Leaving to Stay in the Church

I became an Anglican in 2011, thinking that I could escape the world of evangelicalism; the over-politicized, over moralized, over condemning evangelicalism I so desperately want to rebel against. But, not knowing all of what had happened in the world of TEC, I became an Anglican in the ACNA. I thought that this orthodox Anglican movement would be different: Orthodox, but not too fundamentalist about it. Selfishly, I wanted a place to be a Christian, even a Christian leader, where I could believe what I wanted to; where I could be a Christian, but not have to commit to the demands of the gospel, because that felt evangelical, radical, exhausting.

So when I first came across the prophetic witness of Ephraim Radner and R.R. Reno, calling the faithful to stay “in the ruins of the church” my heart skipped a beat, “Am I in the wrong church?” Did I, in fear, make the wrong choice when my episcopal rector told me “either northern Indiana, central Florida, or the ACNA”? He gave me a choice: the Episcopal Church or the ACNA – it was 2010. Did I make the wrong decision? Did I separate from the ruined church to try to find the ideal church?


Coming to the game late, I don’t know what the attitudes of my fellow Anglicans were at the front lines of the long defeat of Anglicanism. I only saw the aftermath: the lost lawsuits, the growing bitterness, and resentment, the hope that our faithfulness would lead to fruitfulness. The (ironic) prayer that “God was doing a new thing.” I saw the hope that the enemy was out there, and now that they were gone, perhaps, things will go well with us. “Prosper the work of our hands, O Lord.” Years later now, Anglicans still walk the road of the long defeat, our faithfulness has not necessarily lead to fruitfulness. I suppose that we are still under the loving judgment of God, separation from heretical teaching does not purge us of our sin and collusion. Liberalism and fundamentalism is the same thing on opposite sides of a spectrum. Does Anglicanism not suffer from this heresy?


Looking back, not knowing the hearts of people, I wonder how intertwined a vision of orthodoxy and a vision of political, social, and economic conservatism was in the formation of the A.C.N.A? I question now how much the defense of the creed was merely a guise for a particular kind of American Christianity. We thought we were purging the church of unorthodox belief. But orthodox belief does not save the human heart. Did we realize that the enemy is not outside us, but in us? Corruption does not come from liberal bishops but our hearts. Doesn’t the very gospel that we say we faithfully preach point to our hearts as the source of corruption? I discovered as God drew me further into the Anglican movement, that the breaking away did not fix our problem. The heretics was not the only source of ruination. We are. I am.


I joined a breakaway movement looking for historical continuity, hoping for stability, waiting for the church to be the church. I joined this movement hoping to escape the demands of euangelion and find solace in a peaceful church that was orthodox but didn’t disturb anyone. I became an Anglican to find the freedom to live a softer, calmer, less offensive Christian life. I say this as a confession; I was wrong to desire this. It is within the realm of the Spirit of my age; I wanted to be a Christian without commitment.


What I found was the church, broken, rebellious, sinful. Orthodox on paper – at least along conservative lines, and even still certain things are amiss – but still divided, still politicized, still searching for a silver bullet to fix its problems. I found a church in ruins under the judgment of God. And I too came under that judgment. I became an Anglican to get away from evangelical Christianity and the demands of Christ that evangelicalism, at its best, seeks to uphold. All I’ve discovered is my evangelical, conservative, politicized American Christian brothers and sister in Anglican churches. I found my rebellion, judgmentalism, and desire to escape the demands of Christ and his Gospel judged.


God brought me to the Anglican Church in North America, not to escape the ruined church but to minister in it and be broken for it. In his great mercy, he gave me a broader context for Christ to confront me with his call, and a wide-open stream to find deep nourishment for my ministry in this age. But this ministry still remains a ministry in the midst of a ruined, broken, prideful Church. I never really left the broken church of my childhood because its brokenness is my own brokenness, my own rebellious heart called to obedience and love.


For me, to join the Episcopal Church would be to leave the ruins of my church, the ruins of evangelicalism in America. These are my people, in an Anglican context, but still my people; Trump lovers and all. The church, all the churches, are in ruin, it seems to be only a question of which ruin God places you in to be faithful and seek to be fruitful in this time of destruction.


All this maybe self-justification to Radner and Reno’s challenge to remain faithful, but I don’t think it is. In God’s providence, I rebelled yet found myself in the midst of the people I thought I left; God in his goodness has guided me back to my church in ruins for me to preach, mourn, shepherd, and love it faithfully, that is, to love Christ faithfully in it. I became an Anglican to escape evangelicalism, to escape myself, I now call myself an evangelical Anglican (in the great tradition) to remain faithful to the church I’ve been called to, the broken, ruined, suffering, heretical, Anglican Church in America.


My very ecclesial membership speaks to this brokenness: I am an Anglican Church of North America priest serving as an Anglican Mission in the Americas member. In the midst of the chaos, I pray it will be taken up and transformed into the cruciform order of Christ through the life-giving Holy Spirit.


That is what this blog will be about. Seeking to be a faithful minister to Christ in the ruins of the Anglican Church of America. In this blog, I will be practicing dogmatic reflection, cultural analysis, and theological interpretation of the Holy Scriptures for the church. My prayer is that this discipline will not only continue to bring me into contact with the purging and illuminating fire of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but will bless others as they continue to make sense of living as disciples of Christ in his Church.