Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Renewal of North American Anglicanism

... the best thing that will come out of the current crisis in North American Anglicanism is an abandonment of institutional idolatry.  

One of the great strengths of Anglicanism is its preservation of the doctrine that the Church is more than just a fellowship of believers, that she is an incarnational reality, an organic and tangible means by which Our Lord makes us one with Him. Yet this has also been our Achilles Heel as too often Anglicans have confused the mystical reality of the Church with the accoutrements of church life. We have worshiped the clerical collars and the vestments. We have celebrated our property and preached our pension plan. We have glibly pointed to our apostolic succession, as if it were a mechanical process, and we have said to the world and to the rest of the Christian Church, “This is who we are!” In short, we have celebrated ourselves instead of Christ. Is it any wonder we have split into so many pieces?

Yet I am hopeful because the collapse of broken institutions makes it possible for us to rediscover, in all humility, the true glory of Anglicanism which is found in the revelation of Jesus Christ. What Anglicanism has to offer to North America and the world is a surprisingly simple, holy, and beautiful path that leads right to the foot of the cross. It is the ancient and living faith of the apostles running through our liturgy and articles, pulsing within the pages of the greatest works of our theologians, and characterizing the pastoral relationships of countless clergy and people through the centuries that gives us the ability to proclaim that we are inheritors of the Catholic faith. I have no clairvoyance, but my strong suspicion is that the renewal of North American Anglicanism will happen far away from the places where ecclesial machinery is churning out one resolution after another, advocating this and anathematizing that. It will happen in parishes where Word and Sacrament are faithfully preached and administered by priests who find their calling not just in wearing fancy robes and standing in the pulpit but in the regular visitation of the people and in the continuous offering of prayer in the Daily Office. It will happen in small groups of young people who come together in far flung places to form new parishes and to build for the future. It will come in the late night reading of long forgotten books by long dead heroes of the faith who became heroes not through self-initiative but through total surrender to God.

Of course, the renewal of Anglicanism could take many forms, but one thing I am certain of is that a renewal is coming. I am certain of it because Anglicanism, at its core, is no less and no more than the Gospel delivered in the clearest way possible. In the end, it really does not matter what we call it. Perhaps the very names Anglican and Episcopalian will die. It will not matter if they do. The death of our structures is inevitable, as much as the crumbling of the Temple was inevitable. Nothing made with human hands, no matter how glorious it may seem, will exist forever. Only God is eternal and only Christ is our refuge. The heart of Anglicanism is Christ. No sin, even one as large as our ongoing institutional idolatry, can even come close to exhausting the saving power of Jesus.

~ Fr. Jonathan, The Conciliar Anglican

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