Monday, January 23, 2006

Reasons I am Glad to Be an Anglican

Paul Owen over at CommunioSanctorum wrote this up. He puts my thoughts into words better than me.

Reasons I am Glad to Be an Anglican
by Paul Owen

I must admit, I am a fairly zealous new convert to Anglicanism. I finally feel like I have found a spiritual home, having been raised in a nominal Mormon environment in southern Idaho (Bit of trivia: Brigham Young is my 5th great grandfather), converted through Pentecostal evangelism, and then moving from Calvary Chapel, to Free Church of Scotland, to PCA congregations. I finally believe I have found a spiritual home. Some of the reasons I love the Anglican Church are as follows:
1. The Anglican 39 Articles are stated in such a way as to allow for both Calvinism and Arminianism (cf. Art. X & XXXI), which I believe is healthy for a church, in that it better reflects the true breadth of the Christian tradition. Denominations which demand adherence to Calvinism among their pastors tend to focus on the “doctrines of grace” in a grotesque way. The Bible does not highlight the so-called doctrines of grace with any great degree of systematic clarity, so neither should we as the collective Church. I am glad my church has a statement of faith which could be affirmed by both Whitefield and John Wesley, by both Calvin and Melanchthon, by both J. I. Packer and Arminius.
2. The Anglican Church strikes a fine balance between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. They openly define themselves as a Reformed Catholic church, which retains the high regard for the precedent of Tradition characteristic of the Great Church, alongside the Protestant emphasis on sola Scriptura as the Church’s only infallible Rule of Faith. The Anglican Church has from the beginning understood sola Scriptura (Art. VI & XX) in such a way as to give tremendous respect and deference to the consensus of Faith from the first five centuries. The agreed teachings of the Fathers and early Creeds do not constitute our Rule of Faith, but they do authoritatively define and clarify it.
3. The Book of Common Prayer contains the finest collection of prayers, devotional exercises, and liturgies that in my opinion could ever be hoped for. I honestly cannot even begin to compare what I have experienced of modern, glib evangelical worship over the years, with the aesthetic beauty, depth of biblical allusion, and mastery of the art of capturing the theological sense of Holy Scripture, which characterizes the Anglican worship service. It is like eating steak and lobster for the first time, washed down with fine wine at a first class restaurant, after years of subsisting on tater tots and corn dogs (washed down with warm chocolate milk) from those junior high school cafateria lunches.
4. The Anglicans are not afraid to call the sacraments what they are. The Anglican Catechism tells us that baptism and the Supper of the Lord are “generally necessary to salvation,” and that the sacraments are not only visible signs of spiritual graces, but that they are “means whereby we receive the same.” In baptism and the Eucharist, saving grace is not only outwardly and visibly signified, but actually received by believers and their children through the operation of the sacramental sign.
5. The Anglican Church maintains the apostolic structure of bishops, presbyters and deacons. They have not departed from the Bible to engage in the democratic experiment of Bible church congregationalism, with its structure of “fellow elders,” who rule autonomous churches with an authority that rises no higher (and no further back) than the ability of the elders to “exegete” the New Testament out of the modest arsenal of their seminary training in Greek.
6. The Anglican Church recognizes the sacrificial (though not propitiatory) character of the Eucharist. As the Invocation during the Holy Communion service directs us to pray: “And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we, and all thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion.”
7. The Anglican Church affirms a soundly Protestant doctrine of justification (Art. XI), which avoids the teachings of Rome on the one hand (which can harm Christian assurance if wrongly understood) and modern Evangelicalism on the other (which tends to promote a carnal sense of security in its denial of the possibility for Christians of real apostasy).
8. The Anglican Church (unlike the Roman Catholic) allows for a variety of views on the role of women in the ministry. I personally am convinced of the biblical propriety of women deacons (Rom. 16:1), and am open to the possibility of women presbyters (Tit. 2:3; Rom. 16:3-5), though not bishops (1 Tim. 3:2-5). The Anglican Church has conservative, orthodox voices which range in opinion from limiting all such offices to men, to opening all such offices (including the bishopric) to women. This is an important debate, which has to wrestle with some complicated issues, and I think it wise for this matter to be handled with caution. Perhaps local arrangements will eventually be worked out, in which the ecclesial roles of women may vary from Province to Province, or even diocese to diocese.
It is an exciting time to be Anglican! A new communion of orthodox Anglicans is being drawn together by the Spirit of God. Various denominational pools from orthodox Episcopal parishes and dioceses, the Anglican Mission in America, the Anglican Province of America, the Reformed Episcopal Church, and the orthodox Anglican Provinces of the global South, are working together to bear witness to the Reformed Catholic faith for the salvation of the nations. I am truly excited to be a part of it.
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