Why Are Baptistic Evangelicals Attracted To Anglicanism?

By now, the pattern is familiar. A young evangelical becomes disenchanted with her religious upbringing, discovers the liturgical church, and “walks the Canterbury Trail,” joining an Anglican or Episcopal church. She may even conclude the Anglican tradition is insufficiently Catholic and turn to Roman Catholicism or the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Back in 1985 when Wheaton College professor Robert Webber wrote Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, the phenomenon struck many as an intriguing novelty. Decades later, the initial trickle has become a steady stream. Wheaton, Illinois, now boasts four Anglican churches and one Episcopal congregation chock full of former evangelicals. When the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) was formed in 2009 by theological conservatives who left the Episcopal Church, it provided an attractive alternative to the mainline Episcopal Church. Consequently, many ACNA parishes today include many converts from evangelicalism—often this group forms the majority.

What has driven pilgrims from evangelical Baptist, Presbyterian, Free Church, and non-denominational ranks? What have they found to be the chief attractions of Anglicanism?

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Gillis Harp | “Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Reflections on the Pilgrimage to Anglicanism Nearly 40 Years After Webber’s Classic” | October 26, 2022


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3 comments

  1. “We can’t ignore the social class dimensions at work in these transitions. Many on the Canterbury trail moved from their blue-collar roots to white collar, professional circles. As they did, they grew less appreciative of revivalist choruses and more interested in Johann Sebastian Bach or John Rutter.”

    There’s many a fundy (said with affection) who understands the music of Bach on a much deeper level than those who listen to Bach out of snobbery.

    Rutter is ‘mostly’ full of Keith-Greenish sentimentality, just with more pomp. To place Rutter in the same sentence as Bach is heresy. 😉

    BTW: I personally know of a blue-collar, grimy factory worker who composes, plays the organ, sings Tallis for fun and can still belt a revivalist chorus with the best of ’em. 😉

    The Lord can surely call a snob to him, just as he can call a fundy. But our snobberies (of whatever sort) we must eventually leave behind us.

    • Yes, dear sister Mary.
      Sometimes fundy’s come to realize that they need deeper theology and doctrines, and they are tired of laptop computer screens in worship with a rock and roll band and smoke machines spewing out their produce.

      They crave something deeper with more meaning to help them understand their Christianity. Sometimes they are invited into Reformed churches. Sometimes they stumble in without understanding any of it. This is precisely the very moment where loving hospitality kicks in. This is when we should welcome strangers into our churches without hesitation. Just shower them with love. Not in an aggressive way at all. Just gently make them feel welcome and show them the love in your congregation. When they come a few times then invite them to lunch after church and get to know them better. Hospitality works wonders. Then they can relax and then experience the beauty and love in a Reformed church congregation. We have it in our small Reformed church now. People are interested in authentic Christianity. Our Reformed churches have it. Love covers a multitude of sins. Use your gifts of hospitality and allow your Pastor to bring the pure unadulterated presentation of the Law and the Gospel. The Holy Spirit calls who He will.

  2. The irony being the that Anglo-Catholicism is a Victorian innovation.

    What drives these shifts in churchmanship? One could give some sociological and cultural reasons but surely the heart of it is theological.

    There is no understanding of how the Reformation was about the worship of God. And there is a failure to grasp how justification by faith changes everything.

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