Layers of the Big Tent

Today’s prompt is about layers, and I find that quite an interesting coincidence as we were just discussing a similar concept at church on Sunday.

The amazing thing about the “big tent” of Anglicanism is that it has so many different viewpoints in it, and yet there is still harmony. Whereas if one were to ask a Catholic or a Lutheran what they believed you would find very similar answers, the truth is not so straightforward among the Anglican communion. As an example, my local congregation (which hosts no more than 25 or so regular members) has beliefs that range from an aloof agnosticism to a devoted Anglo-Catholic, though the actual community itself is quite “Low Church”.

As a result of this, the attitude towards Holy Communion tends to vary as well. Some of the less strict of our membership believe anyone who feels called to participate should be able to, regardless of their beliefs and whether they have been baptized or not. Others believe that baptism should be necessary, though Confirmation not; and still others of the more “High Church” believe only after Confirmation should one be allowed to take Holy Communion.

This is not only the case for churches like mine, but for many other churches as well. A quick glance at Christian forums or visits to other congregations notes the many layers that make up the “big tent” of Anglicanism, and I believe it is precisely this kind of variety that allows us to experience what it is to be a Christian in the fullest sense. There’s no demand among our clergy that we all blindly submit to a single point of view (although there is definitely the expectation that at least some bare standards are met). There’s a greater tolerance for dissenting world views and theological positions, and I find personally that the dialogue between Anglicans is very lively. Our faith incorporates the very best of the Reformation, while retaining the ancient traditions to continue to pass on. That’s something that very few denominations nowadays can lay claim to.

Perhaps this is just something that is forefront in my mind as the Anglican Church of Canada prepares to go into its 41st General Synod. This could potentially be a very groundbreaking Synod, as the Synod will be debating on whether or not to allow an official marriage rite for same-sex couples. For myself, I am wishing them the best of luck and good guidance as the Synod makes its decision on whether or not to go ahead with the proposed Canon changes. Whatever happens, I am hoping it is all done for the good of the Communion (though of course, selfishly, I am hoping it is passed!).

There is room for everyone with an open heart, an open mind, and a genuine desire for knowledge in Anglicanism. We leave no one out, and it is my hope that we continue in our quest to foster greater understanding amongst each other, and other denominations. There is truly nothing more beautiful than seeing so many different people – from all walks of life, perspectives, and beliefs – going up one by one to the table of the Lord to receive their salvation. I don’t think there’s anything in the world that drives home that “we are all one” more than this.

I ask for all the faithful to please join me in praying that the Synod members will be guided by good sense and the Spirit during this time, and that all will be done for the glory of God.


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