What is the Anglican Pastoral Method?


18 Aug
18Aug

     Anglicanism is founded on the biblical idea that God, the Holy Spirit, brings about new life in Christ, sanctifying and leading believers into all truth--if they continually repent and seek Him with a pure heart.  As the original orthodox Christianity of the Celtic English people, Anglicanism developed cut off from many of the theological conflicts and divisions on the continent.  It developed with a confidence of being the Church--the Body of Christ--of having experienced a changed life in Jesus Christ.  It has a self confidence that allows it to welcome others --before they get the faith all right, trusting the Holy Spirit to enlighten their minds, being patient with weeds among the wheat, loving and hoping for the salvation of all.  It's focus is not on right canons, systemic theology, and order, as good as these things are, but on a gentle trust in the Holy Spirit.  


     However, this trust is not without method or sacrificial effort. The Bible says "No man comes to me except the Father draw him," and so there is great emphasis on pastoral prayer and fasting. As in the eastern churches, there is a need for a spiritual father, a spiritual guide, who prays for his or her children and helps them discern the subtle deceptions of sin and the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Anglican pastoral method is focused on relational evangelization and discipleship. It focuses first on relationship and only when the love relationship is solid, on issues, and only out of love for the disciple. The motivation for sharing Christ and His precious gifts is always the desire to help and bless the other; therefore it is a patient method that awaits receptivity while maintaining honor and upholding relationship, even when the other is in error or sin.


The Anglican pastoral method focuses on teaching the disciple the English Rule of Life: Sunday Eucharist, daily office or Bible study and daily prayer and regular examination of conscience and confession of sin, with sacramental Confession, if the disciple is able to receive that precious grace.
English spirituality is deeply incarnational.  God dwells with man by the incarnation, because man is body and soul, and the sacramental system is an extension of the incarnation. The mystical life of the English church is experienced in the sacramental life.

   
     English spirituality is deeply Biblical; English Christians were the first to put the Bible into the language of the common person and create the printing press to get the Bible to the people . The English church trusts the Bible to make a positive difference in the life of the Christian. English Christians praise God and study his word through the use of the Daily Office/Liturgy of the Hours. A regular daily office lectionary cycle takes the disciple through the Word over and over again. And daily praise brings them "online" with God, receptive to His voice and grace.


     Finally, English spirituality crashes and burns when the regular use of the sacrament of Confession stops. Confession is not something we do when we have a big crisis, but a part of deepening understanding, deepening growth; it is a regular infusion of grace, as well as mercy.   It imparts humility, strength against sin, intimacy with Christ, hope and courage. Without this regular discipline, many a soul stalls in growth or is ensnared by the deceptiveness and power of sin and drifts into a complacency and compromise of life. Regular examination of conscience and personal confession of sin should be a regular occurrence, at least every Saturday as preparation for Holy Communion on Sunday. We need to experience the freedom from sin that comes only from God in prayer.


     The Word of God is preached, but it comes to fruition because of the prayer and fasting of the spiritual father; there is no effort to nag, manipulate or control the disciple. There is no fear of contagion, but rather a confidence that God will perfect the understanding and will to the degree that the disciple yields His heart to God, receiving His mercy and grace.


     For this reason, rather than focusing on getting doctrine and morals right or the pet issue of the day, the focus is on getting the disciple to pray, receive the sacraments regularly, study the Bible, and do or repent for not doing those things He knows he should be doing. It is believed that the responsibility for conversion lies with the Holy Spirit, not with men building a pure political kingdom. It is understood that real holiness involves being flooded with the character and motivation of the Holy Spirit, as well as the teaching of Christ regarding faith and morals coming to an integrated level of wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit.


     Those who have little trust in God are afraid of the ancient Christian pastoral method; they fear contagion from those who are young or in error.    Those who have been influenced by Roman conformity and claims of authority sniff at the Anglican method; they see it as compromise. But it remains the real, ancient, orthodox way of life in Christ. And to come to fruition, it needs only a priest to lift up his hands and say Eucharist, hear confession and begin to pray and teach the people; to flower it needs only confidence that God and His truth is enough.    And we, The Franciscans of today, we stand together, full of confidence, that we are the Church. Stepping forward in mission.  

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