I should write a book – “The Making of a Current-Day Anglo-Catholic.”
One of the many reasons I moved away from the Evangelical/Pentecostal side of the Church and into a more liturgical/sacramental side (into The Episcopal Church) begins with what I foresaw in the later 1980’s as the co-opting of Evangelicalism by the American cultural phenomena of hyper-individualism. “It’s all about ME!” “Me and Jesus!” While lip-service is given to the communal nature of the Body of Christ, the reality is that the individual, even in the midst of a mega-church crowd, is focused on his/her self and concerned with what s/he “gets out of the service.” The consumeristic nature of modern American-Evangelical churches, the willingness to engage in schism, a worship service that is basically entertainment oriented (despite the denial of such an orientation).
This infection of American hyper-individualism in the Church will only lead to further overall ecclesial chaos and separation into ever smaller groups of narrowly focused and like-minded individuals, who will be willing to separate even more once they find yet another point of disagreement.
An essence of the “catholic” nature of the Church, this side of it anyway, is that we are bound to Christians past, present, and future, and that we as individuals and even as congregations or denominations are not isolated, are not self-sufficient, are not separate from the Great Cloud of Witnesses all around us. We, also, are not free to do whatever we want – we bring ourselves into the discipline of submission to continual-community within Tradition. This aspect of the Church universal, its “catholic” nature, is what draws me to Catholicism, particularly the Anglo-Catholic expression of it.
I am not on a path leading to the Church of Rome. I do not believe that in the Vatican is the final authority. This may smack of the same “individualism” that I am moving away from. But, I think in the various pendulum swings we go through the ecclesial structures of the Church of Rome long ago swung too far into the denial of the individual. Too much authority rests in the hands of too few men, and that authority is absolute if exercised.
In Anglicanism, in Anglo-Catholicism in particular, there is more of a balance between individualism and authoritarianism (is that the right word?), at least as I’ve experienced it thus far. There is the emphasis on the universal nature of the Church and our connection and responsibility to one another, but not to the point of demanding absolute conformity or obedience. I do know that in the current Church of Rome that there is no longer the draconian authoritarianism of times past.
So, I am in the process of becoming more “catholic.” I am being formed into an Anglo-Catholic. It is a very different way of approaching the faith, God, the Church, and one another than I experienced growing up within American-Evangelicalism. It also has some great implications concerning the controversies Anglicanism is wallowing in right now. It isn’t “all about me.” It isn’t even “all about us” as in just this part of the Anglican Communion – The Episcopal Church. There has to be balance, though, and an acknowledgement that some parts of the Church will begin the move toward right change before other parts are ready for such change.