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Monday, April 08, 2013

Why I Became An Anglican Priest

On February 23 I was ordained an Anglican priest. It was a wonderful and joyous event. This happened over 15 years after I was first ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church in 1997. The ordinations were very different.

The Covenant one happened at the denomination Annual Meeting in a hotel ballroom with a couple dozen other godly men and women with several Covenant leaders laying hands on me.  My most poignant memory is of Paul Larsen, then President of the Covenant Church, laying hands and saying, "Bless this evangelist."  Since it was in San Diego and my church was in Cleveland, I felt really honored when one couple from my church was there.

The Anglican one happened in a borrowed historic Gothic church where the ordination service was just for me and was attended by my whole church.  Bishop Doc Loomis laid hands on me and invited the other clergy present to join him, and he did so with a nod toward apostolic succession, in recognition that this ordination is to represent an unbroken chain back to the Apostles.  The love poured out on me by my church and +Doc will forever be with me.

I've received a lot of questions recently about this journey recently. "What is it you like about the Anglican Church? What attracted to the Anglican Church?" And sometimes it's asked in such a way, "What do you like better about the Anglicans?" Amongst some -- not all -- of my colleagues there has been a hint of contempt like, "Oh, you think your better than us now?"

Others see me dressed in a clergy shirt or chasuble and wonder about my evangelical faith. I look and talk too Catholic for them.

So why did I do this? First, let me assure you, it wasn't for the money. Here's the long painful truth. I did this because I believe it was what God was leading me to do. Is that so bad?

During the long painful "dry season" of 2008-2010 when I was substantially unemployed, I received a word from the Lord that my next position would come without me submitting a resume and that I would be sought out for it.  That is exactly what happened when I became the Interim-Pastor at St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Syracuse..

After I served there for a just a short time, I fell in love with the church.  I admire them for their tenacity to stand for the Gospel, to endure hardship, to personally sacrifice their resources for their church, and for their graciousness towards others. And I really liked how they treated me and how they received my ministry. It became obvious we were a good fit and we both felt God led us to each other. So I continued the journey to first become ordained a Deacon, and then, ordained a priest.  This was not a small, inexpensive paper pushing process but I'm glad I did it and thank St. Andrew's for their support.

It's not like I have a new girlfriend now and gave up on an old one. I still really love the Covenant Church and feel a part of it.  I still go to ministerial meetings, am still an ordained clergy in good standing and am a member of a Covenant Church. Shoot, I still read the Covenant Companion every month cover to cover.

My wife works Grace Covenant Church (which makes our Sunday mornings very complicated) where I worship when I have Sundays off and it seems that I am there all the time for kids or special events. It's not like I'm mad at the Covenant Church, don't like them any more, or would never serve a Covenant Church again. It's just this is where I am today by God's leading and grace. Who knows? Maybe I'll be Eastern Orthodox next, though that is very doubtful due to my inability to grow a real beard.

It's not like they are all that different.  The Covenant Church and the Anglican world that I am a part of are not all that different despite some very clear distinctions.  Certainly the difference in ecclesiology is huge with the Anglican episcopacy and the Covenant's congregationalism.  But both are sacramental, both are broad evangelical movements emphasizing faith essentials eschewing rigid legalism, both have strong church planting movements, both view themselves as a 'via media' though I think the Covenant does less so these days, both receive life giving ethos from their reformation histories, both hold very high views of Scripture.

All that said, I do like the Anglican way of worship and church life. I love being a priest and feel very at home with the collar and vestments on during worship on Sunday. I really like having an episcopacy. Most of all, I like being part of a three streams movement that is Catholic, Evangelical and Charismatic.

I offer all this for some clarification of the crazy journey that is my life.

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