Thinking Out Loud -- Anglican Obituary?

By Bill Murchison (2011):  

“The future of the Anglican Communion,” people are given to saying in an interrogatory way. Like: what do I think? I don’t know from the future of the Anglican Communion or for that matter the future of the Dallas Cowboys or even Jack’s Burger House on Mockingbird. I am confident the Lords knows. Meanwhile…

Something as amorphous and many-sided as Anglicanism must be conceded, it seems to me, to have a future – just what kind would be the question. A growing number of Anglicans, on the evidence of transmigrations to Rome, duck-and-cover exercises in their own parish churches, etc., seem to have given up on the redemptive mission of Anglican faith and witness. It is easy enough to say why. Just say Katherine Jefferts Schori; or Gene Robinson: which would nevertheless be imputing more to the ministrations of these two worthies than I think is actually fair.

Anglicanism is in a mess because the Christian culture of the West is in a mess, and no one seems to know what to do about it; or anyway, no one does much about it, possibly on the presumption that God will act when He is ready, or that it’s time to withdraw, with Alasdair MacIntyre, to a proper Bendictine setting and there regroup.

Being habitually cheerful, I think the first strategy more fetching than the second. But I think it meet, right, and my bounden duty to point out certain enduring strengths that may carry Anglicans – wherever situated now – through the rough times ahead.

I base these suggestions, which are not conclusions in any sense, on things I see, without particularly looking for them.

First I note many young priests with a spirit of tenacity and endurance. These kids are turned-on. They believe “the stuff.” They think it’s real, and, so thinking, regard it as their duty to pass on to others the non-21st century wisdom they have acquired.

The job of an orthodox priest is countercultural, hence meaningful. How do you like it? – two favorite ‘60s catchphrases turned back in the face of that awful era and its mass stupidities. The stagnation of Theological Correctness (nobody’s Truth is better than someone else’s., etc., etc.), which resulted from the varied manias of the era is now the high Wall of Jericho, shrouded in bronze and corruption. Wouldn’t it be fun to take that wall down and build something worthwhile? There are new priests who’d like nothing better than to show the aging fuddy duddies from the ‘60s the meaning of God’s Truth.

One Anglican attribute the ‘60s tried in vain to destroy is the beauty of holiness. Anglicans still know how to worship. Their worship style attracts. My own parish finds substantive leaders from the denominations coming to its doors, peeking inside, experimenting, learning, at length joining up. From outside Anglicanism, theologians and ordained ministers have bestowed admiration.

A Southern Baptist theology professor, and school head, spoke once in my hearing about the wonderful reverence of Anglican worship: the lack of bustle and conversation. There’s more time for God, he finds. He often drops in for worship at a start-up non-Episcopal congregation run by an ex-Episcopal priest. 

A Presbyterian Church of America service this professor once attended reminded him of a meeting. It could have been about saving the world or balancing the family budget. Or about God. 

One highly placed, highly regarded member of that same Presbyterian connection, frequently sits behind me at the 8 a.m. Eucharist. An internationally known Methodist theologian – no, I don’t meant Stanley Hauerwas, but the observation might apply to him – praises the Bible-centered qualities of Anglican worship,

And the Sacraments – I almost forgot. That’s the big deal, really, for these folk. This is my Body, which is given for you… This is my blood of the New Testament. There he is – the Lord; right there before us; in our hands, on our tongue. The Morning Prayer Anglicanism of old had its attractions, but they were slim, and unnecessarily isolated from large realities, compared to the excitement that traditionalists and “progressives” alike have found in the regularity of Eucharist, and in the spiritual contemplation proceeding from it.

Maybe the Lord needs Anglicanism, and maybe he doesn’t (“God doth not need man’s works, or his own gifts,” wrote Milton, with devastating candor). Whatever the case, its obituary may have been posted prematurely. I mean, if there wasn’t something there, could the thing, whatever it is, have lasted 500 years? Fifty more – a hundred more – it shouldn’t be heavy lifting.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.