I get on a regular basis contacts from people who find themselves "betwixt and between" on their "Christian tradition." The reason for that is that they see that I’m "betwixt and between" myself! The most recent one comes from a woman who I’ll answer while reproducing her email message:
As an Anglican who is also in Intern in Jesuit ( Ignatian ) Spiritual Direction; married to a somewhat lapsed, RC and deeply conflicted over the current direction of the Episcopal Church; I am confused as to your views. Do you regret having converted to RC from the Anglican Communion?
Absolutely not! I’ve described my years as a Roman Catholic the spiritual experience of a lifetime, and I have no intention of backing down from that. Becoming Roman Catholic did the following:
- It got me out of the trap of being in a "rich kid" church, an experience everyone raised in the upper reaches of this society needs to have somewhere along the way. (That. BTW, is what irks me more than anything else about Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s response to GAFCON: it’s easy to say you want to "serve the hungry and needy in their communities," but when they come back on a global scale and want to run the church, you can’t bring yourself to let go.)
- It was the first church I was an adult in. When you grow up in a church, you’re always "someone’s kid." In the Roman Catholic Church I was my own person, buttressed by the way they threw me into parish ministry.
- It solidified my intellectual formation as a Christian, something no Protestant church has matched before or since.
- It drew me into the Charismatic Renewal, which is largely why I’m at where I’m at today.
I absolutely second your idea that Anglicanism was/is a great "lost opportunity"; to my mind, it "should have" worked better than it has!
That’s a great tragedy. It’s easy to think that modern day revisionists are entirely responsible for the sad shape Anglicanism finds itself in today, but the seeds for this date back to the disaster that was Oliver Cromwell, a traumatic experience that soured Anglicanism on any kind of "enthusiastic" Christianity. Ever since groups such as the Methodists, Tractarians and Charismatics have tried to shove Anglicanism off of its "dead centre," but unfortunately too much of Anglicanism doesn’t distinguish between a living via media between Catholicism and Reformed Christianity and a bland religion that’s offensive to no one. On this side of the Atlantic, I show how that played out in Taming the Rowdies.
One of the great things about the Africans is that Islam has deprived them of the luxury of waffling, something which I would like to think that secularism would do here.
I was raised Presbyterian ( father ) and my mother was Roman Catholic so, at 19, when I was drawn to a wonderful, urgan Episcopal Church…I felt I had found the "Middle Ground" to balance the scales of my upbringing ( I saw it , oddly, as serving the needs of my "inner Catholic" as I had long been drawn to the Catholic Liturgy which, in 1977, the Episcopal Church still maintained in a very beautiful way ) and I was, ultimately, confirmed by our Bishop at the age of 26.
Now comes the tricky part.
Most people who move about between Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches do so because the liturgy and other outward trappings are familiar and make transitions simpler. That certainly influenced me. However, the central objective of the church is to facilitate the eternal destiny of its members and those around it, as I describe here. That, unfortunately, is where TEC has bombed it completely. The Archbishop of Canterbury can say that "I believe that it is wrong to assume we are now so far apart that all those outside the GAFCON network are simply proclaiming another gospel" all he wants to, but the fact is that TEC’s own Presiding Bishop has put eternity on the back burner and GC 2006 voted down proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.
How that works out in the life of each and every believer is something that we must deal with one at a time with our God. It’s too bad that our churches spend so much time on secular goals, or trying to get the square pegs that darken their doors into the round holes they have created. But hard choices seem to be the rage these days, and this is just one more of them. I think that’s part of what Paul was referring to when he exhorted us to "…work out your own Salvation with anxious care," (Philippians 2:12) but the stakes are too high to view it otherwise.