How fitting that, on the feast day of St. C. S. Lewis, I post to this here blog. Now for you liturgy wonks out there, you know that acknowledging a saint’s day for someone as modern as Mr. Lewis here means only one thing: I’m a blinkin’ Anglican (or rather, Episcopalian). Or almost, anyway… I’ve attended several services and am quite excited about attending a more traditional one when I come home for the holidays.
As I previously considered myself somewhere in the galaxy of the Churches of Christ, or at the very least in the Restoration Movement that seeks (insofar as it is possible) to reconstruct the original first-century Church. Unfortunately, this has been tragically reduced to mean no imagery, ornamentation, or elaboration of any kind on the Christianity which we see a glimpse of in the New Testament. Even the witness of mere decades after the Church was founded apparently details apostasy only, with no light. Thus, we have no stained glass, no musical instruments, no choirs, no chancels, no liturgy, no prayer books, no healings, no speaking in tongues, no candles, no crosses, no pastoral guidance from anyone beyond your congregation, and no ladies in positions of authority. Granted, some of this may even be violating Biblical implications if we ever overstep our bounds!
Needless to say, the Episcopal Church is a huge jump to make from this, but as I grew up, I realized I was ready to make it. Perhaps it’s just a late-in-youth rebellion and a desire to extricate myself from my rocky last semester at my conservative college, but in the Episcopal Church I see a lot of what I hoped the Church of Christ would grow to become: a church that takes advantage of its founders’ desire for Christian unity and the “ancient ways” to open up new vistas of beautiful worship services, time-hallowed words, and ample room for disagreement. Ironically, I find that most of the things that concern me the most about the Episcopalians (nobody’s perfect, and I haven’t been confirmed yet either) are those that are least covered by their detractors, like infant baptism and the authority of the episcopate. And what their detractors love to harp on, I barely notice.
Objection 1: THEY HAVE GAYS!!!
Note: There are gay people in your church, too. In fact, I guarantee it. I guess my ambivalence on this is based on my indecision on the precise moral status of homosexuality–nature or nurture? Does it really impede Christian service, regardless of whether they’re proud of it or not (a lot of Bible majors at my school actually admit to struggling with addictions like pornography and alcohol) ?
Objection 2: Women can’t be priests. And I should know, I’m a Baptist.
Maybe that was a cheap shot… but seriously, Mr. Non-Denominational shouldn’t stick his nose into the Roman Catholics’ business. We already know they disagree. I note that in the Bible, deacons, presbyters (“priests”) and bishops are described in male terms (I Tim. 3), although deaconesses obviously exist and are greatly lauded by St. Paul (Rom. 16:1-2). So could this distinction possibly be extended to include “presbyteresses” and “bishopesses” as well?!
Objection 3: They’re all a bunch of liberals.
Have you ever disagreed with anyone in your church hierarchy? If you’re from a non-hierarchical church, have you ever disagreed with anyone in your church? Also, remember this is usually coming from groups for whom everything is too liberal–even sundry opinions.
Objection 4: Their numbers are dwindling. Therefore, they must be wrong.
If I went by that assessment, I would have left the Churches of Christ before I had any disagreements with them whatsoever.
Objection 5: There’s too much variety in thought and doctrine! Somebody tell me what to believe!
*phew* Thank God.
Edited on: 19.05.10.
For a discussion of the Anglican churches’ much-contested place in the “Catholic vs. Protestant” dichotomy, click here. My vote is “Independent Catholic,” since your average “Protestant” would not suffer apostolic succession, smells ‘n’ bells and appeals to the ancients gladly. To my knowledge, the only things that really distinguish us in a Protestant manner are our fierce independence and devotion to Scripture (and really, who would take pride in their “ignorance of Scripture,” anyway?). I agree with this commenter, who notes: “The prayer book never asks us to believe in protestantism but it does require that we, individually and collectively, believe in the Catholic Church. That alone should settle the matter.”