Anglicanism seeks to be a middle ground between Catholicism and Protestantism, with a strong emphasis on the liturgy and the sacraments, without the papacy and with many reformist reforms. They do this by being relatively open with their theology, drawing on both Catholic and Reform sources, and allowing for a wide variety of Christian beliefs.
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The great Anglican tent today includes quasi-Catholics, evangelicals, charismatics and liberals. But at present, in ecclesiastical and regional hierarchies, liberal theology dominates, so that the Episcopal Church of the United States has become just another stronghold of mainstream left Protestantism, uncritically accepting the abortion, the LGBTQ agenda and opposition to orthodoxy.
We Lutherans also have elements associated with Catholicism and Protestantism and we also emphasize the liturgy and the sacraments. But we do this by confessing a specific theology based on the Word of God. Since Lutherans focus on the content of theology, we tend to criticize the Anglican openness. No wonder, we say, that many Anglicans have left everything resembling Orthodox Christianity far behind.
And yet, some Lutherans take the Anglican route. This has long been true of Lutheran state churches in Europe. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is now in pulpit and altar fellowship with American Episcopalians and has become indistinguishable from them in a progressive unorthodoxy. But when you go too far, an impulse arises to withdraw. ELCA dissidents formed the Lutheran Church of North America and dissidents of the Episcopal Church of the United States formed the Anglican Church of North America, both seeking a return to Biblical orthodoxy.
We conservative Lutherans in denominational denominations such as the Synod of the Lutheran Church of Missouri and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin may feel isolated from it all, but we would do well to pay attention to what happened.
A new book by Crossway titled The Future of Orthodox Anglicanism, edited by Gerald McDermott, is a collection of essays from Anglicans around the world. The Church of England, spread by the British Empire, has grown into a global community of some 85 million members, making it the third largest Christian fellowship in the world, after Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. We Lutherans are close to that, with some 80 million adherents. And in both traditions, churches in Africa, Asia, and other ancient “mission fields” are far more Orthodox than the European churches that sent the missionaries. The fastest growing Anglican and Lutheran churches are also.
“Significantly,” McDermott says, “Nigeria has more Anglicans than any other country in the world, and Nigeria is on track to become the third most populous nation on the planet by 2050, overtaking the United States. United. Likewise, the largest Lutheran church is in Ethiopia. Already, says McDermott, Africa has “more Christians than any other continent.” And, as liberal European and American theologies die on the vine, it bodes well for biblical Christianity.
I invite you to read Christopher Benson’s review of McDermott’s book in Christianity today. He does not content himself with reporting on the book, he offers an enlightening framework of his own. In his review, titled The Contentious Literary Family That Explains Global Anglicanism,
He says that the state of Anglicanism – and, I would add, other theological traditions, including Lutheranism, but also Methodism, Presbyterianism, etc., etc. – is analogous to the characters in Dostoyevsky’s great novel The Brothers Karamazov. In this story of the ultimate dysfunctional family, the three brothers represent three aspects of our humanity. Dmitri represents the body; Ivan represents the intellect; Alyosha represents the spirit. The problem is that these aspects separate from each other, resulting in their corruption. Dmitri’s fixation on the body leads to sensuality and, ultimately, to his utter debauchery. Ivan’s intellectualism leads him to nihilism and despair. Alyosha is spiritual – and the only admirable character – but his piety leads him to another world, to a monastic separatism which prevents him from influencing his brothers and the world lacking in faith.
Benson says that Dmitri and Ivan represent Euro-American Anglicanism, with a liberal intellectualized theology that is little different from disbelief combined with a sensual acceptance of sexual sin. Alyosha, however, is like the Anglicanism of the less developed world: spiritual, devout, and faithful, but having little influence over his “brethren.”
In the novel, Alyosha’s confessor at the monastery, Zosima, urges him to leave the cloister and return to his family, taking up the “ministry of reconciliation”. It is up to him, to Christianity, to reconcile body, spirit and spirit, in order to restore human fullness. Likewise, says Benson, it is up to world Anglicanism to restore Anglicanism to Biblical orthodoxy.
All this will not apply to Lutheranism. Currently, LCMS is helping developing Lutherans build their Orthodoxy by sending seminary teachers to teach their pastors. Meanwhile, these global Lutherans already have a good influence in the Lutheran World Federation, to the point of ordaining pastors and bishops who are creating Orthodox alternatives to liberal state churches in Northern Europe. (In fact, the Anglican Bishops in Africa did the same to start the Anglican Church in North America.)
But the need to reconcile body, mind, and spirit is something Lutherans are well placed to do, with their lofty view of the physical (the sacraments), their intellectual tradition (theology), and their spirituality (life). of gospel). And I was struck by what Benson said was the great appeal of Anglicanism:
The trip I made from the Gospel credits to the Anglican corresponds to a recent model recounted by the American theologian Robert Webber in his 1985 book, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. The Anglican Hall welcomed Webber and other Evangelicals, including myself, with six areas of orthodoxy that were “not sufficiently fulfilled” in our Christian experience: mystery and awe, liturgical worship, sacramental vision, historical awareness, Catholic sensitivity and holistic spirituality.
Lutherans have it all, all of it in the larger context of the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners. As orthodoxy fades into Anglicanism, scholars will no longer find those characteristics they seek. But they will still find them in Lutheranism, if we take care to preserve our distinctly Lutheran orthodoxy.