Friday, July 20, 2012


Virtually my entire experience as an Episcopalian (going on four decades) has been spent on the Catholic side of the Anglican spectrum. I've heard and read about Anglican evangelicals, but there are precious few in the U.S., so they've been mostly an abstraction. Global South Anglicanism is dominated by evangelicals, so the abstraction has become a reality for me this week. Having been raised in free church evangelicalism, which is not quite the same thing, but with many points of overlap, and then embracing Anglicanism as a means of becoming a Catholic Christian, this has evoked some interesting and complex feelings. I've sung some songs that had been relegated to the recesses of my long-term memory, and one that I'm fairly certain I haven't even thought about in more than forty years. I've experienced a piety and a style of homiletical/pedagogical biblical exegesis that is quite foreign to my ordinary experience (today's example coming from the Dean of Delhi, lavishy accompanied by Power Point slides), but still eerily familiar. Some of it evokes nostalgia, and a desire to reincorporate it into my practice of ministry, and some of it makes me glad I don't live in this particular neighborhood anymore. Much to ponder here.

There was no keynote address today. Instead, after tea, we had a presentation from the Archbishop of the Province of Myanmar. They have an ambitioius mission strategy vision, and Archbishop Stephen shared it with us, also using Power Point. In many respects (including the Power Point!), it reminded me of our own mission strategy for the Diocese of Springfield. Two very different contexts, both committed to authentic gospel proclamation within those contexts. Veni, sancte spiritus.

Before lunch we heard quick summary reports from the regional working groups that met Tuesday and Wednesday evenings while most of the "westerners" took some down time. After lunch, in plenary, we (I say "we" only in a broad sense, and most of us from the "minority world" did not consider it good form to participate) worked on perfecting a draft communique from the conference. As one who considers himself a fairly adept wordsmith, and as a native speaker of English, it was at times uncomfortable to watch people for whom English is a second or third language try to come to consensus on the language of a document in English. The irony of it all--we Americans, rightfully on the margin at this event, were privileged to have proceedings conducted in our native tongue, while those with central positions were forced to work in a foriegn one--was not lost on me. 

Between three and six we were free. There was some informal conversation in the tea area. Then I took the time to see the tailor (suit jacket still not quite finished), snap some pictures of the hotel and environs, and visit with an American journalist who lives in Bangkok while working for a government-owned communications agency. He's also an Anglican, and found me through this very diary blog. It was an interesting chat.

In the evening we boarded a river boat for a three hour dinner cruise--upstream for a while and then downstream, all without leaving Bangkok. It's a big town, with something like 22 million in the metro area. And, yes, I picked up my suit ... at 10pm. I don't think those guys ever go home, but it looks like they've done good business from this conference.

Speaking of this conference: it is not an historic event, but it is a big deal. Twenty-four of the thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion are represented here, twelve by their primate, with a total of 92 in attendance--mostly bishops and priests. This group includes some of the real movers and shakers in Anglicanism, whether one perceives their influence as benign or malign. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office sent formal greetings. Nothing world-shaking is going to emerge from this meeting. But when something significant does happen, these are many of the players who will be involved. 


  1. When I was living in England for a year during seminary, I was amazed at the prevalence of Evangelicals within the Church of England. There is really no equivalent to it in the Episcopal Church USA. Perhaps at some prior point before I came onto the scene that there was, but what few self identified Evangelicals in TEC that I know would identify as the "liberal evangelical" type, which is a whole different bird.

    I never quite knew what to make of that when I was in England because they often tended to not touch the Book of Common Prayer (or its supplements) with a ten foot pole. The big one in Cambridge where I was used Willow Creek mega church stuff. I know of no American bishop, low church or otherwise, that would have countenanced such a thing. After the shock of that wore off, I realized that the High Anglo-catholic churches were using the old 1962 Catholic missal.

    Most of the Anglicans I knew across the board were very much of the "Oh, isn't liturgical diversity grand?" I was always somewhat horrified by that because my first reaction was if how we pray shapes how we believe, then isn't this a problem? And my second problem was, If we are suppose to pray in common, what does that mean when at any given point, one could walk into any C of E parish and get anything from the missal to the 1662 BCP to the Common Worship stuff to mega church happy, clappy stuff.

    I have always been disturbed by that.

  2. The only Anglican evangelicals I have ever met in TEC were on a Sioux reservation in North Dakota. Like AotF, I was fascinated by them, because their kind are so rare here. Other than them, the closest I've ever found to a TEC evangelical are a handful of old-school high churchmen (what used to be called 'high-and-dry') with a vaguely Calvinist orientation.

    Bishop Martins, I wonder if one of the things that you would consider integrating into your ministry is a more evangelical style of preaching? I find preaching to be so lacking in TEC, particularly in its exposition of the scriptures. I would love to see at least some recovery of a stronger, more scripturally-based preaching tradition within Anglicanism, and I would be interested in your thoughts on the subject.

  3. John the Nati--
    I find much to commend about the evangelical style of preaching--which is partly homiletical but mostly catechetical. I suspect that when I'm in a purely *teaching* mode (that is, outside of worship), I drink heavily from that well. But when I preach in the context of the Eucharist (which is nearly all the time), I am committed to preaching that is *liturgical*--that breaks open the scriptures used in the liturgy, not in an expository way, but in a way that brings them to bear on the particular occasion being celebrated, whether it's the feast of St Mary Magdalene or the Umpteenth Sunday after Pentecost.