Friday, October 03, 2014

The New Anglicanism

The best most fruitful incoming parishioners in my neck of the woods have been evangelicals coming to Anglicanism (at least Good Shepherd’s brand of it) for the expositional teaching wedded to liturgical worship (a unique niche I think). I’ve found that many coming in from TEC are looking for a church like the one they grew up…ie. TEC sans “the gays”. And they tend to be angry that “their church” was stolen from them (not seeing how that theft was in part due to complacency and docility in the laity). That - back to the past - ethos is not what Good Shepherd is about and so many of them are disappointed when they find that we expect people to serve, to belong to a small group, to open their bibles during sermons etc. I’ve had more internal strife arising from these folks than from any other.

This comment by the rector of one former Episcopal parish in upstate New York speaks to the issue of an emerging Anglican identity that interests me as a scholar. It reflects the increased emphasis on active discipleship that tends to characterize successful congregations in a post-Christian society. It might also be said to bear comparison with the 19th century Anglo Catholic tendency to eschew the identification of the Anglican tradition with anything other than the practices of the Primitive Church.

Reading this (admittedly off-the-cuff) comment, however, I can't help wondering what it means for the next phase of Anglican development. Granted the ultimate division (in practice, if not in theory) of the Anglican Communion into two provincial federations, will that portion that seeks to resist the pressure to conform historic Christian teaching to the secular culture of the Global North ultimately retain anything that was historically considered distinctively Anglican about it? For many of those who ultimately abandoned Anglicanism across four centuries, of course, it was the precisely the desire to reconcile the irreconcilable that was at the root of their unease. Today's self- identified Anglicans appear to have solved that problem, but I wonder if there won't be an accompanying cost.

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