Sheltering on an Anglican Branch – Reflection for 17JUN 2018
In our Gospel today, Jesus compares the Kingdom to a mustard tree with large branches on which the birds make their nests. As we look at our own walk in the Kingdom, we find ourselves sheltering on the Anglican branch of this tree, but what exactly does it mean to be ‘Anglican’?
I am often asked this very question. Unfortunately, it is not an easy one to answer. I sometimes try to answer with the breadth of the worldwide Anglican Communion of 85 million people from 165 countries organized into 39 provinces linked together by a common liturgical heritage. I am sometimes tempted to answer by comparing the Anglican Church in North America with the Episcopal Church with whom we share our history. I sometimes resort to full geek-mode and begin with the history of the English reformation. None of these responses feels quite right.
At synod last week, I asked our keynote speaker, a church planter from Georgia, how he answers the, “What is Anglican?” question. His response provides a good starting point. He described the Anglican Church as:
“A Biblical faith, rooted in ancient tradition, relevant for the questions and challenges of today, and with a bright hope for the future.”
While this is an accurate description of Anglicanism, I hope that it describes most other Christian churches equally well. It describes the full mustard tree. How can this answer help us understand our place on a particular branch of the tree?
Let’s start with “Biblical faith.” One of the beauties of the Anglican tradition is the ability to comprehend and include a wide variety of liturgical and theological positions. However, each of these must ultimately be weighed against the canon of Scripture. The Articles of Religion hold that the Scripture of the Old and New Testament contain all things necessary for salvation (Art. VI) and warn that no single portion of Scripture should be elevated above others to the degree that it becomes repugnant to the whole (Art. XX). These two guidelines provide instruction as to how we are submitted to the authority of Scripture as individuals and as a church.
Our Biblical faith is also reflected in our liturgy and Prayer Book. The Sunday Lectionary guides us through Scripture in a way that prevents us from skipping over the difficult parts and the Daily Lectionary guides us through the majority of the Bible over the course of a year as we pray Morning and Evening Prayer. The collects we pray in the course of the liturgy are steeped in Scripture and teach us how to pray God’s Word back to Him.
Over the next several weeks, we will explore the role of “ancient tradition,” the ways that the Anglican expression helps us with the “questions and challenges of today,” and how we celebrate our “bright hope for the future.”