Anglicans hold a unique place among Christians. We consider ourselves both Catholic and Protestant. Catholic, by worshipping with a liturgical text, by affirming the ancient Creeds, and by ordaining the ancient orders of bishops, priests and deacons. Protestant, by constantly re-evaluating our practices, by supporting all members of the Church as ministers, and by affirming God’s grace as the source of our hope.
Some describe the Anglican Church as a “broad tent,” meaning that our members embrace a wide range of beliefs and practices. There are conservative evangelicals and liberal catholics who call the Anglican Church home, as well as many different varieties in between. Originally, the Anglican Church simply meant the Christian Church in England. After its 15th-century separation from the Church of Rome (under King Henry VIII), the Anglican Church embraced a uniquely English form of reformation, a middle way which created a particularly Anglican spirituality.
While we’re a world-wide community, with about 80 million members, Anglicans generally make decisions nationally. In Canada, we’ve had women bishops, priests and deacons since the 1970’s. (St Augustine’s deacon is a woman, and we have two women priests in our congregation). We affirm the dignity and rights of the LBGT community, and in the Diocese of Toronto, we have gay and lesbian clergy living in committed partnerships (though, unforuntately, same gender marriage is still a decision in progress).
Here’s a description of Anglican Spirituality, adapted from the website of Tewksbury Abbey (an Anglican parish church in Gloucester, England) which has this to say about Anglicans:
We’re prayerful & biblical. Anglican spirituality is rooted in communal daily prayer and shaped by the principles laid out in The Book of Common Prayer. So scripture has primary importance along with the prayerful meditation on the psalms, and our way of praying tends to have more formality and structure than many non-liturgical churches.
We’re communal. For Anglicans, communal prayer comes before and shapes personal prayer. Prayer connects us to God and to each other (including our sisters and brothers who’ve died). Communal prayer is a part of daily, weekly and yearly rhythms that both surrounds and informs our community when it gathers either to worship or make decisions.
We’re sacramental. Anglicans see the world itself as sacramental—a physical way of revealing God’s grace. We emphasize the two primary Gospel sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, as well as offer the other sacramental signs–confirmation, matrimony, reconciliation, anointing and ordination.
We’re incarnational. Anglicans emphasize the incarnation (God being “enfleshed” in human life and history in Jesus). So we have a kind of down-to-earth spirituality that affirms the goodness of life and the created world, and the recognition that even though things aren’t always as they should be, the extraordinary is found in the ordinary.
We mystical. Anglicans experience union with God as happening over time, gradually through a journey aided by personal prayer and discipline. This perception’s confirmed by the teaching of the Christian saints throughout the ages.
We’re comprehensive. Anglicans believe the truth can be found in exploring the creative tension between opposites. For example, we affirm both the sacred and the secular, the material and the spiritual, the mind and the heart, glory and intimacy.
We’re ambiguous. Anglicans tend not to be black-and-white in our thinking. We affirm the ambiguity of personal experience and the breadth of human life. Through our history (which has often been bloody), we’ve learned to tolerate differing opinions of the spiritual journey.
We’re open-minded. Anglicans believe in good scholarship, going back to the original sources (the Bible, for example, was written in Hebrew and Greek), and valuing a questing and questioning faith. We search for wisdom in many places and encourage people to listen to each other and bring their honest questions to their life journey.
We’re responsible. Anglicans care about what’s happening in the world, and work hard to make sure all people are treated with respect and justice.
We’re moderate. Anglican avoid extremes, but work towards finding a middle way we can all live with.
We’re artistic. Anglicans believe that beauty, in all its fullness, is a doorway to truth, goodness and God, so we’re at home in the world of poetry, image, symbol, story-telling, ritual and art.
“Prayer” by C. S. Lewis
“Master, they say that when I seem
To be in speech with you,
Since you make no replies, it’s all a dream
-One talker aping two.
They are half right, but not as they
Imagine; rather, I
Seek in myself the things I meant to say,
And lo! the wells are dry.
Then, seeing me empty, you forsake
The Listener’s role, and through
My dead lips breathe and into utterance wake
The thoughts I never knew.
And thus you neither need reply
Nor can; this, while we seem
Two talking, thou art One forever, and I
No dreamer, but thy dream.”