A year ago, I would have laughed if you had told me that in just 12 months I’d be preparing for reception into the Catholic Church. We had been happily attending an Anglican Church for 12 years. We LOVED our priest and our church community. My husband, the cradle Catholic, and I, the evangelical protestant had found a haven in the Anglican Church. He loved the liturgical and sacramental aspects of our worship and I enjoyed the biblical preaching. I appreciated our priest’s ability and desire to give a firm and clear presentation of the Gospel. During our years at this church, and through a group study on The Spirit of Early Christian Thought and some original sources from the first centuries of the church, I gained an understanding of God’s gift of grace to us through the Sacraments, especially in Baptism and the Eucharist. Strange as it sounds though, after 12 years in that wonderful church, I still wasn’t clear about what it meant to “be” Anglican.
Wanting to be more intentional about teaching our homeschooled children, I set out to gain a better understanding of Anglicanism. Armed with my mouse and a high speed internet connection, I started “googling” and that’s when our adventure began. I expected my search for a clearer picture of Anglicanism to be an easy one. We had always been told that Anglicans are catholic, just not Roman Catholic. We ascribed to the branch theory that many Anglo-Catholics hold which states that the Anglican Church was one of the original 3 branches of the Church. For that reason, I expected it shouldn’t be hard to get a clearer picture of Anglicanism. However, what I found was that the tent of Anglicanism is quite large – accomodating all kinds of splintered groups who disagreed on some of even the most foundational of ideas, including Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. We had already become convinced that receiving the real body and blood in the Eucharist was necessary for us. We were especially compelled by these verses:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:51
and also here:
“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:54-59
And so the disagreement about this doctrine was very troubling.
Another troubling dilemma came trying to reconcile how the divisions within Anglicanism could be compatible with Jesus’ prayer for unity among believers in John 17:11:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
and again in verse 20-23:
” I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may be all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have send me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
I had always known that Jesus prayed for our unity but I had only recently paid closer attention to these five words of his prayer: “even as we are one“. There is no division whatsoever between the Father and the Son. They are completely unified. They cannot be divided or in disagreement between themselves. The Lord prayed for that same kind of unity among believers when he said “that they may become perfectly one“. We didn’t see how the divisions with Anglicanism were compatible with these verses.
As the months pass, it became more and more clear to us that we could not deny these things the Lord was showing us. It would be hard to leave our church home of 12 years, but we were convinced that Jesus intended His Church, the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) to be one – visible and undivided. I longed for that Church about which I was reading. But where to go?
When it proved difficult to define Anglicanism, I decided to start reading about what Anglo-catholics were NOT….Roman Catholic. The books I was reading, On Being Catholic, Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic and Crossing the Tiber especially, were painting a picture of a church that was historical, authoritative, biblical, undivided, and sacramental. Our destination was now clear. For we had read, studied, and prayed ourselves right into the Catholic Church. No one was more surprised than us.