Tuesday, August 08, 2006

emerging and anglo-catholics

Some fascinating discussion going on in the post “How exclusive is the emerging church?” I pulled out this comment from big bulky anglican because I think it’s worthy of further discussion: I think that emerging churches tended to be populated by evangelicals discovering what anglo-catholics have known for decades – symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual and variety, daily offices.

1. Does the comment resonnate with you ie are you an “emerging church evangelical who is discovering symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual, daily offices”?

2. If you answered yes to (1), why are you finding them (symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual, daily offices) helpful?

3. What (if any) changes or appropriations have you made to how symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual, daily offices have been traditionally practiced?

4. Why might some sections of the church have lost/ignored these practices? What might we learn from this about the use and re-use of symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual, daily offices?

Posted by steve at 05:00 PM


  1. I recently carved a light switch which has a fish and dove. I was thinking about light and integrating my faith into the normal routine… even flipping a light switch… but not in the stick a bumper sticker on your car… but attempting to meditatively do things which are routine. That was one way.

    I think Thomas Merton was one of the first I read who began me on this track. I still claim that I was headed this way prior to any prodding by pastors etc. I was -alone- for quite some time. Years!

    And still am, except for online.

    I wrote this fast… and didn’t really answer 1-4.

    Comment by Keith — August 9, 2006 @ 9:21 pm

  2. In a way it works for me. I’ve always been a child of many denominations so the emerging church seems to be a natural way for me to experience church.

    Raised Catholic, educated Presbyterian, investigated Orthodox, “saved” Pentecostal…The emerging church combines many of my favourite practices from each. I enjoy the fluidity of boundaries and freedom that the emerging church allows — as exemplified by Nigel’s current internship. I detest the branding that has occured over the last few years.

    As a traveller, I’m practising my spirituality “on the road” apart from a physical congregation. This is a major difference from tradition and one that seems coherent with many people’s expressions of emerging practise. Alone; within a group.

    Why have these patterns been lost or degraded? I look back to the societal changes that influenced reformation-age thinkers. Our society is, once again, looking for something different, something old and new. (This last paragraph seems cliched – my apologies.)

    Comment by Craig (mars-hill) — August 10, 2006 @ 2:26 am

  3. I think that there’s a lot in this. My own spiritual journey took me from Evangelicalism to Anglo-catholicism and back again. I tend now to call myself a catholic evangelical -the point being that I identify with a lot of evangelical bases like primacy of scripture, mission and atonement, but I also have a sacramental sensibility and tend to find helpful things like office-praying and ritual. What took me away from Anglo-catholicism was the fixation on form and tradition in ways that made change and adaptation suspect and also the relish for stuff that I found really hard to see as coming out of a biblical framework [Mariology, relics, contagion theories of blessing etc].
    So yes, I think he may be right. What I’m suspicious of is the kind of looking-down-their-noses stance that many Anglo-catholics, in my experience, tend to take when making this kind of observation. I would like to know if there are emerging catholics who also see post modernism challenging their inherited modes. [Actually, the answer is that there are …]

    Comment by andii — August 10, 2006 @ 2:46 am

  4. Steve
    Just away for four days at a family wedding – but will try to post something more extended when I get back about links with Anglo-Catholic tradition. Interested in Craigs comment ” Alone within a group” – this links with my experience that in the UK evangelical tradition is becoming very “corporate” in its identity particularly in the mega-churches – and the whole post-evangelical emergent thing here is linked with people looking for a more individual (perhaps ironically personal) faith in a more “tolerant” Church context – as someone said to me on the phone this morning the appeal of the daily office is a sense of individual worship but knowing that they are thousands of other Christians sharing in a similar discipline.

    PS as Andii will know I can’t abide Anglo-catholics who look down their noses either – and yes emergent experiences are liking with the Anglo-Catholic tradition as per Moot hosted by St Matthews in London

    Comment by Tom — August 10, 2006 @ 9:00 am

  5. hi steve – I think there is a lot in what Tom says, although you don’t need to be particularly anglo-catholic, just middle to high anglican is enough to have those things as part of your subconscious. I published a little piece on this ages ago – I think it was in my chapter in Postevangelical, I’ll go and check for you. nice questions; am watching this space! m 🙂

    Comment by maggi — August 10, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

  6. Feeling a little responsible for this chain of discussion if only by my presence in a strange land I want to offer something of where I come from which may give food for thought for – I came to faith in my early twenties and entered a lively evangelical church more for the music (as an amature musician, band memeber etc)and as circumstances dictated ended up at a middle of the road anglican church for the past decade (Tom’s parish – see above) and as Tom knows I engage well with Anglo-Catholic practices but also with a wide range of alt-worship type stuff too. I don’t see anything unusual in this as a gen-x-er I came to faith in my early twenties and have spent a long time in spritual tourism both as a consumer and a worshipper. Steve has a powerful chapter on this in his book! My point, I have no church history engrained from childhood etc, I seek to develop faith practices without those boundaries (as far as is possible)and at Opawa I have found a whole community daring to move forward with that challenge as there are communities around the world doing the same. From much youth work over the years I have also experinced a desire to be communal and corporate in faith form the other side – our ultimate desire being to belong to God and each other in the body of Christ?

    Comment by Nigel — August 11, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

  7. I grew up a conservative evangelical in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney – pretty extreme – I was a closet charismatic as that was frowned upon. I came to NZ and eventually got involved in the Anglo Catholic parish of St Paul’s Symonds St, through there to contemplative spirituality and asking bigger justice type questions – feminism and women’s spirituality, maori self determination – leaving the institutional church and being involved in other forms of faith community, connecting with emerging church as partners in that, and now on a faith journey which rarely intersects with anything that resembles a faith community, but involved in building community in my small village of Waipu in Northland.

    I have often connected with folk who have gone through a similar journey, and I think that Alan Jamieson’s Churchless Faith and the idea of “stages of faith development” seems to be the key here – moving from concrete ‘black and white’ assertions, through to where the community is important, through to critiquing that community and becoming more self determining while still being in relationship…. these ideas seem to make sense of my experience.

    Comment by Rosemary — August 18, 2006 @ 4:29 pm

  8. The comment reasonates for me in the sence that I grew up Catholic, so yes, a lot of what post-evangelicals talk about within the EC fails to inspire wonder, other than the wonder of why it took so long to for evangelicals to recognise the power of symbolism, etc. What I am looking for though is a deeper engagement, beyond mere rediscovery and aping of symbol but recontextualisation of symbol in the process of missional engagement.

    eclectic itchings

    Comment by Matt Stone — August 19, 2006 @ 11:13 pm

  9. thanks matt. I am not sure whether your final sentence is meant to be establishing a point of difference from either emerging church or anglo-catholicsm.

    I can’t speak for anglo-catholicsm, but i almost every emerging church person i know would say amen and absolutely to “recontextualisation of symbol in the process of missional engagement.”

    Comment by steve — August 20, 2006 @ 9:53 am

  10. Greetings

    I’m not sure how useful the boxes “anglo-catholic”, “evangelical”, etc. actually are. I’m not sure if denominational boundaries are that real either. Anymore. Especially in this new context.

    I know that many of the practices, lectio divina, the office, etc. mentioned here are markers in the desert we are journeying through. I know that those who have lost the power of symbol find their words blown away with the sand in our post-modern world.

    I know that monasticism is a paradigm that may hold powerful keys into our post-modern context. I hope many of you went to see “Into Great Silence” at the Film Festival.

    I write about all this much better at my site, including a review of that film http://www.liturgy.co.nz.

    Thanks Steve for the positive and hopeful thoughts you set off.

    Comment by Bosco Peters — August 21, 2006 @ 9:42 pm

  11. thanks bosco and rosemary and all of you who have made really helpful suggestions. i think defintional boxes took a pretty good hammering in the process!

    Comment by steve — August 22, 2006 @ 12:55 pm

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