Bishop Sumner: “What Is Anglicanism?”

By Amber Noel

On March 22, 2019, the Rt. Rev. George R. Sumner, Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, visited Canterbury House for a Faith Talks address on the identity of Anglicanism and the complex, concrete realities that shape it.

The address became a paper, “Anglicanism Defined: Three Crises,” which can be read here. The three “crises” he identifies, which are still unfolding in Anglicanism today, include: 1) epistemology, 2) modernism, and 3) missions into and communion with the Global South.

The roots of these “crises,” he explained, can be traced back to ancient Christianity in Great Britain, the 17th century enlightenment, and 19th and 20th century missions, respectively. They don’t give us answers for what Anglicanism will look like fifty years from now, but they may give us direction in terms of deepening engagement and coming to terms with the concrete roots of Anglican existence.

In other words, examining the complex history of Anglicanism will “[help us] to clarify the reason for the difficulties in articulating what is particular about Anglicanism.” And only this kind of explanation of Anglican identity “will prove worthwhile” because only such a detailed, messy account of the dance between denominational claims and actual, lived history has a chance at “address[ing] the question of being a Christian in the postmodern era.”

He concluded:

“Anglicanism strives to be genuinely one, holy, catholic, and apostolic… Being Church is then a struggle to maintain continuity with the whole of our history… and to do so as part of a transcultural and global fellowship of Churches. It strives, fails, and sometimes by grace succeeds.”

Read the full paper


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