Note: this was originally published for The Anglican Mission in America blog.
Shortly after I began speaking with my pastor about the possibility of pursuing ordination with The Anglican Mission, he passed a copy of Michael Ramsey’s classic The Christian Priest Today my way.
Of course, I had no idea that this little book was by a former Archbishop of Canterbury, or that it was originally a set of addresses to candidates for ordination in the ’70s. As I’ve continued to digest the simple, yet profound wisdom in Michael Ramsey’s The Christian Priest Today, it’s become apparent to me why it’s remained pertinent for over four decades. I suspect it will endure many more.
In today’s world of marketing-speak and leadership-culture-infused ministry books, The Christian Priest Today is a breath of fresh air. Ramsey delves deep into what it means to be a pastor, a shepherd of souls. Discussions about developing your “personal brand,” and “leadership strategy” are blessedly absent. Not that there’s anything inherently or necessarily wrong with understanding how to apply those ideas to ministry, but something feels right about the simple way Ramsey speaks of preaching Jesus, living a life of prayer and cultivating a humble heart.
Although The Christian Priest Today is approaching the half-century mark from its first publication, Ramsey’s simple and direct style reinforce the underlying timelessness of his observations regarding the pastoral roles of deacon and priest and bishop. It remains fresh because Ramsey wasn’t seeking to be “cutting edge” (though he didn’t avoid contemporary issues) about a practice and vocation that itself is fundamentally timeless.
I was reminded that shepherding souls will always transcend leadership trends, business strategies, and academic accomplishments. Ramsey’s book gently re-taught me that pastoring has always been and will always be about bringing people to Jesus, pointing people to Jesus, telling people about Jesus.
A few nuggets of wisdom that were impressed on my heart and mind as I read:
“We are called, near to Jesus and with Jesus and in Jesus, to be with God with the people on our heart. That is what you will be promising [in your ordination vows]” (p. 14).
“Let those who are glad to be Catholics or Evangelicals or Liberals set themselves to learn all they can from one another, for the partisan can soon become a person who loves his own apprehension of the truth more than Christ who is the truth, and himself more than either” (p. 72).
“Be ready to accept humiliations. They can hurt terribly, but they help you to be humble…these can be so many changes to be a little nearer to our humble and crucified Lord. There is nothing to fear if you are in his hands.” (p. 80)
“Jesus Christ is himself the gospel we preach…He is himself the essence of the good news” (p. 27)
The Christian Priest Today is the sort of book I can imagine re-reading every year or two, just to help re-center on why I do what I do. It is the sort of book I can imagine giving other young pastors (because if you could only give one book on the pastoral ministry, this would be a strong candidate). It is the sort of book that remains in your thoughts and on your heart long after you’ve finished.
The Christian Priest Today by Michael Ramsey invites you to be refreshed by what God is doing in and through the ordained ministry, by calling you to re-focus on the heart of the Christian faith: the person of Jesus.
What is Anglicanism? by Charles Erlandson.
Probably one of the better definitions of Anglicanism I have read, and certainly one of only a few that has seriously attempted to describe our movement and spirituality without undue emphasis on one facet only.
Anglican Pastor graciously published my write up about the website I created for praying the Daily Office online.
I totally get what she means about not having a “camp.” As a pacifist, catholic, evangelical, and charismatic Christian with lots of questions and a preference for highly nuanced answers…I also
sometimes often feel like the odd person out.
“I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.” - The Revd John Wesley, Anglican priest
This is what a Gospel-saturated heart desires.
Today I got the August lectionary up at Anglican Daily Office. Took a little more work than I anticpated as I had test a few different formats/layouts to see what would work best on different size screens without complicating things. In the end I think I found something that works.
I made something today! Check it out: anglicandailyoffice.online You’ll find the texts for Morning and Evening Prayer from the 2019 Book of Common Prayer in an easy-to-scroll format for phones and tablets. I plan to add supplemental material, the lectionary, and additional offices as time allows.
A comprehensive and clear introduction.
Hey friends, I was recently on the Daniel Generation podcast with my friend Drew, and it was a blast! Loved talking liturgy, Anglicanism, ecumenism, and discipleship! Give it a listen
How do I know that I’m saved? This is a question that plagues many faithful Christians, particularly those in Evangelical circles. With such a strong emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Evangelicalism has contributed to a false mindset in which salvation depends upon a person’s sense of being saved. If I don’t feel Jesus today—if I don’t feel all that saved— then how do I know that I really am saved? If only there were something outside of my personal feelings that revealed God’s love to me! Thanks be to God, there is.
In our current climate, it would be very Anglican to return to the feet of the early, divided Church, and ask how we could more fully participate in the life of the Triune God in Holy Communion and in sanctified community.
It would also do us well to remember that Christendom and the Church are related, but not the same thing. The death of Christendom does not spell the death of the Church. Pentecost took place in a pagan empire, around three hundred years prior to the conversion of Constantine.
I learned about the calendar, the Eucharist, the morning and evening office, the saints, the fasts, and the feasts. I was introduced to a Christian life that seemed whole and full.
I’ve had glimpses of this.
The new Book of Common Prayer from the Anglican Church in North America will be here before we know it, and I’m excited. Looks like they were really thoughtful not only with the liturgical/theological content, but the print design as well.
This is not only encouraging, but needed.
Excellent time at the 2019 Diocese of the Rocky Mountains Gathering connecting with fellow Anglicans on mission! Glad to be on the plane headed home to my wife and kids though.
I’ve been wanting/needing a solid pew Bible that will include the Deuterocanon, and the English Standard Verson is our current reading and preaching translation for public worship at DMAC, so I’m excited about a recent announcement that an Anglican edition will be published soon with the whole of Scripture as the Anglican Church has received it.
It’s an important step forward for our common life together, and seems to solidify the ESV as truly a standard text for the North American Anglicanism.
While the ESV remains a fantastic translation, it’s not without its issues, from controversial renderings in Genesis to the lack of appropriate gender-inclusive language.* It’s also rendered at a fairly high reading level (about 10th grade). In many missional contexts, the Common English Bible seems to be a viable easier-to-read alternative that includes the Deuterocanon as well.
I currently use both the ESV and the CEB frequently in my ministry, and now the ESV will be even more useful.
I had been in an emotional and spiritual struggle for years, processing how the Body of Christ could be so defined, so marked, by division, quarrels, and willful ignorance of each other. My spiritual journey had led me right into the middle of some of those painful internal wars, and I hadn’t escaped without getting hurt.
My wounds weren’t gaping open, but they were profound. I left them largely untreated because they were–at first–easy to ignore. They became infected with a certain amount of bitterness, anger, and cynicism, almost without me being aware of it.
Something happened to me, however, on Ash Wednesday of 2011. Baptists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Non-Denoms all gathered together. I saw the auditorium filled with Christians with deep disagreements over theology and practice nevertheless admitting to one another their deep need for a savior, their total moral, emotional, intellectual, spiritual bankruptcy apart from the Cross of Christ and the promise of his Resurrection.
For a brief 2 hours, I saw the Church, not in perfect unity, yet nevertheless walking together toward Jesus. For the first time in a long time I thought she looked like the Bride of Christ. Hope sparked.
As we received Communion it was as if that spark turned into a roaring fire, and I found my hardened heart couldn’t stand it. Just like that, the bitterness, anger, and cynicism melted away and–in a word–I was healed of my old injuries.
I had hope once again that Jesus will in the power of the Holy Spirit make his Church what she is meant to be.
To me, this is the power of Ash Wednesday and Lent: making space to remember that at the end of the day, all our hope is in Christ, and we will never hope in vain.
Not so long ago I was ready to abandon the Church, at least in all its institutionalized forms.
I had been hurt (no one’s fault but my own, really) and was confused by my “sense of call”. I couldn’t seem to get hired full-time at a church, even though I felt I had the skills and was being led that direction by God. Although it’s obvious to me now, I couldn’t understand why churches in my lifelong Christian denomination (Baptist) wouldn’t hire me. I came to faith in the Baptist church, was married in the Baptist church, and started my ministry in the Baptist church. It just turned out I wasn’t Baptist ;)
After months of interviews and no progress, I decided to take a non-ministry position in Arizona. I saw it as a chance to start fresh and figure out where I belonged. Nothing stuck. It wasn’t that I was looking for a perfect congregation, but going back to the drawing board allowed me to see a fundamental unbalance in the Evangelical landscape. Everybody seemed to emphasize one pet doctrine or worship style at the expense of everything else.
To make matters worse, my wife and I couldn’t find a spot where we were both comfortable committing to long-term. I contacted a local house-church I found online, explained my situation, and said we needed a place to figure out some things. I was hopeful because they seemed to want to move beyond institutionalism and focus on authentic community. They blew me off on the phone and never reached out again1.
It was rough. I ached for a church home, and the fact that our search was causing some tension in our marriage only furthered my discouragement. I allowed my disappointment in the whole situation to turn to cynicism. My wife kept searching though, and didn’t let me give up, even though I wanted to. I was basically done, but she coaxed me into visiting one more church, where we discovered something that was–to us–remarkable.
We looked in the bulletin we were handed on the way in and discovered this church had a peculiar philosophy of ministry and worship. They called it “three streams” and put it in terms of being liturgical, charismatic, and evangelical.
This idea of “three streams” Christianity has been vital for keeping me engaged with the Church, because it articulates exactly what I had been yearning and looking for, for so many years. It just makes sense:
The Scripture - Our authoritative guide in faith
The Sacramental - Our ancient practices and rhythms in faith
The Spirit - Our peace and power in faith [source]
In my own life, I’ve come to articulate this as being Catholic, Evangelical, and Charismatic. Each compliments the other and prevents excesses that are often identified in movements that focus on just one of these aspects of the Christian faith.
How can we be reverent, enthusiastic, focused on mission, grounded in history, open to the Holy Spirit, and looking to the future, all at once and all the while staying centered on the Gospel?
I think the balance lies in embracing the “Three Streams.”
It often surprises people when I describe myself as a Catholic Christian, because the association immediately goes to the Roman Catholic Church. In reality, Catholic is simply a word that means “universal,” and is particularly associated with the unity of the Church.
When, in the Apostle’s Creed, we say “I believe in the holy catholic church” we are saying that we believe fundamentally, the church is one. Political and secondary theological issues aside, there is a unity in our common, core confession of Christ that binds all Christians universally into one church. All Christians are part of one catholic Church in this sense and should be able to say this part of the Creed without feeling uncomfortable.
There is another sense in which the word is used, however, and that is to refer to “the Catholic faith.”
Jesus gave special teaching authority to the Apostles, who in turn ordained and taught leaders in the church, who came to be called bishops. For one thousand years the Church existed in relative unity under the authority of bishops that came together in ecumenical councils–gatherings of church leaders that passed down what they received from the Apostles and hashed out the theological implications of the Apostolic witness. As challenges to the faith arose, these leaders articulated definitive summaries of the faith and issued theological statements as to how the Scriptures were to be interpreted and Christian worship ordered. The one Catholic Church existed in visible unity.
In 1054 the Great Schism occurred between the East and the West, and with it the degradation of visible unity of the Church. Without a universally agreed-upon authority structure, truly ecumenical councils became impossible. By time the Protestant Reformation had run its course, there were many competing theologies, confessions, and particular churches.
Nevertheless, some churches (while introducing and perhaps over-emphasizing secondary matters) remained faithful to the pre-Schism practice of the Catholic Church and the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils. This doctrine and practice together, once universally acknowledged by all orthodox Christians, are what we now call “the Catholic faith.”
Today all orthodox Christians hold to at least part of the Catholic doctrinal tradition, which includes the doctrine of the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ as fully human and fully Divine, and the rejection of Pelagianism.
In broad strokes, the core of Catholic faith may be said to include:
This is the Christ-centered and authoritative faith we see in a visibly united Catholic Church for one thousand years, illumined by the Holy Spirit as she met challenge after challenge. This Catholic faith has been faithfully passed from generation to generation in the Church from the most ancient times.
In every place the the Gospel has been preached the Catholic faith has been believed, and it endures still to this day, with the majority of the world’s Christians (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and more) remaining steadfast in their witness to it as the truth. Historically it is certain that this is the faith of the early church and thus–I believe–that of the Apostles. This is important because if the Catholic faith is the faith of the Apostles, then it is the fullness of the truth from the Holy Spirit and carries the authority of Jesus.
This is why I am a Catholic Christian.
It’s not that I don’t recognize that the Church was in a rough spot in the Middle Ages.
It’s not that I don’t admire the courage and tenacity of the Reformers in fighting for a faith that was closer to the Early Church that addressed abuses, un-Godly practices, and biblical illiteracy.
But I can’t celebrate Reformation Day.
I’m profoundly grateful for so many things that came out of the Reformation, like the beautiful English liturgy used by Anglicans, a rediscovery of the primacy of Scripture, the Authorized Version, and renewed focus on clergy formation through biblical training. God used the Reformation to bring light into places of darkness, to give the people of God worship in their own language and access to the Sacraments. Historic revival movements began, and many were willing to die and did for their stand for biblical, ancient, and Apostolic truth.
Yes, God has used and continues to used the Reformation and its children, but the Christian Church has failed to really, truly reform from within. Instead the Reformers (sometimes against their will) had to separate themselves, forming new Churches. Ultimately new ecclessiologies developed that essentially gave the individual permission to break communion with other Christians and start their own semi-autonomous group if they are not in full doctrinal agreement.
This has resulted in–over time–thousands of new competing versions of Christianity, all of which claim to be “the most true” based on sectarian readings of the Scriptures. Obviously, they cannot all be correct, yet division, anger, and disunity remain. Unity within diversity is possible and in fact exists as a result of our common confession of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yet we do not exhibit it with our attitudes and actions.
We refuse Holy Communion to those that differ with us on the exact nature of the Eucharistic mystery, we invalidate baptisms because of secondary issues of form, and there’s often not a sense of a hierarchy of truths. It seems as if some people all but explicitly say, “Either you agree me all the way, or God bless you, I hope you get to heaven but it’s not looking good.”
What about authority? Many say they find it in the Bible, but in practice they find in themselves and their own judgement of the “plain and obvious meaning” of passages that have from the beginning been debated. Never mind that for most of these issues, an Undivided Church spoke with one authoritative voice–a voice most of us that identify as Evangelicals have largely forgotten or chosen to ignore.
The divisions (not necessarily disagreements) that exist in the Church today damage the credibility of our witness to truth of Christ and stand in direct opposition to will of our Lord, that
they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:21-23, ESV)
It’s one thing to bear with one another, as the Scriptures teach, striving with zeal to “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…,” but too many Christians have stopped trying (Ephesians 4:12-13, ESV). Phrases like, “we’ll never be one visible church again this side of Jesus coming back” are thrown around with careless abandon. With Christ all things are possible and this is his desire for us.
Reformation Day has become in many corners an excuse to celebrate caricature and delight in division instead of remembering God’s faithfulness to his church and pursuing unity in the Spirit. It’s time for Protestants to take the log out of our eye and get to work on being the Body of Christ.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6, ESV)
This is because it’s given me a steady structure and emotionally honest framework for prayer.
I can say in all honesty that most days, I love to pray. I am astounded often that the creator of the universe is with me and ready to listen, and desires for me to listen to him as well. I try to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness for the truly wonderful gifts he’s given me: forgiveness, hope, life, the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, though, I don’t feel like praying.
I’m busy, tired, whatever. This is when having a plan helps: set prayers, regular time of day, and Bible readings all picked out.
Discipline begets discipline, so I notice when I’m faithful in the Office it’s easier to control my body, my thoughts, and emotions. I find I sin less for the simple fact that I know I’m going to meet with God in just few hours for confession. I know we will have to talk about what I did and/or thought about doing today.
When things seem to get out of control, when life is crazy, stressful and days seem dim, the Office becomes (by virtue of the Scriptures and ancient prayers it presents) a brighter spot and a source of comfort. When you pray the Office, you know you are not alone. My whispered prayers are joined by millions of others the world over, contemplating the same texts, breathing the same pleas for mercy, thanking the same God for the means of grace.
The Daily Office gave me the gift of the Psalms. All of them. When you pray the Office, you pray the happy, inspiring ones about God’s love and faithfulness alongside the ones that ask God hard questions, like “How long will you judge unjustly / and show partiality to the wicked?” (Psalm 82). You pray the ones that are brutally honest about fervent desires for justice to be done:
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!
These are heartbreaking, violent, and often confusing words for all of us. Yet these Psalms give us permission and a path to bring all of ourselves–even and especially the angry, doubting and dark places–into the context of God’s faithfulness. After all, the Psalter is also a retelling of the whole Biblical narrative, including Christ, if we know where and how to look.
I don’t have all the answers yet, but after about five times through the Psalter so far this year I’ve gained some peace through these poems. I’ve begun to understand what it means to honestly long for God’s justice without succumbing to the temptation to exact revenge for myself. I’ve begun to learn how to pray to God even when I might be angry with him. God is big. He can take our questions and our frustration and even our possibly less-than-pure motives and by grace enable us to “walk in the light of life” (Psalm 56:13).
Rhythm and blues. That’s why I pray the Daily Office.
Rachel Held Evans and others have been posting about the recent trend for Millennials (those currently in the 18-29 age bracket) to end up in the high church traditions–Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, etc.
Here’s why I came to embrace the way of ancient Christianity.
1) It points me to Jesus.
The ancient liturgical traditions each have specific theological reasoning behind them. Each one, whether it be saying a corporate confession of sin, “passing the peace,” or even the style of vestments used are meant to communicate something about God. They function as a continual guide during worship back to meditating on Jesus.
2) It connects me with history.
The past matters for the high church traditions. We worship with prayers, songs, and actions that have been practiced since the Apostolic era. This connects us with with all those saints that have gone before us, keeping us grounded in what God has done and living in the reality of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1).
3) It fosters communion.
Not only do we actually have Holy Communion each week, but the liturgical way is in fact much more interactive than the typical “sing, sit, listen” pattern in mainstream Evangelical services. “Liturgy” means “work of the people,” and together we stand, kneel, join hands, make the sign of the sign of the cross, respond with written and spontaneous prayers. There’s a rhythm of back-and-forth in most liturgies that reminds us we’re all engaged in the work of worship, and brings us closer together as a community centered around the person of Jesus.
4) It gives me tools to grow.
The ancient traditions include robust devotional tools for daily prayer, meditation, and discipline. The most important for me have been the Daily Office (set prayers and appointed Bible readings for morning and evening), prayer beads, the Church Year, beautiful and ancient art, and of course the writings of the Church Fathers.
5) It reintroduces me to the Triune God.
Fully Trinitarian prayer is a beautiful thing. Without a high degree of intentionality, it’s quite easy to leave out certain members of the Trinity in our daily spirituality. This can sometimes be a especially true when it comes to the Holy Spirit. In the ancient ways of worship, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all addressed according to their function within the Godhead, and we are often reminded that they are together one God. This simple prayer has been incredibly influential on my spirituality:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Friends have recently asked me why I am an Anglican–instead of a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox–Christian. Given the similarities between the traditions (Creedal orthodoxy, liturgical worship, sacramental theology), I think it’s a fair question.
I have certainly felt the tug toward Constantinople and a draw to “swim the Tiber” as well. When a church is so ancient–and has compelling claims as a result to the “fullness” of the truth–I think one must seriously consider those claims. I look forward to a day when our three churches are in full communion. I am encouraged by recent dialog between Anglican Church in North America, the Pope, and Orthodox Church in America. I have Anglican friends who have ended up going to both churches, and friends that have come to Anglicanism from both churches.
Nevertheless, I am very nearly convinced that classical Anglicanism is in doctrine and practice the most consistent with the apostolic faith as it was understood by the early (first 500 years) and undivided church. When Anglicanism is most true to those roots as they were formally articulated during the English Reformation, it seems to maintain catholicity while avoiding what seem to me to be the most egregious errors of the Roman and Eastern expressions.
Basically, Anglicanism adheres to catholic (universal, undivided) doctrine, practice and order, without elevating adiaphora (important, but secondary doctrines) to dogma (essential beliefs), and without requiring beliefs that simply cannot be proved from Holy Scripture as it has been historically interpreted by the faithful.
Examples of catholicity include:
Examples of adiaphora and errors include:
As much as I have in common with my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, my rejection of Papal Infallibility automatically places me outside the boundaries of acceptable Roman Catholic beliefs. Similarly, my desire to remain in communion with churches that ordain women, are capital “R” Reformed, and that do not recognize all seven sacraments isn’t a viable position for a faithful Orthodox Christian.
So if I want to be truly catholic, Patristic, and submissive to a church that teaches what the Apostles and the early church received as “the faith once delivered,” Anglicanism is my only spot to land.
One of the best things about classical Anglican Christianity is that it is a tradition where one feels they have room to grow.
I can be more or less Calvinistic, adopt a higher or lower view of the Sacrament, change my stance on icons, discover catholicity, embrace my Protestantism, and refuse to conclusively define “Real Presence.”
I don’t feel I have to stay exactly the same as my understanding of Scripture, tradition, and Church grows and deepens. Yet there are clear boundaries in our formularies (The Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Ordinal) that guide me on this path and keep me from falling of edges of extremes.
This is tremendously freeing and comforting.
Since we began worshiping with an Anglican church, I’ve been extremely interested in the history and various incarnations of the Anglican liturgical standard, the Book of Common Prayer. The definitive edition is the 1662 BCP, which also serves as the doctrinal standard for most orthodox Anglicans.
Based on some recommendations by some fellow Anglican friends, I picked up the Lancelot Andrews Press Book of Common Prayer for a mere $15 shipped.
This edition of the Book of Common Prayer is not authorized by any recognized Anglican body that I am aware of, but is an effort by the publisher to create a version of the 1662 BCP that is conformable to Orthodox theology. The target audience for an edition like this would be Orthodox parishes looking to worship with a Western liturgy, or Anglican congregations that find themselves leaning a little toward the East.
First, let’s talk about the physical book itself. For a $15-$30 volume, I think you get your money’s worth. The soft cover is a nice, red “leatherlike” substance with gold accents. About the size of most standard thinline Bibles, the Lancelot Andrews Press BCP text block is trimmed in red. It’s a good looking book, and my washed-out cell-phone photos below don’t do it justice. On the inside, the paper is sufficiently opaque and the type is clear and easy to read. Rubrics are in red, and–although they border on being too light–are not difficult to parse.(EDIT: The book is now offered in hardback only)
I’ve only really spent time examining the liturgy for morning and evening prayer, so I can’t comment on all the theological tweaks and liturgical alterations, but I can say this: except for the Marian hymns and prayers that are added, Evening and Morning Prayer are virtually identical to the classical 1662 forms. Readers will also find that the Nicene Creed is printed without the filioque, and the date of Easter conforms to the understanding of the Orthodox church. This edition does not include the Articles of Religion.
This really seems like a great devotional resources for both Anglican and Orthodox Christians. The form factor makes sharing the book with someone else for prayers very easy. I also really like the simplified liturgies for family worship, and I find the Orthodox theological nuances educational, at the least, and edifying in many places.
You can get one here.