Evangelically-raised students ‘come home’ to Anglican tradition

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The Anglican Communion's compass rose symbol represents the spread of Anglicanism around the world. Upton, Hubschmid and Ivy all say they know other evangelicals who have come to Anglicanism for spiritual direction. Image: LongQuattro/Shutterstock

Note: In a companion piece to this article, the three current and recent theological students cited below talk about why they aspire to the priesthood in a time of uncertainty for the church.

When the Anglican Journal spoke with Christine Ivy, Tom Hubschmid and Caleb Upton, it became apparent that they had something in common: all three aspiring priests had come to Anglicanism in their adulthood after an upbringing in more evangelical denominations.

Upton, who was raised in what he calls a non-denominational Baptist home, says the order and regularity of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) became a spiritual lifeline to him when he discovered it in university.

“I credit the daily office with really saving my spiritual life,” he says. “It’s very encompassing of all sorts of different emotions…You submit to it, and it works on you….It actually brings everything that I am to it.”

The churches he had attended before becoming an Anglican, Upton says, base spiritual life on one’s own inspiration and feelings, making it difficult to feel connected to God at moments when one isn’t inspired. But the BCP’s daily office, he says, give him the discipline of regular structure on which he’s been able to train his prayer life to grow—a kind of spiritual “trellis,” as he puts it.

Hubschmid, who was raised in the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, a church with Anabaptist origins, was, as of press time, about to start confirmation classes in Anglicanism. He says his movement to Anglicanism began after he started attending a church in Lethbridge, Alta., where he was attending university at the time.

“When I went to the Anglican church it felt oddly like coming home, even though it was so different from what I was used to,” he says. “I haven’t really looked back since.”

Hubschmid says he likes that Anglican worship is much more active than worship at his previous church, which involved mostly just listening and singing.

“What I found with liturgical worship was that it was a kind of spiritual workout,” he says. “This engaging of one’s body, kneeling, standing, saying creeds, walking to the front, kneeling at the rail, receiving the elements of the Eucharist in your hands—it was extremely refreshing and nourishing; the physicality of it, and the consistency.”

Hubschmid also likes what he calls Anglicanism’s “loyalty to the deep sources of our faith,” the teachings of the church fathers and the medieval theologians.

“Maybe some of this sense of coming home is that I feel as if I’m involved in something that goes way beyond my knowledge of history,” he says. “It’s just a deep tradition.”

Ivy says she grew up in a family that practiced a “generic” sort of evangelical Christianity, attending different types of evangelical churches depending on where they lived at the time. She traces much of her attraction to Anglicanism to her attendance at Wycliffe, where, she says, she “fell in love” with a rich liturgical tradition she had never before encountered. Ivy also likes the fact that Anglicanism forms a global communion with deep historical roots running ultimately back to the early Christian church. And she prefers the regularity of Anglican worship to the more spontaneous forms of service she attended when she was growing up.

“I just really appreciate how, almost by doing things the same every week…you’re allowed to pay more attention to what I think is important, which is Jesus Christ,” she says. “You’re not reinventing the wheel—it’s not about preferences and personalities, necessarily.

“There’s something about the rootedness of it that I think I was searching for—a deeper kind of spirituality that is more meditative,” she says.

Ivy also appreciates the brevity and thoughtfulness of Anglican sermons. Growing up, she says, sermons were typically 45 minutes long—and not all of them were inspiring.

Upton, Hubschmid and Ivy all say they know other former evangelicals who have joined the Anglican church, and that it’s part of a wider trend of evangelicals toward more liturgical forms of worship.

Judy Rois, who, in addition to serving as executive director of the Anglican Foundation of Canada, teaches homiletics at Trinity College and Queen’s College in St. John’s, N.L., says she’s seen many students from evangelical backgrounds become interested in Anglicanism.

Rois says it’s often partly because they see in Anglicanism a more “expansive” theology—based on the “three-legged stool” of reason, tradition and scripture—than they’re used to. The tendency, she says, was actually noted and described in a 1985 book, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church, by Robert Webber.

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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

5 COMMENTS

  1. From evangelical backgrounds, but not reformed backgrounds I note. Wonderful if they have come to the reformed convictions of the 39 Articles in place of vague Arminian or Anabaptist evangelicalism. Perhaps they will keep going and find the Westminster Confession or Three Forms of Unity!

    • I think most of the 39 Articles are great…I think a more faithful understanding of the death penalty, however, is that it is wrong.

  2. It is tragic that no one has explained to Ivy that actions of those who took the singular decision to ordain women did so outside of the Anglican Communion and thus began its dissolution. All is not well with the beloved Church.

    • Just dissolving the patriarchy! Hahahahaa.

      But on a serious note, it’s best NOT to have arguments or bring up controversial topics online unless you personally know the person. They tend to be very unbecoming, especially if you’re in the public eye and using your own name (as we are). I’d be willing to sit down and chat with you about your perspective if you’re open to it! I know many lovely coffee joints perfect for such conversations 🙂

  3. Christine:
    I have no problem or argument with you. My problem is with the facade of Anglican collegiality Without going too deeply into history one of the past strengths of the Anglican Communion was that even without the draconian hierarchy of the Roman Church we had the bond of Tradition and the Thirty-nine Articles, but most of all we had a foundational basis in the Scriptures. These things we held in common with the understanding that they would be our rock our guide in sharing the Gospel to the world. Unfortunately, apparently in the name of modernity, two member provinces took unilateral actions, that were not approved of by the rest of the Communion because they were found not to be consistent with scripture. This innovation was accomplished by changing the meaning of scripture rather like Orwell’s 1984 thus removing any conflict with tradition. The resulting fracturing of the Anglican Communion speaks for itself. Were they correct in their decisions? I would only ask you to read St. Matthew 7:16 amide the chaos of what the Communion has become.

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