Was St. Paul an Anglican?

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As an Anglican, I’ve always been fascinated with the familiar rapport between the Apostle Paul and his understudy, Timothy. Their friendship and partnership, forged through correspondence and cooperative missionary efforts, are familiar to me, as they are to most Anglican Christians. My title question, “Was St. Paul an Anglican?” is tongue-in-cheek, of course. But I have always wondered if the great missionary would have been.

Unlike other church governance structures centralized in Rome or localized in congregational halls, we Anglicans occupy a peculiar middle space—dispersed yet connected. And it is this regional perspective, I believe, that we inherited from none other than Paul himself.

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Global Vision, Individual Relationship

In his letters to burgeoning churches scattered throughout the Mediterranean, Paul demonstrated a global vision tempered by pastoral attentiveness to individual flocks. He is the consummate church-planting apostle, while young Timothy serves as a localized shepherd caring for the Ephesian congregation.

And yet, through regular letters across hundreds of miles, their relationship persists. Paul offers Timothy parental guidance, gentle correction when needed, and words of encouragement to stay the course. In return, Paul relies on Timothy as a trusted emissary to share news from abroad and collect forgotten cloaks and books on the apostle’s behalf.

Even in Paul’s final written words, we find evidence of this fond familiarity. As he awaits execution in a Roman prison cell, Paul pens intimate instructions to his beloved Timothy—a bittersweet last will and testament.

Final Words

Tucked into the closing lines of 2 Timothy, Paul’s parting words have often been overlooked as mere errata. And yet, in these verses, we find Paul at his most human.

Paul entreats Timothy to visit him with a sense of urgency. He admits with uncharacteristic honesty that he left a certain disciple ill in Miletus, unable to heal him through prayer alone. He warns ominously of threats from false teachers and names former allies who had abandoned him.

Here, at the end of his days, Paul’s composed and hardened exterior gives way to reveal his humanity. And it is in this humanity that his bond with Timothy shines most tenderly.

As an Anglican priest, I saw in Paul and Timothy’s relationship a reflection of the affectionate ties that bind our Communion across seas and centuries.

And so, after musing over Paul’s letters for nearly four decades of ordained ministry, I felt compelled to examine an oft-overlooked postscript. Could these fourteen verses in 2 Timothy 4:9-22, faded and forgotten by most, still speak to us today? Even the lectionary overlooks these personal words of the Apostle. Understandable so. They are a mixture of warnings, shout-outs, updates, favors, concerns, and not-so-veiled cries for help and comfort from the older to the younger.

Was Paul a bishop? The record says no. But the record also says that he acted like one. And here, in the dying days of his life, locked up in a cell in Rome, the bishop-like leader reaches out for help.

The Last Will and Testament of the Apostle Paul

The result of my study and reflection on these verses is my new book, The Last Will and Testament of the Apostle Paul. With a blend of pastoral insight and deep love of the great Apostle, I look for the significance of Paul’s final written words.

You’ll find intimacy, betrayal, unanswered questions, cautionary tales, and sage advice. But above all, you’ll find the Apostle Paul stripped uncharacteristically bare, revealing his very human side.

The print and Kindle editions are available now on Amazon. I invite you to read and delve deeper into Paul’s farewell message, which has resonated across ages and churches.

Perhaps, like myself, you’ll discover new meaning in Paul’s parting words to Timothy. And you may find a small reflection of the bonds we Anglicans share, by God’s grace, across time and space.


Check out the print and Kindle editions of David Roseberry’s The Last Will and Testament of the Apostle Paul on Amazon.


Image: The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt van Rijn (1657). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Published on

October 5, 2023

Author

David Roseberry

David Roseberry leads the nonprofit ministry, LeaderWorks. He was the founding rector of Christ Church, Plano, Texas, and is the author of many books. He lives in Plano with his wife, Fran.

View more from David Roseberry

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