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Why be Anglican Episcopalian?


Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, answers a question about why be Episcopalian (Anglican)?

Plenty of options for comments: things you enjoy about being Anglican/Episcopalian; things you find irritating about being Anglican/Episcopalian. If you belong to another denomination – things you appreciate about your own church or denomination… You could even put things you appreciate about a church or denomination you don’t belong to – but let’s not, in this thread, make it a free for all in putting down other denominations or arguing why yours is right and theirs is wrong 🙂

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25 Responses to Why be Anglican Episcopalian?

  1. is there a better way than the *middle way* dare i say *no!* even though the *middle way* is challenged in bringing all of its issues into a place where equality and inclusion are affirmed and honored. i wish i were an Anglican!

    • Thanks for your comment. People often think of “middle way” as “half way in between” – I tend to think of it more as holding “opposites” together in tension. Eg. Christ is human, Christ is divine – the “middle way” isn’t half human, half divine – we hold together both ends in tension. Blessings.

      • Bosco, I like your interpretation of the “middle way.” At seminary it was affirmed as we studied the European reformations. This is a Lutheran seminary. By the way, this understanding of the “middle way” seems very Lutheran as far as holding opposites together–law/gospel, saint/sinner, etc.

        Thanks for sharing.

  2. I am irritated that Episcopalians won’t call themselves Anglicans … would save a few words in explaining what the True Church is all about 🙂

        • Australia? I’ve heard of it – remind me, Peter where it is. Or should I just look up Google Maps? From memory, I thought it was in the Indian Ocean – but I’ll check. Who is moving the motion, you or I?

          • Its to the west of NZ, or, as you walk out your front door, on your left hand side. If you would like a unique opportunity to move a motion, I will stand aside and let you …

    • Had it not been for the American Revolution, I’m sure we would call ourselves Anglicans. But in the nasty breakup with the King, our church could not rightly call itself the Church of England, so the church essentially chose to be called by its polity structure – Episcopal. Also, in the US if you identify as Anglican, that’s typically code for “I think TEC is going to hell in a handbasket” so many are hesitant to self-identify as such.

  3. I was an Anglican, and enjoyed it while I was there, but I lost it while doing High School history on Tudors and Stuarts. The fact that The Elizabethan Settlement was intended as a political measure, a middle way trying to maintain stability rather than speak the truth, did truly shake my faith, and among a series of other things led to me becoming a Catholic last year. I can understand the conditions from which it arose, but when I went from the mean to the two extremes, it was the upper extreme which had a certain purity. I am happy with my current faith, and would not forsake it for the world, but I still have Anglican friends who are secure in their beliefs.

    • Thanks, Julian. History can do what you describe – Constantine’s involvement in the Nicene Council, papal spiritual powers increased as the political power decreased in the loss of the papal states in 1870,… Or we can hope that God writes straight with crooked lines. Blessings.

    • I see you’ve put three very similar comments in to moderation, Julian – I’ll just leave the other two, unless there was a particular point missing in this one. You didn’t come across rude to me at all. I have an approach that I read comments in the most positive light possible & I think others here, hopefully, have the same respectful approach to comments – and to my posts. I really like what the Presiding Bishop is saying in the video clip. But if you poke around this site a little, Julian, you will see that her experience may be the reality in USA – it is not the case here. Alongside that I have a very strong focus on baptism. And I am not convinced that the denominational lines any longer are the way Christianity is “divided” – primary unity and division IMO are along lines at right-angles to the traditional denominational lines; if that makes sense. Blessings.

  4. Though it may be an imperfect gathering of people, it is a body of people who are willing to have the conversation about how God leads us in our present time and respond with action.

  5. The question of what it means to be Anglican – and the historical background like the Elizabethan Religious Settlement – certainly is important – especially at the moment, with the Covenant issue – but also very, very complicated as far as I can see, I liked the book: Five women of the English Reformation by Paul F.M. Zahl. From that book it is easy to appreciate the conviction of women who knew what risks they were taking. It is harder to tell what the motives of Elizabeth I, though… but I don’t think it was simply political compromise, even thought that must have been a factor to some extent for everybody.

    How they saw their efforts is different to how people a generation later – or today – imagine their motives to have been. I am sure a lot of people simply think the C of E (and the requirement for plain-English Bibles in churches, and all that) was something old Henry VIII thought up as part of a scheme for his own purposes, rather than a tremendous about-turn he had to make, that was an answer to prayers for those he persecuted up until then. History tends to be written as if it is merely the outcome of political leaders making politically-minded decisions, rather than crediting tides in public perceptions and the work of the Holy Spirit. Possibly this view has become so entrenched that we run the risk of trusting “top down” decisions are the only way forward, when the “top” is defined to be someone other than God?

    • I think you bring up an important point, Mark – if I have your idea right, that leadership always has an element of acceptance by the led? I might get into hot water – but I’m thinking, as I read your comment, of the English monasteries in the sixteenth century – ordinary people’s perception of half a percent of the population owning a third of England. Blessings.

  6. Most of what I love about Anglicanism is under threat from the Anglican Covenant: the tolerance for other people’s point of view and traditions that were set out in the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886 as sufficient for membership of the Anglican Church (http://anglicansonline.org/basics/Chicago_Lambeth.html).

    What exasperates me in the Church of England (but I’m not sure how far it extends to other churches in the Communion) is the smell of stale cigars the morning after in a room in which the vast majority are men. Let us admit women to the episcopate and throw open the windows to allow light to penetrate the Stygian gloom and the zephyr breezes of moderation to circulate and ventilate the space.

  7. What I appreciate about Anglicans/Episcopalians: the inspirational depth of their baptismal covenant and their humble willingness to apply Christ Jesus’ gospel to surrounding culture discern where the Spirit is leading in terra incognita, even if it means making mistakes and getting messy.

  8. Speaking as an ex-Roman Catholic-turned-Anglo-Catholic, one of the many things I like about the C of E is that it is ‘church run from the ground up’: greater lay participation, of course, and greater ecumenical links; but also when I’m attending, say, High Mass in one of London’s great 19th century neo-gothic churches, I’m often aware that the reason these buildings are here, and these services are the way they are (ad orientem, incense, chanting, etc.) is because this is how the congregation would have them, rather than something imposed on them for their edification; and it causes one to view these things differently.

    I hope that makes sense… to use an analogy from folk music, AAnglo-Catholics are revivalists rather than traditionalists (and it feels more comfortable for me, at least, to embrace that fact.)

    This particularly struck me when I attended, out of interest, the recent talk in London by ubercatholic Michael Voris. I got the impression that, from his perspective, things in the modern Western RC Church are somewhat like they were for the Tractarians in the 19th century Anglican Church: (some) clergy and laity itching for a more traditional formulation of the Faith, while the episcopacy pushing in a more liberal, progressive direction. (Obviously the presence of a traditionalist-friendly pope muddies the comparison slightly.) But this was a reminder of the benefits of the C of E approach.

    To put on my theological hat, to me the Anglican Church also ties together a classical, RC conception of ‘the Church’ with Barth’s description of the Church as “the living congregation of the living Lord Jesus Christ … the event in which God’s Word and revelation … is accomplished to the extent that it becomes a Word which is directed toward, reaches, and touches certain men … in such a way that with their human existence they give an answer corresponding to this word.”

    Apologies for the length!

  9. Just one of the reasons why I love Anglicanism is nicely expressed in Robert Taft’s The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West (p. 323):

    Easily the most important of all sixteenth-century reformed offices is that of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. To its great merit the Anglican communion alone of all Western Christian Churches has preserved to some extent at least the daily services of morning praise and evensong as a living part of parish worship. As Louis Bouyer said in his Liturgical Piety, a book that has had such enormous positive influence in initiating Catholics to the meaning and value of liturgical prayer, morning and evensong in the Book of Common Prayer

    … is a Divine Office which is not a devotion of specialists but a truly public Office of the whole Christian people … we must admit frankly that the Offices of Morning Prayer and of Evensong, as they are performed even today in St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, York Minster, or Canterbury Cathedral, are not only one of the most impressive, but also one of the purest forms of Christian common prayer to be found anywhere in the world.

    As for things that irritate me, well, I suspect that none of them is unique to Anglicanism! I struggle with what seems to me our endless restlessness: no sooner is one controversy off the front page than we have to stir up another one. The latest talking point in Canada (we seem to have reached a temporary truce on blessing same-sex civil marriages) is “open communion”, by which is meant, not extending eucharistic hospitality to non-Anglicans, but deliberately inviting the unbaptized to communion. Even if I weren’t already at the “extreme right-wing fringe” of liberal Anglicanism 🙂 I would still have been quite persuaded of your lapidary judgement, Bosco, that “Eucharist completes the sacrament of initiation, and is the repeatable part of the sacrament of initiation”. Now some are arguing that the Eucharist should function as an auxiliary or intermediate aspect of initiation that may lead people to baptism as the completion of initiation.

    Anyway, I don’t want to start a debate on open communion in this thread (it’s being carried on in a civil and scholarly way here: http://www.anglicantheologicalreview.org/read/conversations/1/). I offer it as a current example of an Anglican restlessness that can be, for me anyway, a great obstacle to the inner peace and repose without which it is hard to grow in the spiritual life. One becomes exhausted by the endless need to debate and defend the traditions and disciplines that ought to be, in theory, one’s source of refreshment and rest! The internet exacerbates this: I am now able to be irritated daily by the practices of congregations that I would never have heard of, let alone visited…

  10. Morning and Evening prayer. You find it in three traditions. Lovely in RC Benedictine or Cistercian monasteries. Most lovely to me maybe. Good in the Anglican tradition (and that of course comes via the Benedictine/Cistercian observances). Also present among the Eastern Orthodox, where most parishes at least continue with Vespers on Sunday evenings and one or more times during the week. It’s a valuable discipline and, in my view, a way of sharing in the Priesthood of the Faithful.

    Raised RC, having flirted a bit with TEC (Anglo-Catholic tradition), I’ve found the Orthodox tradition suits me best for a number of reasons that I won’t bother to go into here.

    Nevertheless, I suspect most of us who frequent Bosco’s site are open to the idea that the Church transcends “denominational” boundaries. “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism” is not just a quote.

    I think as one matures, in life and as a Christian, one is more and more committed to the one Lord (the Trinity for me is just so important here!) and yet less and less constrained by the efforts of some denominations to exclude others or impose man-made norms, which are far afield from our one Lord’s life (death/resurrection) and preaching.

    All of us who are Baptized and recite the Creed, we are all in the same boat, to the degree we respect one another, learn from one another, and strive to live out Gospel values in our lives.

    • Thanks so much, TheraP – we are certainly on the same page with all this. [TheraP, for reasons known to me, is an exception on this site where I ask people to use their ordinary name] Blessings.

  11. I’m currently technically a Methodist, but I’m going to be confirmed, God willing, as an Episcopalian next Sunday. I will cheerfully describe myself as an Anglican when I think that that term will be recognized and “Episcopalian” will not- with my boss who’s an African immigrant, for example. I am becoming Episcopalian because for me Anglicanism represents pure and true Biblical and Patristic Christianity without Protestant deletions or Roman Catholic additions, and unlike Eastern Orthodoxy it has not become a theological and liturgical fossil. Methodism owes too much to John and Charles Wesley- it contains theological distortions. Also, Methodists in my country only have Communion once per month.

    Furthermore, Episcopalians have Communion every Sunday, just as they did in the early church. While I don’t care for the wafer bread used in my parish, the use of real wine makes up for that. My liturgical ideal is weekly communion using a common loaf of substantial bread and a common chalice of red wine.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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