Confessions of a Protestant Anglophile

I'm nothing if not untrendy. Think about it. Who begins a promising(?) new career as a contributing writer to a Karl Barth website with a series of posts on Walter Rauschenbusch , only to follow it up with a series on the brothers Niebuhr? Who -- having been weaned on The Good News Bible as a kid, then the The NIV Student Bible as a teenager, then the New Revised Standard Version in college and grad school -- in his adult years reverts to being (almost) a King James only guy -- not for any ideological or theological reasons, but out of sheer orneriness and love of anachronism?

World War I recruitment poster
(public domain, via Wikmedia Commons)
And who, in an age when the likes of David Duke(!) exult in a resurgence of white nationalism in high places (shudders); and in an age when Scotch-Gaelic culture remains way more trendy than the spawn of Albion's seed; and in a time when a majority of English voters have thumbed their noses at a stumbling European Union (perhaps our last hope for any international sanity) -- who, in such times, begins a new study of his English cultural heritage? (There are other important aspects of my lineage as well, including more Southern European and Mediterranean hues, but these aren't my concern at the moment.)

A lot of this rant has to do with my somewhat peculiar take on my religious identity as a member of the Episcopal Church. But more on that anon.

First, though, let me pause one moment to make one point painfully clear: Black lives matter. Full stop. (My fellow White Christians: Read some James Cone. Read some womanist theologians like Jacqueline Grant. Read the portions of U.S. Constitution now put in brackets -- the brackets don't erase history -- and weep. Barring that, just read the Gospel of Matthew, stop whining, and get over yourselves.)

Second, my attraction to the English part of my heritage should not be construed as any endorsement of a nostalgic Anglo-centrism. I'm not advocating some form of Department of Homeland Purity in the arena of religious culture. Indeed, as far as Anglican Christianity is concerned, the major growth today is in the two-thirds world (see this recent article). The second largest province in the Anglican Communion, next to England itself, is the Church of Nigeria.

Now that we're clear about those points, as I was saying....

Who, in an age when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York take the occasionof the 95 Theses' 500th anniversary year to apologize (sort of) for the Reformation, decides to write blog posts celebrating.... the English Reformation and its progeny -- with all its warts, all its deeply flawed historical entailments and entanglements, all it's collusions with and legitimizations of the blandishments of a secular monarchial authority, all it's legacy as a the religious wing of a once-global world empire? It ain't all Christmas crackers and boys' choirs, folks. It's kind of a messy history.

But what can I say? Protestant Anglophile? C'est moi!

Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders! Gott helfe mir?

Quite.

And yes, though a member of the Episcopal Church for more than half my life now, I still identify as Anglican. I should like to make this point perfectly clear too: Although some Episcopalians would like, conveniently, to forget this fact, we are still members of the world-wide Anglican community. My friends in the conservative, "continuing Anglican" denominations can't lay exclusive claim to the tradition (nor do I, conversely, wish to deny their own claims to this heritage). For our part the Episcopal Church is still in full communion with the see of Canterbury, and we uphold the "Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral." We are an eddy -- in rainbow hues, if you will -- in the great historical stream that flowed from Archbishop Cranmer and the early Reformers.

So there you have it. Here, on this website, where Bultmannians and disgruntled Baptists skulk about, harboring suspicions of all things traditional, you will shortly be seeing from me, gentle readers, a few posts exploring my heritage as an English-speaking Protestant. There are some fantastic books that have been gathering dust on my shelf for far too long. There is a world-class Center for Renaissance Studies virtually in my backyard, along with the research library of a major state university, and I have a brilliant campus-minister spouse with lending privileges!

(Y'all calm down, just a little: Secretary DeVos -- or is that DuVos? -- is not going to torch all the Darwin books -- at least, not just yet. And incidentally, Darwin, who was a church deacon, is buried in Westminster Abbey. I've seen it with my own eyes. That's not fake news!)

So stay tuned, if I haven't lost you already.

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Comments

Anonymous said…
For me, by far the greatest contribution of the Anglican strain of Protestantism, after the Authorized Version, is the 1662 Prayer Book.
Agreed. It's amazing.

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