Showing items filed under “February 2018”

Fourfold Cord

main image

I was recently asked to speak to a congregation about the nature of Episcopalianism. As with many topics we do best to begin with reasons to beware of the topic. We are first of all, not members of something called “TEC,” but of the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” in its wild diversity and shocking division. To be sure the Episcopal Church is the national expression of Anglican branch of that Church catholic. To begin thus with an account of us as “mere Christians” is, ironically, the most Anglican of moves. 

Once this has been said Anglicanism, flawed and wounded though it be, displays four persistent features which it does, and should, share with other Churches. Let me mark each with an illustrious name from our history. We are the Church of Bede, the historian of ancient English Christianity. (This corresponds to the catholic strain). By this I mean we are part of a continuous stream of the Church straight back to ancient times. 

We are the Church of Cranmer, which claims the Reformation insight of continuously putting Word, cross, and grace at the center. We are also the Church of Crowther, first African bishop and missionary for CMS, a sign that by God's providence we are a global and witnessing communion. By this, I mean we have inherited a share in the global communion of Anglicanism which was the fruit of vigorous missionary and evangelistic effort.  

And finally, we are the Church of Coleridge, artist, inquiring spirit, and orthodox Anglican, patron saint of the call faithfully to interrogate our faith. Every church is called to manifest all four in its life. 

You might say our faith, personal, local, and communal, always reaches back to apostolic roots, is centered in grace through Christ's sacrifice, reaches out is witness, and looks at itself, all in the interest of lifting all up to God in praise and thanksgiving. 



An Ancestor in the Faith

main image

What is the heresy of our time? Experience- supposing that our feelings and impressions are the norm for Christian faith and action. In the name of personal subjectivity, we make ourselves the measure of all things.

Most all the great assertions of the Christian faith are true, but....certain qualifications are required. So the Christian life is about offering to God all of yourself- that means heart as well as mind. And Christian understanding knits together thought, will, and feeling, or better yet imagination, but under the guidance of the Word of God. But what about the Holy Spirit? It must not be quenched, but discerning the Spirit's movements depends precisely on that Word.

All this comes to my mind as I read my recent birthday present, 'Mariner,' a study of the life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge by the Anglican priest, poet, and scholar Malcolm Guite. As you may recall from schooldays, he was one of the great and original romanticist poets. The book describes how the era of industrialization in many ways resembled our 'post-' era. He was an adamant proponent of abolition. His struggles with depression and substance abuse are not strange to our time. At times his views felt more like pantheism or deism.   The alienation and final redemption in the poem 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' may be seen in his life (and ours). And by the end of his life Coleridge came to a deep, traditional, 'owned' faith in his home Church of England. He was finally able to see how experience, trauma, the striving for justice, personal spiritual journey, and imagination find their home as aspects of the 'confessions of an inquiring spirit' which is orthodox as well.  As such he became a key example of a faithful modernism, something the Church after him still struggles to find.