Alan Jacobs: The Conscience of an Anglican

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For some time now, people have been asking me why I haven't written anything on the current—or, depending on your point of view, everlasting—crisis in the Anglican world. After all, I have been an Anglican for nearly twenty-five years, virtually all of my adult life; indeed, my experiences in other denominations, before I discovered Anglicanism, were so brief and tentative that I don't even know how to be a Christian except as an Anglican. Nor do I wish to be a Christian in any other way. Surely I have some opinions on the mess the Anglican Communion is now in, on how it got this way, and how it might get out again?

Well, yes, I do have such opinions. But they are worthless. All such opinions amount to little more than the assignation of blame for past events and predictions of the future—the latter usually involving punishments to come for those blamed for the past—and neither of those activities interests me. There was a time when they did, but I have long since learned how futile such pursuits are, and (more important) how powerfully they distract from the core practices of the Christian life. This is the primary reason why, after too long a season scanning the Anglican blogs daily, I now check just one of them, and once a week, at most. This abstinence has calmed my spirit and removed, I think permanently, my taste for such things.

Moreover, I remind myself that the churches of the Anglican world are governed by bishops, and I am not a bishop. One of the chief reasons I have held firm to Anglicanism over the years is that I believe that the threefold order of ministry—bishop, priest, and deacon—is the model taught by the apostles, the governance particularly approved by God. In this model I, as a layman—even though I am also a member of the priesthood of all believers—have a highly circumscribed role. If my pastor asks me to teach, I teach; otherwise I shut up. In the unlikely (and unwelcome) event of a bishop of the Church asking for my thoughts I would share them; otherwise I keep them to myself, at least in public. The decisions that will shape the future of the Anglican Communion will be made by bishops, not by laypeople, nor even by priests; if I care about that Communion—and I do—I had best be praying for those bishops, and not repeating the error of Job in darkening counsel by words without knowledge.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: AnalysisEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings

6 Comments
Posted December 28, 2007 at 4:42 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Mark in BR, LA wrote:

Thank you for posting this, Kendall.  I’ve admired Alan Jacobs’ work for quite some time, especially a piece he did on Bakhtin a few years ago.  In this particular column, I was especially moved by his description of being (like the centurion) “a man under authority,” with the particular responsibility of raising his son.  That responsibility of godly parenting weighed heavily upon my wife and myself when we ultimately determined to leave Anglicanism altogether and become Orthodox.  Even with all the problems that plague the multiple jurisdictions of Orthodox Christianity (and these problems are legion), we found that we could trust the teaching and pastoral witness of the Orthodox clergy in matters of faith and doctrine, ethical teaching, as well as liturgical and sacramental practice.  Coming to that realization was a curious mixture of sorrow and of joy, as I suppose the homecomings of prodigals must be.

Please pray for us.

December 28, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
2. Tom Roberts wrote:

Wow, great essay.

December 28, 7:41 pm | [comment link]
3. wvparson wrote:

Yes, but in my ignorance I don’t know what his personal solution has been. The primacy of conscience is vital, so long as it is informed by the counsel of many, particularly those who may not see things as one does; enlightened by Scripture, in the Tradition through sanctified Reason, and forged over a long period in prayer. Conscience seldom proposes easy answers or ones that enable us to escape to safety.

December 28, 10:04 pm | [comment link]
4. Henry Troup wrote:

Hmmm…. sounds like a strong episcopal model; the Anglican Churches I know are synodically governed, not episocopally governed.  I suspect this is yet another of the axes along which the Anglican Communion is stressed.

December 28, 11:30 pm | [comment link]
5. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

A quite compelling swan song. I am not convinced that swan songs are what we need right now.

December 29, 12:17 am | [comment link]
6. Sarah1 wrote:

WVParson, his personal solution has been to help found what I believe is a thriving AMiA parish in Chicago . . . which I believe explains his remarkable serenity.  ; > )

December 29, 9:32 am | [comment link]
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