On Becoming Somewhat Anglican #1: Homecoming?

Grandad, the Reverend, in Israel

On Good Friday of this year, I began attending a local Anglican church. It was not a theological decision, but a practical one. We’d moved house and needed to find a church we could both attend; this was the one which was mutually agreeable.

I’ve changed churches a number of times over the years, yet for both theological and personal reasons it has felt significant to find myself at an Anglican church.

In a sense, it feels like a homecoming. My grandfather (pictured), Rev. Ron Hobby, was an Anglican minister in WA for sixty years. My parents’ move to a Baptist church in the late 1970s was controversial. I grew up Baptist, yet with Anglicanism as a kind of mother country. Can I have been in exile from a church I never belonged to?

I lived with my grandfather when I moved to Perth to study as an eighteen year old at the end of last century. His was a moderate evangelical Anglicanism – ecumenical (except when family members wanted to become Baptist), yet staunchly orthodox without being Reformed. Perhaps the Anglicanism of C.S. Lewis and Lesslie Newbigin. I visited the cathedral with him several times, and there was some possibility at that point of me becoming Anglican – I was keen to experience a form of worship different from conservative Baptist, and I knew that I was definitely not drawn to the smooth showmanship of megachurches. But what I embraced instead was a radical restorationism, which led me into the house-church movement and Anabaptism. Fourteen years later, I still identify with the latter (no need to retitle the blog just yet) but not the former.

I loved Grandad deeply, and wanted his respect; yet we were both such principled, idealistic people that our conversations would sometimes become clashes, and we both took theological and political disagreement personally. By the time he died in 2006, my vehemence against the established church was such that attending an Anglican church was an unforeseeable possibility. I like to imagine how he would react to the news that I am, now, somewhat Anglican. I think with a great deal of joy, and a note of triumphalism and pride.

These days, I would be less determined to set him straight on exactly where I stand theologically. I would not feel the need to qualify my news with a loud insistence that I remain Anabaptist in outlook.

What does it mean, for a believer who holds Anabaptist convictions and works for Baptists to attend an Anglican church? I’m still working that out. I intend to do some of my thinking out loud, on this blog. I want to explore the beauty and spiritual renewal I feel in this new church – my appreciation of the church year, of liturgy – and the theological problems it presents for me.

8 thoughts on “On Becoming Somewhat Anglican #1: Homecoming?

  1. Hi Nathan,

    This is a very interesting move and I wish you well on your journey wherever it leads. I appreciate your intention to have the courage to think aloud on the problems as well as the joys and benefits you find in Anglicanism and how you can relate it to a Jesus centred Anabaptist pacifism.

    Maybe one day, I might consider Anglicanism. or perhaps the Uniting Church. I’m not sure that I want to try with any church, yet after my past church experiences.

    Shalom and best wishes,

    John Arthur

  2. I must say that – like how Stanley Hauerwas once wrote of his wish to be a “high church Mennonite” – I find it not all too unsurprising that some of us who identify as Anabaptist might also appreciate the high church forms of groups like the Anglicans. I also would love a “catholic Anabaptist church” – though I still prefer a much more austere church architecture 🙂

    So hope to read more of your thoughts along these lines and how you fit in …. or fit the shapes together.

  3. John, thanks for your encouragement. I pray when you do venture back to church, you’ll find a place of welcome and grace.
    Danny, be interesting to see how many AAANZers are in higher church denominations – I suspect quite a few, though not too many Catholics!

  4. Reflective spiritual dialogue enables us to explore our faith with authenticity, humility and courage. Welcome to the world of Anglicanism with its mystery, certainties and ambiguities. Reformed yet Catholic, candles and incense, sacramental and evangelical, Synodically governed and Episcopally led, within our worshipping communities hospitality and welcome is to be found. May your ‘homecoming’ be a journey that is life giving and nourishing as you live out your discipleship in Christ.

  5. Interesting journey Nathan and my guess is that it’s not finished yet.

    Maybe Anglicanism will be your final destination (by way of denomination) but I sense you are still looking…

    I enjoyed my time at Anglican ordination groups where I shared some of our Forge stuff. I found it a nice place to visit but felt a bit too much like my granny’s lounge room – nice in its own way but not likely to appeal to anyone else in the street.

    Personally I enjoy a mix of formality and ritual as well as low church chaos and ‘irreverence’.

    Funnily enough I have discovered that I am more ‘baptist’ than I even want to be. At times that leaves me cold but then I haven’t found a tribe who feel more like family than this one

  6. Hi Andrew,
    Belated thanks for reading. I would say I’m not really looking for a denomination; it’s more a case of finding myself a particular church and appreciating it.
    With regard to your ‘granny’s lounge’ comment – Robert Webber writes in Ancient-Future Faith how the liturgical church appeals deeply to the postmodern condition. Maybe there’s an important way in which church should feel ‘strange’.

  7. Hey Nathan
    I have just read your seven becoming Anglican blogs in reverse order; for me being and Anglican, now working for the Baptists it was fascinating to read your journey. I was delighted when I finally came to your first post (sounds odd) to see a picture of your father and to read something of your theological dialogue with him. Noting your later writings about the Anglican Church and their position in relation to State, armies and wars, I would say that as well as being a good Anglican priest Ron was also a good army chaplain, like my father was; they were mates! This no doubt added to the vitality of your lively discussions with your grandfather, as mine were with my Father. I have a photo of your grandfather somewhere; I will try to dig it out and send it to you

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