Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Monday, July 3

Changing Churches (3) - Anglican Church

When you have lived your entire life in non-conformist churches, the thing you are most unlikely to foresee is a move to the Anglican Church. They practice infant baptism. They have an authoritarian hierarchy. Worse, appointments within that hierarchy are based on the candidates training and qualifications rather than a spiritual call from God. And they have a liturgy, so every Sunday is the same, quenching the spirit. And the ministry is entirely in the hands of the Vicar, so members of the congregation cannot exercise their gifts.

How wrong can you be? That paragraph may be true of many Anglican Churches. But God’s ways are not our ways and he is not pre-disposed to me telling him which church I think is right.

And so God called us to move. There were a number of things at the house church that were winding us up. Some doctrinal issues, and some practical issues. Tithing, head coverings. Being told off for pinning Sunday School pictures to the wall. But none of these things warrant breaking faith with the church that has been your spiritual home and root. It is really stupid to leave a church for the sake of these things, because you will only find similar problems at your new church and wander forever unsatisfied. A bit like moving house because of bad neighbours and damp – these problems turn up wherever you go. But for us these things were part of God nudging us to move. I have to be honest – I personally did not want to move at all, but moved for the sake of my wife, who had become very restless.

We looked around a couple of churches, mainly the Elim Pentecostal church where our children had attended the playgroup and we had lots of contacts.

We also visited this Anglican Church. It used to run a children’s holiday club, which was very good and many Evangelicals in the town would send their children to it. So we already had some links there. The very first time we visited, we sat down about half way up the central aisle just as the service was starting, and immediately our youngest son at about 18 months who was sitting on my knee vomited copiously all over me and the carpeted aisle. It was a terrible stench! We rushed out to clean him and ourselves up, and left the warden’s to deal with the carpet as we disappeared. I thought we would never dare to show our faces there again, and even suggested this was divine guidance!

But we kept on visiting places without success. In the meantime, at the school gate, my wife was talking to mothers from the Anglican Church, and found that it was not at all the staid place we might have thought. It was clearly soundly evangelical, had signs that the Holy Spirit was trying to work there, and there were proposals to build an immersion baptism pool.

Encouraged, we visited again. No one mentioned vomiting toddlers! The service had barely any liturgical element. Singing was led by a contemporary band and people were raising their arms in worship. It was barely distinguishable from the Charismatic House Church!

We decided to stay for a three month trial, and during that time felt so much at home that we decided to stay.

We attended one of the regular ‘Newcomer’s Meals’, and sat next to the curate. I spent the whole time hitting him with difficult theological questions – I don’t remember what they were exactly, but his responses satisfied me that even though I couldn’t agree to many Anglican Doctrines, this was a people of God. And if God accepted them despite their short comings, then how could I reject them? Rather than looking for a perfect church, I was joining a church which was getting on with the business of the Christian faith as best it could and making God its priority.

And so we joined the Anglican Church.

We met with the elders of the Charismatic House Church to talk to them about the move, because we don’t believe in just drifting form church to church. We had a mixed reaction. One blessed us and sent us on our way, trusting our judgement. Others condemned our move, refusing to accept it as a planting of their influence in the new church because ‘you can’t put new wine into old wineskins’. Well, as far as we can tell God didn’t see that verse applied in this case.

We, well I at least, have flourished in the new church. But that is for another post. Also, there have been difficulties in the new church, but that is for another post.

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