by Peter Berg

Church of the Cross pastoral staff recently led adult education classes teaching about the basics of Anglicanism. The classes used the book The Anglican Way by Thomas McKenzie as a starting point. The classes were:
October 5 – The Various Streams of Anglican Identity
October 12 – The Roots of Anglicanism
October 19 – Anglican Spirituality and the Church Year
November 2 – Anglican Sacraments

Anglicanism’s Many Streams

One of Anglicanism’s greatest strengths, as well as one of its most unique features, is that it strives to hold many Christian “streams” in balance. (Think of a stream as a way-of-being-the-church; it’s the how and why we do mission, worship, etc.) Anglicanism attempts to participate deeply in a broad range of streams, rather than emphasize one or two streams to the detriment of others.

Our church and our diocese often describes this approach as the “Three Streams” (though there are other ways to describe this).  We are “three streams” in that we live out of the evangelical, catholic, and charismatic streams. Each stream is different, and the strengths and weakness of each is complemented well by one of the other streams.

3 streams

Defining the Three Streams

The evangelical stream has tended to emphasize 5 areas–1) the centrality of Scripture, 2) the cross as the center of history and of our faith, 3) conversion-the necessity of an individual, saving experience of God’s love and grace, 4) evangelism-an emphasis on the importance of sharing our faith with others, 5) activism-the necessity of living out one’s faith actively in all of life.

The catholic stream is a wonderful balance to the evangelical, and it emphasizes 1) the importance of Church tradition, 2) the role of Bishops and their apostolic authority, 3) the sacraments, 4) belonging/unity in community (our faith is both individual and corporate).

Finally, the charismatic stream adds new depth to both of these streams, and is challenged and guided by both. It emphasizes the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in particular His work of infilling us with His power, giving us spiritual gifts, and providing deep intimacy with Christ and mystical experiences of God.

The Three Streams in our church

The Three Streams are deeply connected to the worship and ministry at Church of the Cross, and throughout our diocese. For instance, together, the streams make up the bulk of our diocese’ vision statement–A Revival of Word (evangelical) and Sacrament (catholic) infused by the power of the Holy Spirit (charismatic) in the Upper Midwest.

In practice, we see these streams in many ways and places. Our Alpha classes, community outreach (through our Hopkins Acts Group), and support of missionaries across the world is connected primarily to the evangelical stream. Our submission to our bishop and weekly practice of the Eucharist is deeply catholic. The charismatic stream is seen in our prayer ministries on Sunday mornings and also in our healing services.

Most amazingly, is how these three come together so readily in our worship, which just one example can powerfully demonstrate.  Every week, we read from the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Gospels (often, we also hear from the Psalms). This practice is deeply evangelical, as it lives out our deep valuing of Scripture and its authority. It is also catholic, as this manner of incorporating readings from both Testaments and the Gospels is an ancient practice shared by much of the global Church (and it also comes from a set lectionary, so that many Sundays we are reading the same passages of Scripture that millions of other Christians around the world are reading). Finally, this passage is also charismatic, as we end each reading with a powerful declaration that God is speaking to us through his word even today–“this is the word of the Lord”!

Take some time to consider where you see the three steams at Church of the Cross and in your own life, and how you have been blessed and challenged by bringing these traditions together.