Tag Archives: Anglican Church in North America

Unexpected comfort and joy within the Anglican divide in Myrtle Beach

Tidings of comfort and joy? The holidays seem like weeks of frantic rushing for minutes of comfort and joy.

But this Advent season, if anything does give me comfort and joy, it’s the way local ACNA church members and Episcopal Church members are still meeting with one another — different sets of people, different venues, different occasions, but all warm and friendly.

This would seem highly unlikely, given the split of the Diocese of South Carolina into a diocese affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America and a diocese affiliated with The Episcopal Church.

But as I have experienced first-hand here in Myrtle Beach, local ACNA members and Episcopalians are still finding the time and the love to go out for meals together, to study together, to have drinks together, to share enthusiasms on social media together.

And it’s always good to see each other.

Leaders stake territory; friends stay together.

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Would C.S. Lewis suppose God could be found or experienced outside of Christianity?

The guy who scorned liberal Christianity as watered-down (“Christianity and water”)—and who mocked “gin-and-lace” Anglo-Catholicism—turns out to believe God could be found outside of Christianity?

The guy who is loved by U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists turns out to proclaim that people can experience God outside of Christianity?

Consider (here I paste from one of my recent replies in a social media thread):

…What I mean is, Lewis saw God in Plato. He also loved Rudolf Otto’s “The Idea of the Holy,” in fact listed it as one of his top 10 books outside the Bible, and Otto’s book affirms the human experience of God among many different cultures and religions, which seems reasonable considering Saint Paul felt it appropriate to quote a pagan poet who wrote, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

Note Paul found a worthy piece of writing about God outside of Scripture, from a writer neither Jewish nor Christian.

Lewis also said, in “Mere Christianity” no less, “If you are Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through….If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.” He goes on to say God may be working through the good parts of other religions to steer people to Christ.

And in the Narnia book “The Last Battle,” a character who seems analogous to a Muslim enters Aslan’s kingdom and joins the ride “further up and further in.”

Considering Lewis’s love for Otto’s book and his own words in “Mere Christianity” and “The Last Battle,” you…must consider C.S. Lewis to be a heretic. Perhaps he wouldn’t be welcome in the ACNA, which seems only capable of issuing demerits. Look at all the evidence against Lewis being orthodox! And you wouldn’t be the first to consider him insufficiently orthodox. But I don’t.…and until I can consider Lewis a heretic, maybe for the time being I’ll consider a church’s consistent recitation of the Nicene Creed as enough to count for orthodoxy…

In that social media reply, I went on to mention Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, which offers appendices that show similarities in moral and ethical teachings across various religions and cultures. Not that morals and ethics are the ultimate concern for many religious people (for them, salvation is), but similarities in identifying sin are probably important to notice.

In that reply, I should have also included this Lewis quotation, from a 1959 letter to Clyde S. Kilby, which alludes to James 1:17:

“If every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must be in some sense inspired.”

The harshest conservative critics will see the above as cherry-picking (selectively using evidence). However I think the above evidence reveals an undeniable tendency in Lewis’s outlook and worldview, in his theological and philosophical orientations, born from his deep and wide readings in classical literature and mythology.

So, more broadly, this post belongs to perhaps an emerging genre of posts, accumulating on this blog and elsewhere, carrying underneath a tonal blend of exasperation and bafflement at the U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists who appreciate C.S. Lewis, who was neither evangelical nor fundamentalist. Many things evangelicals and fundamentalists scorn in other types of believers are the very things Lewis believed. But C.S. Lewis remains famous and beloved, and he was a scholar who believed in a God and better yet in Jesus Christ; so see, they have a smart person in their corner in a time when undefined, somewhere-out-there smart people seem to be the biggest threat to those in evangelical and fundamentalist circles. (Well, the biggest threat until recently.) Evangelical and fundamentalist leaders seem invested in articulating easily-remembered phrases that can become rhetorical memes that build cognitive walls against outside critiques. C.S. Lewis is so quotable, the rhetorical memes are already available. If they side step the fact that Lewis didn’t see the world or God the same way as U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists, they can quote Lewis with faux gravitas, pat themselves on the back for being smart and bookish, and meanwhile convince no one else in their neighborhoods of anything.

That being said, this post was generated by a recent social media exchange in which an ACNA minister pressed me to seek disciplinary action against an Episcopalian priest for saying God could be found in the Koran. To that I made the above italicized response, also saying I would not be his heresy hunter because I’m not certain C.S. Lewis would play that role. The ACNA minister apparently did not see this as a response to the issue of the Koran. While admittedly not addressing the Koran directly, I argued from C.S. Lewis’s life and work that he thought people outside of Christianity could experience the presence of the real God (what more that might mean or indicate is up for discussion). I think the two strongest pieces of evidence for this are (1) Lewis’s strong appreciation for Otto’s book, not commonly read these days but historically important, and (2) his letter to Kilby. On balance, I’m not sure C.S. Lewis would be welcome in the ACNA except on the merits of his overwhelming celebrity in Christendom. Whether he should be read by ACNA members, as a matter of consistency with the ACNA leadership’s view of orthodoxy, is actually a different question from what I’m raising. But I doubt he would be accepted by the ACNA leadership today on the merits of his actual views. Maybe C.S. Lewis isn’t orthodox enough for the ACNA, or the Southern Baptists—or for that matter the PCA, for whom I have a great deal of love and appreciation, if probably not agreement.

Overlooked: Orthodox Church leader addresses Anglican Church in North America

The following was written on July 8 by Jeff Walton of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (posted here); Walton reported on a significant address by the leader of the Orthodox Church in America to the provinical assembly of the Anglican Church in North America.

A former Episcopalian who is now head of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) greeted delegates to the Anglican Church in North America’s recent provincial assembly in Bedford, Texas. Metropolitan Jonah, known by his monastic name, is the first convert to lead the million-member OCA.

In an address that was sometimes controversial and elicited animated response from delegates, Jonah made the case for ecumenical reconciliation between the Anglican and Orthodox churches and proposed a formal dialogue between the two. Still, Jonah did not refrain from touching sensitive points dividing the Orthodox from various currents of Anglicanism. The metropolitan voiced the Orthodox Church’s objection to ordained female clergy as well as denouncing iconoclasm and Calvinism. The statements were greeted with both cheers and groans from different Anglican delegates.

“We have to speak the truth in love,” Jonah said. “There is no truth if there is no love. There may be facts, but no truth.”

The Orthodox primate also called the gathered Anglicans to move ahead in ministry, distancing themselves from prior conflicts in the Episcopal Church.

“I know the Anglican Church has gone through a bitter, bitter time,” Jonah said. “My heart is with you. We need to surrender those resentments. Forgive those who have accused you, slandered you.”

Jonah, born James Paffhausen, was baptized in the Episcopal Church and influenced by the Episcopal charismatic movement that became popular in California during his youth. College led to his discovery of Orthodoxy, and his decision to embrace the eastern faith.

“Orthodoxy is not about picking and choosing what I like,” The metropolitan explained. “It is about finding the mind of the Holy Spirit. Nothing else matters.”

“This past millennium has been tough for us,” Jonah said, making a lighthearted transition into the serious subject of the trials endured by Orthodox Christians under Muslims, Mongols and eventually, communists.

Orthodoxy is a church where there were 20 million martyrs in the last century, according to Jonah.

“From this comes an incredibly powerful spiritual seed, for the seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs,” Jonah said.

The Orthodox primate spent much of his talk appealing for a unity between Orthodox and Anglican Christians, an aspiration that he saw as tantalizingly close to reality during the early 20th century. Reconciliation between the churches was stalled when the Episcopal Church veered towards liberal Protestantism, and came to an abrupt end with the advent of women’s ordination in the 1970s.

“We have the opportunity to come together, Anglicans and Orthodox, in truth,” Jonah said. “Does that Anglican Church that came so close to being recognized as a fellow Orthodox Church still exist? Here [at the ACNA assembly] it does.”

The metropolitan said that true unity was “a call to surrender to that one faith that is delivered to the saints.”

“The Church is not simply human, it is divine,” Jonah said. “We believe in the Church like we believe in Jesus Christ. The Church is the living body of Jesus Christ. It’s not just people who happen to like the same prayer book.”

In addition to a high view of the sacraments and the role of the church, Jonah also articulated a personal, individual faith.

“We have to surrender to God, personally, in the depths of our being,” Jonah said. “It’s that experience that I have died, that my life is hidden with Christ my God. The Lord Jesus Christ did not die so that we could have nice rituals.”

Jonah spoke to some of the social issues that have divided the Episcopal Church over the past generation, among them sanctity of life and human sexuality.

“We have to stand together in an absolute and unconditional condemnation of abortion,” Jonah said, to a standing ovation from delegates.

The Orthodox metropolitan also spoke about gender, sexuality and the damage he saw inflicted upon western society, saying that Christians needed to denounce immorality without judging.

“Immorality demoralizes,” Jonah said. “I think we can see where immorality has been allowed, what has happened. We need to look deep inside ourselves to find that identity given to us by Jesus Christ.”

Jonah concluded his address by opening his hands and stating “our arms are open” in inviting reconciliation with the Anglican Church. In response, Archbishop Robert Duncan promised to pursue talks with the Orthodox, and thanked the metropolitan for his willingness to re-engage with Anglicans after a long dry spell.