I’m an evangelical and I’m on the Canterbury Trail.
Ten years ago, I picked up a book by James KA Smith called, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. Little did I know, the book would be the spark that would ignite a decade-long journey culminating in a discernment process to be an Anglican priest.
The book’s main thesis explores how we are formed by worship. Smith’s proposal is that humans are more than “thinking things”. He suggests that we are primarily “desiring people”. St. Augustine famously says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you”. Information alone does not *necessarily* lead to transformation. We must do things that shape our desires through corporate and bodily practice.
Smith’s book provided language to a longing that had been brewing for quite some time. I was an undergraduate student in a biblical studies program at a wonderful evangelical college. I had grown up saturated in the world of “non-denominational” Christianity and had my questions about some of the by-products of evangelical culture. I had spent my entire life in church, youth groups, worship teams, and Christian schools. I was thankful for the instruction, nurturing of my faith, and emphasis on my personal relationship with God. But I felt that there was more. The Church had to be more than a place I went to “express” my faith. It had to be more than a voluntary social club that I could associate with until the one down the street “fed me” more. It had to be more than projectors, lights, rock bands, programs, bad coffee and stale cookies. St. Paul called this place the body of Christ and the front lines of “new creation” life.
After college, I attended seminary and did graduate work in Israel. I learned Greek and Hebrew and gave myself over to the study of Scripture. I sat under the teaching of wonderful faculty on this journey. Seminary forced me to think about the sacraments, theology, and the importance of the creeds (distillations of the faith once for all delivered to the saints). The Church has existed for a long time and She was calling me to a faith bigger than my local assembly that had no explicit ties to Christians throughout history or around the globe.
The Church is a She–not an “it”. She is not just a collection of programs centered around one or a few charismatic personalities. She is more than outreach and more than a support group. The Church is the only place to *be* Christian. St. Augustine went as far as to say, “there is no salvation outside the Church”. I developed the conviction that if we weren’t professing this faith, receiving the sacraments, and confessing our sin in church, I really didn’t know what we were doing. Novelty wasn’t working anymore and I needed to find a home.
After a lot of prayer and a lot of research, my family was called to the Anglican Church in North America. Anglicanism provided a center, a practice, and historical depth that we were looking for. It provides mystery, room for theological diversity, apostolic authority, and unity. I have started the discernment process for ordination and, with the Lord’s help, we are planning to plant a gospel-centered, sacramental, and missional church in Grand Rapids. We are excited to labor in this endeavor!
As part of the planting process, I am planning to continue to blog about the convictions that lead me to the Anglicanism.