Anglican Christian Faith
(Exploring faith, joining the church)
Anglican Christian Faith: three words, so much hidden within our whakapapa, our kaupapa, our kōrero. Anglican? It just means “of England,” really. Which is probably not what we really want to convey, though the first missionaries came from that neck of the woods. The Scots and Americans prefer “episcopal,” which is not much better as it means, sort of, “bishoppy.” It is supposed to say something distinctive about us but to get the meaning of either “Anglican” or “Episcopal” we have to dig quite deep.
Perhaps “Anglican” these days can just be taken to mean that we have a way of doing things that is deeply grounded in our Celtic past, though now of course we acknowledge and incorporate the great taonga that Māoritanga has gifted us too. But yeah, our way of doing faith is deeply earthed in that part of the world that was inhabited by Angles: our whakapapa amongst the Angles, the Picts, the various Celts gave us a quite distinctive, sometimes rather reflective, rather ordered way of doing things, including worship and even governance, and we’ve often held on to it.
Christian? We say it so easily after two thousand years of calling ourselves that. Originally it was a nickname … like “All Blacks” or “Silver Ferns.” Perhaps it’s almost like a franchise name like, well, “Highlanders” or “Southern Steel,” I guess. “Christ” meant “anointed one,” and the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth believed he was the anointed King of his followers. Usually they preferred the word “Lord,” and by saying “Jesus is Lord” they were saying he was equal to God and therefore bigger than Caesar. By saying “king” or “anointed one” they were making clear he was serious stuff, especially in the context of the brutal dictators of the Roman Empire. It was a pretty big deal, and brave of those first followers to wear that nickname. The proof of the pudding was in the eating, and their experience of Jesus before and after he was killed, and they believed resurrected, seemed to them – and us – to prove the pudding.
And faith? It’s a complicated word. Faith, belief, knowledge … they’re all subtly different, but “faith” was a key word to those early, risk-taking followers of Jesus. One of them called faith “the assurance of things hoped for.” Believing in the unseen, the unprovable, but sometimes longed-for meanings to life beyond what we know. Believing them so much that we sort of do know them, but perhaps through the knowledge of the heart, rather than the brain? Which doesn’t mean brains aren’t useful in this business, but that sometimes we have to take a leap into the unprovable first.
We kind of like it when people join us on that strange, unprovable journey.
• Anglican – a form of Christian faith rooted in NZ-Aotearoa, within the influences of Māori and Pacific faith.
• Christian is the name given to people who call themselves followers of Christ.
• To be an Anglican Christian usually means being baptised and confirmed (ceremonies where promises are made/affirmed and water poured on people symbolising dying to an old life, being made clean and rising to a new life of faith)
• Faith – the ongoing life of a Christian – knowing God more, trusting, even when we may not know or understand everything, sharing God’s life and love and practical ways to people around us.
Want to know more? Check out these links:
• A beginners Guide to the Anglican Church (St John’s Roslyn)
We Anglicans often use strange words. Most of them we’ve inherited or borrowed from ancient cultures. Perhaps we like them because they add a bit of gravitas, a sort of serious tone to remind us that some, not all, of what we’re on about, is rather important.
Each of the Christian denominations has its own history and flavour, and that affects the way we manage and see ourselves. Since ancient times the Christian community has had big gatherings, like a parliament, which make binding decisions on the people it oversees. At one stage it was all bishops and important people like that, but in the last few hundred years, since our break from the Roman Catholic community, we decided to give ordinary clergy and those who aren’t clergy a say in the running of the church. So every year they gather at a parliament-sort-of-thing called a “synod,” which just means “gathering,” to make rules and policies and some public statements that express our beliefs about the way we and society should be going. We don’t wave big sticks any more, like we used to try to, but we do like to be as best we can a responsible and visible part of the wider community.
What all this means is that change can be a bit slow in our church community, but we try to get there in the end. It means that big egos can’t dominate, and that new ideas take time – sometimes seemingly endless time – to become reality. It means that, like an ocean liner, we take a long time to change, and sometimes we have to correct the changes, and that takes time too. But it means too that we wrestle with issues at a deep level, and that when we do eventually formulate a policy on any issue (some big ones have been changing attitudes to gender and sexuality, the environment, the big-picture ways we manage our properties and assets) we lock it in securely.
As it happens we’re also in some matters locked into Acts of Parliament, and that makes matters even more complicated. Basically, though, “synod,” or “synodical,” as a model of church leadership just makes sure we don’t blow too much with the wind, yet that we can co-operate and adjust in a changing world where it seems appropriate to us to do so.
Of course we happen to believe that there is a God guiding us in all these complex processes. Sometimes that’s quite hard to believe, when as individuals we don’t agree with outcomes. But that’s part of the deal with being part of a big and mixed up family.
• Anglican churches are organised in Dioceses (districts) led by a Bishop.
• The Anglican Church of NZ-Aotearoa and Polynesia incorporates seven Tikanga Pākehā dioceses, five Hui Amorangi ō Tikanga Māori and the Diocese of Pasifica.
• Synod is the annual meeting of the Anglican Church in a Diocese
• It consists of elected representatives (clergy and lay people) from Parishes, local churches
• Representatives from other Anglican organisations e.g. schools, social services
• Makes rules and policies that help to govern the church and sets future direction.
There’s that strange, unprovable thing again. Some people thought the early Christians were drunk because they prayed in weird ways, moving their lips but making no sound, or moving their lips and making weird sounds. And so on.
Anglican Christians, perhaps because of that Celtic influence (see above) are often a bit restrained when praying, frequently following a book (or one of many) that has been formed by the experience of countless Christians over the centuries before us.
But that sort of prayer, all formal and structured, is only one way in which we communicate with the God who we believe (that word again) hears us. We can swing from the rafters with the best of them sometimes – sometimes (in a few places) we even swing smoke that rises to the rafters to remind us that prayers sort of spread out through the universe like the beat of a butterfly’s wing … yet we believe, too that they don’t just reverberate around a hollow universe, but somewhere out there and even right here a remarkable, loving, creating, hope-bringing God hears and responds to us (not always in the way we want, though!).
• Being open to God – listening, speaking what’s important, holding everything that’s important in God’s presence, responding to God
• Many different ways to pray, Anglicans will use many of them.
• A New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa – “the book” used in NZ-Aotearoa settings to help God’s people pray.
Want to know more? Check out these links:
• A New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa online
Reading The Bible
It’s amazing how often the Bible is panned as “an old book” or “old fairy tales” by writers of comments on websites. Actually it’s a whole series of books written over a period of nearly a thousand years, in many styles, by many people, for many reasons.
Some of it is history (but not in the way schools teach it), some is symbolic story-telling, some of it is poetry (some is even love poetry, and one chunk is quite risqué) some of it is rules and recommendations, some of it is spoken stories that got written down in a bit of a hurry when the leaders of faith-communities (sort of like church congregations) realized that the eye-witnesses of events were dying out. Much of it is written in weird styles, appropriate to their day – or sometimes deliberately weird even then – to help the people who saw themselves as God’s people, help them in their journeys through life and death.
The people who see themselves as the People of God – people privileged to be somehow connected to this God we can’t see – found inspiration and instruction in this vast collection, and eventually collected it together and called it by one name, “bible.” Then they called it “holy” because, well, it was so special to them (to us). But “bible” roughly means “library” so really it covers a vast range of experience. And then we all come along and interpret it in an enormous range of ways, and places and times, and we admit sometimes we do that really badly. But sometimes we don’t, and these writings inspire great acts and lives of courage or humility or dedication. And on the whole we just hope (and yes, pray) that it just inspires us to be a little more like the people we should be.
• The Bible is a library of Jewish (Hebrew) and Christian writings from a large variety of sources
• It provides inspiration, instruction and challenge to followers of Christ
• It has been important in helping people to meet God in Jesus Christ for centuries
Want to know more? Check out these links:
• Reading the Bible – an app that gives access to over 1200 versions in over 900 languages