Paul S. Julienne—What is Anglicanism?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What does it mean to be Anglican? I have not always been Anglican. I was Roman Catholic when my family visited Truro Church in 1974, but my wife and I sensed the Lord calling us to make our church home there. I find that my catholic heritage has been deepened as I have learned to understand the Scriptures through evangelical Anglican eyes and to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in making my faith real. One could give many answers to what is the essence of being Anglican, but to me the most important is that Anglicanism is situated solidly in the Great Story of the redemptive love of the Creator God Who we know as a Trinity of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To be Anglican is to be in continuity with the ancient Church’s way of understanding the story of Jesus of Nazareth as told by the Apostles. Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord, the Messiah of Israel, fulfills the promises God made to Abraham to bless the whole world through his descendants, as we learn from both the old and new testaments of the Bible.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryAnglican Identity* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryLiturgy, Music, Worship* TheologyEcclesiology

Posted March 5, 2010 at 7:42 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Henry Greville wrote:

“To be Anglican is to be in continuity with the ancient Church’s way of understanding the story of Jesus of Nazareth as told by the Apostles.” What a wondrous way of explaining what how centuries of Anglicans have understood “apostolic.” Also wondrous is the understanding that “catholic” has to do, neither with systematic theology or ritual piety, but with the Church’s purpose of universal mission. That Anglicans have cared about maintaining the link between the most ancient foundations of faith in Jesus the Christ and ever-challenging contemporary mission was the reason I became an Episcopalian.

March 5, 9:55 am | [comment link]
2. Pb wrote:

It takes going to Truro Church to hear this. Wonder who is Anglican now in DVA?

March 5, 11:03 am | [comment link]
3. phil swain wrote:

I thought to be Anglican one had only to be in continutiy with one’s own understanding of apostolic teaching.

March 5, 11:34 am | [comment link]
4. kb9gzg wrote:

The difference between this and “real” Catholic/Orthodoxy would be what (aside from music!)?

March 5, 11:58 am | [comment link]
5. The young fogey wrote:

To be an Anglican is when one’s bishop is invited every 10 years to chat with the Queen and Oxbridge dons.

March 5, 1:37 pm | [comment link]
6. Father Dal wrote:

FWIW, I think Bp. Dave Bena’s essay with the same title (found at is even better.

March 5, 2:02 pm | [comment link]
7. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Anglicanism is REAL Catholic orthodoxy. The Anglican “part” comes from an English/Anglo heritage.  Alas, there are member churches of the Anglican Communion (TECUSA comes to mind) where it would be difficult to sense that what this author states is still true for a majority. It is still true for a smaller and smaller number of individuals, parishes, and diocese in TECUSA.  Sadly.  I see TECUSA being a totally insignificant “church” within a couple of decades. Anglicanism will survive and even thrive but I doubt TECUSA will be part of it.

March 5, 2:10 pm | [comment link]
8. R. Eric Sawyer wrote:

breaks my heart to read some of the comments, but perhaps my sentiments are a bit skewed.
I suppose it may illustrate the adage that one never values a thing quite so much as when we lose it.
About 2 months ago, after prolonged searching, I finally joined with another who deeply prayed for the health of the Anglican Church in a troubled time. I refer of course to the Rev’d Father John Wesley. I have joined a Methodist congregation.
I rejoice to hear the Gospel preached in simplicity every Sunday, but I am continually confronted (in liturgy, creed, architectural statements of faith, and music) by a rump Anglicanism, cut off of much of the richness of expression. I feel like those in Israel after the return from captivity, who rejoiced at the restoration of the Temple. They all rejoiced, but those who remembered Solomon’s Temple rejoiced with tears of grief in their eyes as they remembered what had been lost.

My choice was made partly because of the fight, partly because of the nature of the fight between leavers and stayers. There are orthodox Anglican churches near me, one in either camp, but there are parochial reasons that neither one of these is a good fit for my family (and I have discovered that the character of the parish is where the rubber really hits the road, other than simply making a statement for orthodox teaching!)

So I rejoice in what Ms Julienne had to say.  My heart is full of things to say, but rather than hijack this thread,  I would encourage her, and others, though to think more specifically what are the *Anglican* distinctive of a good church. There are many.

March 5, 5:05 pm | [comment link]
9. Albany+ wrote:

Thank you, Eric. We could fill a board with those who have lived to regret wandering off.

No doubt there will be a backlash here, but I’ve known far too many who wish they had not gone off in a huff and now live out a spiritually poor fit somewhere else. There is so much that remains sound and uniquely so in Anglicanism. Even in the worst dioceses, genuine expressions can be found and enjoyed by the mature who can sort things out.

I also agree that the culture established in too many parishes left behind by the leavers and created in the parishes where they go to build “purity” simply are missing something essential in both manner and feel.

I hope that pride does not stop a return for those who live a deep regret despite their honest theological struggles.

March 5, 10:45 pm | [comment link]
10. R. Eric Sawyer wrote:

Albany+  I may have left a false impression. I do not at all regret making the choice I made - it was the right choice. I regret that it WAS the right choice. I regret, I am angered by the choices of those who made it the right choice. There is no “huff,” just sadness and loss, looking for new beginnings.

In my image, all rejoiced in the restoration of Temple worship –but history has its price, and must be paid.
My strongest image these last few years is that of a setting to show hold a great gem (a costly pearl, perhaps)
The understanding of Christianity developed and articulated by such men as Cranmer, Latimer, Hooker and the rest, is in my opinion the finest setting for the Gospel that has been yet understood.
I love that setting. I love how the theology and practice catch the light from the gem, and display it to the world. But the setting is only the setting. It is not itself the pearl. We may well reach a point where one must sell the setting to retain the pearl, or cast the pearl away, for love of the setting. God grant that we choose rightly!

Yet even as I extol the virtue of the Anglican understanding and practice, in the end (or at least at this stage) we are the ones at, or over, the brink, while in poorer places, with less nourishment, the pure Gospel still flourishes. I am in such a place.

My observation about parochial issues comes from seeing that it is NOT just the teaching from the pulpit that matters. Jesus never said that the world would be at all impressed by how perfect our doctrine was, but by how we love one another. I have a mighty taste for sound teaching, but life is in the love lived out. It doesn’t matter what the teaching is, if the place is cold and rejecting, then without a serious sense of God’s calling to this mission field, one is likely to move on down the road. Our lighting in this place has more to do with a welcoming attitude in a place where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments duly administered than it does with more minute issues.

I hear your call to return. I may even heed it; or I may heed it from afar, as Wesley did, and pray for it’s health and restoration until my deathbed. But may God never let me, like Esau, sell that pearl, the true birthright,  for an empty setting.


March 6, 12:08 am | [comment link]
11. Albany+ wrote:


Thank you for both your posts. Your points are all quite sound. “In a huff” was a poor choice of words. More often it is with a broken heart. Nonetheless, as you wrote initially, many only learn afterwards what they have lost.

March 6, 12:27 am | [comment link]
12. Tired of Hypocrisy wrote:

There are many who have stayed, but have left in spirit. My family still worships in an Episcopal parish because we have so many good brothers and sisters who remain there. Many of us value the fellowship enough to endure this season of corruption in the national church. Or, at least we have convinced ourselves—we hold onto the hope—that it’s a “season.” In our hearts I think we know the church will not repent and reform. Certainly not in our lifetime. (I’m sorry if words like “corruption” and “repent” are upsetting, but that’s my opinion.) So, we participate nominally in parish life, choosing to abstain from activities that support the national church’s agenda—either overtly or by implication. I am sad to find myself holding back from full and joyful immersion in the life of the parish. But, life goes on. I try to find other ways to express and share devotion to Jesus Christ. In some ways this is better because it drives us out into the wider world where I think Jesus would have us live out our faith anyway.  It would be best, though, if I could wholeheartedly recommend my Episcopal parish to seekers, but I cannot do this with a clear conscience.

March 6, 9:12 am | [comment link]
13. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Eric and Albany+,

Thanks to both of you for your poignant, touching posts.  I have no regrets about leaving TEC (and Albany) for the ACNA, but like Eric, I certainly regret that it was sadly necessary. 

I’m a firm believer in the aptness of Jaroslav Pelikan’s famous summary assessment of the 16th century Reformation as “a tragic necessity.  Protestants tend to underestimate how tragic it was to rend the unity of the Church that way; while Catholics tend to uderestimate how utterly necessary it was, since all other reform attempts had failed.

As for myself, I like to say that I’m an Anglican because it’s the best and most natural place to practice what I call “3-D Christianity,” i.e., a kind that’s evangelical, catholic, and charismatic all at once.  Or to put it another way, I have three great church reformers that I admire most: Luther, Wesley, and Newman, but it’s the fact that I greatly admire ALL THREE that keeps me Anglican, instead of turning Lutheran, Methodist, or Roman Catholic.

But again, in a personal vein, I didn’t leave my Presbyterian roots, or the Pentecostalism of my college years, to become an Anglican because of the English Reformers like Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, although I admire their courage and appreciate their sacrifices for the sake of the gospel.  In my case, it was primarily because I came to love the early Fathers such as Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Leo the Great.  It wasn’t just the draw of the marvelous Anglican liturgy, it was above all my love for the Fathers that drove me to Anglicanism (and to the proudly Anglo-Catholic Diocese of Albany).

Anyway, thanks to you both (and others) for sharing so personally here.

David Handy+

March 6, 12:40 pm | [comment link]
14. Sarah wrote:

There are orthodox Anglican churches near me, one in either camp, but there are parochial reasons that neither one of these is a good fit for my family (and I have discovered that the character of the parish is where the rubber really hits the road, other than simply making a statement for orthodox teaching!)

R. Eric Sawyer—I can’t tell you how much the above has been played out all over the US.  You are in much good company, believe me.

March 7, 11:25 am | [comment link]
15. R. Eric Sawyer wrote:

Thank you, Sarah. Even though we have landed, at least for the moment, on different sides of the fence, I cannot tell you how much I have valued your witness! I thought I would be right there among-um as this thing played itself out, but God chooses our roles in the struggle, not we ourselves.

One image that has been important to me is to change the idiom from “sheep” to something more too our liking in Texas, “cattle”. It is a good thing to “ride the fences” making sure that the bobwar is not cut or broken, that bad water is identified, that “loco-weed” is discovered and destroyed before it can poison the herd, to say nothing of rustlers, etc.
Such is a fairly solitary work, and is very important. However, it is *NOT* the life of the herd. That life is back where cattle are fed, cows raise their calves, sicknesses are treated by the cowboys and vets, etc.

I have a taste for fence riding. But it is not life. For those who do not have such a taste, the quality of the life “back at the ranch” is paramount. My wife is one of those, from whom I have learned much. Don’t tell her about how fine the fences are, or how pure the water is, if newcomers are not welcome, if the society is focused around clichés, or money issues, or protecting one’s private pew, or even giving thanks that we are “not like those other ranches, with broken fences”

We had not gone trying to find a church since our early years, and were appalled at much of what we encountered. In both orthodox and apostate churches.

But back to the original post, what are the Anglican distinctives (among churches that try to be true to the Gospel), and having identified them, why have they failed to keep us on course?
I’ve got my own take on that, but not to monopolize…

March 7, 2:47 pm | [comment link]
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