The summers of my youth were spent in swimming pools, summer camps, and Southern Baptist “tent revivals.” I often felt pressured by those gatherings. There was always an expectation, though sometimes unspoken, to “make a decision,” or pray at the “altar,” or announce a “calling,” or say “just a few words” about your spiritual experience.
This spiritual climate persisted throughout every season, though in the lesser forms of Vacation Bible School, AWANA, and, in my middle and high school years, “youth group.”
After hearing about how believing in Jesus can get me into heaven, feeling the heated flames of hell licking my feet, I asked the pastor’s kid next to me if I should go forward to ask Jesus into my heart. My friend said it was a good idea, so I went for it. I repeated a simple prayer, and it was a done deal. Flames of hell extinguished.
The pressures I felt from such experiences became a “silent passenger” within me. It was a sin so secret that I was unaware of its existence in my heart. It would stay there for years, haunting each step, while I knew none the better.
I announced that I felt a calling into ministry fairly early in life. Folks in that community began working to shape me into their image. They were certainly well intending. However, I became a kind of religious yes-man. While there were areas of Baptist theology and practice where I perceived problems, I was unable to sort out exactly why they were problems, so I just agreed with whatever teaching would grant acceptance within the community.
Tugged Toward the Ancient
All of this came to a climax a couple years ago when a friend turned me to “The King Jesus Gospel,” by Scot McKnight [affiliate link]. I was unaware of his affiliation with the Anglican tradition at the time. I was shaken to the bone by that book. It turned everything I believed upside-down (or rather, right-side-up), and yet provided a sense of direction.
Unaware as I was at the time, I was feeling my way toward the ancient. I needed something real, deep, and wide. I needed, and deeply wanted, to be saturated with the love of God. I wanted the gospel coursing through my veins. But my ego was in the way… my silent passenger.
I kept reading men like McKnight, and eventually N.T. Wright (who I am sure are familiar names to those who have become Rookie Anglicans themselves from other traditions). I also started digging further into the Scriptures. In a very peculiar way, I began to discover God, and consequently, myself. I began to see that I never actually bought into the tradition within which I was raised. I just went along with it to save face, and to avoid the pain that comes with losing friends.
After discovering that N.T. Wright is Anglican, I decided I would find out what exactly that meant! The Baptist tradition was all I ever knew (though I was relatively familiar with Presbyterians). While scouring the web, I quickly discovered there are seemingly innumerable opinions on what exactly it means to be Anglican. Though that was discouraging, I did end up finding the Anglican Pastor website, and the Rookie Anglican Daily Office prayer book.
I felt torn in so many directions, but I was absolutely convinced God was leading me to something good. I desperately needed a better life of prayer, so my wife and I started praying the Rookie Anglican daily offices together. We became stronger as a couple, our faith grew exponentially, and our desire for experiencing heaven on earth multiplied. Finding the prayer book was a breakthrough discovery. It became to us a great treasure because of the way it applied the word of God to our hearts through prayer.
I began reaching out to other Anglicans to get more info. One of the first is Fr. Joshua Drake, a priest in California. I heard about his journey into the Anglican way from the Baptist tradition on a podcast. I was able to connect with him, and am happy to say we talk fairly often, and he has been a formative guide in my pursuit of a life of prayer.
Later, I read “The Anglican Way” by Thomas McKenzie [affiliate link], and used the information in that book to search for a local parish on the ACNA website. As it turns out, there is only one ACNA parish in my area: Redeemer Anglican Church of Asheville, NC.
After chatting about some theological issues with Fr. Gary Ball, he invited me to just come and see. So, I attended— on Trinity Sunday. I felt the warm embrace of my Creator as I observed, participated, and received. The liturgy, the homily, the Eucharist, all of it breathtaking. The glory of God rang out in that place in a way I had never experienced.
Anglican, for the Love of God
Since Redeemer Anglican is currently meeting on Sunday evenings, my family continued attending the Baptist church in the morning, and Redeemer in the evening. After a couple months of this, we decided it was time. Merely tasting the Anglican way was not enough. We were compelled to live in it.
It was not an easy transition, and in many ways, it is still difficult. There has been much for us to learn, and spiritual hurdles for us to jump. For myself, I had to confront my silent passenger. There is no place for ego in the Anglican way. I had to deal with the fact that I’m often afraid of what people think of me. Fortunately, there is no safer place to deal with your sin.
With every office prayed, and every Eucharist attended, I am being conformed to the image of God, no longer being shackled to my former self. The dross of my ego is melting away, though admittedly, as some may attest, at a slow rate.
There are many things I could go on to praise about the Anglican way, but the love of God moving through his people in this tradition is ultimately what brought me here. My hope is that as I experience this proverbial transfiguration, I too will be an expression of God’s love for others.
Emanuel Burke is a Western North Carolina native. He is in his first term of service with United World Missions. Though currently raising ministry support in the United States, Emanuel and his wife will be ministering in Bangkok, Thailand with their two children. You can learn more about their ministry at http://uwm.org/missionaries/31573/ You can follow Emanuel on Instagram at @mannybcreative.