Showing items filed under “H: The Gothic Facade: Following Christ in the Anglican Way”

Bishops: Being An Ancient Church

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A young priest was describing why his suburban Church was growing: ‘they like the sermon, the band, and the children’s ministry.’ The moment they don’t like two out of three they are probably headed down the street.’  In other words, fewer now seek us out as the Episcopal Church in town. We want our description of our own central features in a way that would make sense to those new members, without losing what is counter-cultural in each of the five marks.

The Episcopal Church has its roots in English Christianity, and in particular in the See of Canterbury going back to the end of the 6thcentury. He was an emissary of Pope Gregory, and hence represented the one Church in the West going back to apostolic times. In other words, this gives substance to the words we say every Sunday in the Nicene Creed: we believe in the ‘one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.’ It has since suffered many divisions, but in origin ours goes directly back to the beginning.  (This itself has an evangelistic plus, since many younger seekers look for something with roots, something ancient).  The sacramental symbol of this ancient, catholic , apostolic side of the Church is the bishop.

Of course our culture is enamored of change, of the new, of amnesia.  This makes the symbol of the bishop opaque - is he or she a religious non-profit CEO? A guest preacher? Someone romanticized and quaint?  And do the bishops really serve to guard doctrine and recall us to our apostolic roots? Like all Church symbols, the individuals often do not live up to the inherited meaning. But this does not undo their enduring importance.

Read the ordinal for a bishop and discuss

The Prayer Book: things Old and New From the Treasury (Matthew 13:52)

When did the Anglican Church begin? One could give different answers. While some would cite the arrival of Augustine, others would note that Celtic Christianity antedated this arrival by centuries.  Still others would point to the 16th Century time of the Reformation, when a autonomously English Church was launched. It was an expression of the Reformation, but with its own distinctive style.  The desire to preserve as much of the older tradition while incorporating themes of the Reformation show the balance and moderation which have been hallmarks of Anglicanism at its best. 

What is distinctively Anglican? The best and shortest answer is this: the Book of Common Prayer.  Our Church was uniquely formed an expressed by a book of liturgical prayer meant to form its people. For this reason we pray our doctrines as well as confess them. The key elements of the Reformation are ours too, but they are expressed through the book. It is in the language known to the people. It is full of quotation and allusion to the Bible. It stresses the death of Jesus as the ‘one oblation of Himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the whole world.’  Its collects stress grace.  Morning and Evening Prayer gives the monastic prayer tradition to all the laity. But it embeds Reformation emphases without our prayers.  And it retains many of the forms of prayer of ancient Christianity. 

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