The next stop on our ecclesiastical journey was an Evangelical Anglican church. This might sound like a misnomer, but – not really. Let me tell you a little about the early history of Anglicanism.
Did you know that Henry VIII, the founder of the Church of England, was a younger son? He was not supposed to be king at all, but was trained, instead, in Catholic theology. When his older brother died, Henry, of course, became Prince of Wales. There was then considerable controversy as to whether or not he should marry his older brother’s widow. Henry’s father was loathe to lose her huge dowry, and Henry himself was very fond of her. The main factor against this marriage was the biblical curse they felt was applicable:
“If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.” (Leviticus 20:21)…And every king of that era most wanted a male heir…
In any case, Henry got a special dispensation from the Pope to override any possible biblical curses (!) and did go ahead with the marriage once he became king. His wife, Catherine of Aragon, bore six children, including three sons, but all died in infancy except Mary. As time went on, Henry became convinced the curse of Leviticus was on his marriage in spite of the papal dispensation.
As he had become attracted to a much younger woman, there were now two reasons to seek a divorce. The Pope went back and forth. In the interest of preserving the sanctity of marriage? Not at all. The nobility freely obtained annulments of their marriages. The chief deterrent was the political and military power of Catherine’s family. The poor pope was between a rock and a hard place. As a powerful monarch himself he had to choose which other powerful monarch he should offend….(Are your tears flowing?)
Henry became tired of the pope’s maneuverings and decided the Catholic church in England would cut ties with the papacy. He would be its head;not the Pope. He did not intend major theological changes. He was, as I have said, a committed Catholic theologian himself. But, to some extent, change did come, under the influence of men who had been impacted by the Reformation.
After Henry’s death, his brilliant son, Edward VI, became king. He ascended the throne as a child, but a child determined to establish true Protestantism in his realm. He and his advisors took the English church as far toward the Reformed position as was possible in the few years of his reign.
When Edward died, his half-sister, Mary, was crowned queen. She was the daughter of Catherine, the queen Henry first divorced, and shared her mother’s Catholic faith. She determined to re-establish Catholicism and many faithful Protestants died as martyrs during her reign. Thankfully, it was brief.
Next, another daughter of Henry, Mary’s half-sister, Elizabeth, became queen. She determined to let there be a spectrum of theological belief in the Anglican church. And so it remains. You can still be anything from evangelical to Anglo-Catholic in that particular church
So, we found an evangelical congregation to attend in Toronto.
What did we most like about it? How did it bless us?
As with the Pentecostals, mainly through individual relationships. We made many close friends there that we remain in contact with, and always will.
I first heard of group Bible Studies there, and learned what systematic study of a biblical book meant. As far as I know, there had been no such thing in the Pentecostal churches.
Those were the pluses and they are substantial.
The negatives, as I see them?
The church seemed, on the whole, too sensitive to worldly status.
There was at least one pedophile, protected and unexposed in the congregation. He almost gained access to my older son.
There was not systematic preaching or Bible study tapping the most substantial riches of Anglicanism – that Protestant, Reformed tradition established under Edward VI, the boy-king. I heard much of John Stott and CS Lewis. I learned nothing of Archbishop Cranmer, Edward VI’s right hand man.
So, I was left knowing there was such a thing as systematic Bible study, but feeling cheated of its deepest expression. Surely, ‘systematic’ Bible study insinuated, well, a system of theology. And we knew we had not found that.
To be continued…..