What does it mean to be an Anglican?
It’s a question I have been asked & it is one I’ve spent some time thinking about. What does it mean to be Anglican? Could I imagine being anything else?
It puts my faith within a particular historical framework. For many, the first jump would be to Henry VIII & his six wives. I have to be honest & say that in some regards, that really is the birth of the “Church of England,” but at the same time, unfortunate circumstances & some inappropriate acts actually gave birth to something much grander & more helpful. So, personally, I would rather think of the story of the Anglican church being the same as that of Joseph (of the “technicoloured coat” fame, for all you secular types). Thrown down a well, before being cast into slavery, he survived all kinds of horrific experiences, later to become second only to Pharaoh. When those same brothers came before him in great need, he finally revealed who he was saying:
> “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” — (Genesis 50:20)
There may be some dubious beginnings to the Anglican Church, but by the grace of God, it has done some great good in the world & through it (as with many other denominations) the gospel has been preached in many countries!
So, we have largely transcended one aspect of our beginning, so what does it mean to be Anglican then?
For others, they would say that Anglicanism is shaped by those traditional practices that we have. To be an Anglican is to follow a lectionary, to know the liturgical colours, to be conversant with the prayer book and committed to orderly worship.
This too is a difficult place for us to find out identity. Partly because things have changed throughout the centuries. Earlier Anglican liturgical practice appears to have been quite austere, while since the [“Oxford Movement”](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Movement) a lot more “Anglo-Catholic” practice has returned to much of the church. On the flip side, the low church, in seeking to distance itself from such things has arguably removed itself from formalised liturgy all together.
What is right? What is Anglican? Is it more Anglican to follow the practices of the prayerbook? If so, are we talking 1662 or later? Is it a closer reflection of the “spirit of the law” to seek ordered worship, but in a style that is edifying & helpful to a contemporary audience?
It’s a big argument & I’m not going to touch it in this series. Anyway, lots of people feel strongly about different liturgical styles & there are also lots of faithful Christians who worship in the different contexts..
What I want to write about is one of the foundational documents that the Anglican church is built on. That’s the 39 articles.
Since 1571 they are the doctrinal dot points that shape the theology & practice of the church. They’re in every prayer book & they are committed to by every ordained person, yet not that many people know them too well. The 39 articles are one of those classic documents that are referred to, but not known.
Over the coming months, I’m going to work my way through the 39 articles. I’m not going to write any grand theological treatises. We start off with the Trinity… you can see the world of pain I’d be creating if I got too detailed there, but I am going to share a couple of thoughts about why I think they are helpful, and how they shape my faith.
In the end, I am an “Anglican” because I think it helps me be a better Christian. They point me to Christ as the great “Yes” of God, that this has been revealed to us in the scriptures, and that in the end, all things on heaven and earth, including the Anglican church, will bow before God’s throne.
While it helps me keep my eyes on the heavenly prize, I’ll be happy to be an Anglican minister a little while longer….