Mar 22, 2009

Conversion to Anglicanism Part II

Here is the follow up post by the beloved Fr. Doug. Fr. Doug is the Vicar of All Saints Anglican Church in Amaillo Texas. I inserted two pictures. The first is Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop and architect of the Book of Common Prayer. The second is George Herbert, Anglican priest and poet.

March 9, 2009
After last week’s post, I received an email from a friend, who wanted to know why I converted Anglicanism. He pointed out that my post didn’t explain my reasons for ambling down the Canterbury Trail. Here is an edited copy of my response to him. Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Dear ______________:
Thank you for your response to last week’s blog post, “How I got Here from There: My Conversion to Anglicanism.” Your queries caused me to pause and ponder again the beauty of Anglicanism and how God drew me to her. You didn’t ask for a lengthy explanation like this. In fact, you asked to visit over coffee, or scotch – an offer I still plan to take you up on.
I wrote this for two reasons. First, I wanted to revisit and savor what happened to me 20 years ago. Second, I’m a firm believer in writing’s ability to sharpen wooly headed thinking.
You mentioned in your email that twenty years ago there was a mass migration from what you call “Word based” worship into more reverent, sacramental worship. You are spot on. Robert Webber chronicles this exodus in his book, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. In Evangelical is not Enough, author Thomas Howard articulates why these people left. As best as I can tell, their departure wasn’t an emotional reaction brought on by an unbridled desire for aesthetics. Instead, these people wanted worship that conformed to the heavenly pattern of Revelation 5-7.
In your email you asked why I became an Anglican. I may have unintentionally mislead you in my original blog post by intimating that irreverent worship was the reason I left my roots. In fact, that is not true. My reasons for converting to Anglicanism were many.
In the early 90’s I was looking for a church that valued the Scriptures. I found it. Anglicans read (present tense) from the Old Testament, New Testament and Psalter each day during Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Its Lord’s Day worship includes lengthy readings from the Prophets, the Psalter, the Epistles, and the Gospels.
A perusal of the 1662 and 1928 editions of the Book of Common Prayer reveals that the Scriptures are woven into the warp and woof of every service and office. It’s been estimated that upwards to 75% of the Prayer Book is either a direct quote or accurate summary of Scripture.
During worship, Anglicans pray the Word, chant the Word, hear the Word, and eat the Word. In short, Anglican worship is saturated with the Word.
So, this is the first reason I’m an Anglican and not a Lutheran, Roman Catholic, or Presbyterian. In my estimation, Anglicanism is unsurpassed in its appreciation of Scripture.
A second reason I converted to Anglicanism is that the Anglican ethos is pastoral. Now, that’s more than a mere slogan. It’s a truth that springs from the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
When you have a moment, read through the Articles of Religion. You’ll notice that they take up a few pages at the back of the Prayer Book. There’s a good reason for this. The Articles of Religion outline the Christian faith in broad brush strokes, so as to create a sheepfold for all who believe the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.
You’ll also find that the Thirty-Nine Articles sound as if they were written by a pastor. In fact, Article XVII was penned with a genuine concern for how people might respond to the doctrine of election. Also, couched within the Article is a pastoral admonition regarding an improper preoccupation with the doctrine of predestination.
All of that to say this - I gravitated toward Anglicanism because of its pastoral ethos, its culture of incarnational theology that vivifies truth in worship and ministry. The Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer (1549) further illustrates this. In the past Anglican parishes were often called “Cures,” and priests were referred to as “Physicians,” who administered the “Medicine of Immortality.” Hence, when a priest was ordained, the Bishop said:
Have in remembrance into how high a dignity and to how weighty an office and charge ye are called: that is to say, to be the messenger, the watchmen, the pastor and the steward of the Lord; to teach, and to premonish, to feed and provide for His children in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ forever. . .
See that you never cease your labour, your care and diligence, until you have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error, or viciousness of life.
Mark the incarnational and relational images. The priest is a father and the parishioners are his children. He is responsible for raising and nurturing them.
The poet-priest, George Herbert wrote the following about the pastoral culture of Anglicanism. “The country parson is not only a Father to his flock, but also professeth himself thoroughly of the opinion, carrying it about with him as fully as if he had begot his whole parish. For by this means, when any sins, he hateth him not as an officer, but pities him as a Father.”
Another reason I became an Anglica is that my study of the Scriptures and Church history convinced me that both the Word and the Sacraments are vital to worship. So, in my estimation, it’s ill advised to bifurcate between the two. It has been my experience that when false distinctions like that are made, pastors become imbalanced and to do things like preach 87 messages on John 3:16 and to spend three years expounding the Ten Commandments. It seems to me, that kind of lopsidedness feeds the Gnostic idea that worship is primarily mental. When I jumped off the Protestant ship, I was searching for worship that encompassed both the physical and the mental, the Word and Sacrament, the kind of worship found in the Book of Common Prayer.
My reasons for converting to Anglicanism are almost too numerous to number. I suppose I could cite five or six more critical issues that prompted my conversion, including Anglicanism’s historic episcopacy, and its time-tested model of spiritual formation.
I trust this note has answered your questions.
Fr. Doug

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