I belong to the Church of England because thats where I live.
Church is like your family: you dont choose it, youre (re-)born into it. Sometimes it embarrasses you, sometimes you almost despair of it but its where you belong, and the process of compromise and of freely-given loyalty to something thats less than perfect is part of the journey towards spiritual maturity.
Actually, theres a lot that I really appreciate about our national church. Its so quintessentially English, for better and for worse: self-deprecating, bending over backwards to be fair even to those who wish it ill, instinctively suspicious of too much explicit enthusiasm.
The Church is like a swimming-pool most of the noise comes from the shallow end
But its been becoming more raucous recently more polarized, less ready to listen. Its in danger of losing its traditional Benedictine emphasis on provisionality: that while truth may be absolute, our apprehension of that truth is only ever partial, and so we can always learn from one another and especially from those with whom we disagree.
A depressing example of this unholy clamour was last years Evangelical opposition to our new Archbishop because of his refusal to be more negative about homosexuality. I find that the most thoughtful analysis of this phenomenon is provided not by an Anglican, but by a Baptist, Roy Clements, probably because hes both Evangelical and gay. His analysis of the recent debacle concerning the non-appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading is particularly helpful. Or for a suitably sardonic comment on it all, you might try the Wibsite.
(By the way, changing the subject, have you noticed how much like a teddy-bear the Archbishop of Canterbury looks?)
Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom, but the church came instead
Away from such tedious, and sex-besotted, stuff (such a window into peoples neuroses, that!), a good way into understanding the nature of the Church is through its poetry. The seventeenth century was a very important time for the Church of England, as it sought to establish its own particular identity. Theologians such as Hooker and Jewel were writing ... and so were the poets. George Herbert is well-known of course, but have you come across any of Thomas Trahernes poetry yet? ... [to be continued ... Cowper, Keble, Rossetti, Eliot, Thomas ...]
My current post is as Director of Ordinands helping select men and women for ordination as deacons and priests (but not Bishops: thats someone elses job). Till just a few years ago women were not allowed to be ordained: to see some of the reasons for this stood on their head, read Why Men should not be Ordained.
The Church of England doesnt have a Confession of Faith, a statement of beliefs which defines its position over against other sorts of churches. (The nearest it gets is the Thirty-Nine Articles, but these are too much a product of their sixteenth-century context to be an appropriate summary of the churchs postition today.) Instead, it points to its worship as expressive of its beliefs: after all, orthodoxy literally means right worship. So the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 (actually a light revision of that of 1549) is normative of Anglican doctrine.
The Duchess ... was one of those people who regard the Church of England with patronising affection, as if it were something that had grown up in their kitchen garden
In reality the 1662 book is too archaic for exclusive use today, though a significant number of services still use it and it even has a society devoted to its propagation. After all, like the language of Shakespeare it has a timelessness which appeals across the centuries. More often though, church congregations use material from a contemporary set of resources known as Common Worship.
Theres also a growing move towards using more informal, flexible liturgies, like those of Iona or Taizé. And of so-called alternative worship a much more provisional, post-modern, use of silence, meditative music, poetry and art: a good example of this is Fresh Worship, based at St Marys Ealing.
Finally, here are some specifically Church of England (Anglican) links:
The Church of England official website is here.
The Church Times is the best way of keeping in touch with Church of England news; an alternative is the Church of England Newspaper; (the former is perhaps more establishment, even a little churchy, while the latter is more evangelical and was for a while one of the prime miscreants in the shameful anti-archbishop raucousness described above).
The Church of England Gazette describes itself as the official newsletter authorised by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York as a ... channel of communication for lay and clerical leaders ....
Project Canterbury is a large, and growing, collection of on-line Anglican texts; you may be interested in visiting Church House Publishing and the Church House Bookshop; my paymasters are the Church Commissioners; and you might even care to surf your way to the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.
Finally, our Church is of course only one, albeit the largest, of a wide range of Christian churches and denominations in this country; the umbrella organization for them is Churches Together.
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page revised July 2003