I have been to the Throne of St. Augustine, so have I reached the end of my Canterbury Trail? From a geographical standpoint, I made it, but this was never a physical pilgrimage.
I appreciated standing where Thomas Beckett was martyred, walking the cathedral halls, strolling along the cloister, and standing in the chapter house attached to the cathedral. This place has been a focal point of living out the Gospel for hundreds of years. There is something about being in the midst of these hallowed walls. History is tangible here; one almost expects to see Anselm or Cranmer around the next corner.
Yet standing in the Cathedral in Canterbury is also bittersweet because the Anglican Communion is divided. Progressives and conservatives are growing ever-farther apart. To stand in Canterbury is to be in a province I could not join. I went to Canterbury because I appreciate the history of the church, but when I look toward the future, sadly, I do not see it being formed there. Not in an orthodox manner faithful to the Scriptures and Creeds.
The future, in my opinion, lies in Africa. In Nigeria and Kenya especially, as pillars of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON). I would rejoice if Canterbury recognized the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) as fully included in the Anglican Communion, but only if it was because Canterbury returned to the faith once delivered to all the saints.
It has been a hard year being stationed on a small installation with only one general Protestant service and one Roman Catholic service. I am neither. The temptation arises to cross the Tiber and go to Rome, but I cannot. Neither will I return to embracing unmoored Protestantism.
This can make for a lonely position. To the Catholic, I am just another Protestant, and to a great many Protestants, I seem Catholic. I look to Luther and Trent with equal suspicion and they return the favor. The divisions in the Body of Christ are a tragedy, but for the foreseeable future, they seem to be inevitable.
I do not have the answers to all the questions, but I’ve seen the answers of many. The answers of traditional Anglicanism appear to be the soundest, so here I stand. Part of that, admittedly, is that the Anglican Communion allows some breadth—though too much, currently. While it is much more work, the formation is deeper when you are not merely handed a pill and told to swallow. Wrestling is good, even though exhausting.
I visited another church in England. It wasn’t on my list of places to see and it wasn’t in my guidebook. We walked by it on our way to dinner and decided to take a look. It was empty, but at 6 on a Monday night, that was no shock.
It looked like they were in the midst of Vacation Bible School. A waterless kiddy pool was in the aisle with plastic ducks. Tents and cardboard boxes were at various places in the nave. Here was a church that was not a tourist attraction. It was being used.
As I looked at some of the VBS stations, I was cheered. These were not American-style saccharine VBS stations. No, this was more.
- Sit in this cardboard box quietly for five minutes and think about all that you have. Then, think about those around the world who don’t. Pray for them and think about what you can do to help them.
- Think of five friends and commit to pray for them. Tie a knot for each friend in this leather cord and wear it as a bracelet to remind you to pray for them. Seek opportunities to bring them to church and share your faith with them.
It was refreshing. It was encouraging. This church—that had probably been filled with a few dozen kids earlier in the day—was now a silent witness to me that the faith is being delivered to the next generation. There was a shelf full of well-used hymnals and Books of Common Prayer at the back. This seemed to be a church that was working to diligently teach the Word to their children, to talk of it when they sit in their houses, and when they walk by the way, and when they lie down, and when they rise. May we all work to do the same.