A Tribute to Thomas McKenzie


Thomas avoids the temptation to turn Anglicanism into a subject to merely be dissected, instead choosing to be a guide along the way as someone is seeking to be formed as a Christian, and as an Anglican.

I vividly remember sitting in my car in the parking lot of the Music and Arts store here, talking to Fr. Thomas McKenzie on the phone. He and I were discussing both the book he was writing as an introduction to Anglicanism, and the website I was starting, then called Anglican Pastor (now Anglican Compass). He was the first Anglican pastor to join this effort.


Thomas was a husband, father, and pastor, and friend to many. His loss and the loss of his beloved Charlie, whom he was driving to college when they were both killed in an auto accident, will be felt by family, church, and friends across the world. I share the grief and shock of so many when I write these words about our beloved supporter and friend and his child.

He loved his family so much, and he pastored his church with such love and we honor him as a husband, father, and pastor. For my part, I want to pay tribute to my friend Thomas as a writer and as an editorial advisor of Anglican Compass.

In 2013, as we discussed the book and the website, we had known each other for years through our pastoral ministry, but now we were connecting around our passion for the way writing can serve people. He was excited to be able to take his teaching ministry and encapsulate it into a book for new Anglicans. From that day on we began a collaborative teamwork and friendship that gave us both a chance to meet many new Anglicans, and people from many other traditions who wanted to understand Anglicans.

Thomas was enthusiastic, gifted, and encouraging. Whenever we talked about life, ministry, and writing, I always felt heard and understood, an experience shared by so many people. When I visited Nashville or he visited Atlanta, I always felt the joy of friends who a share a passion. He had a beautifully endearing sense of humor, and a direct manner that I loved.

Not every priest and pastor enjoys writing. But Thomas did, and he knew the power of guiding people through the written word. His writing, like the man, is clear, friendly, direct, charitable, and Christ-centered. He never speaks from a high horse. His voice is always alongside, never above.

Thomas wrote the Harpooner, a guide to Advent. He wrote Lent with the Desert Fathers and The Work of God: A Prayer Book of the Psalms. And he wrote The Anglican Way: A Guidebook (on which Charlie served as a copyeditor).

I had the privilege of being an advance reader for The Anglican Way and collaborating with him on publication and distribution. I am also thankful that I was able to help him promote the book at his vendor table at ACNA 2014. I’m so very thankful to have seen this priest and this book realize a vision that has meant so much to so many.

If you have read The Anglican Way you’ll know that he loved our tradition. He loved our people. He saw the beauty of Anglicanism as a reflection of the ancient and contemporary Christian tradition. Yet he never introduced Anglicanism to anyone as an end in itself. The end was to help that person see Christ and his love, and to receive love and healing. This passion shines through in all of his introductory and devotional writing.

Thomas avoids the temptation to turn Anglicanism into a subject to merely be dissected, instead choosing to be a guide along the way as someone is seeking to be formed as a Christian, and as an Anglican.

Those are words I wrote when I reviewed his book.

Today, I feel they are my tribute to his ministry and his writing. He was a supporter and guide to so many of us. He was a charitable encourager who wanted us to be healed and to know Christ. He was a humane person who loved the people around him and sought their good regardless of their agreement or disagreement with him or his faith. He loved his own tradition and he sought always to live it out at its best. Anglican Compass and Anglicanism in North America would not be the same without Fr. Thomas.

I asked readers of The Anglican Way to share their experience with him and the book, and I want to share some of their words with you:

It clarified what our hearts had been feeling for so long and brought us out of dualistic theology and into the beauty and mystery of sacramental worship. -Samantha Alvarado

I’m not currently attending an Anglican Church although I pray the office every day. In a time when I had lost faith in the church, the book gently encouraged me to believe that people could love each other well. -John Millsap

I had started attending an Anglican church, that I loved, but I didn’t feel like I could become a real member of the church because I was hung up on denominational ideas from my background. I had also been going through a serious crisis of faith and had a lot of fears. I had conversations with a couple of the pastors, but just couldn’t quite shake my hesitation. One of them recommended The Anglican Way, and it was exactly what I needed. The way he explained things completely broke down those barriers. I was able to talk more freely with our pastor who lead adult catechism. I was received into the ACNA by our bishop and I officially joined my church. The Anglican Way talks about the Compass, and it was one of the guides that led me home. -Kelli Welch

I keep thinking how linked my falling back in love with the Church when I found Anglicanism is to Fr. Thomas. I had such a fragile faith & The Anglican Way helped affirm that there is a place for me in the Church. -Morgan Strehlow

The Anglican Way reminded me that Christianity is to be lived out in community with other believers and that expressions of faith are varied but still connected by faith and love of Jesus. Be less judgmental and more encouraging. -John Notestein

When I started attending the local ACNA congregation, I had a ton of hangups but that would be typical. His book was the first I read that really opened my eyes to the wealth of the Anglican tradition. – Fr. Jon Andrew

As an evangelical who has been struggling over these past months, The Anglican Way gave me hope. Fr. Thomas, who was familiar with evangelicalism, wrote it in a way that I understood. The via media gave me hope that there can be Christian faith that isn’t polarized. – Kim Shay

My wife and I had been interested in finding a new home in the Anglican tradition, and when we read that book, it helped us know that we were headed in the right direction for our family in that moment. -Andy Love

These experiences are representative of so many others who have been impacted by The Anglican Way and Fr. Thomas.

I talked with Thomas recently and he encouraged me in my ministry, which was typical of him. The last time I recall seeing him was pre-covid, when we shared a lunch and caught up in Chattanooga. We laughed. We opined. We planned. We collaborated. I know this was not a unique experience with Fr. Thomas. I am crushed and heartbroken for so many people. He and Charlie are at peace now, but our hearts are broken. We are stunned.

But I also comfort myself in the memories today. He was a creative, passionate spirit. His contribution to this ministry and to a positive, charitable Anglicanism will always be a part of this legacy. His books will continue to provide a caring, friendly, humane, and helpful guide to the Anglican way. His friendship will continue to encourage and build up each of us who knew him.

His race is finished on this earth, but his legacy continues in this church and beyond.

There are few better words to sum up Fr. Thomas’ message to Anglicans and believers than these from his own pen:

“Imagine now that you are what God says you are: a priest… This means that you are blessed, loved, needed, and accepted. It means that your life has purpose and value and meaning. It means that you are more than you realize. And, yes, it means that you are different–maybe even strange. We are an odd people with strange priorities. Our sins our numerous. But the grace we have received is total.” -The Anglican Way (218)

Thank you, Thomas, for your ministry among us, that bears eternal fruit. Thomas and Charlie, rest in peace. Your memory is eternal.

Published on

August 24, 2021


The Anglican Pastor

A classic resource from the founding team of Anglican Compass.

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