It's the middle of March and there is snow in my yard. What remains of Monday's snowstorm will likely be gone this evening as the temperatures will be in the mid-forties and accompanied by rain. It's been a long winter and I'm ready now for spring.
At the start of my Anglican pilgrimage, I became acquainted with the term "Three Streams". For those who don't speak "Anglicanese", this term is shorthand, representing what many believe are the three traditions influencing Anglicanism, namely Catholic, Evangelical, and Charismatic. I found this intriguing as one who had left a Pentecostal church. Along the road, I would also learn that this concept is far from being universally accepted within the tradition. It's also interesting to see how the BTU levels rise in online discussion forums on Facebook when the concept is raised. Most recently, I witnessed this at the passing of Father Terry Fullam, a leader within the Charismatic Renewal movement within the Anglican Church back in the 1970's.
We could play a quick round of word association with each term. At the mention of Catholic, many might associate this to ritual, "bells & smells" or the like. Evangelical may link to thoughts of Protestantism, conservatives, or bibles. Charismatic? You may be thinking of boisterous demonstrative worship, or even aberrant theologies. In my experience with these discussions, Charismatic has been the most problematic. In fact, some have vehemently denounced the very notion that there could somehow be a Charismatic component to our dignified pipe smoke-imbued, tweed-cloaked Anglican traditions.
It may surprise some to learn that I share many of the concerns over what is being passed off as "Charismatic worship". It was one of the driving issues that prompted my departure from a Pentecostal denomination over a decade ago. This is a discussion for another day though. So, onto the discussion...
We are catholic in our expression. Not Roman Catholic, not Anglo Catholic, but catholic. We are a branch on an ancient and eternal vine that is Christ's bride, His church. We were conceived in the mind of God in eternity past and born 50 days following the resurrection of the Christ. We didn't come into being in the Tudor courts or even at the tables in the White Horse Inn. Our life as a church was born in the words of the Great Commission and set into motion as Saint Peter uttered those words, "Men of Jerusalem...".
Our catholicity is also reflected in the sense that our lines are unbroken. Unlike the Anabaptistic churches which separated and reinvented, our Anglican forerunners dressed the branch by pruning and reforming where it was clearly necessary. And, our catholicity is reflected in our creeds. We confidently state that we believe in "One holy catholic and Apostolic Church". I've seen and heard individuals stumble at this point, sometimes substituting the word "Christian" for catholic, or just refraining from the c-word altogether.
This catholic stream defines who we are, we are the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not the only church but a visible expression of an invisible body, mystically married to the Lord of eternity.
Part II -- The Charismatic Stream
Part III -- The Evangelical Stream