Out of the Wardrobe
“It was almost quite dark in there and she kept her arms stretched out in front of her so as not to bump her face into the back of the wardrobe. She took a step further in—then two or three steps—always expecting to feel woodwork against the tips of her fingers. But she could not feel it… And then she saw that there was a light ahead of her; not a few inches away where the back of the wardrobe ought to have been, but a long way off. Something cold and soft was falling on her. A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling through the air.” --Excerpt from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
We are becoming Anglican.
Boom. I said it. And put it on the internet!
We = my husband, John, and I. Becoming Anglican = transitioning from our Baptist / non-denominational church practice to an Anglican church and practice.
After a lot of study, a lot of discussion, and a lot of new words like sacramentology, and intinction, we’re making what amounts to a life-changing shift in the way we do church, and follow Jesus.
Big thanks to my husband, John, for writing this summation of our current transition!
So, what’s Anglicanism? Are we becoming Catholic? Does this mean we now have an affinity for men in robes, and incense? All of these questions and more shall be answered below.
Firstly, however, there are a couple of things that need to be made clear:
We aren’t leaving our church because we’re upset at them, or unhappy in any way. On the contrary, as of late, we’ve found ourselves more content at our church than we’ve ever been. This parting of ways is truly bittersweet for us. We’re excited about what our future holds, but are sad that it means leaving this church behind. As the song says, though, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” It’s actually less like we’re leaving, and more like we’re being called away. We believe this is something that the Lord has led us into.
This isn’t an aesthetic choice. It’s not as if we’ve decided to start going to the church down the street because we like the music there better. This wasn’t a consumer-driven choice, but a conviction-driven calling. We have come to believe the things that are at the very core identity of the Anglican movement (we’ll get to that in a little while).
We’re not leaving to chase a job. We are discerning a call to ordained ministry within the Anglican Communion, but even if there was no job in the future, we would still be making this transition.
We don’t know anyone who doesn’t support us in this. This is one of the things that God has used as confirmation for us in all of this - of all the people we’ve discussed this with, none of them have expressed concern, caution, or opposition to this transition. Perhaps our pastor expressed it best when he said, “If you become an Anglican, and a priest, we may disagree on a couple of small things, but we’ll still agree on more than we disagree, and we’ll agree on all of the essentials.”
Lastly, we didn’t come to this decision lightly. Indeed, we’ve spent the better part of this last year working toward this transition. We still have a lot to learn, but this decision has many hours of prayer, discussion, and study behind it.
So, with all that said, I suppose it’s time to answer a few questions that usually arise when we talk about this:
What is the Anglican Church? Or what is Anglicanism?
The Anglican Church or the Church of England is a Biblical, creedal, Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical, catholic expression of the historic, undivided, patristic Church. That’s a lot of words.
The Anglican Reformation took place in over a period of time in the middle of the 16th century. At around the same time that Martin Luther was protesting the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, there were events afoot that would lead to a similar protest of Roman abuses in England.
The English Reformation was politically tumultuous, and at times bloody, with the mingling of politics and religion, fear, pride, and control. However, at its best, at its heart, the English Reformation was “an attempt to return the catholic church within the realm of England to the faith and order of the undivided church, under the authority of Scripture.” (Father Michael McKinnon)
Essentially, the leaders of the church in England protested what they saw as abuses within the Roman Catholic Church - abusive practices, and unbiblical dogma, and they sought to return the church within the realm of England (and subsequently those churches in communion with her) to the faith and order of the church as established within its first 500 years - to return to how things were done in the beginning.
So, are you catholic?
Yup. Just not Roman Catholic. “You keep using that word…”
But, do you believe in…
Nope. That’s Roman Catholicism
Nope. Still Rome.
That priests have to be celibate?
No sir. That’s a Roman addition.
Worshipping Mary and the Saints?
If you mean, in the same way we worship Jesus, and the other persons of the Trinity, no way. However, they are held in high honor, and celebrated as important parts of our history and actors in God’s story of redemption. And to be honest, we’re still working out what we believe about things like veneration of Saints, iconography, and various pietistic beliefs about Mary.
One of the cool things about the Anglican Way, though, is that none of those things are compulsory. They’re optional. Some people do. Some don’t. As our friend Father Joshua says, “All can; none must; some should.”
OK. So what DO you believe? What makes Anglicanism different than a regular Evangelical church?
Good question. In the 1886, there was a meeting of the House of Bishops of the American Episcopal Church (Anglicans in the US), who were meeting to discuss, among other things, ecumenical dialogue, and what might be necessary for Christian unification. They adopted 4 points that they declared to encapsulate the essentials of Anglican teaching, and that would be necessary to return to for any Christian communion wishing to be united with the historic church. These 4 points came to be called the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. From Wikipedia:
The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral...is a four-point articulation of Anglican identity, often cited as encapsulating the fundamentals of the Communion's doctrine and as a reference-point for ecumenical discussion with other Christian denominations. The four points are:
The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation;
The Creeds (specifically, the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith;
The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion;
The historic episcopate, locally adapted.
The Quadrilateral had its genesis in an 1870 essay by an American Episcopal priest, William Reed Huntington. Huntington's purpose in proposing these four elements was to establish "a basis on which approach may be by God's blessing, made toward Home Reunion," that is, with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
In other words, we believe in:
The Bible as our authority (and that it contains all things necessary to believe for salvation).
The Creeds (The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds)
That Christians should be Baptized, and should practice Holy Communion regularly; that these things are Sacraments (an outward physical sign of an inward spiritual grace).
The historic ordained ministry - Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, having been ordained by Bishops, who were ordained by Bishops, who were ordained by Bishops going all the way back to Christ and the Apostles.
See? Nothing crazy.
Anglicans also typically worship in more of a liturgical, or ritualistic style, following an historical guide to the service, called a lectionary, in this case, The Book of Common Prayer (1662). This doesn't mean that it is not also contemporary in style. There is a lot of variation around the world on this matter. Some parishes (another new word) are more ritualistic (or High Church), with robes, chants, incense, and they stick to the structured service very closely, and some are more casual / contemporary (Low Church), with contemporary music, more casual dress, and more flexibility in service structure. A central part of every Anglican service (or catholic service for that matter), is the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. They believe that Christ is spiritually present in the Sacrament, and believe that it is real spiritual food, and real spiritual drink, by which we are spiritually nourished. It is, therefore, very important to Anglicans that they receive Communion regularly (at least weekly).
Who have been some notable Anglicans?
Another good question. You’ve probably read books by some notable Anglicans. Your pastor definitely has. Here’s a brief list:
John & Charles Wesley (before starting Methodism out of necessity)
We’re so excited about this new stage in our lives, our faith, and our ministry. We’ve become a part of a beautiful little church plant in San Francisco (yeah, those exist!) called Eucharist Church. We’ve been visiting there on and off for a few months (and even played a little music), and we’re really coming to love the little family of believers that are all meandering their way down the Canterbury Trail together, learning to live all of life in reference to Christ. We have a dear friend who is on the pastoral staff there, and we are becoming fast friends with many of the other people in the parish.
We’re stepping out of the wardrobe, friends, and discovering a new world that we never knew was there, and it’s true, and real, and beautiful.
For now, we’re commuting 35 minutes to Church on Sunday mornings - more on weekdays for events. We really want to be able to dig into the community there; to become a part of the culture, and to let it become a part of us; to serve in real and tangible ways.
This might mean that our next life changing announcement will be moving closer to the City! (And if we win the lottery, we’ll almost be able to afford it!)
We welcome any questions or further conversations, so please let us know if you want to chat. We also covet your prayers as we move forward. To our friends and family, we are so grateful for your support and encouragement!
The peace of the Lord be with you.