Thursday, September 24, 2009


By The Rev. Jim Wilson

I attended a wonderful meeting in Fresno on July 31. It preceded the special convention of a day later; the sole purpose of the meeting was to seek vision for the new thing that God is doing in the Diocese of San Joaquin. The principal criterion for framing new vision seemed to be that we understand ourselves to be recovering identity rather than defending tradition. We have been expelled from Jerusalem – in the sense of Acts 8 and the persecution of the infant Church – and we are journeying to Antioch and the world beyond, but with our DNA both resurgent and intact.

What does it mean to be recovering identity rather than defending tradition? G. K. Chesterton once said that tradition is the living faith of the dead, while traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition, as one of the three legs of Hookers’ three legged stool, is a central component of our identity in Christ. But it does not need to be defended; when we focus our efforts on defending tradition we soon descend into idolatry of some aspect of the tradition. We devolve it into traditionalism. Recovering identity, on the other hand, is a feature of the ongoing process of asking the Lord to bring us into the fullness of our personality in Him – our authentic Anglican personality.

The city of Glasgow, Scotland, has a motto inscribed all over the region it crowns. That motto is, “May Glasgow be blessed.” But a look at the history of Glasgow reveals the whole motto is, “May Glasgow be blessed by the preaching of God’s Word and the praising of God’s Name.” The whole motto is both more explicit and more expansive. My own Scottish Highland clan – the Grahams – has a motto as well; it is everywhere inscribed on our heraldry and on our web site. “Nes oublier” is French for “Never forget.” It implies that we never forget a kindness or a cut – and there is some truth to that as Grahams have marched the halls of history. But the full motto is, “Never forget the clan ideals of courage, chivalry, and Christian service.” Again, the whole is at once more explicit and of much greater depth. A principle function of seeking new and prophetic vision for the Diocese of San Joaquin must be to recover the fullness of our denominational roots – the roots we see expressed in our spiritual fathers and mothers from saints like Patrick, Columba, and Bishop Jackson Kemper to Perpetua of Rome and Margaret of Scotland. What identity emerges from these personalities?

I can tell you this: the Body of Christ is in the greatest season of all time for walking out a Gospel of power and not of mere words (1 Cor. 4:20) and for drawing the prodigals home (Matt. 28:16-20). This season is best summarized in the words of Luke 1:17, in which the faithful are exhorted to walk in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and so prepare a people for righteousness. To do this we must be dedicated not to doing the Anglican thing better than the Episcopals do it, but to a radical re-discovery of what it means to be an Anglican Christian. The meeting on July 31 – as frustrating as it was to some who want to just “get on with it,” was an important step down that road to recovery. I can’t wait for the next step to begin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The ACNA needs to put the TEC days behind us. They're gone. Comparisons to TEC are pointless, I agree. Anglicans need to focus back on their Catholicity and roots, respect tradition and cast aside the facets of modernism that are making serious ecumenical dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church impossible at this point---namely female ordination. Anglicans need to take on other social ills like divorce/remarriage, cohabitation, homosexuality, and the culture of death mentality that our new world order encourages. The ACNA will last if it is bold and willing to tackle sin head-on. It will thrive if they take ecclesiology seriously and not in the cavalier vein that TEC has taken. Ordination of Calvary Chapel types needs to be a thing of the past while looking toward a conservative, evangelical yet Catholic mentality. There also needs to be more resources on the internet for Anglicans for apologetics and theology. Right now there is little aside from David Virtue's site, mostly related to TEC controversy. Anglicans have the potential to be relevent again indeed!