I’ve been part of powerful ministries that could be classified as non-denominational, para-church, and Free Church. They have greatly impacted me and led me into a deep transformational life in Christ. So why will this church plant be an Anglican Church and not just an evangelical church?
There are number of ways that I could answer this question, but I think it’s important to list the reasons why Anglicanism became ‘home’ for me. This is important because these reasons will be the foundation on which a Missional Anglicanism will be planted. Four words categorize my reasons: historic, creedal, liturgical, and episcopal.
When most people hear of Anglicanism their minds immediately go to King Henry VIII and his desire for a divorce. But Anglicanism, arguably, can be traced back much further than the age of the reformation. Augustine of Canterbury was the first missionary bishop to the island in 597 AD but before this there was likely Celtic Christian influences on the island. We say all this to point to the fact that we are drawn to an ‘English Spirituality’ that is rooted in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Christianity which began long before Henry VIII arrived on the scene. In this sense, Anglicanism has historic roots in the Christian church before any of the great divisions.
In Ephesians 4 Paul commands the church to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Paul does not ask the church to create unity but to maintain it. Anglicanism can be traced back to the Apostolic Gospel passed on by the original twelve apostles. We not only desire to see people come into the Church of Jesus Christ for the first time, but we also want to be a church that is striving for the unity of the church. Anglicanism connects us to a larger visible church with historic roots. Not only that but it also allows us the ability to cultivate churches that have a missional impulse. I believe this missional spirit can be traced to English Spirituality’s Celtic Christian roots.
Though the wording may sound different, it is a very evangelical way of approaching the faith. By creedal, I mean that the church finds unity in the foundational dogmatic statements of the creeds. This creedal faith allows for a diversity of interpretation while at the same time maintaining unity on the essentials. Another way to state this is found in a quote by the 17th century Lutheran Rupertus Meldenius “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”. This creedal expression of the faith allows us to still be institutionally unified with our Anglican brothers and sisters in Christ even though we may disagree about certain interpretations of the creeds themselves. In this way it is like evangelicalism, there are boundaries on orthodoxy and they are found in the creeds and as long as we stay within those boundaries we can worship together in the midst of this diversity of opinion.
I use the word liturgical to speak of the worship of Anglicanism. There is a phrase that is often used to describe Anglican worship; Lex Orandi Lex Credendi (Law of praying is the Law of believing). Worship is at the heart of Anglicanism. Many will tell you that Anglicanism is not primarily a theological system but a way to relate to the triune God. Anglicanism is a rhythm of life that aims to form believers into a people being conformed to the image of Christ. It is a way of ordering desires that help counter act the strong pressures of a non-believing world. Anglicanism employs the historic practices of the Christian Year, daily prayer (the offices), and weekly communion (Eucharist), and ancient Christian spiritual disciplines to shape the lives of the people of God. It also a ‘sensual’ faith. It allows room for all of our senses to be engaged in worship.
This aspect will be central to our church because we fully agree with the idea that to be fully human means to acknowledge that we are ‘agents of desire’; or to put it another way, we are liturgical creatures. Human beings order their lives around rhythms and patterns innately. Since this is true to us as humans we believe we should choose biblical rhythms and patterns that form us into the image of Christ. Anglicanism provides a rhythm of life that helps transform our desires.
When I use the term Episcopal, I am not referring to the North American Institutional body now called The Episcopal Church; instead I refer to a specific form of church government. Episcopal government believes that church has three primary offices; bishop, priest (pastor/elder), and deacon. Though there appears to be overlap in the term for bishop and priest in the New Testament, as the church grew and developed it became standard to speak of this three-fold office.
This Episcopal form of government hopes to maintain a structure that was instituted by Christ through his calling of the 12 apostles and it developed into a three fold office that was recognizable by Ignatius in the early 2nd century. The importance of having an apostolic succession is to work to maintain what Paul suggests in 1 Corinthians 15; “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…” Another way to describe it can be done in a statement named the Vincentian Canon; “all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all”.
Though I don’t believe that ministry only happens in episcopal, in fact I don’t know that I would be serving in ministry if this were the case, I do believe that it is a structure that provides a framework that can allow the Gospel to be expressed most fully and freely.
 Much of my thinking on this comes from James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, (Grand Rapids; Baker Books, 2009).