The most important church to belong to is THE Church of Jesus Christ. Everything else is way less important. Honestly, there are MANY great denominations and non-denominations. Still, I scratch my head when people say, “I just wish we could go back to the early church when there was just one church and no denominations or divisions.” Hmmm. It’s true that if you read the New Testament you won’t find denominations per se. There is no mention of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc. But you will definitely see multiple churches, divisions, differences of opinions, differences of interpretations and differing views regarding what is an essential of the faith.
As long as there are people, there will be differences and disagreements. There also will be strong preferences, significant personality types, diverse callings and cultures.
Is that a bad thing? I do not believe it is as long as we have a real unity in Jesus Christ. God made us in His image but also gave us unique personalities and callings. That is why St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians regarding the importance of each and every part of the Body of Christ. He indicates that some are “feet,” some are “hands,” some are “ears,” some are “eyes,” and some are “noses” . .
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body.
While the primary reference in this passage and in Romans 12 is to differing spiritual gifts, it is not too far a leap to say that anyone who “puts on the Lord Jesus Christ” and has received “the faith once delivered to the saints” is part of the one body, no matter what their other preferred style of music, mode of baptism, or finer doctrinal preferences.
Given that context, let me share why am I thrilled to be an Anglican:
- Scripture is the primary and final authority in all matters.
- We read and preach from the Bible in every service.
- We are a Church which teaches both grace and truth and do not see them at odds with each other.
- Our corporate worship is intentionally focused on bringing a sacrifice of praise to the Lord. God is the center of worship – not us.
- Our worship is highly participative – everyone is involved.
- The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion is a major part of our service.
- We have a Book of Common Prayer, a beautiful tapestry made up of scripture, that brings godly order to both our corporate and personal worship.
- We have seasons in the church year.
- We have a lectionary (list of Scriptures to read) that takes us through all 66 books of the bible in an orderly manner.
- We have authority outside the local church – Bishops and Archbishops who bring added oversight and accountability.
- We belong to a worldwide, multi-ethnic communion of 80 million believers.
- We aren’t afraid to confess our sins out loud.
- We are reminded every week of the forgiveness and grace the Lord offers.
- We kneel.
- We recite The Apostles and Nicene Creeds which help remind us of the most essential matters of the faith.
- We have a Catechism that helps us instruct our members in the faith.
- We are significantly reformed in our theology (see the 39 articles).
- Most of our clergy wear the same simple clothing that serves, over time, to make the clergy less visible. Whether a clergyman is poor or rich is not evident in their attire.
- For the most part, we do not “strain gnats and swallow camels.”
- We allow room for holy silence as well as loud and vigorous praise.