My spiritual journey within the Christian faith over these brief 48 years have taken me on a path that would cause Marco Polo to chafe with envy. This path has, woven into its course, four of the seven Roman sacraments, a second baptism by “total immersion”, a total remonstrance of anything Roman, a decade behind a pentecostal pulpit, flirtation with the Calvary Chapel movement, and a brief exile within the Souther Baptist Convention. The sojourn took what might seem to onlookers as a sudden lurch left as on Easter 2005, I was found in St. Augustine-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Stafford Virginia. It was on that fateful morning that through tear-streamed eyes, I declared “I am home!”
Allow me to present some brief biographical information in order to lay down a foundation for this discussion.
The first ten years of my spiritual formation was solidly Roman Catholic. I received the sacrament of Baptism in the summer of 1962. There are many early memories of learning or reciting the prayers taught by all faithful Catholic parents. This responsibility lay on my mother’s shoulders as she represented the Catholic component to the family. My father was a cradle presbyterian was confirmed Anglican some years prior to my birth. At this young age, I knew nothing of Anglicanism and simply assumed that mommy took the children to mass and daddy was somewhere else on Sunday morning. It wouldn’t be until 1973/74 that I had my first cognitive exposure to the Anglican faith.
Though as early as 1980 I had identified myself as Episcopal, this was a nominal ascent at best. All of this would change as in the spring of 1981, I had a “conversion experience” with the Assembly of God church in Dover, Delaware. In these circles, I became exposed to some “church fathers” the likes of Jack Chick, Keith Green, Kenneth Copeland and the like. Chick, a benighted KJV-only apparent Independent Fundamental Baptist, had recently begun a series of screeds against the Roman Faith through his association with the con-man Alberto Rivera. Impressionable and ungrounded, I took his writings as gospel and violently repudiated my Roman Heritage, going as far as plastering windshields with Chick’s fish wrap. I can say, with some embarrassment, that after sinking roots in scripture and some garden-variety maturity, I can claim a counter-repudiation of Chick and his ilk. I do pray that the scales fall from his eyes.
Some years would pass and there would be a maturing in the Christian faith, along with real fruits of both repentance and the Spirit. While being a part of a Church of God (Cleveland, TN) church, I began to sense that the Almighty had placed a vocational calling on me. After a period of both personal and congregational discernment, Robin and I were set forth for the preparation for service. Following ministerial licensing in 1991, I served in what would be considerate curate and evangelistic venues for the next 12 years.
2001 was momentous year for many, but it also represented the beginnings of a theological crisis in my like. I want to stress that this wasn’t a crisis of faith; I was settled on what is constituent in historic, orthodox Christianity. No, rather, I began to see the faith statements, teachings and practical commitments of my church in the clear light of scripture. One by one, the shibboleths of the pentecostal churches began to melt in the face of Holy Scripture. Many of these were born out of bad hermeneutics or just cut from whole cloth. It became eventually clear that one licensed minister, without some extreme anointing or unction, could do nothing to lead that church out of error. I could no longer stand in her pulpits before her members, and feign acceptance of those things I knew to be patently wrong. Stepping away from my license and position, we went into exile in a Souther Baptist, then a Calvary Chapel. Retrospectively, these were so spiritually unsatisfying that they could be seen as “Church Lite” and a cult of personality respectively.
In the midst of this exile, the hand of the Almighty was at work. A man and his family had moved to the area, transplanted from the Charlotte area, and were quietly planting a mission under the auspice of the Diocese of Virginia. I didn’t know the man, but several times each week, I passed a billboard shilling for a church that billed itself as both “Episcopal and Evangelical”. Every pass of this sign caused a quickening within my spirit, and a healthy dose of conflict. Conflict? By this time (late 2004-early 2005), the Episcopal church well in its flat spin towards the earth. It had ordained a man who was clearly unqualified to serve as Bishop for a plethora of reasons. I couldn’t reconcile how or why the Almighty was drawing me towards on troubled church after being delivered from another. Happily, the Lord’s goad trumps clay feet; a series of events occurred that propelled us straight to Augustine-in-the-Fields.
At the end a 43 year journey, I knew that I was home and I knew definitively that I was Anglican. Today, I can type these words as a Vocational Deacon within a church and a faith that is mine.
In the following essays, I will attempt to express why I embraced this faith & why I pray for an Anglican resurgence in the US and in the World.