The road to Canterbury
For those who read my blog (all 8 of you), I wanted to update you on some happenings in our lives. If you know anything about how I was raised, I was brought up in a conservative Southern Baptist home. My father, whom I respect immensely and love deeply, has been a pastor in the SBC for over 50 years. That’s right, 50. He’s been preaching longer than most of you reading this has been alive.
When I came to faith in Christ at the age of 34, I knew I wasn’t really Baptist but I sure tried to be. I went to a Baptist seminary; we were members of an SBC church, sent out from an SBC church to plant an SBC church. But all along the way I was not content with the Baptist church. I felt their polity couldn’t really be defended from Scripture and I felt they were really weak on the sacraments. Now, before I go any further, please know that I am not, in any way, bashing the SBC. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ. We have our disagreements but I choose to focus on the things we have in common; our love for Jesus and the Word of God (the Bible).
I was introduced to reformed theology while in seminary. Coming to a covenantal understanding of Scripture changed my whole world and how I read and interpreted the Bible. This inevitably led to me embracing a reformed perspective of Christianity, including paedo-baptism. But I still felt something was missing. I felt like there had to be a way to have both orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right practice) and I wanted to live my faith in a way that was both biblically precise and historically accurate.
So I began, at the suggestion of some friends and one of my former seminary professors, to read the Church Fathers. I learned and am still learning a lot from them. Now, I want to be clear here. I disagree with some of the things the Fathers thought and taught. But overall, I found myself delving deeper and deeper into early Christian practice. I wondered if there was to return to early Church practice (as much as possible in a 21st century context). Two things happened simultaneously.
First, I realized that the early Church had been structured in a specific way from very early on. As early as 100 AD and perhaps even before that, the Fathers were writing about bishops. I had been raised to believe that anything that “looked like Rome” was evil. But these guys were writing before there was “the Roman church.” The Roman church I was taught to hate had not really come into existence until the early Middle Ages. I remember thinking, “Hold on, some of the Fathers were direct disciples of the 12, the actual Apostles. And they got bishops from somewhere.” So I began to search the Bible for where they could have gotten it; which leads me to the second thing.
Simultaneous to reading the Fathers, I began to pore over the Bible to see if I could find what they saw that led them to structure the Church the way they did. And there it was in 1 Timothy 3; episkopos and presbyteros. Two distinct Greek words Paul used to describe two offices in the Church. Now, some of you will disagree with me here and will say that this is nuance, that Paul is using two words to refer to the same office but different functions of that office. I respectfully disagree with you. If Paul was referring to one office, why use very distinct words that have completely different meanings? I was a little confused. So I thought, “Let’s see what the early Church thought Paul meant,” and so I read the early Fathers. What I found changed me profoundly. As I said before, as early as 100AD and maybe earlier, the Church was structured around three offices; bishops, presbyters (priests/pastors) and deacons. I was stunned. All I had been taught to hate was right before my eyes in both the Bible and Church history.
I had to know: Is there anyone who had both orthodoxy and orthopraxy? I knew I couldn’t go to Rome due to some wonky theology. But there had to be someone out there who was doing it right, right? And I found it on the Canterbury trail. I found the Anglican Church. A dear brother sent me a 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the journey began. I began to follow the Daily Office and found that it quickly revolutionized my prayer life. I found the website for the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) and downloaded the Eucharistic liturgy and began to study it. I was stunned by the richness, amount of Scripture being directly spoken and the deep history of the liturgy.
I was home.
I had found that expression of the Christian faith that was both biblically precise and historically accurate. So I jumped in with both feet, determined to walk in this way of following Jesus and worshipping him that, frankly, I was initially really uncomfortable with. I mean, dudes wearing robes, bowing to a cross, making the sign of the cross, some chanting and burning incense. It was all very weird for me at first. But what I found was that, over time, God’s Word in the liturgy and the ancient practice of my faith began to feel like home; warm and inviting me to step into the journey of the Christian faith that is different from the corruption of the world we live in.
And so, by God’s grace and if the bishop doesn’t throw me out first, I will be ordained as a transitional deacon in the ACNA on June 2nd. My ordination as a priest will follow at some point after that. I am so excited to have found my spiritual home!
Would you pray with me and my family and my church family as we walk through this together? I will remain as the lead pastor (soon to be priest) of South City Church. We may or may not, as time goes on, officially join the Anglican Church as a body. When or if that times comes, we will join, as a body, the historic Christian Church as we join them in worship of our great Saviour and King, Jesus Christ!
Soli Deo Gloria!