Three Streams of Anglicanism
Catholic, Evangelical and Spirit Filled
At St. Timothy's, we recognize that many people have different church experiences, including many who have little or no experience with church. However, for those who do; some grew up in very liturgical traditions with a focus on the sacraments and traditions, others have spent time in evangelical churches with an emphasis on scripture and biblical teaching, and still others have had their primary formation in charismatic churches where signs and wonders and gifts of the Spirit are central to their experience.
Anglicanism has always had elements of each of these expressions of the faith. And so if you come to St. Timothy's you will find aspects that will be familiar to you and others which will be less so.
Let's begin with what we don't mean:
By using the word catholic we do not mean Roman Catholic. We are not thinking primarily of a style of worship, or the typical stereotypes of a person saying a rosary in a cathedral or a people locked into lifeless, meaningless traditionalism.
By saying evangelical we are not thinking of mindless fundamentalism or angry moralism. And again, we are not picturing a particular style of worship or the shouting person on TV or on the street frightening you into a commitment prayer.
By using the term charismatic we are not thinking of the TV image or the 'tent' revival meetings that tend to clutter our minds when this word is used. Nor are we considering the extreme emphasis on the 'got to feel good' experience so often associated with the charismatic stream.
What we do mean:
The Catholic (The Sacred)
The word 'catholic' means, 'pertaining to the whole'. The Church has traditionally used the word 'catholic' to signify a receiving of the fullness or entirety of the faith, as believed and practiced by the Ancient Undivided Church.
Through this expression we receive an understanding of the objective blessing of the sacraments. Many Christians are at the mercy of their emotions, and if their emotions are not aroused in the worship service then 'nothing happened'. Where is the focus here, on God, or on self? God is really present whether we 'feel' him or not.
The catholic expression is a corporate mindset, rather than an individualistic, selfish mindset. Here we think of the 'body of Christ' in its broader sense. We are part of the incarnate body of Christ with all Christians on this planet, and all who have come before, the communion of saints, and all who have yet to be. Here all triumphalistic and exclusivist attitudes towards other Christians must be rejected. The corporate mindset of the catholic also offers us a respect for and of authority. It calls for us to trust that if our leadership is godly and is seeking the Father's heart, then we can trust them to lead us into His presence and will.
The third thing the catholic stream gives us is the 'consensus of the faithful'. This protects us from the excesses of individual (private) interpretation of Scripture. It is true that individuals can and should read the scriptures (a truth evangelicals know). It is true that God speaks to us today (a truth charismatics know). But in both cases there is a danger of excessive individualism in interpretation. Because of our fallen nature, we need to learn and listen to others in ages past and present to bring to our less than perfect minds God's word -- We see in a mirror dimly and hear in part, so we need the full body to get the fuller perspective.
Put another way, as a 'catholic church', St. Timothy's:
Worships using a Liturgy that emphasizes both Word and Sacrament.
Accepts the ancient Creeds as authoritative summaries of our faith.
Understands the Sacraments as means of grace.
Reads the Scriptures according to the consensus of the Church Fathers.
The evangelical (The Scripture)
The word 'evangelical' means, 'pertaining to the Gospel'. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ became a man, proclaimed the arrival of the Kingdom of God in word and deed, died for the sins of the world, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will come again in glory. To be evangelical is to proclaim this gospel message.
We must receive Jesus as our Lord and Saviour to have eternal life. We must be fully converted and fully transformed. Your parent's faith is not sufficient. Each of us is called to make a personal response to Him. The Sacraments are a means of grace, but they are given full meaning when faith is present. Paul notes in I Corinthians 10.1-5 that the Jews of the Exodus, despite being 'baptized into Moses' in the Red Sea and despite feeding on the spiritual food and drink, 'were struck down in the wilderness'. The water, food and drink are parallels to the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and are necessary, but aren't enough on their own. Jesus is not just our way to eternal life, i.e. Saviour, but He is Lord. He is not a celestial spiritual director. To truly follow Him is to do what He says. In John's gospel Jesus says, 'I do only what I see the Father do', and elsewhere in the same gospel, 'I say only what I hear the Father say'. That is life under Lordship. That is life abundant and eternal.
A second gift that flows in the evangelical stream is that scripture, when read in the light of the apostolic tradition, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the ultimate authority in matters of faith and morals. Jesus himself trusted the scriptures and believed them to be the word of God. He repeated often the words 'It is written', and 'Have you not read?' And he challenged the Pharisees who added to the scripture and the Sadducees who subtracted from them.
The third gift to share that comes in this stream is that each Christian is called to ministry, 'The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do.' It is the role of the ordained to equip the saints for the work of ministry, as Paul put it. We are part of a priesthood of all believers.
Put another way, as an evangelical church, St. Timothy's:
Accepts the Bible as the authoritative and inspired word of God.
Proclaims the Cross as the means of our salvation by the forgiveness of sins.
Stresses the importance of a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Understands the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as necessary for faith and discipleship.
The charismatic (The Spirit)
The word 'charismata' denotes, 'good gifts flowing from God'. These gifts are given to believers by God, out of his benevolent love (charis), by or through his Holy Spirit which Jesus promised he would send to be our comforter after his resurrection and ascension. These gifts are given for the sake and goodness of the church. To be charismatic is to be filled with God's gift of the Spirit.
Worship is the welling up and overflowing of love and praise towards God. It is the hearts response to the love of God, and it is emotional, and that is okay. We will often see people begin to cry in the midst of worship. We are talking about a love affair of the first order, and our hearts, not just our minds, will sooner or later become engaged. It is also an act of obedience, a sacrifice of praise.
Through the charismatic stream we remember that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are normative for today and are to be used by all Christians in ministering to others. At St. Timothy's we regularly see the gifts of the Holy Spirit being used in prayer ministry, in inner healing, and in counselling.
The last area to mention is the gift of the Holy Spirit to make us holy. We are called to be a holy people. That doesn't happen by our efforts. That doesn't happen by a list of 'don'ts.' That happens when we allow God's Holy Spirit to minister to us and correct us -- to show us who we are before Him, the beloved and the broken at the same time, in the same moment. We are to bear fruit, but we do that by tending to the plant and surrendering to God's grace.
Put another way, as a charismatic church, St. Timothy's:
Believes that God works his signs and wonders today as he did in the times of Jesus.
Understands that God is present in us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Encourages everyone to exercise the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
Desires to use those gifts for the sake of his church and goodness of his kingdom.
At St. Timothy's we believe that for us to grow in a healthy spiritually balanced way, we need all three streams, and the beauty of the Anglican tradition is that it allows all three to flow in one river.