This past year as I have been pastoring the Anglican Church of the Resurrection, I have been putting together statements for the website which articulate our position as a Church. Defining doctrinal issues is always a difficult task. I include some of the formulations I came up with below to document the process. Mostly for myself. If it is helpful, check it out! it is essentially on the nature of the Gospel and Anglicanism. I’ll probably use these for other projects down the line as well since it has taken me some time to synthesize these thoughts.
What is Anglican?
The Anglican Way is both an ancient style of worship, and a communion/network churches comprising 80 million Christians worldwide governed by Bishops and divided into regional and affinity groups called Dioceses. We are a member of the Anglican Diocese in New England which is under the pastoral leadership of Bishop William Murdoch. The diocese represents the united, regional network of Anglican churches in New England which together are a part of the national province (i.e. denomination), the Anglican Church in North America, which unites some 100,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 congregations across the United States and Canada into a single Church. The ACNA is an emerging province in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is the third largest communion of Christian churches in the world. In addition to the Book of Common Prayer, Anglican’s are united by a common commitment to the Historic Creeds, to the ecumenical councils of the Church, and to the 39 Articles of Religion. To be an Anglican, then, is not really to embrace a distinct version or theological system of Christianity, but rather to follow a distinct way of being a “Mere Christian,” at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled.
What is Anglican Church of the Resurrection like? Are you more traditional or contemporary?
Anglican worship at its best is both ancient and modern. Our service follows the order of the Book of Common Prayer, which contains powerful, reflective, and emotive prayers and worship practices many of which date back to the New Testament itself, and all of which have been used throughout the history of the Church across the world, throughout denominations in the worship of God. This connects us with something larger than ourselves and our own congregation. It connects us to a diverse family of faithful brothers and sisters across the globe and across the ages, united in our shared worship, struggles, doubts, failures and victories, and most importantly, by a common faith in the divine self-revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
At the same time, we live in a modern (or better, postmodern world) and a rigid adherence to an ancient form and order, without improvisation, passion, and a creative impulse and ethos which is fueled by deep compassion toward, and solidarity with our contemporary cultural context can easily cease to become a mystical, meaningful, and transformative experience with the divine and with one another, and instead become a boring, soul-crushing religious exercise. And so, we, like many others, seek to infuse our inherited ancient worship tradition with contemporary music, messages, and visual art. And, in this fusion of the ancient and modern, we find the richness and depth of historic worship, and the impulse of creativity and a postmodern ethos coalescing into a soul-satisfying and sublime encounter with each other and with God.
What do you believe?
The Gospel, the good news, that through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah, through Him, the Powers of Evil, Sin and Death have been defeated by God and a New Creation, that is, a new, abundant, and eternal way of being human, is available through faithfully trusting the work of God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We who have been reconciled to God in Christ are now called to be reconcilers, agents of God’s Kingdom of peace, righteousness, and love in the world. It is through faith which is alive through love that we, in enacting, receiving, and embodying that love, become like the God who is love. We like to refer to this whole transformative process as embodying Christ’s loving sacrifice and living joy. Love is sacrificial, and the greatest example of love is Christ’s own self-giving unto death on the cross for the sin of the world, and his resurrection and defeat of death for the life of the world. Love is sacrificial, but the paradox of the Christian life is that through the pouring out of oneself for the sake of the other, we find ourselves paradoxically built up by love rather than exhausted by it. We become more human by loving like God loves, and we become like God through love, because God is love, and himself defines what it means to live lovingly through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not just a religion about how to “get saved” but it is also a way of life that transforms us into the image of God in Christ Jesus.
Ok, yea, but do you have a Statement of Faith?
In addition to our own theological emphases and the Gospel, the Anglican Church has historically held to the historic Creeds (Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian), the 39 Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and several other distinctive theological practices, disciplines and documents to be those elements which constitute a faithful, historic, biblical, and orthodox Anglicanism. You can read about the doctrinal distinctives of the Anglican Church or North America here. We recognize all of these documents and disciplines to be faithful expositions of the Holy Scripture and the Apostolic faith, but we obviously don’t require attendees to subscribe to long lists of theological propositions in order to worship at Anglican Church of the Resurrection.
We welcome all, wherever you are at in your journey of faith, or even in your unbelief or agnosticism to come seek truth together in worship, as a community, and to not feel that you will need to pass a multiple choice doctrine test to fit in; you won’t. Furthermore, we want to stress that faith in the divine person Jesus Christ is so much more than simply getting a doctrinal list memorized, or achieving cognitive apprehension of theological “facts” which have been “extracted” from the Bible into a sort of acontextual, ahistorical list of “required” propositions which must be affirmed about God before we can fellowship together. Theology is important, but at Anglican Church of the Resurrection, you are allowed and encouraged to have faith that seeks understanding. That is, faith that has not arrived at all of the answers yet but that is actively and humbly seeking them.
All ministers in the ACNA, including myself (Pastor John) subscribe to all of the above, and commend them as orthodox explications of the faith. But even many of us who are ordained to teaching roles in the Church recognize, to paraphrase a modern theologian, that ‘statements can put people in a state, while questions involve people in a quest.’ We don’t want to be a people who settle into a state of complacency which comfortably rests after having simply acquired “facts” about God. Instead we want to be those who seek to know the living God, and to be transformed into his image and glory which we encounter in the face of Jesus Christ, the one whom these statements are describing and toward whom they are pointing in the various truths they proclaim.
The biblically-faithful, orthodox theological creeds and documents of the Church are meant to be reliable and trustworthy witnesses, guides, and expositions of the faith once delivered to the saints, and we hold tightly to these great truths without compromise and in full confidence of their truthfulness because they are in accordance with Holy Scripture. Still, we like to stress that while statements of faith help to define our tradition, to express our theological convictions, and to guide our teaching and preaching, our ultimate faith as Christians is not in a system of theology, or a statement, first and foremost, but in the person of Jesus Christ, the ultimate revelation, self-disclosure, and Word of God.