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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

On Becoming Anglican

I have been part of charismatic evangelical nonconformist churches since 1987 and next month I am getting confirmed as an Anglican. Why, some have wondered, would I wish to join the crew and passengers of the Titanic. Here is my explanation.

My journey towards Anglicanism has been a very slow one.

In the 1980s I was very influenced by the view of church history common to most restoration movements. It goes like this:
In NT times everything was golden
Then it all went crap — lots of "religion" 'n' stuff (you know, Catholics and that lot)
Then along came Martin Luther and it got a bit better ... but not better enough
Then came [fill in all the movements you approve of] and it got a bit better ... but not better enough
Then came us — the church as a beautiful bride ready for the return of Christ
In my view, the British house church movement of the 1980s was where God was at and Anglicans were way off God's radar. They were, in my view, pretty much apostate.

When I joined Oxford Community Church in 1987 I was horrified to discover that the leaders were in communion with some of the Anglican leaders. At best it was, in my humble opinion, a waste of time. (Those were the days when I knew everything about God — if only I had written it down!)

However, during my time in Oxford I occasionally visited a charismatic Anglican church called St Aldates and, though I had trouble admitting it to myself, I really appreciated the gatherings; in particular the combination of liturgy and charismatic stuff.

Also I discovered a lot in common with many evangelical Anglicans I met while I was in Oxford. Which made me think that perhaps they were not all bad. But they were, in my view, still behind the times (in God's timetable).

We moved to Worcester in 1991 and I weirdly found myself gravitating towards liturgical prayer on occasions. It was not something we did in our church but I found it helpful. I started off with the Alternative Service Book, then moved, a few years later, to The Book of Common Prayer (I know!), before supplementing it with Common Worship. And I have continued to use them to this day.

At the same time I was reading a lot of theology (nothing new there), but I discovered that the more I read, especially historical theology (patristic stuff, etc.), the more I found myself resonating with the classical theology of the ancient church. I grew in my appreciation of the importance of tradition to Christianity, especially the importance of the rule of faith and the ecumenical consensus of the church.

I discovered over a period of years that I met God more profoundly in a liturgy than in a charismatic knees-up. It was not that I thought everyone should be like me — I did not and do not — but merely that this was how I was wired up.

In other words, although I had absolutely no intention of becoming Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican , I was more at home spiritually speaking in such contexts than in my own non-conformist context.

So for quite a few years I lived as a liturgical kind of guy in a church context that lacked any formal liturgy. A square peg in a round hole. But I loved — nay, love — my non-conformist charismatic church. It is a wonderful bunch of people who love God and seek to follow him. They are an inspiration. But, as you can imagine, I did struggle with the style of worship.

I considered becoming Roman Catholic and also Eastern Orthodox but in both cases there were some issues of medium significance (theological and other) that I knew I would struggle with.

Anglicanism has slowly sucked me in because it is plugged into the catholic heritage I now so appreciate while also being Reformed. It is a broad church welcoming a wide range of viewpoints and a wide range of styles, while at the same time remaining within the bounds of orthodox Christianity (in theory, though alas, not always in practice!). It has a mass of problems but it also has a mass of rich resources in its tradition for handling them.

So I can carry on being evangelical and charismatic while also being in a communion of churches that can trace a direct line back to the apostles (as can the Catholics and Orthodox) and is open to appreciate the importance of that historical link.

My actual church situation is a tad more complex than this. I will actually belong simultaneously to two churches — one Anglican (charismatic evangelical) and my nonconformist charismatic evangelical church (which I love). It's a long story. Don't ask.

So next month I am getting confirmed and how exited am I! I can increase the number of heretical Anglicans by 1.




13 comments:

godschool said...

Absolutely brilliant, I love it - similar to my own poor benighted husband's slide from enlightened Strict and Particular Baptist to heretical Anglican ...

notg said...

As a recent fellow wanderer from a restoration heritage (Churches of Christ) to the Anglican communion, this post resonates very strongly with my experience. Thanks for sharing!

Andrew Perriman said...

Good move. Personally, I think we should all become Anglicans. Perhaps it should be required by Law.

Anonymous said...

Blessings on you! I, too resonate, with this journey.... although there has been an additional phase. A serious wrestling with ecclesiology finally drew me to Rome.

Michael Leyden... said...

Prayers and blessings on your comfirmation! I think there are many of us who have gone through this journey: the Lord has a sense of humour!

Tom Nicholson said...

Dear Robin,
Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Your opening analysis was very helpful and so true.
Tongue in cheek, I suggest your next step be the Church of Scotland (Don't worry about TULIP -- the L stands "limitless atonement"!)

James Goetz said...

Robin, Will this make you the first nonconformist Anglican? : -)

Phil Simpson said...

"... But, as you can imagine, I did struggle with the style of worship..."
Was that when I was leading worship????
I love your honesty in this blog, and your willingness to tackle some BIG issues. Your comments on baptism some time back helped in my decision to finally get baptised as an adult, having been christened as a child. So for me the journey has been Anglican -> non-conformist charismatic -> charismatic Pentecostal. Although I actually prefer the term "follower of Christ" - because we're all part of that same body, are we not???

Anonymous said...

first universalism,
now anglicanism!
God's blessing on you
at your confirmation.

scriptedflight said...

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and thoughts! You offer excellent insights.
I am going through a similar experience of having been deeply impacted by some Anglican services I attended when visiting England and yearning for some more liturgical elements and theologically intentional service planning. This has led me to explore and learn about Convergence Worship (c.f. Robert E. Webber).

Robin Parry said...

Thanks y'all. Your kind words are encouraging

jonnyjpg said...

Thanks for sharing that Robin. I enjoyed reading that. Back in 1989 I would have been a 12 year old at OCC. I'm now part of a vineyard church, but in the last year I've been attending Mass at our local Anglican Church, during the week. I love the liturgy and space for silent reflection, and I love the small congregation of people I get to share the peace with. Cheers Jonny

Anonymous said...

As a fellow seeker struggling to reconcile my desire for traditional worship with my concerns about Catholic and Orthodox dogma, this post resonated deeply with me. Glad to have stumbled upon it all this time later.