By Bishop Tom Brown
Our church has experienced great synergy by combining the Anglican heritage with the vibrancy of our evangelical, charismatic worship. Our church has grown faster since we merged with the historic Christian faith. We no longer consider ourselves just Protestant but also a continuation of the historic Christian faith.
The fastest growing segments of the church has been the charismatic and Pentecostal movements, but if there could be one legitimate criticism—and this goes for Protestantism in general—is it lacks a foundation of history going back to the original apostles. Pentecostals often trace their history to Azusa Street while various Protestants trace their history to when their denomination started, such as Lutheranism tracing itself to Martin Luther or Presbyterianism tracing itself to John Calvin. But Anglicanism traces itself in an unbroken apostolic line to the apostles. So in a real sense, Anglicanism is not Protestant, yet it is not “Roman” Catholic either. It is often called the “middle way” between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. It ingeniously bridges the gap between the two. It takes the best of both worlds, combining it into a solid, historic movement within the church.
History of Anglicanism
Anglican means England. However Anglicanism goes back further than the breaking away of the Church of England from the Roman Pontiff. It traces itself to the first century when Rome conquered Britain in 44 AD. It is about this time that Christianity arrives in Britain. Many are converted. Britain is part of the early Christian church.
Rome declares Christianity the official religion in 312 AD and as a result the Britons as Roman citizens are Christianized. At the important Council of Nicene in 325 AD it is quite likely that bishops from Britain joined in this landmark Council. It is at this council that the famous Nicene Creed is declared.
Within a few decades Britain is conquered by Pagan Anglo-Saxons from Germany and Scandinavia. They begin to lose their way in the faith. However men like Saint Patrick helps return the people toward Christ. He successfully confronts the Druids and leads the people back to Orthodoxy.
The church world-wide gradually develops into five major ruling patriarchs. These patriarchs are bishops in large metropolitan cities. The word “patriarch” means “father.” In Latin it means papa or famously, pope. In Britain the church isolates itself from the patriarchs, partly in due to being on an island but also hatred toward foreign invaders. In the Latin city of Rome, Pope Gregory the Great recognizes the need for the Briton Christians to be more organized. He begins the efforts to bring the Brits into the Roman fold. He orders the arch-bishop, Augustine, to develop a liturgy for the Britons (597 Ad). Eventually the Britons submit themselves to the Patriarch of Rome. This synergy works great for a while. The Briton Christians emerge as some of the strongest Christians in the west. With the power of their nation, Anglicanism spreads throughout much the world.
In time the relationship with the Pope and the Kings of England begin to sour. Many in England feel that the Church in Rome exerts too much influence over the governance of the Nation of England. It turns vial under the reign of King Henry the VIII. He feels that the Pope’s powers are too much for England, and with his desire to remarry, which the Pope will not allow, he cuts off the Church of England from the patriarch in Rome. The Church of England becomes autonomous in 1529 AD.
The past connection with the Rome Catholic Church explains why the traditions, liturgy and garments of Anglicanism resemble Roman Catholicism. But make no mistake about it, the 39 articles of the Anglican Church contains some very anti-papist views. Do not confuse Anglicanism with Roman Catholicism.
Contributions of Anglicanism
There is much to be commended concerning Anglicanism, yet, unfortunately modern headlines distract from the great contributions of Anglicanism. Today, when people think of Anglicanism they often deliberate on the ordination of the first, openly, practicing gay bishop. While the ordination was deplorable it would be wrong to summarize Anglicanism as a liberal, unorthodox church. It’s unfair to categorize Anglicanism based on one foolish action as it would to categorize Pentecostals as immoral, money grabbing preachers simply because of Pearly-gate; the fiasco with Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, no more defines Pentecostals as the ordination of Gene Robinson defines Anglicanism. I am sure Roman Catholics don’t want to be defined by pedophile priests. So also Anglicanism cannot be defined by an unorthodox ordination.
Let me share with you the contributions of Anglicanism
1. Anglicanism contributed to the popularity of the English language.
The word Anglicanism comes from Anglicism which means English. This one language has united the world. In almost every country, people can speak English
2. Anglicanism contributed the King James Bible.
My protestant friends think I went bonkers by becoming an Anglican Bishop, yet on Sunday they open their Anglican Bible. Make no mistake about it; the King James Version is an Anglican Bible.
3. Anglicanism contributed to the worship in the vernacular of the people.
Prior to Anglicanism, all churches in the West worshipped in Latin. But the Anglican Church changed that practice by using the English language in worship. Soon this concept would spread even to Rome. It took a few centuries to catch up, but Vatican II opened up worship in the language of the people. Today most Christians worship in their own language, thanks to Anglicanism.
4. Anglicanism contributed to the foundation of America.
America would be a very different country without Anglicanism. While it’s true that the Puritans, who broke away from the Church of England, landed in Plymouth Rock it was Great Britain that provided the governmental foundation of America. Eventually our first president, George Washington, would lead America into independence, but remember; even George Washington was a committed Anglican. Many of our presidents and forefathers were Anglicans. I find it inconsistent that some evangelicals may think our church has gone “backward” into Anglicanism, yet they go “backward” to the founding fathers to prove our present rights. There is nothing inconsistent in going back to the past to draw waters for the present. Anglicanism has done this for me.
5. Anglicanism contributed to the abolition of slavery.
William Wilberforce, a devout Anglican and fierce politician, helped end slavery in England. His work provided the inspiration for America to follow suit. Today lawful, government sponsored slavery3 is all but gone in our world thanks to Anglicanism.
6. Anglicanism contributed to the civil rights movement.
While many fundamentalists’ churches used the Bible to endorse separate but equal concept, not so for American Anglicans. They came out early with statements supporting full, equal rights for black Americans. They were there marching with African Americans.
7. Anglicanism contributed to women’s rights.
Today, many churches, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches included, still struggle with the ordination of women. But the Anglican Church ordains women in all offices. Of course, Pentecostals have been supportive of women ministers before Anglicans because they held fast to the promise in Joel 2:28-29, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy…Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” They saw in this passage the emancipation of women. God is pouring out His Spirit on “both men and women.”
I can say that I am proud of the many Anglicans that went before me, and I am thankful to God for their lives and the heritage we enjoy today as a result of their hard work.
Everyone has two lineages: moms and dads. So it is with our church. We have the spiritual lineage of Pentecostals. We trace it to Azusa Street and even before that with the Holiness movement. But now, our church has a second lineage—Anglicanism. We trace our heritage all the way back to the original apostles. And for us, we actually are grounded in apostolic succession.
These two parents—Pentecostals and Anglicans—has created a wonderful baby called Word of Life Church. We are products of both heritages. I appreciate what both have done in contribution to our church.
I am proud to say that I am a Pentecostal Anglican.
Always an Anglican
I was being interviewed by Patriarch John Githiga for ordination as an Anglican Bishop. After answering several questions, John Githiga laughed. He said, “Pastor Tom, you are already an Anglican!” He already saw my Anglican ways. For example, I have believed for many years that communion and baptism were sacraments, not merely ordinances. I saw in them, the grace of Christ being poured out on us, not simply as symbols. One member of my church criticized me because I did not place as much stress on the sinner’s prayer as she think I should have; it was because I do not think the sinner’s prayer has replaced baptism as the means of washing from sins. I do believe God saves us upon calling on His name, but the normal pattern was through baptism. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’” (Acts 22:16).
Concerning Holy Communion I have written an old article arguing for the real presence of Christ in Communion. (see my article) The point I am bringing is that Anglicanism believes in these two sacraments.
It also includes belief in “episcopal” church government. The word “episcopal” is the Greek word for Bishop. I had always believed in the church being governed by the bishop or, in my former case, the senior pastor. Although the board of “elders” should be respected for legal reasons, the spiritual governance of the church is best led by the top pastor. In Anglican tradition this would resemble the bishop. A bishop ordained under apostolic succession is best equipped to lead the church. In America, most churches are governed by a board of elders. The word “elders” is the Greek word for Presbyters. In this type of church government the board of elders selects and ordains pastors, and hires and fires them. This is called a Presbyterian form of government. With all due respect, I do not think this is the scriptural way. So as you can see, I was already an Anglican and did not know it.
Earlier I mentioned that the synergy of Pentecostalism and Anglicanism has done wonders for our growth. Synergy is the concept that when two separate entities are brought together, they increase each other’s effectiveness. Pentecostalism is effective; Anglicanism is effective. But put them together, and they can become more effective. I feel that the ancient past and certain traditions of Anglicanism have increased the effectiveness of our Pentecostal message. At the same time, I do think Anglicanism could benefit from joining more in the Pentecostal movement.
Some wonder if the style of our church services has changed. In other words, do we practice the old liturgy of a formal Anglican Church? The answer is no. There are three styles of worship that are accepted in Anglicanism. The first is well known; it is the “high church” formal liturgy. The second is a middle ground, incorporating formal liturgy with informal. Then there is ours: we are an informal Anglican Church4. The services resemble the excitement and Bible centered teaching of evangelicalism. Yet we are rooted in the two ancient creeds of the church—apostle and Nicene. We trace our ordination in an unbroken line of succession to the apostles. In my case, the apostolic succession goes back to the Apostle Peter. (see our line of apostolic succession)
The important thing to remember is as an Anglican Pentecostal, I see the church Jesus Christ is building as catholic, meaning universal. It has existed from the Day of Pentecost to now. There has always been a group of faithful Christians throughout the history of the church. I do not believe as some that the church disappeared until the reformation. This would go against Christ promise Who said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt 16:18).
His church has never been taken completely over by the devil. For sure there were dark periods of church history, but even then, God had His remnant of faithful followers. So to be an Anglican is to accept the universality of the church. It is to find yourself related to all your brother and sisters in Christ, no matter where and when they lived or what they were called—Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. As an Anglican you recognize, without compromising your convictions, that the church is ancient and that you are a part of this ancient church.
Maybe you are a Pentecostal, yet like me, you want roots deeper than 1904. You want roots in places older than Azusa Street or America. You long for roots taking you back to the apostles. If you have this interest, I understand it. As a Pentecostal/charismatic pastor you might want an ordination more than from a church or denomination without apostolic succession. You want an episcopal ordination, tracing itself in an unbroken line to one of the original apostles. Yet, you do not want to change the worship style. You don’t have to. Your church can maintain the vibrancy of the charismatic movement. You simply need to embrace the apostolic, catholic church. In doing so, you are embarking on a journey back home. Home to the historic faith that was “once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
If you have an interested in being ordained under apostolic succession, click the link for more information.
1 In no way am I attempting to disregard the contributions of other Christian faiths or of the contributions of other nations. I acknowledge the contributions of others. I also condemn the heretical and racists teaching that promote the supremacy of any racial groups.
2 I was ordained under a “continuing Anglican Church.”
3 While lawful, state sponsored slavery has ended, there is still underground slavery such as the sex slave trade.
4 We are generally informal during normal Sunday services and Bible studies. However during communion I wear an alb and stole in accordance with the respect to the Lord’s Supper. For ordination services everyone wears full clerical vestments. I also wear clerical shirts for weddings, funerals and special services.
5 Catholic does not mean “Roman” but “universal”, existing at all times in all places.