In many ways I would make a great Anglican, at least in the classical sense. Anglicanism is a mix of the classic catholic (read pre-reformation) style of worship and prayer as well as classical Protestant theology surrounding the doctrines of faith and grace. I even made up my own joke to illustrate this VIA MEDIA (middle way), which unless you enjoy Church history, you may not appreciate. Here it goes.
What happens when you mix a German Lutheran with an Irish Catholic? You get an English Anglican! I am usually the only one cracking up when I tell this joke. Still, the Middle Way has been incredibly attractive to me. We might say (in Hegelian fashion) that the Thesis was catholic (read pre-reformation) doctrine, the Antithesis was Protestantism, but the Synthesis was Anglicanism. One can be a synthesis without having to attend a building with the name on it.
Evangelical Protestants, at least in Wisconsin, have complained about traditional churches ad nauseum. I am my own source on this. I have sat through the sermons and spoke with dozens of Pastors and even more Christians of this stripe. Sometimes I relate to their complaints, but other times those complaints are misdirected. Let’s not forget Jesus’ words on the speck and the plank here.
Every time I am preaching from the Scriptures on something that sounds a bit more liturgical, I have to remind everyone that this is found in the Bible! All Saints Day, and Reformation Day, afford us a moment to reflect again on the kind of event the Reformation was, and how, despite differences, Christians can still be one in Christ, regardless of their denomination.
The Reformation is still debated to this day. Was it a return to doctrinal purity? Or, was it a breach of Christian Unity? Was it inevitable? Is it still going on today or has it long ended? These questions are actually quite difficult to answer in simple ways. If Protestant you see it one way, if Catholic another, and it seems there is some grain of truth in both answers.
One of my Professors at Asbury, Kenneth Collins wrote a book critiquing Catholicism. The read is quite heady, but is worth it to those who can. Still, as much as his critique of Catholicism is real, he has also written prolifically that some of the greats in the Protestant tradition, would be correcting the ideas that modern day Protestants have. I remember distinctively sitting in one of his classes where he critiqued this novel idea that somehow, after forgiveness, God does not actually remember our sins. He challenged the class that this could not be the case.
Even more, on the Doctrine of Salvation, Evangelicals often maintain a simplistic understanding of the term. Some use it in such narrow categories that at least some churches think about it as the moment of deciding for Christ, and not as a process throughout life with distinctive moments.
I am highlighting my Professor’s thoughts to illustrate one thing. Whether, Catholic or Protestant, or some Middle Way, there is room to critique ourselves and see how well we truly hold up to Scripture and the early church. This thought is our reminder from the Reformation. Yet, with this in place, should this not allow us to remember the great Christians in both traditions in time’s past? Moreover, it is a reminder of all our imperfections, which should drive us to rest on God’s perfection.
When we come into the doors of Church on All Saints Day, let’s remember God’s grace through the Catholics, the Protestants, as well as the middle way, of Anglicanism. Both those who have died and those who are still alive on earth. This All Saints Day, let’s pray for real solutions to bringing the divided branches of Christianity back together. Whether it is achievable or not, the final result in heaven includes that unity for all who truly love the Lord. Therefore, until we reach that great City of God, we must always be striving forward to it in the City of this World.