My wife gave me a good idea. I recently visited her site and found that she posted a link to an article in the latest issue of Christianity Today titled, “The Future Lies in the Past”. This article is about the movement among evangelicals toward a recovery of roots, tradition, and history, particularly as this is seen in a turn toward the early Church Fathers. One of the leading figures of this movement, Robert Webber, was a professor of mine while I was at Wheaton. Sadly, Professor Webber passed away a few months ago, but his legacy lives on in the lives of many including myself.
At times, I have felt that my brothers and sisters in Christ find it something of an oddity that Paula and I are Anglican (understood as semi-Catholic). This article does a pretty good job of explaining what led us into this tradition, and why developing and expressing our faith through liturgy, sacrament and symbol is so powerful.
Below is an excerpt from the article:
In Younger Evangelicals, Webber discerned three phases of evangelicalism since 1950, each dominated by a different paradigm of church life and discipleship. Each group continues in some form today, but the first two have been superseded by the third: “traditional” (1950-1975), “pragmatic” (1975-2000), and “younger” (2000-?).
Traditionals focus on doctrine-or as Webber grumps, on “being right.” They pour their resources into Bible studies, Sunday school curricula, and apologetics materials. The pragmatics “do” church growth, spawning the culturally engaged (and hugely successful) seeker-sensitive trend, with full-service megachurches and countless outreach programs. Currently, the younger evangelicals seek a Christianity that is “embodied” and “authentic”, distinctively Christian. In this they follow Stanley Hauerwas’s and William H. Willimon’s widely read 1989 manifesto, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, which calls the church to reject individualism, consumerism, and a host of other modern malaises.
For the younger evangelicals (Webber’s tag refers to “emerging,” if not Emergent, evangelicalism), traditional churches are too centered on words and propositions. And pragmatic churches are compromising authentic Christianity by tailoring their ministries to the marketplace and pop culture. The younger evangelicals seek a renewed encounter with a God beyond both doctrinal definitions and super-successful ministry programs.
So what to do? Easy, says this youth movement: Stop endlessly debating and advertising Christianity, and just embody it. Live it faithfully in community with others-especially others beyond the white suburban world of many megachurch ministries. Embrace symbols and sacraments. Dialogue with the “other two” historic confessions: Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Recognize that “the road to the church’s future is through its past.” And break out the candles and incense. Pray using the lectio divina. Tap all the riches of Christian tradition you can find.
If you want to learn more about this movement or Robert Webber’s ideas, check out the links below: