And…Apparently becoming a Pagan:
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner
If you’re not on Twitter you may not have seen a tweet from someone within the SBC calling Beth Moore “basically a Pagan.” The reference, I assume was to Beth’s exodus from the Southern Baptist Church and into the Anglican Church. The idea was that because Beth Moore had become an Anglican, she has now somehow left Christianity and started living a life of godlessness. While it may seem fun to pile on and poke fun at Moore and others who have publicly left the SBC for the ACNA, those who have given up Potlucks for the Eucharist+ Potlucks. There is a wider trend at work here. That is, if you leave baptistic circles that are congregationally governed and return to one of The Great Tradition Churches commonly known as Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox, than you have actually left the true faith behind.
Rachel and I have encountered this ourselves, not so much among family, but when we were leaving our church in Iowa, when we announced we were moving to Spokane to work in an Anglican Church, the result was a pivot. I have one email that reads something along the lines of: “If you make this move you will be wasting all your incredible gifts.” Sadly, this seems to be the norm, leaving baptistic circles means ostracization from American Evangelical Protestant Churches, being deposited at the end of the Baptist to Anglican pipeline, means you are now an outsider and even an enemy, a Pagan, after all; “the reformation happened for a reason stupid.”
I tell you this not to point out the foolishness of this particular position, but to make you think through a question with me. That question appears in some variation like this: “Why is it that so many both high profile and non-high profile Christians have moved towards Anglicanism? Well, the answer is multi-faceted and multi-layered for almost all of us, so let me unpack why I am here:
Most of my long-time readers know that I was the victim of a spiritually abusive pastor in High School. I suffered bad enough trauma that I almost did not return to the Church. Had a professor and pastor not seen what was going on in my head and heart I likely would not be ordained today, let alone attending a church. In the first couple of years after the abuse I attended a Presbyterian Church and fell in love with the beauty and repetitiveness of the Liturgy. I was raised Presbyterian as a child and so it was something familiar, but also something safe. Like most of my generation, the worship was authentic, people were glad to be there and glad to worship together. After I left the PCUSA I started attending a Baptist Church in Lyons KS, there I found another genuine Christian Community that we wanted to recreate at my first Church after College. In Seminary I attended a church with another authentic and living community where the worship was also beautiful and authentic. When we left seminary we wanted to create something similar, a living and worshiping community that cared for its neighbors as well as it cared for one another. When our time in Buffalo Center came to an abrupt end we got the call to move to Spokane and found ourselves in another living and worshiping community, this time in an Anglican Church. Once again the worship is beautiful and authentic, like we are putting our best into every word and movement because the audience is God, not us. So there has been a healing balm found in these types of living and worshiping communities where the focus is not as much on how we worship but whom (though Anglicans are extremely intentional about how we worship too). They have been places of rest and recovery after long stretches of ministry in the dessert and God has used them like he used the Labyrinths in Denver all those years ago, to draw me back into himself.
The next layer is The Anglican Way of life. I like to say that Anglicans work hard and play hard. When we first got here my wife went with the ladies of our sister Church (which our Church later merged into) for a spa day, they relaxed and enjoyed themselves and then came back into the world to continue the mission of Christ, a mission that is forever put before us, to preach the death and resurrection of Christ. Anglicans do life this way because the Body was created by God, it is not evil or something to escape, it is a gift and the temple of the Holy Spirit. You use your body to go and take the message of Christ to the world, you use your body to work for Christ through doing justice ministry, caring for the homeless or ill, you use your body to worship to remind you of Christs death through the sign of the cross and occasionally to dance on an Easter Sunday. But if your body is going to be used for the kingdom, then it must also be taken care of and not neglected so that it remains useful for the work of the Kingdom. That includes taking care of it, allowing yourself to also feel pleasure and do things that are pleasurable. So my priest and I powerlift together three times a week and our families go and do fun things together, all while keeping the mission to proclaim Christ at the forefront of our mind.
That brings me to The Book of Common Prayer, because with right action needs to be married to and indeed stems from right belief. My priest loves to say: “If you want to know what Anglicans believe, pray with them.” This is certainly true. You can have many in depth conversations about Anglicans and many can tell you exactly what they believe doctrinally. But they will also point you to the prayerbook because it is in the prayers that the doctrines are found and most of those prayers come directly from Scripture. Like the Benedictus, or the Song of Zechariah which is prayed after the New Testament reading during morning prayer or the Nunct Diminus, which is the prayer of Simeon that is prayed at both evening prayer and compline. What do Anglicans believe about God? Read the prayers. But also participate in the yearly liturgy, not just the day to day prayers, but the yearly cycle that takes us all the way through the life of Christ.
This leads me to my last point, the total participation of the people through prayers, in the service. This is one of the things that makes an Anglican service both beautiful and authentic. The longstanding critique of American Evangelicalism is that the service is a show with the pastor as the center of the ‘entertainment.” The pastor is not really there to lead the people to worship God, no, instead he is there as a performer and when he does not do what the people want them too, he is out. Not so in Anglican worship, in Anglican worship everyone is participating actively in every part of the service. The alter may even face what is called Ad Orientum, meaning the priest celebrates with his back to you and your focus is on the cross. The priest will turn around to preach and for the Gospel reading, but all altar service is done with his back turned. The focus is not on the Priest, but on the worship of God. The congregation participate in the prayers, standing and kneeling at different times, making the sign of the cross when the Trinity is mentioned. We are physically part of the worship and have to be physically and mentally present for worship.
All this is designed to lead the person to one singular focus, Christ, crucified and risen. It is meant to remind us of our motility and Christs great sacrifice. It is meant to focus us and orient us to Christ daily and yearly. It is meant to deeply form us and transform us into the image of Christ as the Holy Spirit works through the internalizing of scripture. One way I knew I was being deeply formed as an Anglican was when a friend asked me to refute Wayne Grudem’s views on Women in Ministry I did not start with the usual Egalitarian arguments, but with Jesus and how he empowered women to preach and teach. Eventually we got to the usual arguments, but only after we had long oriented ourselves to Christ.
This is where the whole Christian life ought to be oriented afterall, the thing that many Christians claim it is while pursuing power and earthly riches. We are called to be oriented totally and completely to Christ without hesitation. Recent events in major denominations who claim to do just that prove that they do the opposite. This does not mean that it is done perfectly in Anglicanism or that Anglicanism is perfect, but the Anglican Way is designed to orient us to Christ and Christ alone. But next time you consider demonizing someone for leaving the Baptist Church for an Anglican one, please consider asking the question of why and consider the answer I have given above. For the sake of the unity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, honor your brothers and sisters who have found Christ here and through Christ, healing.