Could I Feel at Home within the Anglican Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast?
For more than six weeks I’ve been asking myself whether the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) can be my long-term, healthy church home. As oxymoronic as this sounds, my definitive answer is “Maybe.” It’s not about theory, though. I’m finding it all depends on one’s context.
Though Anglicanism has existed within North America for centuries, the ACNA remains in its infancy.11.It was formed in June 2009. The simple reality is that right now, and for the foreseeable future, it functions more like a federation of Anglican dioceses and jurisdictions than a traditional provincial structure.
While the ACNA is centered around certain core beliefs and practices, there’s anything but uniformity from one diocese or jurisdiction to the next.22.I’ve met folks who are Anglo-Catholic and “Eastern Anglican,” Calvinist and Arminian, Pentecostal and Cessationist, Complementarian and Egalitarian, Foundationalist and Postfoundationalist, high church and low church, filthy rich and dirt poor, etc. Thus, as people have been telling me for months, I’m coming to accept that the issue needs to be re-framed in my mind.
I need to move away from a macro-level consideration of compatibility with the ACNA to a micro-level consideration of compatibility with my diocese: the Anglican Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast (WGC). This immediately raises three specific questions in my mind.
First, do I trust Bishop Clark Lowenfield? The answer there is yes. In tangible ways he has proven himself to competent, discerning, faithful, humble, and reasonable.33.All of which are particularly important to me. Sometimes they say you have to respect the office (or the uniform) but not the man. Thankfully, I don’t have that situation.
Second, do I feel welcome within the WGC? The answer there again is an unequivocal yes. Since well before his consecration then-Fr. Clark greeted me with open arms, as have his canons and the lay catechist I’ve gotten to know quite well.44.In fact, they’ve quite intentionally gone out of their way to ensure I feel welcomed and supported.
Third, am I in alignment with the diocese’s unique spiritual DNA?55.Specifically, I have in mind its theological convictions, sacramental practices, ecclesiastical understandings, and internal culture. As a hardlining moderate, on the whole the diocese does seem more conservative than I am. Yet there’s a profound difference between conservative and fundamentalist.6 And within the WGC I’ve most certainly not detected that underlying fundamentalism. So, yes, I think there’s enough alignment amidst our differences.6.One group is willing to engage in healthy, reasonable discourse. The other is not. One I get along with quite the well. The other I do not.
All of that having been said, could I feel at home within the Anglican Church in North America via the Anglican Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast? I’ll always be a bit of an oddity.77.I am, after all, an evangelical “Eastern Anglican” with Anabaptist leanings. But, yeah, I’m really starting to think I could.