(Sung to the tune of God Bless America:)
I am an Anglican, pure C of E,
I am high church, and low church, In communion with Canterbury.
Not a Methodist, not a Lutheran,
nor a Baptist, white with foam!
I am an Anglican, just one step from Rome!
I am an Anglican, via media, A-men.
When I opined on another blog (see previous post) that I would not be interested in a reconfigured Anglican province in America whose liturgical discipline is based on either the (English) 1662 or the (American) 1928 Prayer Books, one commenter asked me, "Then why are you an Anglican?"
It's a fair question. I didn't answer there (it would have been comment #2 billion or so on the thread) and that (award-winning) blog doesn't seem to reveal email addresses, so I hope maybe that person finds his or her way here.
The first and last answer to the question is that I am an Anglican because I am an Anglican. I'm not trying to be cute, but to make a point about what I see as a virtue flowing from the old Benedictine discipline known as "stability of place." I think there's a presumption in favor of staying put, ecclesially. That's not an absolute dictum. I made a big ecclesial move (from free-church evangelicalism) in my early adulthood. But it's a presumption, a starting point. The burden of proof rests with the impetus to leave the church fellowship in which one finds oneself at present. If there's not a compelling reason to leave, then it's best to stay.
Here it would seem helpful to say that I am not an Anglican by conviction. I am a Christian by call, a Catholic by conviction, and an Anglican by choice (and an Episcopalian by expediency--more on that in a bit). I do not believe the Anglican take on the Christian faith is the most true or the most pure of the available options--theologically, liturgically, spiritually, morally, socially, or in any other sense--except that at this time it is the best option for me. It is not better Catholicism than the Roman or Eastern Orthodox versions, and it is not better evangelicalism than the Methodist, Lutheran, Reformed, or Congregational versions.
I embrace Anglican Christianity because it has an ethos that quickens my soul, stirs my spirit, and makes my heart sing. I am an Anglican because the last verse of "Once in Royal David's City" with a treble descant and an organ reharmonization transports me to the suburbs of Heaven. I am an Anglican because the rhythm of daily Morning and Evening Prayer has worn grooves like wagon-wheel ruts in my soul for three decades. I am an Anglican because of a tradition of pastoral care that is "homely" (in the best sense of that word) and practical. I am an Anglican because it has an ascetical practice that treats grownups like grownups--with a lot of generous guiding and suggesting and precious little prescribing. I am an Anglican because of a collective habit of intellectual spaciousness that recognizes that all truth is God's truth, no matter where it comes from. I am an Anglican because Anglicanism has no peculiar beliefs or practices of its own, no distinctive doctrines, no "founder" (other than our Lord himself), but mediates the faith and life of the Catholic Church throughout the ages. I am an Anglican because, gathered at the altar with other Anglicans, I have known the Risen Christ truly present in the celebration of the Eucharist. I am an Anglican because of the stated intention of Anglican churches to "forego all preferences of our own" in the quest for visible Christian unity. I am an Anglican because of the very provisional self-image of Anglicanism; in its own ideal world, it would disappear as a distinct identity.
Enough said? Probably.
But a bit more, perhaps: I love the Cranmerian liturgical idiom. In fact, by my lights, Cranmer was a much better liturgical draftsman than he was a theologian. I'm glad that I get to preside at a Rite I liturgy every Sunday (the early said Mass). But, out of regard for the Cranmerian spirit (that liturgy should be celebrated in a language "understanded of the people"), I believe it is essential that the liturgical norm in most parishes be contemporary English. It doesn't have to be bad contemporary English. And I would suggest that the 1979 BCP is, for the most part, good liturgical draftsmanship. Compared with the Roman or Lutheran parallel texts, it is often downright literary and poetic. It is very much within the Cranmerian tradition.
Finally, I am wary (I have said this before, and recently, but it bears repeating) of any attempt to tie Anglicanism to a narrow formulary, either confessional or liturgical, that is rooted in a particular time in history, and therefore transports the polemical baggage of that time into our own. That was then; this is now. I want to see an Anglicanism that is affirmatively orthodox, joyfully embracing the creeds--yes, veritably loving even the Definition of Chalcedon!--while remaining intellectually supple and always in touch with its own soul. That's an Anglicanism in which I can happily live and work for the realization of our Lord's prayer that "they all may be one."
P.S. I'm an Episcopalian because that has been the normative manner in which an American can be an Anglican. In the event that the Episcopal Church is not fully and presumptively in unimpeded communion with the See of Canterbury, my interest in being an Episcopalian will evaporate.