Why Anglicanism? Part I
Regarding the Lord's Supper, Baptism, Confession, and What it Means to be Saved
I believe that Jesus is present to us in our celebration of Holy Communion. I believe that as he said when he instituted the meal, "This is my body, this is my blood." Cannibalistic? Yes. Mystical? Without a doubt. I don't believe that the reception of this meal could do any other than bring transforming power into the lives of those who recieve it.
If you wish to call it "symbol," I'll warn you very frankly: nothing is a “mere symbol.” Nothing is more powerful, nothing more real than symbol. A symbol is a physical sign of an abstraction, but both the physicality and the idea itself are very real.
When he celebrated the Passover, that great meal of God’s liberation, Jesus blessed it, saying “this is my body, this is my blood.” If nothing else, on a gut level, I believe him to be present in our celebration in a way that cannot be quantified or explained. I enter into union with him, and he with me – like a renewal of covenant, we both make our promises to each other again.
(see also On the Eucharistic Life)
In the same way, I was bothered by the Pauline phrase, “baptized into Christ.” I never cared for the Campbellite version of “baptismal regeneration,” (which is what most in these parts are familiar with) but I’m not really interested in Enlightenment-era salvation, either. Salvation is not my activity. It is God's. So is baptism something God does? Is it an action of the Church? Is it my own action? I am of the persuasion that baptism is something the Church does for God, acting out his redemption and making a tangible offering of grace to the convert.
Christians enter into God’s salvation of the world. It is not a shiny trinket that we possess so long as we believe the right things about Jesus in the right way. Further, I believe that something meaningful and real happens when I confess my sins to a brother and he exercises his priesthood by pronouncing God's absolution. In private confession, not only am I known and loved as a sinner, but also restored to God in the most concrete fashion. Dietrich Bonhoffer’s short work, Life Together, (as well as deep, caring friendships in the Body of Christ!) helped me with this idea.
Our brother breaks the cycle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light (116).And I’m referring, mind you, to the priesthood of the baptized. This would make me very naughty in many Anglican circles. Like, outside of the Diocese of Sydney. Shh, don't tell anyone.