Tuesday, August 17, 2021

What is Anglicanism? Mission article 10 of 12

During the Second World War allied pilots that were downed in the Melanesian Islands of the Pacific were initially fearful of the native people.  The natives were lightly clothed, carried primitive tools, and with uncut hair matched the stereotypes learned in grade school about savages.  The Allies were surprised to find the Melanesians were a very gentle people, who took them in, bandaged their wounds, and hid them from the Japanese.  These Melanesians were Christian and were the legacy of Anglican Missionaries in the previous century. 

In 1841 at the age of 14, John Coleridge Patteson was inspired by the Bishop to New Zealand, George Augustus Selwyn.  Patteson set a course toward ministry and missions to the other side of the world.  He committed his life to ordained ministry and in 1853 made his way to the missionary regions of New Zealand under the episcopacy of Selwyn. 

Building schools, he focused on the education of the young.  That primitive setting was plagued with various diseases. So, at times a school cafeteria became a hospital from which he would later bury adults and children alike.  He cared for them all.  Expanding his ministry with a boat dubbed the Southern Cross his journey brought him to the Loyalty Islands where he quickly befriended native peoples communicating in 30 different languages, fluent in 5 or 6.  He was known as a friend to all the people, and one who came from a Christian caring community.

Upon Selwyn’s call to the Bishopric of Lichfield, Patteson took his place as bishop of New Zealand.  Along with his episcopal duties he continued his island hopping campaigns through1871 when he landed on the island of Nukapu.  In an optimistic letter penned to Selwyn the night before landing he expressed his hope that the opportunity would finally open for this island to hear the gospel.  Bishop Patteson was killed the next day, not for preaching the gospel but rather as retribution for an unrelated labor kidnapping from the island of Fiji.  Almost a hundred years later the church he established was still thriving and ministering.

Patteson was one of many Anglican missionaries who brought the gospel to various new peoples: Patrick to the Irish, Boniface to the Germans, Willibrord to the Frisians to name a few. “The British are a traveling people.”

After the Reformation, Missions in the Anglican tradition took two main pathways, one to the British dispersion and two, through Missionary Societies.   Missionaries to the British dispersion function still today in traditional ways as parish priests working to grow English speaking congregation in Europe, the Americas, and the other habitable continents.  On the other hand, missionary societies were established to target various regions and populations of non-Anglo groups in Africa, South America, Asia, and Oceana.  These Anglican groups distinguished themselves as high and low churchmanship, Protestant and Anglo-Catholic.

In 1837 The Episcopal Church in the United States dispelled with the complexities of multiple missionary societies naming itself The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.  It’s first missionaries were sent to Persia where a small Anglican community existed up to 1979 when the Islamic Revolution outlawed Christianity.  Their witness has added to the count of martyrs in recent decades.  The visible church along with its bishop is currently in exile. 

Missionary work in the Anglican tradition is about bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people in need.  Missionary work uses temporal needs as a medium for the message of salvation through Jesus.


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

What is Anglicanism: Spirituality article 9 of 12


Spirituality:  “I’m spiritual but not religious.” I encounter that phrase in a lot of pop cultural settings.  To be honest what I take from that phrase is: I like the concept of God, but I don’t want to be bothered with doing anything about it.  It’s helpful to actually have working definitions of these words. 

Religion is best understood to be the actions that you habitually do as a person.  We are all religious as human beings.  Perhaps you religiously shop at HEB or always buy your gas at the same gas station.  When it comes to faith you religiously attend Sunday service, you kneel, make the sign of the cross, receive communion.  Out of devotion during the week you talk to God, you read scripture, you volunteer at the food pantry, the choir, or the altar guild.  These are a part of a variety of religious actions, and they reflect how we offer God our devotion, and we benefit from these actions in the spiritual sense.

The spiritual is the benefit of these actions.  When you pick up your groceries at HEB you are satisfied with the completion of shopping and having a full pantry again.  When you set the altar in preparation for the following day’s worship you are satisfied/blessed with knowledge that you have done service for God.

The Christian who says, “I’m spiritual but not religious” does not quite understand the meanings of the words.  One cannot receive the benefit of spiritual blessing without some action that has brought about the benefit whether it is our action or God’s action in us.  Even meditation in some of its forms is a religious practice in which you sit and “do nothing” yet receive a spiritual blessing because you’ve taken time to be with God.  This is where spiritual growth takes place, encountering God in these intentional religious moments or actions.

The Anglican tradition understands the spiritual life is one in which we experience God’s presence in our lives and in the world.  Urban Holmes summarizes Anglican Spirituality as sharing four common attributes. 

First, Anglican Spirituality is earthy.  God reveals himself in the material world, through gardens, sky colors, flickering candles, flowing water.  Simple elements of our daily life exhibit the Divine Hand at work.  Secondly, in liturgical prayer God shows his presence through the human senses of Sight (colors of glass, icons, architecture), Sound (recitation of prayer and song), Smell (incense), Taste (bread and wine), Touch (kneeling, bowing, sign of the cross).  Anglican spirituality is intended to engage the Body and the Mind.

The third attribute of Anglican Spirituality is reliance on biblical imagery.  Holmes describes the Bible as our poetry.  It is more than a guidebook of rules on living our lives wholesomely.  It is a collection of texts that transcends cultures, time, and geography in which God reveals himself.  The final attribute of Anglican Spirituality is that it is collaborative.  We may pray or meditate individually and receive blessing.  But Anglicanism calls us to corporate (bodily) religious actions in order to fulfill the church’s role on earth.  We come together with our different experiences of God and work for the fulfillment of the Kingdom that Jesus established while he walked the Earth.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

What is Anglicanism: Pastoral Care article 8 of 12

Pastoral Care:  Talking about pastoral care in the Anglican tradition moves us away from doctrinal teaching to a moving target.  I continue to use Urban T. Holmes’ comments and structure for these articles but here we diverge into concepts more felt than understood.  Modern applications for pastoral care tend to be shaped more toward individual clergy and congregational personalities.  Pastoral care could mean the preaching of modern social issues to the congregation to form or breakdown opinions about the culture.  Pastoral care can be the visitation of homes and hospitals for the sake of connecting or supporting parishioners. It can simply be the availability of a minister to the people of the congregation.

In his book on Anglicanism, Holmes tells the story of Margaret Dudley Binns (1884-1968).   The young woman’s husband was a priest who died on his way to his first cure (care of a parish) in Appalachia.  Rather than return home to New York, Margaret began serving the people that she and her husband were called to minister.  She later completed studies for the order of deaconess (sic) and spent her life and ministry establishing a school, Sunday schools, and giving health talks in the impoverished lumber and coal regions around Nora, Virginia.  At the core of her work was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  She not only understood what she was doing, but why she was doing it.  Knowledge, health, and love were the vehicles on “Dismal Mountain” that would open the hearts and minds of folks to hear the saving message of Christ.  Holmes views the ministry of Deaconess Binns as a foundation for conceptualizing the Church’s pastoral care.  Simply, we learn and understand the temporal needs of the community around us, and we work to satisfy those needs for an opportunity to authentically share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.  That Good News provides a timeless promise of God’s peace that begins in this life and carries us through death into heaven.  The ministry we commit is out of a love that desires to pass on the love that has been given to us from God.

According to Holmes, Anglicanism doesn’t divide the world into sacred and profane.  Anglicanism views the world as a single entity with multiple facets that need the love of God.  Every aspect of creation requires the love of God.  He suggests that “politics, economics, industry, business, recreation, as well as our private lives are the arena for pastoral concerns for the church.”  Here I diverge a little from his emphasis in that I would place our private lives at the forefront of the need for reform.  I recall reading Abp. William Temple’s teachings on social justice.  His comments were in effect, if you wish to create a world in which people are treated and fed equally you must convert men (sic) to the Christian faith.  His point being that despite political efforts, if all members of society were to behave as Jesus, we would in effect have ushered in the Kingdom of Heaven.  None-the-less we find in Anglicanism diverse pathways (education, food, water, etc.) to convey the gospel to the world while filling temporal needs. 

I offer a cautionary note at this conclusion.  Diversity is an extremely popular word for a lot of good reasons.   But in the context of diversity of approaches to sharing our gospel message it’s important to understand that smaller institutions (congregations) will wear themselves thin trying to do too many things at once.  Staying focused in a specific area of ministry will make a congregation most effective and bring forth growth.  Diversity comes in allowing space for other congregations or individuals to step into their role to fulfill God’s call for them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

What is Anglicanism: The Episcopacy article 7 of 12


What is the episcopacy? The English word episcopal is taken from the Greek επίσκοπος (epis-kopos) which literally means, overseer. In English the word evolved from bisceop to bishop. 

In the ancient church the overseer was the head of a local congregation much like we think of as a rector today.  The office is attested to in Scripture in Ss. Peter and Paul’s letters and the Book of Acts.  Tradition holds that the office of bishop was an unbroken chain of authority passed down from the apostles by the laying on hands and the confirmation of having seen the risen Christ.  Therefor the office of bishop was also an apostolic ministry (to be “sent”) responsible for proclaiming the gospel.

During the first 300 years of the Christian movement the church grew rapidly.  At times, a congregation needed to subdivide for worship and fellowship due to persecutions, geographical distances, as well as the lack of large meeting spaces.  As a sign of the unity between these congregations the episkopos remained the head of these regional gatherings.  Presbyters (elders) and deacons (servants) were given charge in the overseer’s absence.

When the church became the established religion of the Roman empire congregations grew to the point that the office of bishop was distinct from direct congregational leadership.  Although, he remained the pastoral, administrative, and unifying symbol of the various congregations.

Over the centuries we have inherited a great wealth of writings, sermons, and teachings from the collective works of these pastors and theologians.  Unfortunately, we have also seen how the unscrupulous have risen to abuse the authority and resources for which this office is responsible.

The question of the role of bishop was a large part of restructuring Protestant churches during the Reformation.  Congregational churches opted to dispel the office entirely opting for local and democratic control.  Others who believe in a more universal connectivity of the church maintained the office of bishop as that symbol of unity.

The modern Episcopal Church in the United States made its declaration at its founding by naming itself Episcopal after the American Revolution separated the Church of England from its former colonies. 

The role of a bishop today carries similar expectations of chief pastor for his or her diocese. While the bishop delegates to local clergy the celebration of sacraments those functions actually belong to the bishop’s ministry by proxy.  The office continues to be a sign of connectedness to other Episcopalians and Anglicans throughout the diocese and internationally.

Friday, April 16, 2021

What is Anglicanism: The Liturgy article 6 of 12

During the upheaval of the Reformation, Anglicanism was shaped heavily under the reign of Elizabeth I.  Known as the Elizabethan Settlement, the queen’s parliament passed acts controlling the role of government in church matters and the uniformity of worship for the church.  The former subsequently failed under various successive monarchs while the latter still exists in theory today with the use of the Book of Common Prayer.  What the queen was striving for at the time was outward visible unity of worship without delving into conformity of belief.  This was in a context in which the church and state in England was greatly divided between Roman Catholic and Reform Protestant thought.  It’s important to understand that at that point in history, the idea that there could be more than one church was inconceivable.  This resulted in strenuous efforts to hold competing ideologies together under one roof.

The Book of Common Prayer establishes that unity-of-worship within the church so that wherever one goes to worship, he or she can participate in the liturgy.  Liturgy is taken from a Greek compound word (ergos+laos) which means “The Work of the People.” 

Before I write about what liturgy is, it’s important to understand what it ought not to be.  Liturgy can easily become rote.  We can fall into the rut of going through the motions without it having any meaning.  We can worship the liturgy itself instead of the God that it is directed toward.  We see this happen when change is made to the liturgy and people become up-in-arms.  It must be made clear that the liturgy is there to provide us with a way to worship God corporately (together), as opposed to individually.  It is the means to God and not the end itself.

When liturgy works well it impacts the spiritual growth of a person and it connects people to God.  The shape of the service did not just happen by accident.  Consider the Sunday liturgy: The entry into worship with processions (coming into God’s presence), the reading of Scripture (God speaking to us) our responses in prayers and declarations of faith and trust in God, God’s absolution and affirmation of his love for us all, finally culminating in the re-presentation of God’s sacrifice reminding us of God’s love on the Cross and our participation.  At the end we are sent out to spread that Love into the world. 

All of these actions are microcosms of the Incarnation, bringing to Life the story of our faith in the current moment.  So that when we say, “Therefore with Angel and Archangels and all the company of heaven we sing this hymn…” we are actually mindful that we are standing at the foot of God’s throne and joining the whole Communion of Saints in realms above and here on earth to sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy…”  When we engage our heart, mind, body, and spirit we are in the presence of God.

The liturgy expresses the place where God’s people are and attempts to move them closer to God.  It is the reason why regular attendance in corporate worship is critical to the development and growth of the Christian person. It is also the reason why it is necessary at times for liturgy to change or adapt.  People change, the liturgy must adapt to theirs changes while at the same time stay connected to God, who does not change.

Finally, liturgy is the foundation for our way of life together.  Liturgy is shaped by our beliefs and at the same time it shapes our beliefs.  It is what we do together to worship God.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

What is Anglicanism: Church and Sacraments article 5 of 12

For a thousand years (from the 4th century to the 1500s) the Church was closely tied to European political powers. On the continent, 16th Century Protestants attempted to reform the church which they deemed corrupted by worldliness and papal abuses. Ultimately these reforms lead to doctrinal differences and were followed by splits in the Western church. At that time in England, King Henry VIII, a proponent of hierarchy, defended the papacy. That is, until he infamously declared himself Head of the Church in England. Contrary to what is widely taught as a divorce, Henry had requested an annulment on theological grounds; this request was rejected by the pope due to international political pressures. Theologically, Henry was very much a catholic and his only intention was to remove England from under the authority of the Pope in Rome.

Subsequent heirs of Henry were influenced by Reform and Roman Catholic theologians resulting in a tug-of-war between ideologies for power. Decades of back-and-forth, was often violent resulting in years of civil war involving the church, the crown, and the right of the people to rule the nation. When the smoke finally cleared a constitutional monarchy was established and greater lenience was given in religious life.  

Decidedly, the church would be more Reform in its doctrine and practices and retain the catholic structures of priests and bishops. Reform influence significantly deconstructed the liturgy and sacramental life of the church in England. Worship emphasized preaching, prayers, and reading of Scripture but neglected much of the ritual of the church regarding it as "popery."

By the 19th century many perceived a considerable apathy in the life of the church. In response the Oxford Movement arose writing tracts defending many traditions of the church that had been rejected at the Reformation. These “Tractarians” began to emphasize the sacraments and liturgy as the way that God conveys grace to his people. As this was a recovery of catholic theology and practices, it was met with resistance within the Church as well as the state. The Tractarians worked to restore Liturgical Beauty in the worship of God, hoping to reflect God’s Kingdom here on earth. Their theology embraced the belief that the Church itself is a sacrament of God.

In the same way that Christ is Present in the Bread and Wine of Holy Eucharist so he is also Present in his Church, the Body. This has tremendous significance for each Anglican person because together we are the Body. So it follows, that when others see the Church they should see Christ. This is the nature of a sacrament; it is the presence or grace of God in common things. The Church, the people of God, is the continuing Incarnation of Christ on earth until his return.

The Church, being the first sacrament conveys God’s grace to the world. Of the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist are cardinal, both given to the Church in Scripture by Christ Jesus himself. Baptism is the entrance into the Body of Christ, and in it we identify with Christ in his death and his resurrection. Through the waters of baptism our old lives have died and our new life is in Christ Jesus. In the Eucharist we are re-presented with the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. We are joined with him and given freedom from our fallen state.

Anglicans accept that there are other sacraments known to the church, confirmation, reconciliation (confession), Holy Matrimony, unction, and ordination. These rites are found in Scripture as well and are outlined in the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer

Anglicans also accept that God works his grace in other ways that reflects sacramental theology. As the church is the first sacrament then those blessings such as the life of a child or the joy in creation also have been known to be called sacramental.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

What is Anglicanism: The Incarnation article 4 of 12

In the 20th century, a famous Lutheran theologian quoted many-times-over stated, “the Anglican heresy is the Incarnation.”  Whether the statement was intended to be an insult or an objective declaration it points out that Anglicanism is trying very hard to bring Heaven to earth.  "Thy kingdom come...on earth as it is in heaven."  

When we consider “heresy” in the ancient church it usually involves elevating a certain teaching of the church at the expense of other teachings.  “…at the expense” is the key. Heresy was often an imbalance of teaching in the church.  The critique here is that Anglicans are prone to elevate the Incarnation over perhaps the Atonement that is Christ’s sacrificial work, redemption on the cross.  In contrast other denominations elevate the Atonement at the expense of the Incarnation.   For example, the imbalance looks like this:  Missionaries go to convert individuals to the Christian Faith but are not concerned with whether the people have running water, food, or medicine.  The criticism of Anglicanism is that we focus on temporal justice and needs at the expense of personal conversion to faith.

But what is the Incarnation? Most Christians turn specifically to Christmas and the Birth of Jesus.  In Anglicanism the Doctrine of Incarnation is a broad image of God’s purpose for Life.  Rather than that singular moment in history the Incarnation is about the process that brings diverse life to God’s creation. 

The Creation story itself is the initial act of Incarnation in which God speaks into the dark void and from that comes Life. (Genesis 1)  The Christmas event is the second most significant moment in which God speaks into the darkness and from it Life emerges and the Life is the Light of man. (John 1) Anglicanism support the Christian doctrine that God’s Created Order is good (as God states in Genesis), and according to Genesis there was a fall from that goodness. 

Believing that Creation was good and brought forth life, then acting in opposition to that reality is what we call sin.  Sin takes on individual as well as societal forms.  We can commit some act against God’s design as a person but also endorse actions that harm others.  Sin is rebellion against God and God’s purpose of Life.

The Incarnation recognizes sin as evil in the world.  In fact, the world itself has been corrupted by evil and yet God steps into the darkness and shines light with the intention of restoring the world.

For Anglicans speaking into darkness and acting as Light in the world reflects our work to bring about Life.  This is important because the modern world functions in an opposite way.   The modern world takes life and uses it for work.  This is backwards.  Our work should bring the sense of fulfillment, joy, satisfaction all the positive attributes of life.  The purpose of our life is not meant to uphold work and the systems of this world that exploit work.  Modern people today are enslaved by the unhappiness of life because their actions do not work toward life, rather theirs actions are geared toward going through motions of life and not receiving the benefits of it. God created us to enjoy him  and his creation, not to be enslaved by the expectations of this world.

Finally, as Anglican followers of Jesus our role is to turn that way of living around.  Jesus himself is the model for life.  The work he accomplished during his life on Earth from conception to the cross was for the purpose of life (the resurrection).  From Christmas to Easter the Logos (Word) of God embraced life in this world.  The Supreme Being walked amongst creatures as one of them, participating in the humblest ways from bodily functions and smells to hunger, anger, love, betrayal, joy.  Jesus (the Word of God) experienced every aspect of what it means to be a human and it culminated in unjust punishment and death. Anglicanism acknowledges and dare I say embraces the fullness of humanity to accept the Incarnation (the good of Creation) and the Cross (the pain of Creation) as the models for how humans live between joy and sorrow, happiness, and toil until that Day when God fully restore the Creation described in the Book of Revelation.

Our work then is to live a life that enjoys and reflects God's glory and beauty while still living in this broken world with all of its flaws. 

What is Anglicanism? Mission article 10 of 12

During the Second World War allied pilots that were downed in the Melanesian Islands of the Pacific were initially fearful of the native peo...