Evangelicals on the Road to Canterbury

Evangelicals on the Road to Canterbury January 10, 2011

Robert Webber famously told us why evangelicals were moving from traditional evangelical denominations (and non-denominations) to become Anglicans in his Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church, but the most recent version of this story is by Todd Hunter. And Todd has shifted as much — if not more — than any of us. The title of his new memoir-confession-story is The Accidental Anglican: The Surprising Appeal of the Liturgical Church, and I’m sure it will not only interest those in the Anglican Mission in America but also those who — like me — love the liturgical traditions and yearn for our sorts of churches to adapt or adopt some liturgical practices — like using the lectionary and the hours of prayer.

I would like to have a discussion today about the following questions: First, are you sensing a need for more liturgy? (Why?) Second, Do you see many around you who are moving in this direction, even joining the liturgical traditions (RCC, Orthodoxy, Anglican)? Third, What is it that is prompting this shift? Fourth, and maybe more important for me, Are you finding ways for traditional non- or even anti-liturgical churches to become more liturgical?

In my book The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, I said I consider myself a “Willowpalian” and a number of folks have said “That’s me too!” But many of us don’t want to up and move into a different denomination, I know I don’t, and many of us have issues (perhaps more) with some of the liturgical traditions, and I know I do.

But many of us would like to see more respect for ancient liturgy, more connection to the church at large and the church of history, and know that the liturgy is not the problem but the deadness of those who guide the liturgy. I was in Ireland last summer, Kris and I wandered into an evening Catholic service and sat in the back — and I was dumbfounded both by the glory of the words and the virtual inexpressiveness in the priest who was reading the liturgy. It sounded like he was doing it for the umpteenth time that day. But it wasn’t the words — it was the personal appropriation of those words that bothered me.

Anyway, back to Todd’s book. Todd was a part of the Jesus Movement and then in the Vineyard — at the top — and then he was with Alpha and then he was in a small-group movement, and then he became an Anglican in the Anglican Mission in America group and he’s now a Bishop working with planting new churches. There are other elements to this story, but you can read the book to pick those up.

This book details his major Anglican influences — JI Packer and John Stott and Tom Wright — and many of us have been influenced by those same three great leaders. It details how, in hindsight, he sees the hand of God in his life shaping him for his current bishopric.

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