Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chasing Calories With Exercise: A Fool’s Errand


Fr. Dale Matson

“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1st Corinthians 6:19)

This is a longitudinal look at my weight control efforts over the last twenty five years. Hopefully it will be instructive.  I weighed 160* pounds when I graduated from high school. In graduate school, my ‘elderly’ professor (she was probably in her mid-sixties), Dr. Fran Culbertson and I walked around a portion of the U.W. Whitewater campus after lunch. When we got back, she took the stairs and I took the elevator. I was frankly embarrassed that she was more fit than me.

During this same period, I was working at the county psychiatric hospital and chased after a patient who ran off the unit. After about four blocks, it was again obvious to me that I was in sorry shape since she only got smaller and smaller the further we both went. I guess she wasn't catatonic after all. I was close to catatonic  when I finally gave up chasing her.

After being out of construction for about four years, my sedentary academic life had taken a toll on my fitness and health.  I began walking and then running having ballooned up to 220 pounds from 180. Quitting smoking also contributed to the weight gain.
   
For the overweight sedentary person, there is a rather self-righteous and heady initial success at weight loss through exercise alone. Unfortunately, running is a gravity intensive activity. I had to run on dirt roads to avoid the shin splints and ankle pain that came with being in the ‘Clydesdale’ class of runner. Nike made a wonderful cushioned shoe called the ‘Air Max’. Most of the folks like me in the back of the pack wore that brand running shoe.

My weight began slipping away and I was down to 200 pounds. I seemed to get stuck at that point and went on the American Heart Association Diet. That got me down to about 190 pounds and at that weight I was able to build up my mileage as I trained for a marathon.

My problem with too many calories was still evident. I have met many runners who have stated quite candidly that they run to eat rather than eat to run. I got into trail and ultra-distance running and 60 mile weeks did the job with weight control. That is more than 7,000 exercise calories a week or about two pounds. In reality, that is what could be called purging through exercise.

The problem of course is that 60 miles weeks are for those who are young and the few folks biomechanically suited for running. Eventually problems emerge. For me, it was a pulled hamstring. Oops, the weight began to come back. This is when many runners decide to become triathletes. This allows the injured runner to keep burning calories while recovering from running injuries. It’s not as easy to be a triathlete if your drug of choice is running but adjustments can be made.

The problem is that the body is too good at adjusting to the routine. As they say, “You have to fool the body”. You eventually are able to gain weight even at 60 miles of running or the caloric equivalent in running, biking and swimming. It is no longer a zero sum game. This is where chasing calories with exercise simply no longer works. This is where the self-regulation and discipline of exercise needs to be applied to eating too.

I am a lifetime member of weight watchers and have learned what ‘normal’ portions are like. I have also learned about binge foods (mixed nuts for me), fiber, proper hydration, and eating till you are satisfied not full. I weigh in and record my weight daily.  Slow eating helps also. I’m retired, there is no rush. Intake is the key to weight control. It is easier to fix the faucet than mop up the puddle. Even if you did no exercise, you could maintain a steady weight with proper eating. Exercise because you want to, not because you have to just to manage your weight.

* I currently weigh 165 pounds. This suits this old man’s heart and lungs right down to the ground.
   
 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)

       

Monday, May 27, 2013

Smart Phones: Multitasking, Addiction And Depersonalization


Fr. Dale Matson

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, KJV)

Let me begin by saying that it is hard, often impossible to do two or more things at the same time. There are those who claim that they can multitask but no matter how young and nimble their minds, the various tasks performed concurrently diminish the quality of each. For example, many years ago, I discovered that talking on a cell phone while driving led to several wrong turns. It was counterproductive in the long run. I decided to pull over and talk. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Texting while driving is even worse since it is not just a mental distraction; the eyes are taken off the road also. How many traffic accidents have already been attributed to texting?

Unfortunately the negative distracting aspect of smart phones is even eclipsed by the obsessive and slavish addiction to the siren call of social networking. What is this about? Well, it’s all about ME. It’s as if the insatiable need for warm fuzzies and atta boys is an itch that gets scratched enough on places like Facebook that folks compulsively check in with all too much frequency. This can be on the average of “150 times per day or about once every six minutes.” http://www.cnbc.com/id/100765600

Could this be considered an addiction? DSM IV only requires three symptoms out of seven for a behavior to be considered addictive. My picks would be Preoccupation, Tolerance, Withdrawal, Escape and Damage to social relationships. Is it that people really want to remain in touch with others or the fear of not being included? What would be worse, a wallet left at a friend’s house or a smart phone? Is the smart phone an activity saved for down time or does it replace events in prime time? It’s like the TV commercial where someone is watching a sporting event during a friend’s wedding and impulsively yells out “No” at the wrong time. Has a smart phone enhanced relationships and communication or diminished them? I believe it is the latter. How do you feel when someone interrupts an important conversation with you to read a text from someone else? Maybe that is the modern signal for you to leave. It used to be someone glancing at their watch.

“"It's like an arms race … everything is an emergency," said Tanya Schevitz, spokeswoman for Reboot, an organization trying help people unplug more often. "We have created an expectation in society that people will respond immediately to everything with no delay. It's unhealthy, and it's unproductive, and we can't keep going on like this." http://www.cnbc.com/id/100765600

There is an invasion of space here and often we are complicit. Our skin was not designed to protect us from cyber intrusion. In professional venues, those who needed to be in continual radio contact could go “10-7”. That meant that they would be unavailable to respond to an attempt to contact them until they were “10-8” (back in service).  Is “10-7” an “App” available on smart phones?

Each of these social media venues is like an irresistible black hole. They are electronic monsters with tentacles that reach out to grab us one by one and pull us into their maws. For those who want recognition, they will get it in spades. Those advertisements popping up on the margins of a web search were tailor made just for them. In short, their life is no longer private. They can never go off the grid in an electronic age.

They are not really smart phones. They are dumb phones. People are not smarter, more attractive, more informed, more connected. More functionality is less simplicity. People are less private, more distracted and covertly entrapped. People are becoming self-centered voyeurs living in a virtual world that is a mile wide and an inch deep. Loss of privacy is not the worst danger in all of this. People may be gaining the world and losing their souls.    


     

Monday, May 20, 2013

Human Flourishing, Inclusion And Unborn Children



Fr. Dale Matson

Much has already been said about presiding Bishop Katharine Schori’s sermon of 12 May 2013 where she attacked St. Paul and called that which is evil beautiful and holy. “Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy”. Her inscrutable exegesis of the lectionary epistle reading from Acts 16:16-34 is at variance with commentaries and church tradition.  http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2013/05/13/presiding-bishop-preaches-in-curacao-diocese-of-venezuela/

I have read the sermon several times in an effort to understand it.  Some things made sense. As someone who has written sermons, I try to tie in the readings with the events of contemporary life also. How does Scripture address the problems of this age? In her sermon she made the following statement, “Human beings have a long history of discounting and devaluing difference, finding it offensive or even evil.  That kind of blindness is what leads to oppression, slavery, and often, war.  Yet there remains a holier impulse in human life toward freedom, dignity, and the full flourishing of those who have been kept apart or on the margins of human communities.

I happen to agree with her statement and believe God has a special place in His heart for those she has described. I am not certain what she means by “full flourishing” but I suspect she would say providing an environment that would offer the opportunity for self-actualization or self-discovery. It would be providing an environment where all humans could thrive. Can we eliminate poverty? I doubt it since Jesus (quoting Deuteronomy) stated, “The poor you will always have with you.” (Matthew 26:11a) That is not an excuse to turn our backs on the poor but it is a statement of fact.

My problem with her statement on “devaluing difference” and blindness leading to oppression is that she is not inclusive enough. She would like to be an advocate for those who are at the margins of society, the underrepresented and the victimized.  She sees the love of God embracing all of creation. She opposes St. Paul and would like to give equal weight to the words of a girl in slavery to men and a demon. Even those possessed by familiar spirits need to be heard. Paul did not want to hear the demon. He wanted to free the girl.

There are many however, that are not included in the diverse world of TEC. Those who don’t agree are labeled bigots and homophobes and haters. But there is another group missing from the big tent.
  
How about unborn children? Don’t they get a hearing also? Don’t they fall under God’s loving embrace?  How is an unborn child able to flourish if he/she is aborted?  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5) If you want this to be about the disenfranchised then start at the bottom. If you want to be inclusive then think of them also. If you want to be diverse then think of them. If you want to think of innocent victims then think of them. This is a social justice and human rights issue of immeasurable proportions. What about them?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Obscurantism For The Sake Of Policy



Fr. Dale Matson

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

“Obscurantism is the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obscurantism

“In restricting knowledge to an √©lite ruling class of ‘the few’, obscurantism is fundamentally anti-democratic, because its component anti-intellectualism and elitism exclude the people as intellectually unworthy of knowing the facts and truth about the government of their City-State.”  Seymour M. Hersh http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2003/05/12/030512fa_fact

Hersh wrote this in the New Yorker in 2003 regarding the Bush administration’s willingness to believe in weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a reason to invade Iraq.
   
Much has been said about the attack on our consulate in Benghazi that led to the death of four Americans including our Ambassador Chris Stephens. There has been criticism that our State department did not pay enough attention to the events leading up to the attack, that adequate protections were not in place for the staff in Benghazi. There is criticism that there was an inadequate response during the attack. There has been criticism of the investigation of the event and the lack of interest in the truth of what took place.
A big concern is the conscious attempt to “scrub” the CIA report of all the terror references.  http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/exclusive-benghazi-talking-points-underwent-12-revisions-scrubbed-of-terror-references/.

The talking points were changed (edited) so many times that the final document reminded me of Abraham Lincoln’s ‘original’ axe that he used for splitting logs. It had three new handles and two new heads. The last of the 12 versions was not intended to insure accuracy or clarity. Each version departed further from the truth.  It was intended to distort reality and delay discovery. It is the culmination of a failure to perceive an ongoing reality that ran counter to policy and ideology. This was a policy that downplayed Radical Islamic terrorism.

This was a policy, that like Bush, declared premature victory. How different is it than the Bush Whitehouse and weapons of mass destruction or Lyndon Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin “incidents”.
What is the collateral damage in all this? There is a sense that the average Joe on the street does not trust his government to tell the truth. In a 2013 Pew research poll this year, only 3 in 10 Americans trust their government. http://washington.cbslocal.com/2013/03/11/pew-for-every-10-americans-only-3-trust-the-government/

I can still remember the disillusionment and anger I experienced when President Eisenhower denied we flew over Russia to spy only to have the Russians parade Francis Gary Powers in front of the cameras as a captured U2 pilot. The same thing is true of President Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs invasion yet 7 in 10 Americans still trusted their government during the Eisenhower/Kennedy years. http://www.people-press.org/2013/01/31/trust-in-government-interactive/

We claim to be a nation under the rule of law but we are really a nation that runs on truth and trust. We are not doing very well these days and I pray for a return to a government that respects those it represents. We can handle the truth. You can rightfully criticize me for the political tone of this piece but I am asking both sides to be more truthful. Jesus said, "I am the way the truth and the life." Without truth we lose our way and our life is diminished.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Steadfastness



Fr. Dale Matson

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2) “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

Steadfastness is one of God’s basic requirements in the Christians life. Other words that help us understand steadfastness are commitment, dedication, persistence, determination, faithfulness and tenacity. Often St. Paul talked about the Christian life not as a pilgrimage but a race. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

This perseverance as St. Paul calls it or steadfastness as James calls it, is required to finish the race. Often in my dreams, I am running a race and become lost along the way. I get off the course. I am so disappointed with myself in the dream because I had such a good beginning to the race. I believe that God is cautioning me to stay the course and pay attention to the signs along the way. Paul says that we must preservere on the race marked out for us. We must stay in the race and stay on the correct course.

At age 42 and at 235 pounds, I began walking a mile a day and then two miles with a goal to run a mile. One thing led to another and eventually I completed a marathon. This kind of training requires discipline, patience and focus. The byproducts are weight loss and a sense that most goals can be reached if one is willing to persevere. Many will attest that completing a marathon is a life changing event that transfers to other aspects of one’s life.

For those like me who believe that everything worth doing is worth overdoing, I discovered that there is also what is called “Ultramarathons”. These are distances of 50 Kilometers, 50 miles, 100 Kilometers, 100 miles and beyond. Perhaps the dream of most marathoners is to run the Boston Marathon but for folks who run Ultramarathons, The Western States 100 mile endurance run is what is referred to as the Holy Grail of endurance runs. The single track trail begins in North Lake Tahoe and finishes 100 miles away in Auburn CA. Like Boston, one must successfully complete another qualifying event first but there is also a selection lottery too. Not everyone who qualifies is selected.

The training requires absolute dedication with months of trail running in the mountains and 100 mile training weeks. I also biked and cross country skied to build endurance and avoid injuries associated with too many running miles per week. The cutoff for completing the event is 30 hours. In 2001, I finished in 29 hours and 17 minutes on my third try following two previous failures in 1994 and 1995. Needless to say, it was the hardest thing I have ever done.

It is said that the first 50 miles is run with the legs and the second 50 miles is run with the heart. Staying on course at night requires constant vigilance. If one does not pay attention to the signs one could become hopelessly lost and not finish the race. There are glow sticks placed along the trail periodically to keep you on course as you run through the night. At every aid station along the way, you are offered encouragement, food and water. There is no way to describe the tired lungs, aching body and the mind altering perceptions because of glycogen depletion. It is a race where even muscle tissue is consumed as the body cannibalizes itself for fuel. All of my toenails turned black from the constant jamming of my feet on the 22, 000’ of descent and 18,000 feet of ascent. Painful blisters plagued my feet and my hands took on the form of boxing gloves from edema.

The 100 plus degree heat in the canyons required a pint of water every two miles just to keep my body weight near normal. Of the 400 or so runners who began, only about 60% finished the year in 2001. What was the difference between those who finished and those who did not? Steadfastness was the main ingredient missing in most of those who did not finish.
    
My life goal continues with God’s help, to run the good race. I have known too many good runners and good Christians who have quit the race. Someday I hope to say to our Lord, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. “ (2nd Timothy 4:7).

*The verses from James are from the BCP lectionary reading for Morning Prayer Monday May 6th Year I

A Still Small Voice And The Hope That Is In You




Fr. Dale Matson

Our Gospel lesson for the 6th Sunday of Easter states in part, These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:25-27) Here Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit Who indwells all Christian not just His apostles. Think a second about the actions of the Holy Spirit. He is a Helper. He is One who reminds, He is a Teacher and He is a Comforter.

How do we tune in to the Holy Spirit? How do we get on His wavelength? Sometimes it seems like when my grandsons try and communicate with each other on our walkie talkies. They both press the talk button at the same time and can’t hear what the other is saying. The range of the walkie talkies is about five miles but they yell all the louder at each other from a distance of about ten feet.  Sharon and I can hear them both without the walkie talkies quite well thank you. Sometimes Jamison is on channel one and Maxwell is on channel three.  They can’t seem to agree to be on the same channel. Here are the lessons learned.  First of all, unlike Jamison and Maxwell, we need to get our finger off the talk button and simply listen. Second, never buy a boy anything that will amplify the sound of his voice.  Let’s look at one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament to help us understand how God communicates with us.

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV).

In this passage the Prophet Elijah finally understood that God can be found in the “still small voice” (“gentle whisper” NIV). Certainly God communicates with us through Holy Scripture. He also communicates through His Sacraments, circumstances and through a word from our Christian brothers and sisters. In all these ways God leads us in our daily life. I once had a student who said about herself in all humility, “I have always been blessed to hear the voice of Jesus.” I understood her perfectly and hope you do too.

This voice is not the auditory persecutions experienced by psychotics. A clinically depressed person may believe that the voice telling them that they are no good is from God. Well, it is not from God.  The Holy Spirit’s voice is instructive, it is a Teaching voice. It is not the condemning conscience energized by the law written on our hearts. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). The voice is Comforting. The voice is not one of self-criticism. How many have made a mistake and immediately say something like, “You jerk, what were you thinking?” That is not God. That is what I would call the voice of our critical parent. Has a parent ever talked that way to you?  The voice is a Counselor. The voice is not any louder than our own thoughts as God the Holy Spirit speaks to us. God is not in the earthquake. He is in scores of little things in our daily life. As the children’s song states, “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.”

I have also run into folks who are waiting on the Lord. I find it to be an interesting phrase, waiting on the Lord. Does that mean that you are idle while you wait on the Lord? Does that mean that God is against gainful employment while you are waiting? I think not. Don’t confuse sloth with God’s voice.   Chaucer called idle hands the devil’s tools. I would add that God will never, repeat never, tell you to do something that is not consistent with Scripture.

Let me illustrate with a couple of personal examples. I used to be in construction and had just completed a final grading of a new home site. As I talked with the owner who was smoking a cigarette, I was thinking some rather judgmental and critical thoughts. I was a little self-righteous also since I had just quit smoking myself. A question arose in my thoughts, “What makes you better than him?” I immediately repented in my mind, which was accompanied by uncustomary compassion.

I was recently visiting with a friend over lunch. We talked for a quite a time and when I was done with what I had to say, I was preparing in my mind to move on. “Wait, he’s not done yet. Stay awhile longer.” The friend didn’t take much longer and thanked me for listening.

He is the voice of the teacher, the counselor and the comforter neatly woven into our thoughts yet we are able to distinguish His voice from our own thoughts. With Elijah, God was not in the wind, earthquake and fire. Monks and Mystics seek silence and solitude to hear the voice of God yet ordinary Christians are blessed to hear God every day. Yes, God also speaks to us through others, even those who persecute us. The indwelling Holy Spirit is a sign and a seal.  “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is more than a lifetime warranty. He is an eternal warranty alleluia!
        
Let’s take a more careful look at this verse from our Gospel lesson.  “These things have I spoken to you while I am still with you, but the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father  will send in my name.” Here Jesus is both looking ahead to His ascension and later to Pentecost. Thursday is the Feast of the Ascension. Jesus ascended to Heaven to take His rightful place at the right hand of God the Father and is the fortieth day after Easter. Pentecost is the fiftieth day after Easter where the Holy Spirit was given to the entire church. So, in sum, Christ said He would leave us and send the Holy Spirit. He was resurrected, walked around this earth for an additional forty days and was seen by over five hundred people. Within ten days of His ascension, the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples gathered in the upper room. You know what else was celebrated on Pentecost? Before Pentecost the Israelites celebrated the Feast of Weeks.  This was a celebration of the giving of the Law on Sinai. So Moses presented the Law and later, on the same date, the Holy Spirit was given to the church. How fitting is it then for St. Paul to say that those who are led by the Spirit are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18) Does this mean that we are no longer bound by the Law? No, it means that when we are led by the Spirit of God, we will also honor the Law. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14). The more the world becomes a confusing and crazy place to exist, the more I appreciate the Ten Commandments. There is certain clarity about them. The commandments are to behavior what sea level is to the surveyor.

I would like to offer some thoughts on the following portion of our Gospel lesson. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” What does Jesus mean here when he makes this statement? He is talking once again about the Holy Spirit. St. Paul uses the Phrase, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. “It is a peace with God and our own conscience” (John Wesley) The peace the world gives is transitory. We strive for peace in our lives. How do we do this? Much of what we do in life is intended to provide security isn’t it? We lock our doors. We work toward being debt free. We guard our health. We have insurance plans for our life, home and automobile. We have extra food on hand. I spent many hours this past week clearing weeds and brush away from our cabin to protect it from brush fires. And yet, and yet again, like clearing weeds, there is no lasting peace that we can provide through increased security. Much of our perceived threat is out of our control. We cannot protect against things outside the security cocoon we build around ourselves. It makes us anxious much of the time. There are so many things that impact us that we have no control over like terrorism and Wall Street declines, Cancer and car crashes.

Speaking of car crashes, in Friday’s paper, an article caught my attention. “Suicides spike among boomers. More take their own lives than car crashes.  Since 1999, the suicide rate rose by 30% for those aged 35 to 64. The bottom line is that this generation is dealing with much more than previous generations and that each new generation will find the same problems. “Changes in marriage, social isolation, and family roles will continue into the next generation. The boomers had great expectations for how their lives would turn out but it hasn’t panned out.” I also think there is also a great deal of moral ambiguity and confusion. Never forget this. The church will always be counter culture. We are called haters and bigots and we are not. It is not a right to free speech that we claim. A life lived for Christ is a prophetic voice we cannot and should not contain. A life led for Christ is an affront to those living licentious lives.

As St. Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit has told us, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). We live in anxious times. So what is the release from this prison of anxiety for the Christian? It is the decision to die to self and live for Christ, for He is our authentic self. It is not our story. It is His story and He is the author and finisher of this story. I believe this is not something that happens overnight. It is a daily giving over of ourselves to Christ.

As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit. He is our counselor and advocate. We have a conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ and forgiveness of our sins. We have hope. We are headed toward eternal life. We cannot convince the pagans around us to reform themselves    because their minds are darkened by sin. We can however live a redeemed life, be a beacon of light to those who are perishing; to those who no longer have boundaries. “ but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) 


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Anglican Identity




 Fr. Van McCalister


Anglican Identity

Are you a victim of identity theft?  Most Anglicans are.  Well, if not identity theft, certainly identity confusion.

We hear questions like: Are you Catholic?  Do you have a pope?  Are you Protestant?  Weren't you founded by King Henry the VIIIth?  (That's embarrassing!)

Unfortunately, we have accepted some misleading labels that get us off to a bad start.  So, let's get our identity back! 

Are Anglicans Catholic?  Yes, we are.  But we are not Roman Catholic.  Our bishops have been consecrated within the unbroken line of apostolic succession from the apostles to the present, along with the bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  Therefore our identity as a Catholic Church is as legitimate as that of the Roman Catholic Church.  For Anglicans, being Catholic means being faithful to the catholicity of the Early Church before the denominational divisions, and the medieval corruptions born out of political interests.

Do Anglicans have a pope? No. The early undivided Catholic Church made decisions through councils where bishops and others met to seek God's direction over matters of faith, through prayer and debate. For example, the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon, which have defined Trinitarian doctrine and the nature of Christ for nearly 1700 years, were the products of Church Councils. During those early centuries the Bishop of Rome was known as “the first among equals” - certainly someone who deserved much respect, but still only a bishop among fellow bishops. Prior to the Great Schism of 1054, the Emperor called the early Ecumenical Councils together and presided over them. The Emperor sought the advice of the Bishop of Rome, who in turn presided over lesser councils and synods to resolve theological and ecclesiastical issues. It is noteworthy that the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) did not have broad unilateral authority during the early centuries of the Church. Anglicanism follows a similar pattern, where an archbishop will preside over councils, but he is still simply a bishop among a college of bishops. The archbishop's authority allows him to call the College of Bishops together, to introduce an agenda, and to preside over the meetings, but he does not have unilateral authority to introduce or revise matters of Faith and Doctrine.

Are Anglicans Protestant?  Not really.  Anglicans were among those who protested the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation Movement of the 1500s and later.  However, none of the Christian denominations are now what they were in the 1500s. So, the label “Protestant” is not very helpful.  Since then, “Protestant” has come to mean “churches that are not Catholic” because few Christian denominations are still protesting the Roman Catholic Church.  So, if by “Protestant” one means “not Catholic” then Anglicans are not really Protestants.  At least, certainly not in the way other denominations are Protestant.  The difference between Anglicans and Protestants is most apparent by the fact that Anglicans were the only group of protesting Christians within the Reformation Movement who maintained the ancient Catholic Liturgy and continued the ministration of the seven Sacraments.  As you can imagine, the “Protestant” label and the “Catholic” label carry a variety of implications depending on the context.

Weren't Anglicans founded by Henry the VIII?  No.  The Church was founded by Christ on Pentecost.  During the Reformation Movement, a number of people risked their lives and gave up their lives to reform the Church in England during those tumultuous years.  Henry the VIII simply provided an opportunity to carry out those reforms.  To diminish the sacrifice of those English martyrs by attributing their faith to the political whims of King Henry is a travesty.  The fact that Anglicanism has no such visible founder as Luther, Calvin or Knox is a testimony to the desire of the Anglican reformers to restore the doctrine and practices of the Early Church in England.  This is why you will find no Anglican Creed.  Our only Doctrine is Holy Scripture.  Our only Creeds are the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. 

Finally, the most important aspect of our identity is that we are followers of Jesus.

“In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect . . .”    Saint Peter