So... Why Anglican?
"Anglicans hold that theirs is the church of NT times and the early church, reformed in the sixteenth century and waiting for the reunion of all Christians."
-C. FitzSimons Allison, former Bishop Diocese of South Carolina.
Because we value the Protestant Reformation
The church of the Good Shepherd stands in the great Anglican evangelical tradition that is rooted in the primacy of the scriptures and the doctrine of salvation by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide), and which is foundationally expressed in the classic Book of Common Prayer.
At Good Shepherd we long for a church that is evangelical in faith, catholic in order, alive in the Holy Spirit and committed to mission.
The word "evangelical" is used in many different ways these days, and there is much debate about its meaning. Our preference is for J.I. Packer's six distinctives of evangelicalism, which are endorsed by John Stott and Alister McGrath, all three of whom are prominent evangelical Anglicans.
1. The supreme authority of Scripture for knowledge of God and as guide to Christian living.
2. The majesty of Jesus Christ as incarnate God and Lord, and the saviour of sinful humanity.
3. The lordship of the Holy Spirit.
4. The need for personal conversion.
5. The priority of evangelism for both individual Christians and for the Church as a whole.
6. The importance of Christian community for spiritual nourishment, fellowship and growth.
(See Alister E. McGrath, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity, Leicester: IVP, 1995, p. 51.).
Here we see the evangelical commitment to the Bible as not only being the word of human authors but also the word of God; the unique person and work of Jesus Christ by which sinners may be justified before a holy God by putting their faith in him; the encounter with God's Spirit who inspired the Scriptures and speaks through them; the call to personal (though not individualistic) repentance; the commission to proclaim the Gospel in all the world; and the commitment to the life of the Church. It is a set of short and simple statements but between them they define the movement well.
I understand Packer's distinctives to mean that these are the Christian doctrines that need to be stressed if we are to keep the Gospel front and center. It is not to belittle any other teachings of the historic creeds, but it is to say that unless these are deliberately underlined, they have a disconcerting way of migrating to the margins of Church life. The Gospel is always unsettling people, and the sinful desire to tame it is ever present. Specifying how that can be avoided is one of evangelicalism's greatest gifts to the Church.
Because we believe in the catholicity of the Church
Anglicanism is reformed Catholicism. Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury in the time of King Henry VIII, was able to bring Martin Luther's rediscovery of justification by faith alone into the heart of the Church of England. It has since spread around the world in Anglican and Episcopal Churches and is now the third largest Christian denomination with about 77 million members.
Anglican doctrine and practice have been traditionally defined by the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine articles, which originate in the work of Thomas Cranmer. Both are deeply rooted in the Scriptures. There is a particular respect for the teaching of the Church Fathers (i.e. the prominent Christian teachers up to about 451) and of the four ecumenical councils of the Church during that time. As Lancelot Andrewes once put it in a sermon, Anglicanism has, "One canon [the Bible], reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of fathers in that period - the centuries, that is before Constantine, and two after, [that] determine the boundary of our faith."
Recently, some Anglicans in the West have been seeking a substantial reworking of traditional positions on doctrine and practice, seeing Cranmer's prayer book and articles as outdated for modern and post-modern generations. Evangelical Anglicans have resisted this movement, preferring to question the assumptions of modernity and post-modernity, and to reaffirm the teaching of Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes. These formative Anglican divines, and many others since, uphold all six of the distinctives of evangelicalism. This should not come as a great surprise since they are, I believe, simply affirmations of Biblical Christianity.
What excited me about Anglicanism when I first discovered it, and what I have come to see all the more clearly with the benefit of further study, is that it offers the historical anchoring that many evangelicals seek. It allows us to root our convictions in the riches of the tradition of Christian thought and prayer that faithful followers of Jesus Christ have passed down to us. We can discover an ancestry that goes back two thousand years - right back to the teaching of Jesus himself, with great theologians, liturgists and saints whose writings can help us to be the disciples that Jesus calls us to be. It also makes us more clearly part of the one, holy, catholic (i.e. universal) and apostolic Church.
The two issues that evangelical Christians often need to rethink coming from such backgrounds are infant baptism and the role of bishops. This is not the place to go into the theological debates on these issues, but what is very striking for me is that in both of these discussions the authority on which the arguments were built was Biblical teaching.
It is within the evangelical Anglican tradition that we have come to embrace the charismatic movement. The ministry of healing and having time to wait on God fit naturally into the Anglican liturgy. We have also come to find how much evangelical Anglicanism has to offer to Anglo-Catholics, especially in the tradition of expository preaching and the emphasis on evangelism.
Because we desire to hand on the Anglican evangelical tradition
A tradition as rich and complex as evangelical Anglicanism is not quickly learnt nor rapidly passed on. Those who are to lead Anglican Churches need a deep formation in this tradition if they are to be able to introduce others to it and to nurture the faithful in it. They need to inhabit this tradition, with its pattern of morning and evening prayer and regular Eucharist using ancient liturgies. They also need to learn how to shape their learning of the Bible, Church History, Systematic and Practical Theology in the light of it.
These are some of the reasons why we are evangelical Anglicans and seek to promote evangelicalism amongst Anglicans and Anglicanism amongst evangelicals. This blend of biblical authority and evangelistic fervour makes for a powerful Christian witness and nutritious soil for growing disciples.* The full article entitled, A Case for Evangelical Anglicanism By Justyn Terry can be found at the Trinity School for Ministry website.
1st century - the church was founded by Jesus Christ. He commissioned and sent his apostles to preach the good news to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:16-20).
3rd - 6th centuries -
The church was established in England by missionaries from both the Roman and Celtic expressions of Christianity. Pictured above is St Aidan on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in Northeastern England near the border of Scotland. St Aidan was from the Celtic expression.
6th century - St Augustine came to England as an adherent to the Roman expression of Christianity. He established the church in Southeastern England. He became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
7th century - The conflict between the "Roman" and "Celtic" expressions of the church eventually led to the Synod of Whitby in 664 A.D. The "Celtic" expression argued from the authority of St John, the "Roman" expression appealed to the authority of St Peter. The outcome of the Synod of Whitby ruled in favour of "Roman" Christianity. Uniformity to Rome was then encouraged and enforced throughout England. It would take several hundred years for this to come to fruition.
11th century - The Norman Conquest brought the English Church - including the celtic branch of the english church - under the full authority of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
16th century - In 1534, Henry the VIII broke ties with the Roman Pontiff over the King's desire for an annulment from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon and his desire to marry Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII proclaimed himself as the supreme ruler of the church in England and was no longer under the control of the Pope. At the same time, the Protestant Reformation was sweeping the continent. Hence the Anglican Church retained its catholic heritage, but was also influenced by the reforms of Luther in Germany and Calvin in Geneva. Therefore, many have referred to the Anglican Communion as "the church of the middle way," or the Via Media; that is, a church that seeks to find a balance between the extremes of Reformed Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.
21st century - The Anglican Communion is currently undergoing a fresh Reformation and reformission. The church of the west is declining while the church of the global south is booming. Indeed, while many parishes in the The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada are being closed the Anglican Church of North America seeks to plant 1,000 new parishes in the next five years! Additionally, many orthodox Anglican churches in the old west are beginning to leave, or like us already have already left Anglican dioceses that have become (in many cases) anti-gospel. As a result, the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) was formed as a province for orthodox Anglicans in Canada and the USA who are comitted to remaining faithful to Scipture, Anglican orthodoxy and the apostolic faith. Good Shepherd is a part of this new Reformation. We are a parish in the Diocese of the the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) which part of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). God is at work. Come and see. Why not join us?