By Bishop Robert Todd Giffin, Ordinary of the Diocese of Mid-America, Anglican Province of America:
After fifteen years in the continuing Anglican Church, five of those as a bishop in the Anglican Province of America (APA), and 32 prior years as a cradle Canterbury Anglican, I’ve seen a lot of friends and acquaintances come home to our little corner of Christ's Church.
And yet, not all of these journeys have worked out. I love the Anglican Church, and so I find it difficult to understand how a person could not see the beauty in our faith, leaving it all behind. However, I do think that there are certain factors that influence and even cause these abandonments. I left a couple of times myself along my journey. Yet, in the end, the continuing Anglican Church is my home.
Many times, inquirers, particularly current and former Episcopalians, approach the continuing Anglican Church as a safe haven from controversy and scandal. If anyone knows our history, however, this is truly a mistaken viewpoint!
This perspective presupposes a defective Christology—one that fails to account for the anthropos of the theanthropic (Divine-human) Church. As the Body of Christ, the Church is a Divine-human organism, just as with the Person of Jesus Christ, the God-Man. While the Church is certainly Divine in one respect, She is also comprised of human beings—human beings that can, and do, err. Failing to remember (or be taught) this, we are scandalized and even lose our faith in the Church, not distinguishing between the divine and human natures, or confusing them.
Another issue is becoming a continuing Anglican because one thinks the Anglican Church ‘owes them’ for their time spent in the Episcopal Church (or C of E, Anglican Church of Canada, Australia, etc.), rewarding them with ordination, titles, and possibly a purple shirt or other trappings.
Those who were laity in the Episcopal Church or other denominations have no guarantees they will become clergy in the continuing Anglican Church, at least in my Diocese! It doesn’t matter how long they have served, or how extensive their education. Holy Orders are a mystery (sacrament) of the Church, and the Spirit blows where it will. Becoming a traditional Anglican Christian means being willing to submit to the Church and Her bishops, who might not be interested in ordaining you. If anyone is unwilling or not ready to submit to the Church in all areas of life, they should stay away—until or unless they are ready to do so.
On the other hand, there are cases where a person rejects the continuing Anglican Church for what I would consider to be erroneous reasons.
For example, I know someone that spent over a year studying almost every aspect of traditional Anglicanism, including many fathers of the Church and practically every nuance of both doctrine and history. However, they rarely spent any time in traditional Anglican worship services or their local parish, developed no relationship with a priest, and did not engage their spouse or family in their studies and interest in the Anglican Church.
If someone is approaching the continuing Anglican Church from a purely rationalistic standpoint, they will almost surely find it wanting. The continuing Anglican Church does not fit into the paradigms of modernity; it is not a wholly rational faith. This doesn’t mean we shun catechesis, but just that it’s not always done in the same way everywhere—and where it exists, it’s likely different from what a catechumen might expect or even hope. We must be willing to embrace mystery, to submit to other authorities, and to ultimately submit to the Church Herself. Those who approach continuing Anglicanism looking for all their questions to be answered in a neat-and-tidy manner will be deeply disappointed, left rejecting a branch of Christ's Church to which they’ve only been shortly exposed.
So why should someone desire to join the continuing Anglican Church?
For me, the one and only valid, core reason is because a person truly desires to be part of the Body of Christ. Because we, as traditional Anglicans, confess and believe in the “one holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” this means we are not looking for a Church that fits our own preferences and ideals, even though we are English by tradition, but rather one that teaches us what our preferences should be. We are not seeking to reform or to teach the Church how it should do things, but are rather seeking to be formed by the Church and to learn how we should be doing things as faithful Christians.
Now, I don’t share all of this in order to dissuade anyone from becoming a traditional Anglican, but rather to encourage those who are on such a journey—or who have strayed away from one that began on the wrong foot.
Becoming a continuing Anglican is not easy, nor does it promise great happiness or success in this life. In fact, it promises a Cross and joining with Christ in both suffering and humiliation. We have many small missions and parishes with few if any monetary resources, and relatively few stipendiary posts for our clergy.
But if you are still intrigued and drawn to the continuing Anglican Church, considering all of these disclaimers, then do so with faith, reverence, and a healthy fear of God. Pray for the Lord’s mercy, and you can find the strength to endure to the end. Believe in the continuing Anglican Church as a fully revealed member of the Body of Christ, and the continuing Anglican Church—flawed people and all—will help lead you down the right path.
But don’t do it for all the wrong reasons.