A number of Baptists some Presbyterian and Reformed folk have announced in the last year or so that they have become Anglican.
With that move to a new tradition, there is a honeymoon phase and the accompanying rush of enthusiasm. As I have long said here, there are things to love about the Anglican tradition(s). I have learned much and continue to learn much from some great Anglican theologians. I appreciate the Book of Common Prayer (1549 and 1662). In some respects it is a wonderful resource for piety. Nevertheless, folk from the Baptistic-evangelical world and those confessional P&R folk going on the Canterbury Trail (as Bob Webber put it 35 years ago, when Baptists did this the first time)1 should take some time to learn about the tradition(s) they are embracing before they make the pilgrimage.
There are a few outstanding proponents of the best parts of Reformation Anglicanism but there is much more to the Anglican story than Reformation Anglicanism. Indeed, from a historical perspective, Reformation Anglicanism was a blip, which was wiped out by a tsunami of Latitudinarianism, and then, after a few Reformation-minded Anglicans popped up in the 19th century, by a second tsunami of Anglo-Catholicism. I understand your frustration with contemporary Evangelical and Reformed piety and practice. After a couple of years in the UK and while I was at the heart of the evangelical world, I contemplated joining the Anglican tradition for a time. Allen Guelzo’s history (see below) of the Reformed Episcopal Church was very helpful to me as I worked through the issues.
The world-wide Anglican communion is in crisis. Faithful Anglican bishops are so hard to find that some Anglicans have to place themselves under “flying bishops” (which sounds like as much fun as “The Flying Nun”). Reformation Anglicanism is a very small part of the modern Anglican story too. I understand if you are frustrated by the vapidness of evangelical theology, piety, and practice, by the weight of fundamentalism, or even by those confessional P&R congregations that are not living up to their confessions and traditions but Anglicanism, as attractive as it may seem right now, will prove to be much more complicated than it seems at the moment. Ask those who are starting to ponder the language being used by some Bishops and others in the ACNA about “gay Christians.”
There is no perfect tradition but once again, I am begging those who disenchanted with fundamentalism and revivalism to give Geneva a chance. Please do not assume that what you have experienced is Geneva. It is not. If you tried Geneva and were disappointed, I am sorry. I think we can do better than what you found and experienced. I hope you will give us another try.
To those who are heirs of Geneva, please do your level best to give the incoming refugees the thing for which they long: the gospel unconfused with the law, the pure administration of the sacraments, and faithful, loving church discipline. They are not coming for your hot takes on the culture. They are desperate for Christ and his gospel. They are not coming to see your cheesy attempt to be hip. They need you to receive them warmly, to feed them well, and to care for them as Christ’s lambs.
1. Bob was a colleague for a couple of years when I taught at Wheaton and there I learned from him that Anglicanism was just one of many stops on his journey.
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- Recovering the Reformed Confession (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008).
- When Confessional P&R Congregations Do Not Exist Or Disappoint
- Guelzo, Allen C. For the Union of Evangelical Christendom : The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
- A Review Of The New Anglican Catechism And What It Says About The State Of Anglicanism
- What David Saw Within Anglicanism
- Packer: Owen Wrote Death Of Death Against Amyraut, Arminius, And An Anglican
- Some Anglican Practices To Which The English Reformed Objected In 1603
- The Growing Influence of the Anglican Tradition in Reformed Worship
- Calvin in the Hands of Anglican Revisers (1)
- An Appreciation Of J. I. Packer And A Dissent
- The Black Rubric And The Creator-Creature Distinction
- Recommended: URCNA Forms And Confessions
- Review: Reformation Worship: Liturgies From the Past For The Present (Update)
- Primus, John H. “The Vestments Controversy : An Historical Study of the Earliest Tensions Within the Church of England in the Reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth.” Dissertation, Kok, 1960.
- Webber, Robert E. Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church. Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1985.