Virtues & Vices: The Anglican Tradition’s Origins in Christendom (Miniblog #206)
“If ever you find the perfect church, don’t join it. It won’t be perfect anymore.” You’ve almost certainly heard that cliché if you’ve spent much time at all around evangelical Christians. My problem with it isn’t a lack of truth but its usage. So often it’s employed to piously dismiss rather than address valid criticisms.11.That vexes me. In my opinion, we need to complicate rather than simplify the issue. Every church, tradition, and denomination is unique. Each has powerful insights and glaring blind spots, points of profound beauty and horrendous ugliness. No tradition exemplifies this better than Anglicanism.22.I love the tradition’s doctrinal elasticity but hate the theological excesses and abuses that threaten to tear the Communion apart. I’m drawn to its unity amidst diversity but have little patience for its constant in-fighting. I’m deeply thankful for its its apostolic succession but am continually irritated by that extra little bit of condescension sometimes shown toward ecclesiastical bodies lacking it. It has an astounding intellectual heritage, but in the American context that heritage comes with a lot of lingering socio-economic baggage. From my cultural and historical studies, it seems to me Anglicanism’s greatest virtues and vices stem from its origins in Christendom. As the state church in England transplanted elsewhere, Anglicanism can often be remarkably diplomatic in the best sense of the word. That is to be commended. Lord knows we could use more of it these days. But it can also be hegemonic. That is to be vocally criticized. Honestly, I don’t think most Western Anglicans/Episcopalians are prepared for post-Christendom. Indeed, most Anglicans I run into seem to have this implicit desire for cultural influence, monetary wealth, political power, and special privilege that often seems historically hardwired into their spiritual DNA.33.It’s an impulse that I think is precisely contrary to Christ’s Kingdom. See: Sermon on the Mount. There are exceptions, of course, but American Anglicans in particular seem to desire a return to their Christendom default rather than embracing the wonderful opportunities wrought by post-Christendom.44.Like, say, Anabaptists. It’s an impulse I simply don’t share in any capacity. Bottom line: I’m a light blue-collar, transparent kinda guy who’s trying to figure out if I can find a home among mostly white collar, reserved folks.55.People keep telling me to be patient. They say that it won’t look the same next generation. Of that I have no question. In my eyes, American Anglicanism must evolve or die with really no room in-between. What I do question is whether it can be a healthy, safe place for me now. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.