Twelve years ago I was invited by a local newspaper to write an article explaining “Why I Remain an Anglican.”

The request came in response to a fellow priest’s decision to resign his priestly orders in the Anglican Church of Canada and start a new congregation. That new congregation has now collapsed. But, I continue in the Anglican community that has nurtured my spiritual life since childhood.

In 2009, I revisited the question of what has kept me in this familiar family even as the Anglican Church continued to hemorrhage members in response to disagreements over theological and social issues.

For the most part the bleeding has now stopped, at least in my little part of the Anglican world. The prophets of doom who regularly pronounced the imminent death of the Anglican Church of Canada have yet to be proven accurate, even as they continue to predict our demise.

But recent departures from the Anglican Church in New Zealand indicate that there are parts of the Anglican world where  “Why I remain an Anglican,” remains a lively question worthy of reflection.

So, revised and expanded from my original thoughts, today and over three more posts I will share four reasons “Why I remain an Anglican”.

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I remain an Anglican because life is messy.

People are often disagreeable, hard to get along with, cantankerous and sometimes just irritating. We can always find things in other people that are difficult.The Anglican Church is the family into which I was born.

Families would seldom survive if we parted company every time we disagreed or had a squabble.

The Anglican Church is a diverse community. Part of the richness and value of our community is that we span a broad spectrum of social, theological, ethical, and cultural viewpoints. Absolute agreement is neither demanded nor expected in the Anglican Church. We aim to be a spacious community with room for the richness of variety and even disagreement.

All human communities are deeply broken with often violent and sometimes horrifying results. Almost the only surviving international communities left in our day are the corporate consumer communities bound together by a common economic drive. The golden arches may be the only universally recognizable international, trans-cultural symbol in the world today.

The world desperately needs to see that it is possible for a community to hold together across barriers of culture, language, ethnicity, and race without the binding motivation of self-interest, or the benefit of economic gain or power advantage.

The Anglican Church around the world contains people of many races, languages, and ethnic backgrounds. It is a church that has room in it for everyone. We do not demand that you achieve a certain socio-economic status before you join. You do not have to pass a theology test before you qualify for membership. We ask only what Jesus asked, that you acknowledge your poverty and are willing to mourn. You need only to “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” be pure in heart, willing to exercise mercy, and to live as a peacemaker. (Matthew 5:3-9) In the end, we embrace one another even when we fail miserably to reach any of our exalted goals.

I do not require that everyone in the Anglican Church must agree with me on absolutely everything I believe to be true. Faith is trust not certainty. We are called to hold our beliefs with humility knowing that our understanding of truth will grow as we remain in community with people with whom we may disagree.

God calls us to grow the fruit of the Spirit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” We will never grow in our ability to manifest these qualities if we only associate with people with whom we always get along. We need uncomfortable people, people with whom we disagree and argue in order to learn “patience, kindness,” and the faithfulness to which Scripture calls us. So we must never give up on those we find difficult or who make us feel uncomfortable.

Does this mean that in the Anglican Church we settle for anything goes just so we can stay together? Are we a church with no coherent identity and no common faith commitment? Do we stand for nothing simply in order that we might continue to slouch along together in a shared morass of non-committal fellowship? (see “Why I Remain an Anglican” #2)

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To ponder:

Are there limitations to the degree of diversity a community can embrace and still maintain some cohesive sense of shared identity?

Is there still value in the vision of a community that transcends barriers of culture, language, ethnicity, and race? Or will such a vision necessarily evolve into the kind of colonial mindset that has caused the church in the past to inflict such damage on people who do not belong to the dominant culture?

Should we be content with merely local embodiments of faith that reflect our particular and unique ethnic and social identity?