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Benjamin Guyer

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The following pieces will give interested readers a quick sketch of some of my theological thought. My Theses on Anglicanism consists of 42 vignettes pertaining to various facets of Anglican history, theology, and identity. Much of what I have written on Covenant comes back, in some way, to the ideas hammered out in this document. Happily, it provoked a wonderfully stimulating conversation on women’s ordination that I hope to return to someday. I am an aspiring historian of early modern Britain, as exemplified by pieces such as Law, Liturgy, and Wisdom: An Introduction to Richard Hooker and King Charles the Martyr: Our Own, Royal, Forgotten Saint. I am also interested in how history might interface with theology and devotion, which is reflected in What are Devotional Societies For? King Charles the Martyr and the Philosophy of History and “Remember, Remember”: What the Fifth of November Can Teach Us Today.

Some of my articles are a bit more on the personal side, such as Marriage, Family, and Anglican Viability, which looks at the bitter but necessary question faced by a young person such as myself — namely, can I begin a family in my current church? Will this church be around to sustain my family in coming decades? I find the dearth of young people in our church to be profoundly disconcerting. Related to this is my rather lengthy essay “Suffer not the Little Ones”: Why the Episcopal Church Needs Young People, which looks at the statistics concerning the drastic decline of young people in the church, before turning to some of the larger theological issues at hand. Equally personal, but on a very different topic, is my brief essay Towards a Theology of the Armed Forces, which is dedicated to my brother, a Marine, and tries to craft a space for a theological consideration and appreciation of the military. I strongly support the Anglican Covenant, although I would like to see debate over it done with a bit more historical and theological depth than has generally happened. To this end, I have written “In Praise of Rhetoric? Anti-Covenantal Myths of Puritanism and Anglicanism,” which is available in two parts. I suggest starting with part one.

Here on the new Covenant weblog, I have a number of pieces:

— A series of devotions for Lent I, The Sundays after Pentecost, and Advent, each of which was originally written for my parish. Although occasional (because seasonal), I consider this sort of meditation to be at the heart of Christian living.

— A series of articles from The Conciliar Anglican, which is dedicated to answering questions about Christianity broadly and the Anglican/Episcopal tradition in particular. Thus far, I have written on The Hail Mary and Corpus Christi, and sought to answer the questions, What is Anglican Monasticism?, and Why be an Anglican? I consider this sort of catechetical material to also be at the heart of Christian living.

Other pieces address matters of contemporary controversy or misunderstanding:

Defending Reformation Feast Days, which proposes that the celebration of Reformation Day (Oct. 31) is not only a worthwhile activity, but thoroughly grounded in traditional Christian devotion.

Some Theses on ‘Political Theology’, which argues that too much contemporary ‘political theology’ is based upon a pervasive lack of training in necessary fields such as history and economics.

Am I ‘post-Christian’?, which questions a recent metric for determining if one is ‘post-Christian’. If denominational bias is used to determine being ‘post-Christian’, things appear rather ominous.

Scandalum Magnum, which denounces the practice of giving out honorary doctorate degrees to the leadership of the Episcopal Church. This practice not only twists pastoral ministry into academic egotism, but is also members of the church hierarchy appear far more academically accomplished than they actually are.

Anglicans and Covenants: A Very Brief History, which offers a brief overview of Anglicans and Covenants since the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches since 1948.

+Robinson and an Elizabethan Apocryphon, which traces the misattribution of the quote that Elizabeth “made no windows into men’s souls.”

Lastly, I have published several book reviews, some of which are in an ongoing literature review of books about Global Anglicanism that readers may be interested in.

Beyond writing for Covenant and The Living Church, I have edited two books. The first is entitled The Beauty of Holiness: The Caroline Divines and Their Writings (Canterbury Press, 2012), which is part of the series Canterbury Studies in Spiritual Theology. The book is available from Canterbury Press and from online booksellers on both sides of the Atlantic. The second volume, entitled Pro Communione: Theological Essays on the Anglican Covenant, is now available from Wipf & Stock via their Pickwick imprint. You can read more about it at the preceding link, or you can view a .pdf of the front and back covers at my Academia.edu page. While you are at it, please “like” Pro Communione on FacebookPro Communione carries gracious endorsements by Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa; Dame Mary Tanner, European President of the World Council of Churches; and Michael Poon, Trinity Theological College, Singapore. Ephraim Radner, of Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, kindly contributed a Foreword to Pro Communione.

 

A Slightly Longer Personal Biography:

I was not raised Episcopalian, but come from a non-denominational, charismatic background. When I was 16, my parents began attending a Reformed church, and I left that decisively not long after turning 21. I spent a little over a year attending a “continuing” Anglican parish of the EMC (Episcopal Missionary Church), where I grew to have both an appreciation of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and a sense that it was somewhat outdated and in need of revision. I left that parish, however, and drifted for some months between various liturgical churches, but shortly before I finished my undergraduate degrees, I was invited by a friend to visit the Episcopal student center, affectionately known as “Chapel House.” I did, and when I walked in the door of the chapel I felt, for the first time in my life, like I was home. It is an experience that I had never had before and which I have never had since. Perhaps for this reason it is an experience that has profoundly shaped me; it is no exaggeration for me to write that it is an experience and a memory that I continue to carry and feel in my bones.

I was confirmed about a year and a half later — on May 22, 2005, to be exact (my confirmation certificate hangs on the wall of my room) — after reading a good bit of Rowan Williams, Michael Ramsey, William Reed Huntington, Lancelot Andrewes and the Greek Fathers. Andrewes was the most moving of these authors; Ramsey, more than anyone else, gave me a sense of the Anglican ethos. His closing words in From Gore to Temple: An Era in Anglican Theology made a tremendous impact on me shortly after my confirmation: “the theological coherence which a Gore or a Temple exhibited came, not from a quest for tidiness, but from a vigorous wrestling with truth for truth’s own sake” (170). These words move me even now. As intellectually compelling as I find such a view, at the end of the day my movement into Anglicanism was an event of the heart, which was then followed (and, thankfully, confirmed) by my head. Put somewhat differently, my move into the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion was not just the result of study, but the result of an experience of charism. My conversion to the Anglican way was the joint action of both Parakletos and Logos; the former inspired unexpectedly, and the latter enjoined communicable discourse on the matter. (One without the other, or one set against the other, is less than orthodox in my opinion.)

My theological commitments are first and foremost to intellectual integrity, which I believe is bound up with deep historical study and humility. Aiming for truth, in my estimation, tends to be more of a via media vis-à-vis contemporary conservative and liberal positions than is often appreciated. At the very least, such integrity is neither subsumed to nor driven by the will; and, as integrity gives itself to discourse, it is open to dialogue, encouragement, and correction. In other words, Wisdom speaks, and her voice sometimes echoes in our own — most often, I believe, when it is truth that is our goal. There is something of the Logos in all of this, and I hope to sketch that out someday in a more systematic way. A theology of converse — in the sense of communio — seems to me to be a project worth pursuing.

In the meantime, I am more interested in pursuing theological investigations of a historical nature, sounding out the past for what it might bequeath to the present, and for how it might interrupt the present as well. Anglican history is far more interesting, I have found, than most people realize. It is bound up with big ideas about God, nature, and political and ecclesial order; it finds its classical expressions more often in the words of poets and monarchs than those of systematic theologians (who are not to be discounted, however). I think that this is a terribly engaging history, to be honest, not least because from the vantage point of the present, it is a history — and a trajectory of theological inquiry — that is rather unexpected. It isn’t democratic, but monarchical; it is less theological toil and more poetic inspiration; it is humanist, and has a strong sense of the need for returning to the sources, just as it has an equally strong sense of the need to pursue such investigations critically. And, as I learned from Hooker (and Heidegger), it is hermeneutically engaged. Anglican theology is a critical negotiation between the past and the present, and done within a conciliar framework. I am deeply committed to this, and I think that others should be, as well.

Lastly, I am a member of both the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius and the Society of King Charles the Martyr. I hope that as Anglicans move on into the next season of our communal life, such old ecumenical interests and commitments will be revived for both Western and Eastern catholic Christians. I also hope that older Anglican devotional societies, such as SKCM, will bequeath these forgotten elements of the Anglican past to our fairly tortured present.

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