Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How and why I became an Anglican Christian

How and why I became an Anglican Christian
Fr. Dale Matson
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10, NASB)
I was raised as a Southern Baptist and gave my life to Christ at age eight in my Sunday school class. God for me was a wrathful vindictive God who was to be appeased more than pleased. The sermons were full of law, fire and brimstone. On one side of Church was a plaque “Attendance Last Week”. A plaque on the opposite side of church was for “Souls Saved Last Week”. The altar call at the end of the service seemed like an endless wait for someone, anyone to come forward. I remember feeling guilty about holding hands with my first girl friend as we sat and sang together. My last memory of the church is the Haley’s Bible Handbook which I still have, given to me by the pastor in 1962 for high school graduation. I never went back to this church. Folks came to my parent’s home to persuade me to return and I told them that I needed more time to think about things. They of course, told me where I was headed in no uncertain terms.
“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." (Romans 1:17, NASB)
It was half a lifetime of struggle later that I began attending a study called “Life with God”. It was actually an adult catechism course offered by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. In the small catechism, Martin Luther paired “fear” with “love” in each explanation of the Ten Commandments. I believe it was during this experience that I finally connected Jesus Christ to God. In fact, He was and is God. He was a God that I could love. He was a God that loved me. I was baptized as an adult in the LCMS and later was involved in the Charismatic Movement as evidenced by speaking in tongues. The LCMS church was wary of the Charismatic’s. Although they were not dispensationalists, there was a doubt expressed by the leadership that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit were still available. The most remarkable experiences for me were a sense of the love the parishioners had for Jesus and for one another and the addition of the sacrament of the altar, Holy Eucharist. It was now a service of both Word and Sacrament. In addition to the concerns about the Charismatic experience, the LCMS did not offer a monastic approach to life where an individual could have varied opportunities for private worship also. It seemed that many of the reformed theologians had neglected the early church fathers with the emphasis on “Sola Scriptura”.
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2, NASB)
Fifteen years ago my wife and I were seeking a church where women were on a more equal footing with men yet I wanted to retain the liturgical worship setting. As we went through confirmation classes I found the “Book of Common Prayer” to be an answer to prayer. It was a worship book for both public and private settings. In addition to the Psalter, it contained the Baptismal and Eucharistic Services, Pastoral Offices, Ordination services, the Catechism, a calendar celebrating the feast days of Saints of the Church and the Historical Documents of the Church. I was now united to the Saints of the church since the Apostles. What a story! This was a continuation of the church of the New Testament. The Anglican Church was for me a kind of reformed Catholicism. Some call it “Via Media”, between Roman Catholicism and Protestant. The Celtic Church was already in place. The church in England preceded Augustine of Canterbury the first Archbishop of Canterbury sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great in 596.
With primacy of Scripture and the addition of Tradition and Reason (informed by God) the Anglican Church offers an opportunity to deepen and widen ones quest to see the face of God. We include our brothers and sisters who have gone before us. Their ancient councils with the guidance of the Holy Spirit came to agreement on critical issues facing the early church. Those decisions inform and guide our decisions to this day. Many have laid down their lives for the faith including the author of the Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer. Anglican missionaries shipped their goods overseas in a coffin because they did not expect to return alive. Anglicans are not as well known as Roman Catholics or folks from the Greek Orthodox faiths but they are the third largest Christian denomination. How much has the Anglican Church affected my life? I became a Deacon and then a Priest in this church. It is the final place God will call me to on this earth. It is a faith worth living and dying for.
“Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out” (Thomas Cranmer’s final words while being burned at the stake.)


Sibyl said...

The Anglican Church has the most beautiful liturgy, music and hymns in the English language...and many of the most beautiful buildings, and has had the status, prestige of support of the crown and government of England. It is an amazing vehicle for worship. The lessons and hymns (or carols) provoke thought and humility.

No wonder the devil has seduced, attacked and tempted this expression of the faith relentlessly to such ill effect.

Beauty, power and wealth can lead to pride...and thus a great fall.
We have seen this fall take place, then a shaking, awakening and now the resurrection of Christ's Anglican bodies world-wide.

The devil can't/won't win.

Dale Matson said...

Thanks for the response. I sometimes wonder if it would be a good thing if the Church of England were to be disestablished. Then it could evangelize a post Christian secular English culture and leave the politics to Parliament. The political appointment of Rowan Williams as ABC has not been helpful for the CoE or the World Wide Anglican Communion.

Sibyl said...

Didn't the Church experience secular interference and sculpting earlier on beginning with Constantine and subsequently various kings, emperors and with even popes acting politically, militarily and economically rather than theologically and pastorally?

Dale Matson said...

You are correct. God is always able to thwart all the efforts of humans to serve their own ends. God provides a positive outcome from what was intended as a sinful human behavior. What comes to mind immediately are the selfish intentions of King Henry VIII and even the "politics" of those who thought they were dispensing with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is why St. Paul states that "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)