Why Does the Anglican Communion Matter?
By The Rev. Joe Hermerding, Church of the Incarnation in Dallas
Let me begin by answering this question theologically. The Anglican Communion matters because it is the English branch of the catholic church. God has been at work in the British Isles since the earliest centuries of the church's birth, and has continued through all of her ups and downs right to our own day. God’s actions matter, in history and in human hearts, and that is why the Anglican Communion matters.
But this is perhaps obvious. There are more personal reasons why the Anglican Communion matters. For me, and I would make the case that this is true for most English speakers, the Anglican Communion is the best way to be catholic. Here's why: Americans are odd. We have this young "melting pot" of a country, which has both great strengths and great weaknesses. On the good side, we are able to have an ethnic and racial broadness that few other countries enjoy. But on the bad side, our melting pot sometimes takes the unique flavor of each ethnic group and turns them into a…suburbia, a Mc-Culture. That is to say, it turns them into something mass-produced, something bland, something that has lost all of its original flavor. In most of our cities today, gone are the small ethnic neighborhoods with their own food, architecture, traditions, languages, and idiosyncrasies. While the first generation of immigrants might retain their cultural heritage, it is often lost on the children born stateside, who exchange their rich cultural heritage for the bland and shallow culture of American popular media.
However, the longing for a home, a people, a culture and a language and a tradition, are desires that reside deeply within the human heart. Fundamentally, it is a desire to belong, to be known. But where can a "bland" American, whose family has been here for some generations and who retains almost nothing of their original culture, go to find this kind of home?
Enter the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion may not actually be in our blood, as we American Anglicans may descend from Germany, France, Africa, or the far East. But we can have an adopted home here. In fact, I believe the Anglican Communion to be the best and most natural "fit" for your average American, over the other branches of the catholic faith such as Rome or the East. This may be because our country descends from Great Britain, or because the original language in these United States is English. In any case, it has been such a home for me.
Growing up as an American Evangelical, I was used to an environment that was deeply suspicious of religious traditions. I felt as though I was floating above the surface of the vast ocean of tradition, but I had no idea what was down there. I was told it was dead ritual. The water was 2,000 years deep, and that was scary. But the human desire for a home never left me. Perhaps it is one of the primal desires of our species. And it is this desire that brought me again and again to consider Anglicanism. Here was a tradition, quirky and bizarre at times to be sure, but yet a tradition that I could embrace, that I could call my own, that I could make my home.
There was a lot to learn at first. Crossing myself, kneeling, standing, singing, chanting, reading prayers out of a book—all of these things were foreign to me. It was a bit like learning the grammar of a new language. But they held the promise of home. They held the promise of deep spiritual riches—riches that came, I knew, from Jesus Christ Himself. And so Anglicanism has become a home for me. These “awkward” movements, once foreign ideas, and sacred and peculiar liturgies, have become second nature to me now. Instinct.
I am conscious that I am learning them much like an adult learns a new language—I will perhaps always speak this language with an accent. But I hold within my heart the promise that my own children, being raised within the incredible riches of English catholicism, will speak that language naturally—for it is their native tongue.