TO BE ANGLICAN
I know this section is long and wordy. But if you are interested in the Anglican Church and what it means to be an Anglican, then wade in.
This excerpt from What is Liturgy? Evangelicals and Liturgical Worship, by Dennis Bratcher and Robin Stephenson Bratcher.
Since the mid-1970s there has been a growing restlessness in many evangelical circles with the patterns of worship that had grown out of 19th century revivalism and camp meetings. That style of worship with heavy emphasis on evangelistic preaching, testimonies, extemporaneous prayer, emotionalism, and altar calls may have served the needs of the 19th century church well. But by the last quarter of the 20th century many evangelicals were looking for a deeper and richer worship experience and began leaving evangelical churches for the liturgical services in Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, Catholic, or even Eastern Orthodox traditions. Some harbor the misperception that liturgical worship is about chanting arcane music or mindless repetition of rituals. The reality is much different.
In 1985 Robert Webber of Wheaton College published the book Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church (Word Books, now published by Morehouse) in which he brought this phenomenon to the forefront. He told the story of his and others’ journey into liturgical worship. He and the others identified six areas in which more liturgical worship ministered to them in ways that traditional evangelical worship did not: mystery, worship, sacraments, historic identity, ecclesiastical home, and holistic spirituality (15-16).
This trend of which Webber made us aware in the mid 1980s has continued to increase today. Even with the advent and popularity of “seeker sensitive,” contemporary, and “emerging church” approaches to worship, there remains a growing trend among evangelicals to seek a form of worship that is not only more meaningful and spiritually fulfilling than traditional evangelical services, but also that is connected to the ancient traditions of the Church. Many have found this in some form of liturgical worship.
For many evangelicals there remains a visceral aversion to even the mention of the word “liturgy.” Many evangelicals, especially those who have grown up in more conservative or fundamentalist traditions, immediately associate “liturgy” with Roman Catholic, which evokes the religious prejudice that opposes “Catholic” to “Christian.” For many in those traditions, to do anything “Catholic,” which becomes a prejudicial label for anything different then how we do things, is the equivalent of abandoning Christianity.
And yet, as many of those same evangelicals mature in their Faith they are attracted to the aspects of worship that are lacking in their own traditional worship experiences. These include the elements of mystery in liturgical worship, the sacraments, the communal dimension of worship, the longing to move out of sectarianism and be part of the larger Church, the focus on Scripture and prayer, even things like incense and making the sign of the cross as a testimony to their own Faith.
Being an Anglican, first, harkens back to the Apostles and the Early Church as the primary source of Anglican identity and authority. The Apostles were the first leaders of the Church as appointed by Jesus. “He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:13-14, Luke 6:12-13). Paul and Barnabas were made apostles (Acts 14:14), and Paul explains that God appoints different people as apostles (1 Cor 12:28).
From historical documents of the first century church leaders, it is believed that the original twelve Apostles appointed by Jesus laid hands on their successors, ordaining them as apostles and leaders in the Church. This custom continued until modern times, and the unbroken line of succession is called bishops. Only three religious groups claim to have an unbroken line of bishops back to the Twelve: Anglican, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic.
The liturgical form of worship can be traced back to ancient Hebrew worship customs (For example: The Passover feast in remembrance of the Exodus). In the second century, Justin Martyr talked about Sunday being the Christian day for liturgical assembly (The Oxford Dictionary of Christian Worship, 62).
The liturgy is a conversation with God. We hear the Word of God when scripture is read and preached, and the people respond with prayers of thanksgiving and confession, and hymns of praise. God speaks – the people respond. People speak and God responds. This is even more obvious in charismatic Anglican churches, where the living presence of God is expected and the prophetic voice of God is encouraged to speak to his people, who pray in the power and under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Are the prayers less valuable if they are written down and agreed upon? Is prayer less effective if it is read than when it is extemporaneously and spontaneously spoken? Written prayer ensures we mention everything that is important. Whether it means anything less or more depends on the heart of the speaker, whatever the form. But having written prayers does not preclude spontaneous prayer, which is encouraged in the worship service. And there are times, when the people are praying, when we have time to share what is on our hearts.
In parts of the liturgy, certain confessions of faith are recited together. The creeds were created to counter heresy in the Church, and reciting the creeds reminds us of them now to ensure that heresy does not find root in the modern Church.
The Book of Common Prayer has been a spiritual anchor of standardization among Anglican cultural differences and influences throughout the centuries. As Peter Toon said, “…the Prayer Book’s power is to unite an Anglican Communion formed from many nations, cultures, and tongues” (Toon, The Way, The Truth and The Life, 15). It has been argued that a common prayer is as important as a common faith.
Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) became the archbishop of Canterbury in 1533 and created the first English language prayer book. This was during the time of the Reformation, where the errors of the Catholic Church were forcefully brought to light by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Cranmer. The printing press had been invented and bibles and books were being printed for the first time for people in different languages. Like the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds, the Prayer Book was designed to bring scripture to bear on the practice of worship, so that false doctrines and Catholic false teachings could be deleted and avoided. Cranmer first wrote the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and its purpose was to make worship more accessible to the common person. Language and doctrine were rewritten to enhance understanding and participation. Another version was published in 1552, but over the next ten years Cranmer made over 600 changes to improve the language, explain certain details, and add new material, so that a much improved version was published in 1662. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer has endured and is still being used to this day.
If you have any other questions, please see Fr John. He would be happy to delve into the details surrounding the Anglican Church.