Anglicanism transcends cultures

At least one critic has claimed that Anglicanism and other forms of Western Christianity in their present form are doomed to fail because they are too tightly bound to the West and its culture. But a recent event in Missouri gives another writer hope.

Pamela Dolan, writing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says:

“Last weekend I had the opportunity to worship at Christ Church Cathedral as part of the Flower Festival weekend. As the celebration of the Holy Eucharist came to a close, the presider, the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri, turned to the Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop of Sudan, and invited him to impart the final blessing on the congregation. The words he used to extend this invitation were something like, ‘Archbishop, my brother, would you bless us in the language of your birth?’

It was, for me, a powerful moment. The Archbishop spoke in what I am told was Dinka, an African language utterly unfamiliar to me (and, I would guess, to nearly everyone else in the Cathedral). And yet, at the moment when he raised his hand high to begin making the sign of the cross over us, every person in that church knew that we were being blessed ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ and it made no difference to us in what language the words were spoken. This was Anglicanism at its best: generous and welcoming, respectful of both liturgical tradition and cultural difference, joyfully making room at the table for all who feel called to respond to Christ’s invitation to reconciliation, fellowship, and transformation.

It was also a show of mutual respect and Christian charity between an American bishop and an African archbishop, something that news reports about the current state of the Anglican Communion might lead one to think would be impossible.”

Her take-away point from this event to the people who would argue that Anglicanism is too “western” to survive is

What needs to be made clear is that Anglicanism and the Church of England are not synonymous. This is not in any way intend to belittle the importance of the Church of England, but rather to explain that Anglicanism’s boundaries are not co-terminous with those of the British Isles.

Episcopalians, in the United States and elsewhere, are also Anglicans, both by virtue of our heritage (religious, not ethnic) and by the simple fact of being members of a church that is itself part of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion is comprised of “over 80 million members in 44 regional and national member churches around the globe in over 160 countries,” according to its website. All of us who worship within this tradition are, in some sense, engaging in and with Anglicanism.

In other words, denominations like Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism have already demonstrated their ability to thrive in different cultures. The issue is less a question of whether or not the faith can be adapted but, at least today in Anglicanism, what are the proper limits of that adaption.

Read the full article here.

Past Posts