Last week’s Anglican Way Institute (AWI) hinted at the hopes and goals of traditional Anglicans in the United States. Ecumenical outreach, evangelism, and catechism dominated several lectures and discussions in Dallas. We can expect members of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and other Anglican bodies to be dealing with these trends in the years to come.
The three featured plenary speakers gathered at the end of the week for open questions and answers. Bishop Ray Sutton of the Reformed Episcopal Church, Bishop Keith Ackerman of Forward in Faith, and Father Lee Nelson of the ACNA’s Catechism Taskforce. Much of their talk focused on AWI’s main theme of catechism. Ackerman noticed that, during the Oxford Movement, high churchman enacted their reforms on the seminary level with theology and on the parish level with catechesis. Unfortunately, today’s church lacks many of the right cultural avenues for thorough spiritual formation. Ackerman summed up the beliefs of the AWI nicely: “Our model and standard is the undivided church.” All too often, Christians have to choose between revivalistic evangelicalism and activist Social Gospel, both of which are innovations incongruous with the early church. The young Fr. Nelson complained about facing “spiritual birth defects” in his congregants, which came from “the weird way they’ve been discipled.” Functioning under a hubristic individualism, too many American Christians deride ancient understandings, creeds, and practices in favor of their own (often unlearned) interpretations of the Scripture and church discipline. “Sometimes people need to be told to shut up and listen,” Nelson announced, “We have this idea we can riff on the Christian faith. And that requires clergy to exercise their authority.” Bishop Sutton added, “Don’t make dogmatic what the Church has not.”
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