The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Thoughts on the Anglican Church

First off, yay!!! Forum is up again!! So many posts to read!

Secondly, I’m considering returning to church attendance and am curious as to what these places are like in your experience.

A little history: I’m a Brit girl of Irish heritage. Therefore, long family history of Catholicism. However, my immediate family made a switch to a charismatic, word of faith style of religion. If you’re not sure what I mean, think of the TBN style Christianity, tithe and God gives you harvests of money, all you need is enough ‘faith’ to be healed etc. This was frankly, a very strange way to be raised in the UK. It certainly is far from the norm, and made me the odd bod at school :open_mouth:

Anyway, as an adult I continued to attend such churches with my family, even though I was having a loooooooong internal epiphany: believing universalism, believing evolutionary science and believing much that I’d been raised in was an heretical, dangerous scam. I stopped attending at all about 2 years ago. I had seen on another thread that advice was given to attend church no matter what; to effect the change you wish to see. Whilst I don’t necessarily disagree with the principle, sometimes this is simply not possible and even downright dangerous.

I confess that I now have a slightly suspicious attitude towards charismatic style churches. I had seen in three that I attended
1: scamming money off people
2: ministers living in luxury off of church offerings, whilst not, for example, funding works for the elderly
3: ministers claiming they’re your covering and to disagree/disobey them, is to offend God
4: claims of healing powers. No true evidence ever shown.
5: threats made against people’s physical well being or local reputation, if they didn’t toe the party line
6: spurious theological claims that you are not allowed to query. To do so is arrogance and rebellion. Examples of this would be idea that Jesus went to hell and died spiritually. Or that you should take communion when you’re sick to be healed.

I give these examples to show what drove me from church completely. But while this has put me at odds with my family, I believe God has used this for good. I was prompted to read the works of Christians working in the sciences, Orthodox theologians, Anglican theologians and even reformed. I feel God has been giving me an education. I was always taught that the traditional churches are dead. I see now how arrogant this was.

I feel I’ve learned much from, for example, the Orthodox view of scripture and atonement. Yet whilst I feel an affinity to orthodoxy, there is too much in that camp that I cannot get on board with. Anglicanism seems a good medium ground, with good articles of faith, routes to being progressive in faith and not just assuming the status quo, but still with strong respect for tradition. There seem to be some theological heavyweights in Anglicanism as well.

What are people’s thoughts/experiences of Anglicanism? I am a little wary, because I was always taught that the vast majority are ‘dead’, no real faith and no real teaching of the congregation. But I feel drawn to the official theology. And I simply cannot go back to independent church Protestantism. I’ve seen too much spiritual abuses with no checks in place.

Sometimes, I will go alone when the cathedral is open to pray, meditate and contemplate. I definitely sense the LORD in that quiet more so than I ever did elsewhere. So I’m really keen to know your experiences

Thanks for sharing your journey. It sounds like visiting some of these Anglican fellowships might be a good start. I understand where you are coming from in regards to Charismania. I’ve been fortunate to have experience with some Charismatic churches that have not given into the all-to-common problems you mentioned. It sounds like the Charismatic fellowships you’ve been involved with are the more exclusive variety; the more inclusive, interdenominational ones are much more healthy imo.

The main thing is though to follow the leading of the Lord, personally. I’m reminded of something a minister once said. He was asked how he knew what the will of God was. He replied, “It’s that think that just won’t leave you alone!” If the Lord is wanting you to find and join a fellowship, He’ll keep nudging you in that direction. Hang in there sis and trust our Father!

Thanks for that Sherman. I absolutely know that the charismania churches exist. Same with all churches. Guess I just feel a bit twitchy. I’ve only got to go in a church with similar services, and I can feel my stomach going over!

You’re right. Follow his nudgings. So far, the best fellowship I’ve had has been from the guys on this forum

Hi JaelSister

Lovely to have your feisty Brit voice back on the board. :smiley: (Not that there is anything wrong with unfeisty non-British voices :smiley: ).

Perhaps I should preface anything I am about to say – so you can treat it with the large pinch of salt it warrants – that I long ago gave up going to church ‘regular’, as Terry Jones used to say in Monty Python. I do attend a small evangelical free church, do a bit of amateur preaching therein, every now and then. And frankly, I always feel better for going than not going.

So, Anglicanism and orthodoxy. I would say there are heaps of good things to be gained from both. I am quite sure that you will gain a great deal from attending an Anglican church. I go up to All Souls in Langham Place in London a few times each year, and again, I always feel the better spiritually for it. Even though I do not agree with their theological stance.

CS Lewis – who was, as I’m sure you know, like you a Brit of Irish (Northern Irish) heritage – ‘classified’ himself as a pretty orthodox Anglican. I have great respect for, and faith in, the Anglican tradition. Austin Farrer, one of my favourite theologians, was likewise a pretty orthodox Anglican.

Dick, if he is listening, is the man to fill us in on Anglicanism’s differences between, or similarities with, the CofE – I confess I’m very hazy on these!

I have no personal experience of charismatic churches, but the ‘issues’ you cite do seem to be worryingly common, from what I’ve read. But as Sherman points out, one shouldn’t tar all charismatics with the same brush. (Don’t get me started on Benny Hinn; there will be blood on the carpet. :smiley:)

I guess my advice JS, for what it’s worth, would be to follow your heart. I’ve always believed, and found it to be true from experience, that God speaks to my heart – as long as I’m prepared to truly listen.

Peace and love to you sis


Cheers Johnny!

I’ve not been regular for years :smiley: I do feel that something is missing from life however, Im guessing it’s that corporate worship and celebrating the mysteries of God. I would so love it if the faith was truly expounded as well. Farrar was a favourite of mine as well, I’m an NT Wright groupie and have loved Lewis for years.

As for Benny Hinn. Urgh!! I was in a meeting of his once. A woman in my row had a bowel condition, meaning she would suddenly need the loo badly. She needed to go during Hinn’s sermon. As she stood up and tried to move, he castigated her from the microphone, claiming “woman, you are disrupting the word of God!”. She was embarrassed and in her hurry to move more quickly, her feet became caught in her bag straps. It was one of those cases where the quicker she tried to be, the more flustered and entangled she became. All the while, Hinn proclaimed from the front “If you must move, move! Stop disrespecting the word of God!” This woman was later found devastated, humiliated and sobbing in the toilet. Having likely come hoping for healing, she had instead been publicly humiliated. I wanted to swing for Hinn that day, in a ‘pick on someone your own size!’ way.

Hinn sure is a nasty piece of work!

by Anglican, do you mean C of E?

there are some amazing not even close to dead (in fact, they feel fine, don’t want to get on the cart and think they’ll go for a walk) churches out there. i am aware of a lovely rather high church in Essex headed by a dear friend of mine that is very progressive (accepts alternatives, LGBT, etc) and though he’s never said it to me is quite possibly a Universalist in leaning at least. out-Universalist Ravi Holy is kept rather busy by i think several churches down in Canterbury, and recently i discovered a church near me that i never suspected existed until Dick lent me The Post Evangelical by Dave Tomlinson (who is the vicar of said church).
i’ve randomly been to churches all over, and always been surprised at the lack of deadness (i had heard those rumours too). once i went to the church in Tanworth-in-Arden (i was there for the annual Nick Drake gathering), and the sermon was challenging and full of life…urging us to care for others.
give your local one a go…it may surprise you. the nice thing about the C of E is there is really something for everyone…and if the nearest doesn’t fit, chances are there is another not far away that does (though for small villages this may not be the case of course).
having come from a thankfully less evil but no less cringe inducing tradition as you, i have found the more liturgy driven services of the C of E (and heck, even a Catholic church i went to in desparation a couple times) to be a breath of fresh air.

Here in the US we call them Episcopal, and I’ve found since my “Universalist epiphany” that they are the most open churches. As an “Evangelical Universalist” though, I find myself consistently put off by what I call The Episcopal Shuffle. This is the almost reflexive need of the priest to apologize for any miracle occurrence in the Gospel reading - whether walking on water (“was Jesus on a sandbar?”) or feeding the multitudes (“did the child’s offering his few loaves and fishes trigger an outpouring of giving among the crowd?”) - as if miracles were an embarrassment to the educated parishioners. Poppycock!

Reasonable people must accept that our own reason and free will is super-nature–above and not of the same substance as nature, and not able to be constructed from any mix of what nature has in its toolbox, namely mechanistic processes and randomness. Color can’t be created from mixing black and white paint, and you don’t create independent self-directed consciousness from physical nature. The supernatural evidence of the bible is merely a (rare) extension of this Consciousness.

Hi Jael!!! :smiley:

‘The Church of England’ refers to the English National Church – founded by St Augustine of Kent, the first Archbishop of Canterbury (different from the miserable git/saint of Hippo) in the seventh century as the Catholic Church in England, later incorporating the already existing Celtic Church in England via the Synod of Whitby, and later still breaking from the Roman Catholic Church in the sixteenth century when Henry VIII made himself head of the Church. The Church of England emerged fully under Elizabeth I. Boring history!

‘Anglican’ is the general term that refers to all churches that are in Communion with the ‘mother’ Church of England as ‘provinces’ of Anglican Communion in the rest of the UK and in former colonies of the British Empire (and is inclusive of the mother Church).

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the primate of the Church of England – but he lacks the monarchical power of a Pope. His authority is more pastoral – a bit like the chief peace negotiator between different factions in a wide and diffuse communion.

‘Episcopalian’ is the terms used for some Anglican provinces – notably in Scotland and in America. It refers to the ‘Episcopal’ structure of Anglican Church governance– namely, the Church is governed by a hierarchy that is headed by bishops.

From the time of the Elizabethan settlement the Church of England has been a broad church that is inclusive of Catholic elements that stress continuity with the ancient Church going back to St Augustine and with Catholic tradition and liturgy, ‘liberal’ elements that stress the importance of reason, and evangelical elements (both Calvinist and Armenian) that stress the importance of scripture. And there is a broad spectrum of belief and practice between the Catholic and Evangelical poles of the Church – both in the Church of England and in the wider Anglican communion

In Africa - Desmond Tutu is a sort of liberal Catholic Anglican, inspired by the social Gospel teaching of liberal Catholicism in the mother Church as well as home grown African Anglican traditions. However, the archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda who take a strong anti-gay line, are very Conservative evangelicals.

The American Episcopalian (Anglican) Church has a robust liberal tradition – rationalist and ethically progressive – with luminaries such as Jack Spong. In fact Episcopalian liberalism tends to be more assertive and ‘extreme’ than liberalism in the Church of England proper. However, there are pockets of Conservative Catholic Episcopalians in the USA too.
In the UK you’ve got the lot: High Church Conservatives, Liberal Catholics, Conservative Evangelicals, Broad Church liberals, Progressive Evangelicals, Charismatics etc, and even a small number of sectarian Calvinists who huff and puff about taking the Church over (but are a minority club in reality). With so much variety it’s important to find a Church that chimes with your own experience and beliefs.

Two websites may be of interest to you. First take a look at –

I think you’ll chime with this movement within the Church in sweet harmony – and the site includes a directory of Inclusive Church Parishes around the UK.

Also, if you wish, take a look at –

This is the website of the Church of England Anglican evnglical centre ground – which has some good discussion threads.
Hope this is useful –

Love and blessings


As Jason says, excellent post Dick. Thanks for clarifying all that. I confess I still get my knickers in a twist trying to remember that Anglicanism and the CofE are not completely synonymous.

And a very useful insight on our Episcopalian friends in the States. My favourite modern theologian, Robert Farrar Capon, is an Episcopalian priest. I believe he is retired from active service now. I think I would have enjoyed going to his church. :smiley:

Incidentally, there is a very interesting quote from Capon on his Wikipedia entry. It’s so interesting that I think I will start a thread on it!

All the best


great post, Dick!
the sheer variety of thought in the C of E is one of the things that draws me though naturally the individual instances of doctrines i personally find repellent will keep me from some churches in the C of E…i just mean it’s great that we can disagree STRONGLY and still be a denomination. it actually is a good example to those churches that split over every stupid little thing and shows them up for being hugely immature.

Hi All –
I take it that you are all being so nice to me about a rather plodding post because at least one of you wants me to get on with the story of the Abrogation of the 42nd Article over at Ecclesiology (the story of the history of Universalism in the Anglican Church)! :laughing: :unamused: :laughing: :unamused:

I have very little spare time at the moment – but my mind is turning on the task. Way will open –




[size=50]Me, it’s me. And maybe RevDrew. And some other people[/size]

[size=150]ME TOO[/size] :wink:

Oh well – I’d better apply myself as soon as I can then old chums (and I love the smiley doing prostrations!!! :laughing: :laughing: :laughing: :laughing: :laughing: )

A quick note -

It appears that ‘Episcopalian’ an’ ‘Anglican’ are beginning to be used in a different way in the USA as labels for two competing factions within the Anglican church in America rather than as overlapping terms. Anyone interested can find out more in this article by Damian Thompson … n_America/

(Damian Thompson is a very conservative Catholic – his outlook obviously informs his article, but the factual information seems clear in his writing and can be easily distinguished from his value judgements which we may or not happen to agree with).


Dick :laughing:

P.S. Johnny - do tell us more about Rev Capon

Hi Dick

I hope I haven’t ripped you untimely out of your well earned sabbatical, me old china. :smiley:

Thanks for the SP on Episcopalianism (try spelling *that *on a dark and windy night :smiley: ) in the States.

Just in case you hadn’t picked up on it, I have started a thread on Capon’s non-Universalist Universalism, and we are starting to explore his theology there.

Ta ta for now :smiley:


*Ok Johnny – God speed with the thread. Here’s an article by Kurt Willems that I thought might interest some. You can find at – … -anglican/

and at … t-willems/*

If I wasn’t Anabaptist, I’d probably become Anglican – Reflections on an ancient-future faith orientation

I’m Anabaptist, but even more than that, I’m a follower of the resurrected Jesus. If these two identifiers ever get out of order, something in my faith journey has gone seriously awry.

I didn’t even embrace Anabaptist theology until seminary. Actually, it was a long journey that started with two strands of complementary thought: the emerging church and an Anglican Bishop, namely N.T. Wright.

Neither Wright nor the emerging church is specifically Anabaptist, but much of what these voices were saying (when I was in college / seminary) gave me the courage to move into the Anabaptist way of faith. These voices questioned “traditional” modes of understanding the Scriptures and politics, pointing me to a much richer faith experience than I could have hoped for.

I grew up in the Mennonite Brethren denomination, which is on paper Anabaptist. In my childhood and early young adult context, this was not the case outside of educational institutions. All of the MB churches I ever was part of or visited were basically right wing evangelical communities with some unique traditions.* The traditions were great, but I eventually wanted the theology that had been left behind in more ways than one. And this is why I’ve chosen to remain part of a historical Anabaptist denomination (Brethren in Christ) as a church planter.

Yet, as I’ve attempted to demonstrate, it wasn’t as though my faith journey started with such a perspective, rather I’ve been influenced by many Christian traditions.

Early in college, a book came out by Brian McLaren reinforced the desire to have a “Generous Orthodoxy,” gleaning what I could from the multifaceted diamond that is the Church. I read books by Catholics, went to charismatic conferences, read emergent authors, listened to dynamic podcast preachers, attended Mass (especially Life Teen “contemporary” Mass), and absorbed everything I could from conferences like Youth Specialties: National Youth Workers Convention.

I’m an Anabaptist, but really, many wonderful strands of the Christian Tradition continue to shape me.

The more I’ve experienced the worship of high church liturgy, the more I’ve found myself caught up in the mystery of God’s love. I love the smells and bells of a Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican/Episcopal worship gathering. In fact, if I wasn’t Anabaptist… I’d probably become Anglican.

What I love about Anglican/Episcopal worship is its deep connection to the Great Tradition of the Church, while also having the flexibility for theological reflection and innovation. I say this as an outsider looking in of course, but I could easily find myself belonging to the Anglican tradition. I love taking the Holy Communion on a weekly basis. I find myself captivated by God’s Word as it is read aloud as part of the Revised Common Lectionary. Add to this that the Book of Common Prayer possesses some of the most powerful prayers and liturgies on the planet – beautifully weaving in themes like justice, ecology, peacemaking, and new creation. Worship in such a setting propels me closer to Jesus.

The reason that I, along with many others from low-church evangelical movements, resonate with much of the Anglican/Episcopal worship practices, is summed up in the following quote by the late Robert Webber:

“Ancient worship . . . does truth. All one has to do is to study the ancient liturgies to see that liturgies clearly do truth by their order and in their substance. This is why so many young people today are now adding ancient elements to their worship. . . . This recovery of ancient practices is not the mere restoration of ritual but a deep, profound, and passionate engagement with truth—truth that forms and shapes the spiritual life into a Christlikeness that issues forth in the call to a godly and holy life and into a deep commitment to justice and to the needs of the poor.” – Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Baker Books, 2008), 109.

He argued that the way forward from Modernity into Postmodernity would be to discover an ancient-future faith. This would be ancient, in that it invites emerging Christians into the patterns of worship of the historical church: the Christian year, lectionary, liturgy, and Christian practices. This transcendent piece roots Christ followers in the ancient story of the Scriptures and places us in continuity with the early church. This is a story bigger than just “I.”

The church taking this posture would also be a forward-looking movement, a church with a focus on the future. Such a church is on a mission to various peoples of post-Christendom by re-imagining the arts, social justice, spirituality, and community for the 21st century. Webber reflects on this:

“How do you deliver the authentic faith and great wisdom of the past into the new cultural situation of the twenty-first century? The way into the future, I argue, is not an innovative new start for the church; rather, the road to the future runs through the past. These three matters—roots, connection, and authenticity in a changing world—will help us to maintain continuity with historic Christianity as the church moves forward.” – Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year (Baker, 2004)

I find myself fitting into the sort of Christianity that Webber imagined would become the path forward for many of us from low-church evangelicalism. This will be part of the ethos of the church planting mission that I will be leading in 2013 in Seattle, Wa. It would be safe to predict that this network of faith communities will be: Anabaptist in values, missional in orientation, contemporary in the arts including music, charismatic in its openness to the work of the Holy Spirit, and liturgical in its worship rhythms.

So yes, I could easily find myself worshipping among the Anglicans/Episcopalians – permanently if I wasn’t committed to an Anabaptist vision of the Kingdom. Certainly some things wouldn’t be perfect in that setting, one area being the Anglican openness in some quarters to celebrating nationalist themes (actually, I attended an Anglican Church today and they sang the fourth verse of “My Country Tis of Thee” which made me cringe a bit).

Even so, worshipping within the Anglican tradition truly enriches me every time and serves as a reminder of the multiple expressions of God’s beautiful Church. Together, all of the various denominations proclaim in their own way what I recited out of the Book of Common Prayer this morning – the mystery of faith:

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

*A response to the article is interesting too - *

I was born into Fundamentalism, began my ministry in mainstream Evangelicalism, then became an Anabaptist while a student in seminary. I served there 26 years before I finally yielded to the call of Anglicanism and the liturgical tradition… for the very reasons you describe in your excellent article. I wanted to be a liturgically-leaning Anabaptist. I ended up being an Anglican with strong Anabaptist sensibilities.

For those of us with hetrodox beliefs (e.g. Evangelical Unliversalism) the Evangelical Anglican churches (at least in Australia and the UK where I have experience of them) have many advantages, as they have very loose rules for membership you can’t easily be kicked out of an Anglican church for not towing the party line.

In many churches you have to sign up to a formal statement of faith, which I am not able to do in most evangelical churches, due to my belief in the reconcilliation of all things. This was why I left the Baptist church I was a member of when I came to my current views.