works of NT Wright have always left me changed for the better. Since I was in the position of having to "church shop" as I didn't have a denomination to call home any longer (that is a huge disadvantage to my church-muttiness, despite any ecumenical perspective it has given me), I figured I would start with the places that have nourished me, so that made the Episcopal Church a prime candidate.

Secondly, having come from a Vineyard background as my most recent church experience, I felt that the worship services of the Vineyard were thoughtful, but not as complete as I might have hoped. I do want to stress that I am wading into a mixture of theological reflection and personal preference. I have many friends in the Vineyard Churches and I do know that there is a rhyme to the reason of how they function; I just don't think they scan as well as the iambic pentameter I have found in the Anglican liturgy. No church is without liturgy, but not all liturgies are the same. I am drawn in by the very comprehensive order of worshipI have found in the ECUSA. I will also admit that musically speaking, I prefer hymns to most modern worship. Not only do I find a great depth of purpose in the ebb and flow of the liturgy there, I also find great comfort and perspective in realizing that it is a service that spreads out not only to the past as a lasting tradition, but also in the present, as most churches are following the same texts and ceremonies across the world.

Finally, it was the via media, or middle way, that I am still coming to appreciate which tipped the scales in favor of the Anglican Communion. The Church of England was unique in that it grew mostly out of political conflict rather than pure ecclesiastical reformation like the Lutheran Church. As a result the Catholic and Protestant natures became more intertwined than in other churches. It is my understanding that via media is one of the things which allows the Anglican Communion to exist as a place where a multitude of theological stances can be held, but where all may still be in communion with one another. Because I disagree with someone else on the issue of the ordination of women for example, does not mean that we should break off our association with one another. Still, there are dangers to this kind of inclusiveness. This is most evidenced in the last few years as the issue of Homosexuality has caused some very deep divisions in the Anglican Communion and threatened the unity of the worldwide communion. And yet, via media gives me hope. Finding middle ground means that we have to make room for “the other” as Miroslav Volf might say. Compromise is a dirty word in America, and in the Church this is no less true. This is sad because I believe we are called to constantly yield to others in our lives as led by the Spirit.

Those are just a few of the things which have brought me to appreciate the Episcopal Church and the larger body of the Anglican Communion. After a few years of avoiding church, and floundering around in a church shopping expedition, Christ has finally brought me to a place where I can settle in and begin to do Life Together with a community.