Saturday, October 3, 2009


By The Rev. Jim Wilson, PrayNorthState

Michelangelo was once asked how he managed to produce the wondrous sculpture that was King David. He answered something like, “I just chipped away everything that was not David and left intact what was.” Recovering our Anglican roots is a lot like what the artist did with the slab of marble.

Who are the spiritual fathers of our Anglican clan? Columba would get my first vote. Well known for his quick temper, he fought in one too many duels and was told by his overlord that he could choose to face execution or the pagan Scots across the North Sea from his native Ireland. God transformed him enroute and his ministry was marked by patience, joy, and a tremendous gift for evangelism alongside the many signs and wonders that accompanied him. (He was known for having raised at least one woman from the dead and – when a warlord refused him admittance to the stronghold while the gates were locked – Columba simply prayed and watched the gates swing open and the warlord come to Jesus.) What are the pieces that are neither Columba nor Anglican that we can safely chip away?

Neither his quick temper nor the sense of entitlement that backs it are of the Lord; we know of neither gifts nor fruit of the Spirit that match. But the implicit repentance in his transformation is; the signs and wonders are; the simple prayer for gates and hearts opened is Book of Acts stuff. If we would be like him we need to lose our anger and entitlement and seek fruits of repentance, lots of miracles, and a simple prayer life.

Saint Patrick is another spiritual father. Kidnapped by Irish pirates at age sixteen, he was raised by wealthy British parents in a nominal Christian home. Cold, hungry, alone, and (slave) collared, Patrick began to hear a voice he identified as God’s own. When the voice told him to rise and walk because his ship was waiting, he traveled two hundred miles with no navigation but the voice. No one inquired about his slave status and – when the captain demanded passage money – Patrick disappeared for a few days and returned with the fee; he did not know how he obtained it. He returned home to discontent; meanwhile the Voice urged him to return to Ireland where – his Lord said – he had been prepared to lead the pagan Irish into the Kingdom of God.

The comfort and complacency in which Patrick was raised are not of the Lord but the slave collar is. A simple return to status quo is downright repugnant to the author of our salvation, but navigating by the Voice, utter dependence on the Spirit, and returning to the place of captivity that captives might be set free – that is what the Lord offers as His endowment. If we would be like him we need to reject the comfort of status quo and embrace our dog collars, the Holy Spirit, and the call to set captives free in person.

This chipping away of everything that is not Anglican – with our spiritual fathers as the model – could turn out to be a lot of fun. Patrick and Columba were both bishops. What might their stories – and that of Jackson Kemper – tell us about episcopacy in the new chapter of Acts that God would have us write?

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