An Anglican and a Charismatic walk into a bar… ("Friendly Friday" – Ryan VanderHelm)


Mass at the Cathedral of the King in Manila. See:

Big thanks to Ryan VanderHelm, who after connecting on Facebook, we figured out we lived in the same town!  A radical for Jesus and a brotha in the Lord.  Here are his thoughts…


Among Christian churches, you would be hard pressed to find two as different as the Anglican church and Charismatic church. One takes pride in it’s history and tradition, the other takes pride in how relevant it is. One emphasizes doing things the “right” way, and is very planned out and orderly about everything it does, while the other emphasizes spontaneity and tries it’s best to be as little planned out as possible. Because of these differences, I had a very interesting experience the last couple of Sundays, because on one Sunday I went to an Anglican church, and the next I went to a Charismatic church. Observing this stark contrast in forms of church service led me to think about how should we do worship? For both churches did different things beautifully, and both missed out on other things. So here’s a little reflection of mine about what both do well, what both might miss, and is there a way to balance the two.

I went to the Anglican church first, so I’ll start there. This was not only the first time I had ever been to an Anglican church, but any sort of liturgical church, so the day involved many new experiences for me. First time smelling incense, first time crossing myself in church, first time taking actual wine with communion, so I have to confess a little culture shock. I sat next to my friend who brought me and spent much of the service with my eyes glued on him, thinking “Do exactly as he does… Do exactly as he does.” Even with this vigilance, I made mistakes, and sincerely hope I didn’t offend anyone. However, I really did enjoy the service. The two things that stood out to me the most were 1, how everything that was done was done for a reason, and had symbolic meaning attached to it, and 2, how incredibly reverent it was. In this service, one couldn’t help but realize how incredible it is that we get to enter into the presence of Almighty God, and worship Him. Take a moment and think about that. On Sunday, you get to enter into the presence of the God who made everything from the very stars of heaven to the mighty forests to the grass on your lawn to you, and you get to worship him. And then you get to why you get to do that (Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection), and at that point I don’t think there are enough words in all the languages of the earth to adequately express how incredible that is. Point for the Anglican church.

Now lets look at the Charismatic church. Well, like the Anglican church, it has it’s peculiarities and it’s quirks. In a Charismatic church, the catch phrase is “as you are led by the Holy Spirit.” which, if you’re from a CRC/Presbyterian background like I am, seems a little weird at first. We’re not used to all this freedom in worship. We’re the frozen chosen and don’t know how to dance! And then there’s all that emphasis on the gifts of the spirit. You have people come up and prophesy, or speak in tongues, or heal with prayer on the spot. And at first it feels a little weird, a little uncomfortable. But I like the Charismatic church. I’ve been going to one for about a semester now, and have really enjoyed it. Charismatic’s understand that we have the joy of the Lord, and sometimes that means you can’t just stand still, or stay silent. In a Charismatic church, you can feel the emotion and the passion of a people deeply in love with God.

Both the Anglican and Charismatic churches have their quirks, and the things they do beautifully, but they also miss out on some things. The Anglican church really gets reverence, but it misses the palpable emotion or passion of the Charismatic church. And while the Charismatic Church definitely has emotion and passion, it seems to miss the reverence that the Anglican church showed. It’s not that the Charismatic church was irreverent, or the Anglican church was emotionless, they just aren’t as emphasized. So is there a middle ground? If so, where is it? Maybe it’s in a mix, where half the service is done Anglican-style, and half Charismatic-style. Or maybe it’s back in the “frozen chosen” camp of CRC/Presbyterian churches. Or maybe it’s in another kind of church that I’ve never been to before. But I kind of doubt it. It seems to me that a church can emphasize one or the other, and maybe there isn’t really much of a middle ground on this one. Instead the church has to trust it’s members to make up for what might be missing in its services outside of the actual service. The Anglicans need to have that emotion and passion out of church, even though it isn’t as present in their actual services. And the Charismatics need to remember reverence toward God outside of church, even though it isn’t as emphasized in their actual service.

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  • I have friends that are Charismatic Episcopals and Charismatic Catholics. A synthesis is possible and often has great results!

  • You can find both in the Catholic Church—though probably not in the same parish. As an former Anglican, you can guess where I would be more comfortable. But I’m glad you got out of your comfort zone. It’s good to do from time to time. 

    And to complete your joke: An Anglican and a Charismatic walk into a bar. The bartender says to the Anglican “Hey, Bill who’s your friend?” 

  • I think this must be a cultural  thing. In the UK, where I live, it is not at all unknown to find Charismatic Anglican churches. Indeed, much of John Wimber’s work was first welcomed in the UK by Anglican vicars, and many of the first Vineyard pastors over here were Anglicans first. Likewise, many Anglican churches experienced the travel of the Toronto blessing. And of course, we have Holy Trinity Brompton, which is the home of the Alpha Course – as charismatic as you like. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury’s wife, Jane Williams, is Charismatic. 

    I think it should be remembered that Anglicanism is a very broad church, and designed to be so explicitly: we have everything from the very high church liberal Anglo-Catholic, to low church liturgy, to evangelical and then right through to the Charismatics: and they all exist in the same church. So I think the premise of your article misses the whole point of the Anglican church, maybe. 

    I also think the kind of generalisations you are drawing are problematic simply because there’s no such thing as ‘the’ Charismatic church: it comes in all flavours and is often part of existing church movements. Some are culpable of the problems you note, some not. 

    Nevertheless, I appreciated your article and like the conclusion you come to, which is that the Sunday service can only ever be part of the worshipping life of the church – I think that is something that is essential to remember. Thanks 🙂

    • Ryan VanderHelm

      I think you may be right, this easily could be simply a culture thing, however. I suppose I should have made it clearer in the article that when I spoke of the Anglican Church, I was referring to high-church Anglicanism. Like I said in the article, this was my first time to an Anglican, or even liturgical church, so at the time I thought that the Anglican church was much more uniform than I now understand it to be. I suppose the same goes for Charismatic, and I guess that’s the problem with any sort of label; there are always exceptions to the rules. 
      Also, I’m not sure whether I’m really looking for a synthesis of the two, because I’m not sure whether it would work -whether it would keep both the reverence and the emotion/passion. Though, this could simply be due to lack of experience and imagination on my part. 
      thanks for the response.

      • I agree a synthesis of the two wouldn’t work – would just offend everyone and please no-one. 

        However, I think there are certain similarities between charismatic and very high church (I’m thinking incense, genuflection and everything) worship: both believe that what you do with your body and sound and senses matter in worship. For both streams of church, it is important to worship as an embodied human, not just with the intellect. 

        It’s also interesting that in many charismatic churches in the UK, there is a fashion at the moment for putting on ‘alternate’ services where there is much more of a high church feeling. Interesting how church again works in loops 🙂

    • From what I’ve heard the Church of England is far broader than The Episcopal Church (US). Probably because the more extreme Anglo-Catholics and “Anglo-Protestants” split off some time ago. I should have qualified my background as Anglo-Catholic, which in America meant there was never as much incense in church as I would have liked 🙂

  • Charlie

    I agree with Michael.  I experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit in a Lutheran church in California back in the early 1970’s when the Charismatic movement was spreading quickly in most mainline protestant churches. An effective leader in that movement was Fr. Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal priest who was put out of his home church for his ‘Charismania’ early on, went on to another ECA church and helped the spread of the movement.  Coming east, my bride and I became involved in a Catholic Charismatic worship and bible study group within the Catholic church we were attending. 

    We journeyed through some non-denominational churches, eventually ending up in a local Episcopalian church we love because of its loving congregation and its active service in the community.  While there is not an element of Charismatic design in the worship service, my wife and I love the reverence you describe, the liturgy and the choir, and our experience in the Charismatic movement helps the meaning and expression of the service come alive for us in exciting ways.  We are finding our place, getting to know people and helping them get to know us. 

    Great topic, Kurt.  We (the Body of Christ) really need to grow in our understanding of the fact that we really are one body, though some are arms, some legs, hands, feet, etc.  We really need each other to be The Body of Christ showing his love to this world. 

  • Amory Ewerdt

    There is an Anglican church near Chicago called Church of the Resurrection which I have been to a handful of times. While it is liturgical there is also somewhat of a charismatic bent to it. Same goes for an Episcopal church in New London, WI.

  • Anonymous

    From my experience, many, many people in the Anglican world are so caught up in liturgy and ecclesiology, that the “Church” becomes their Christ.  They idolize the ritual, the liturgy, the building, etc.  They will practically come to blows over churchmanship, and things like incense, cross/crucifix style, Communion wine type, vestments, chanting, which melody to use for sung parts of the service, and whether to even sing that part or not, and on and on.  Thus, those things become  hindrances to a one on one personal, bare-heart relationship with Jesus.   I was raised an Anglican, but found that its weaknesses out-weighed its strengths (especially the Episcopal Church which is basically apostate), and subsequently moved on.