Responding to a Priest: The World Could Use More Anabaptists in Anglican Vestments
In response to yesterday’s “May Madness: A Bracket for My Search of a Church Home,” a young Anglican priest sent a Facebook message. Here’s an excerpt:1
1.Quoted anonymously with his permission. In fact, this whole post is published with his permission. He disagrees with my perspective but is civil enough to welcome the discussion.I’m calling bullshit. end this charade… I tell you this for your own good and because I love you. youre only taking away from this exersice burned bridges with other Xians and raising suspicions about your commitment… this whole thing seems like you’re pouting. doesn’t help your cause. either you’re politically oblivious or you just don’t give a damn… this whole thing is about you getting ordained, right? do what you need to do. don’t shoot yourself in the foot again… no one wants a wolf in sheep’s clothing for a priest, or maybe in this case an anabaptist in anglican’s vestments. cross-tradition formation gets muddled quickly. it ain’t pretty. embrace your home and be formed by it.
To quote Spock, “Fascinating.” I’ve a sense many others are thinking similar things but keeping quiet, so a public response might be helpful.
To begin, this exploration is not a charade. Therein lies a healthy tension. On the one hand, I still cannot imagine where else I’d end up besides the Anglican Church.22.I said that in “Am I Still an Anglican? Honestly, I Don’t Know.” and it remains the case. I committed to the tradition only after a full year of intense exploration. It’s not impossible, but it would take a lot to overturn that decision. On the other hand, my conscience requires that I give all these other ecclesiastical bodies a fair shot. It’s a matter of intellectual honesty, which for me is of supreme importance. I truly am prepared to overturn that decision if necessary.
As for this issue of my “own good,” why don’t people–and especially pastors–get that unsolicited counsel that begins with an aggressive criticism is ineffective both relationally and rhetorically?33.I mean, seriously, there’s a difference between candor and blunt force trauma. One thing encourages people to listen. The other does not. If I love someone, I show my affection by asking lots of questions and making few assertions. I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time getting my mind around the context of their situational dynamics and emotional state. Then and only then do I speak into their life. I’ve never been to seminary, but it seems to me this should be in Pastoral Methods 101.
This experience is simultaneously highlighting difference with other traditions, finding points of correspondence, and facilitating health discourse. No doubt some have felt uncomfortable–maybe even a little offended–by all this, but here’s the thing: I don’t fear conflict or disagreement. My experience has been that if you lead with convicted civility, most people will reciprocate.44.And if they don’t, that’s on them. It’s their responsibility how they react. Far from burning bridges, on the whole I think this experience has been one of ecumenism. Instead of avoiding important differences we’re discussing them in an open, honest, and respectful manner. I’m learning a lot. Hopefully others are, too.
“Suspicions about [my] commitment” to the Anglican tradition? I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that was still in question. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’ll repeat myself yet again… For three years I’ve intentionally described myself as an Anglican Christian. Anglican has for me been an adjective rather than a noun. It’s been a description of what sort of Christian I’ve been, not a source of identity or loyalty. I’m a Christian.55.i.e. follower of Christ. That’s my noun. That’s my identity. That’s my loyalty… Let me say this as plainly as humanly possible: My allegiance is to Christ and His Kingdom alone, not to the Anglican tradition. Never has been. Never will be. I’m a man of faithfulness, not of loyalty.
Pouting? Lemme tell you a story. In 2009 I put together an academic conference. One day I had back to back meetings with two professors. I led with almost an identical presentations. Same content. Same tone. The first professor, who was a natural optimistic, described me as a disillusioned cynic. The second professor, who was a natural pessimist, describe me as a hopelessly naive dreamer. What I took away from that experience is that their assessments said far more about them and their own temperaments than it did me. I would suggest that a similar dynamic is happening here.66.I’ll leave it at that.
Look, I’m not politically oblivious. And I do care. The issue is not a lack of perception nor a lack of concern. The issue is that I’m not politically motivated. With me what you see is what you get. I’m not going to contort myself or my ministry to fit the amorphous expectations, social etiquette, personal sensitivities, and institutional loyalties held by others. Trust me. I’ve tried that repeatedly and it was hell on earth each time. So, no, this whole thing is not about getting ordained. It’s about being who the Lord has called and made me to be. I am doing what I need to do.77.If that equals shooting myself in the foot, I’ll live with it.
I’m of the opinion the world could use more Anabaptists in Anglican vestments.