10 Reasons for Anglican Optimism

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When we observe the world—the sin and disbelief and conflict surrounding the church, together with the sin and disbelief and conflict within the church—it is easy to grow weary of the “changes and chances of this life” (BCP, 60). But take heart: our Lord Jesus Christ is on his throne, his Kingdom is at hand, and he has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Moreover, God’s blessings upon our Anglican Church are abundant, especially at this moment. Therefore, here are 10 reasons for Anglican optimism.

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1. The Anglican Realignment & GAFCON

Biblically orthodox Anglicans worldwide are intentionally connecting and supporting each other. The most visible expression of this realignment is GAFCON, the Global Anglican Future Conference, which meets every five years. Especially encouraging is the recent Kigali Commitment of GAFCON IV, which commits the large majority of Anglicans worldwide to Biblical authority and the classic understanding of marriage and calls for a resetting of the Anglican Communion in accordance with these truths. While some characterize our realignment as schismatic, it is, in fact, the coming together of believers into a more organic unity, one step toward fulfilling Jesus’ prayer “that they may be one” (John 17:22). There can be no unity in disregarding God’s word.

This realignment is prompting important conversation concerning Anglican ecclesiology and the scope and direction of Anglican theology. On ecclesiology, see, for example, the 14 theses of Stephen Noll. On theology, see a recent article by Hans Boersma, Gerry McDermott, and Greg Peters on the one hand, with a rejoinder by James Clarke on the other.

2. The ACNA & Godly Bishops

That the ACNA exists at all is something of a miracle. Theological traditionalists might easily have remained in the Episcopal Church, dying a slow death alongside mainline decline. It was the Godly bishops of the Global South who catalyzed our movement in the United States, who sacrificially brought us together and put us on a trajectory of growth. The ACNA is a reverse missionary movement. To put it provocatively, the West, which evangelized Africa, is now being evangelized by Africans!

Certainly, the ACNA has its share of challenges, including a set of controversies amidst our College of Bishops. But we have Godly bishops, and “what is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Let us pray that the Holy Spirit strengthens our bishops for sacrificial reconciliation with each other and to provide faithful leadership to our province as a whole.

3. BCP 2019 (& 1662)

Though young and small, we Anglicans in North America already have a Book of Common Prayer, the BCP 2019. It is a beautiful volume inside and out, using scripture and the Anglican tradition to guide prayer in both corporate and individual settings. Beginning as a revision of the BCP 1979, the 2019 edition is, in some ways, an update for contemporary mission and, in other ways, a restoration of features from the BCP 1662. Fr. Ben Jefferies has provided multiple guides to the revision, including articles on typography, the daily office lectionary, and the calendar of saints.

At the same time as the BCP 2019 has taken off, we have also seen a groundswell of interest in the BCP 1662, especially through the newly published International Edition, which we profile here. This interest has prompted a productive conversation about the relative merits of the 1662 and 2019. We should welcome this dialogue, especially in light of GAFCON’s Jerusalem Declaration, which identified the 1662 BCP as the liturgical standard for Global Anglicanism.

4. A New Generation of Anglicans

We see a new generation of Anglicans everywhere, some who have grown up in the church, others encountering Christ for the first time. Moreover, in addition to those from the Episcopal Church, we also see a convergence from multiple denominations, including Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Fundamentalist, and Evangelical.

The typical themes for those becoming Anglican are exposure to the gospel of Christ in our liturgy and preaching, attraction to the historic church, the celebration of the church year, and the invitation to a deeper and more disciplined spirituality through daily prayer. At Anglican Compass, we feature a whole series of “Rookie Anglican Guides,” by which we seek to extend Jesus’ invitation: “Come and see!” (John 1:39).

5. Children & Catechesis

With a new generation of Anglicans also comes a new generation of children. And as Anglicans, we welcome children with open arms, baptizing them and admitting them to communion, following Jesus’ teaching to “let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16). Moreover, we are beginning to realize that church is not the same as school, which explains the all-too-frequent failure of the 20th century Sunday-School model in which children and adults were separated into separate services on Sundays.

As a result, many Anglican churches are experimenting with new models of children’s ministry, finding various ways to incorporate children into the Sunday communion service. And many are thinking creatively about bringing the Christian faith into the home. Our own Ashley Wallace is pioneering the way with her series of articles and books on “The Liturgical Home.”

We are also reclaiming the ancient practice of catechesis through our new catechism, an excellent resource for both children and adults. And a new organization, the Catechesis Institute, led by Alex Fogleman, brings together theorists and practitioners to strengthen this work.

6. The Patient Ferment of the Local Church

In his recent book The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, Alan Kreider argues that the early church grew not only through strategies of evangelism but also, especially, by living out the countercultural values of Christ. The same thing is happening in our Anglican Church today. There are Anglican parishes everywhere living and serving counter-culturally, with mercy ministries, family ministry, youth ministry, and pro-life conviction being implemented.

If you’d like evidence of this at the broader level, look at major provincial initiatives such as the Matthew 25 Initiative, which brings together a variety of mercy ministries, or Anglicans for Life, which is specifically focused on the pro-life cause. As another kind of evidence, consider the result of this patient ferment: the gradual growth of parishes and the need for new property and buildings. Here a good sign is the recent emergence of the Leaderworks Trust, which assists dozens of parishes with major capital campaigns.

7. Missionary Efforts

An essential part of our Anglican DNA is the work of mission, of going out proclaiming the gospel of Christ. In the ACNA, we have pursued this mission, particularly through church planting, which is supported by the provincial Always Forward ministry. In this second decade of the ACNA, we are also beginning to see something inspiring: church plants raising up leaders and sending them out to start new church plants. We highlighted the story of one church planter who went from reading Rookie Anglican Guides to using them in his own church plant!

The next frontier for mission is those initiatives that require more ongoing support, such as foreign missions and college ministry. Foreign missions are an essential outgrowth of Jesus’ Great Commission “of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), and we have the privilege of partnering with Anglicans throughout the globe. Recently we’ve highlighted missionary efforts in both Spain and Cambodia. Domestic missions, including college ministries, are also essential to reach young people at a crucial moment of faith formation.

8. A Rediscovery of the Arts

The Anglican tradition has a unique relationship to beauty in music, the visual arts, and literature. In music, we are rediscovering the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” of the English choral and congregational tradition (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). At Anglican Compass, we are providing content to support this creative effort, including a series of articles called “Behind the Hymn.” We’ve even published a series of articles on how to chant the Venite, Benedictus, Te Deum, Magnificat, Phos Hilaron, Nunc Dimittis, Gloria, and Agnus Dei.

In the visual arts, many churches are beginning to commission new works for liturgical and catechetical use. This is even happening across countries and cultures, as we highlighted in the story of a young Rwandan artist creating pieces for an American church plant. And there is a new wave of church construction, applying classical principles of liturgical space to develop distinctly Christian architecture.

Finally, Anglicans everywhere are awakening to our glorious literary heritage. Conferences feature C.S. Lewis, whose creative process powered rigorous scholarship and apologetics alongside fiction for children and adults. We gladly claim the poetry of HerbertDonne, and Milton, not to mention modern practitioners such as Malcolm Guite and the late Geoffrey Hill.

9. The Growth of Orthodox Anglican Media

When Anglican Compass was founded (then called Anglican Pastor), we were one of the very few publishing ministries committed to Biblical orthodoxy in Anglicanism. But over the past years, we have seen the development of multiple publishing operations within either the ACNA or the broader GAFCON network. A few are focused on print publishing, notably Anglican House Publishers, with a variety of digital operations covering news, theology, and practical application. There’s also a growing network of Anglican podcasts.

This year we issued an agreed-upon statement with the North American Anglican: “United in Orthodox Anglicanism.” Though we and NAM have different charisms that lead to variable content and style, our statement aimed to show a fundamental unity between orthodox Anglicans. We hope this is an encouragement to the broader church.

10. The Objective Presence of Christ in the Sacraments

None of our activities as Anglicans can be accomplished in our own power. And so we thank God that the Holy Spirit always strengthens us, and in church, we receive the objective presence of Christ in the sacraments. This is, of course, the ultimate ground for our optimism as Anglicans. As Cranmer writes in the Prayer of Humble Access, we receive Christ “that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us” (BCP, 119).

With a feast such as this, how can we be anything but joyful? “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).


Cover image: “Anglican Church” by Pavel Kral for Getty Images, courtesy of Canva.

Author

Peter Johnston

The Ven. Dr. Peter Johnston is the Ministry President of Anglican Compass. He is a priest and archdeacon in the Anglican Diocese of All Nations and the rector of Trinity Lafayette. He lives with his wife, Carla, and their eight children near Lafayette, Louisiana.

View more from Peter Johnston

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