These are a series of reflections on my decision to seek orders in the Episcopal Church
26 March 2006 - The Fourth Sunday in Lent
Part II - Theology
What has classically attracted me to the Episcopal Church has not been it's theology - or so I've always thought. My initial experiences with it a circled around the Liturgy; my father watching Mass from St. John the Divine in New York on Christmas Eve following his own services, or going to St. Michael's and All Angels in Denver with a friend of mine, or finding copies of The Living Church in the seminary library where I served as a Periodicals Librarian. But these were only quick studies, not a real involvement or seeking to know and be familiar. My first real acquaintance with Anglican theology was during my years at my first parish in Taunton/Raynham, Massachusetts.
It was during that period of time that I fell under the influence of two men, one Lutheran, and the other an Episcopalian. The Lutheran, the late Timothy Lull, at his the death the President of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, had a parish in Needham, Mass., and had invited me to a theological group that met monthly at his church. It was in that group that Tim began to acquaint us with other theologians than the German ones we had been taught to read during our seminary years. He introduced us to John McQuarrie's Principles of Christian Theology. It opened up a world of alternative expressions, and different destinations in the theological enterprise. As a result I began to use some educational materials in my own youth and adult programs that had been published for use in Episcopal parishes. I skimmed the surface. The joke, you see, was that we thought Episcopalians didn't do theology, and assumed their parallel joke was that Lutherans didn't do liturgy.
The second influence was that of Fr. Tom Crum. Although my own father, Carl Hiller, certainly sent me (not directly, rather through or by his image) on a trajectory toward ministry, he was not to be my mentor. Tom, rector at the time of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church in Taunton, was truly my "father in God". It was through him that I learned the practicum of pastoral theology, and learned of the depth of his own belief. He also taught me to aspire to have a better business sense while administering my parish, something I wouldn't truly learn until I got into the credit union industry - but that's another story. Tom and I were on the same beam in so many ways, and it was through him that I learned a level of comfort and admiration for all things Episcopal.
There is a maxim, lex orandi, lex credendi, "that which we pray is that which we believe" and visa versa. The separate parts of the liturgy/theology joke, which supposedly separated Lutherans from Episcopalians were/are not separate at all. The how of our prayer (the liturgy) is the what of our belief (theology). I think it is all a difference of aspect. Lutherans admire and seek after the structure of belief, its system, its knowledge, its discipline. Episcopalians, looking through a different hole in the fence, or different shadow on the wall of the cave, have come to admire and seek after the sensation of belief - it's expression in prayer, its discipline in liturgy, its unity, and its community.
It is this last point, the community of belief, is the one thing that I have truly come to admire. Lutherans seem to do their theology in the closet, or at least behind closed doors. Perhaps this is an American phenomenon, a remnant of being and immigrant church. Although social statements are published, and pastoral letters issued, the enterprise is really private, guarded by its own vocabulary and structure. The place in which Anglican theology is done is in the public place. Rather than gathering in a closed space in which to ruminate on faith and belief, all kinds are invited in to make comment and to observe. The mark of this commitment is the Cathedral, a truly public place in the center, or near the center of the community. This is, perhaps, the inheritance of the sons and daughters of an established church (real as Anglicans, virtual, or remembered as Episcopalians). There is no immigrant's embarrassment about the enterprise, but rather a welcoming spirit of discussion.
This leads to some interesting spokes people, Bp. James Pike, Bp.
Carter Hayward, Bp. Spong, Fr. Malcolm Boyd among many others. The theology
that makes the rounds of the Anglican Communion , at least in the Northern
Hemisphere seems to be more experimental, hoping to meet the situation and
political realities at hand. The altar, pulpit, and font are clearly placed
in the midst of the community, ready to be of service to all.
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