A good friend asked me today how I ended up going from pentecostal to Anglican. I looked around on this site, and I couldn’t find a place where I told that story. My story might help people understand something of why other people have been called to the Anglican tradition. It may also highlight something of the Anglican experience for newbies.
My plan is to start from before I became an Anglican, my call to this church tradition, and then the call to holy orders, as well as my experience as an Anglican Rector in a church plant that became an established church.
I’m not sure how many chapters there are. I’ll try to keep each chapter brief, and would love it if others would share their story or perspective in the comments section.
I’ll start this off with the short version of my family and church growing up, and will even, bravely, include an embarrassing picture from my teenaged years. If you are more interested in the call to Anglicanism, you can skip this part (skip the picture too).
When I was about six or seven years old, my Dad left his business to become a pastor, eventually planting a non-denominational charismatic/pentecostal church in Ravenna, Ohio. My parents had come to personal faith in Christ through a powerful vision of Jesus that my Dad received when they had taken my older brother Chris to a healing service. Chris is mentally and physically disabled.
Dad’s church was a place where the Bible was at the center. People spoke in tongues (which were always interpreted). Lives were changed there and the Gospel was preached. It was a very close community, and it welcomed many children, teenagers and adults into the Faith. This was a church where anyone was welcome, and where everyone was equal in Christ, regardless of race, social class, or background. It had its normal share of human foibles, problems, errors, and fallouts, but it was a loving, safe place.
We also attended Christian School. Daily Bible class and weekly chapel. Both of the Christian schools I attended were loving places. One was run by an Assemblies of God church, and the other by an Independent Baptist church.
My parents loved us and wanted us to know and love Jesus. We weren’t pressured to act spiritual or speak in tongues. The rule was that you had to attend church. You didn’t have to sing or pretend to be something. You just had to be there. I’m thankful that we weren’t forced to be “model pastor’s kids.”
The church’s theology was almost identical to the Assemblies of God. Pentecostal, biblicist, evangelical, revivalist, and puritan. It tended toward the pietistic rather than the moralistic. It was suspicious of the right wing Christian political movement, in terms of the quest for power, but agreed with many of its aims. We were pentecostal, but the elders taught us to avoid the extremes of the movement, instead seeking to know Jesus in a deeper way and to be empowered for mission. We were almost fundamentalist, but probably were more correctly understood as conservative Evangelicals (contrasted with mainstream Evangelicals).
Being independent was important, as FJF followed the free church ecclesiology. And yet we were an affiliated church of an international association. My dad was involved with the association, and this kept our church from being isolated. We also fellowshipped with local conservative Evangelical churches, and shared some ministries.
The church was mildly separatist, not willing to separate from conservative Evangelicals, but very suspicious of anyone who mixed with catholics or liberals (like Billy Graham). I think our pietistic faith kept us from condemning the Billy Grahams of the world, thankfully. But we were suspicious. I wouldn’t say the church was anti-catholic. But I would say it shared the Evangelical sense that the word “catholic” means corrupted or compromised, and that the liturgical and sacramental theology of catholic churches was an imposition on pure Bible church worship and life. We believed that our worship and organization was right out of the Book of Acts. Set patterns of worship were considered to be rote and mechanical. In case you are interested, we were “mid-tribulation” rapturists.
Altar calls were weekly, and it was believed that if a person sincerely said the Sinner’s Prayer, they would be born again, saved, and converted at that moment. Sunday nights and Wednesday nights were prayer and praise, with kid’s classes on Wednesdays.
On monthly communion Sundays my Dad would read Isaiah 53 and I Corinthians 11. Then we would examine our hearts and reverently receive from tiny juice cups and matzo crackers. At baptisms, the candidate (no infants!) would profess his or her faith and be immersed. We attended family camp every year, where we’d have two services a day and lots of fun in between.
Just like any church experience, there are many things that I wish were different. Just like any family experience, there are things I would change if I could. There were weird moments, there were beautiful moments. There was even a moment where Chris ripped off a lady’s wig. One time our youth pastor prayed for me for half an hour – in a bear hug. I remember getting “re-saved” about a dozen times. But in terms of my faith life, I feel that I was grounded in Scripture in a loving environment, and guided to faith in Christ, rather than being forced to it.
I was, I must admit, very much a churchy guy. Not outwardly, mind you. Outwardly I was quiet at church and mostly listened. A few times I went to the altar, and a couple of times I was “slain in the spirit” and spoke in tongues. Mostly I was listening, and quietly praying. I loved the gospel hymn singing, and eventually played the piano there. I felt that I loved Jesus and that God was a personal presence in my life. Even in my teenage years, when I mildly rebelled, I was always aware of God.
Eventually I would go off to college, and then come back to FJF to serve as an Associate Pastor there. I’ll share a little of that in the next round. I hope this is helpful. Please see below for the whole series. Thanks for reading.
My Anglican Journey by Greg Goebel
- Pastor’s Kid
- Grief, Prayer, and Love
- Pastoral Ministry
- Church Limbo
- The Plunge
- Back to the Future
- Church Planting