We are living in a time, more than ever, where the lines across denominations are blurry, and people are willing to listen to differences in faith and maybe even reconsider their own practices and views. Today, there are more evangelical churches adopting ancient liturgies and practices, and there are more traditional churches modernizing their services as well. Both of these changes are critical for a dying Church. And when I mean dying, I mean organizationally. The Church of Jesus will never die, but Millennials and Gen Zs are not going to church anymore. They just don’t care. And most of the time, I don’t blame them. 

With all of the exclusivity and culture wars going on inside and outside of the walls, for unsure people, there appears to be safer places other than the Church. I agree with this most of the time, and I often feel the tension. At times I would like to runaway myself, but I have this lingering mysterious Love in me that says, “stay and help.” I am by no means a perfect candidate, but I would like to help bridge some gaps. 

The purpose of this post is to speak into the unifying of differences within Christians, but it is also the telling of my personal journey away from “evangelicalism” to Anglicanism and why I made this decision. While I long to unify the differences in Christians, I also want to advocate against exclusive evangelicalism that poisons people away from love and inclusivity (It is not just evangelical churches with this reputation). As I left a lot of my past Christianity behind, I also brought a lot with me. I believe we must always carry the beautiful things we pick up along the way into the future. 

Being a paid “professional” in ministry for almost ten years and studying in seminary as well, I have learned that there are three types of people who grow up in a Christian context:

  1. People who grow up in a specific tradition (eg. Catholicism, Protestanism, Anglicanism, etc.) become more committed and invested into that tradition as they get older.
  2. People who leave the faith altogether after a spiritual breaking point or a point of communal separation during college, moving away from home, or joining the workforce.
  3. People who find a new faith in a different Christian tradition.

 I currently identify with the latter, and I don’t really believe in labels because I don’t believe labels can ever truly define how complex humans are and their belief systems, but for fun let’s call me a “Charismatic Anglican.” This is the simplest one I could come up with. My current working one is “Post-Evangelical Liberal Charismatic Anglican 7w8 ENFP.” Labels can help, but they will always fall short of who we really are.

Eight years ago, when I was at the crossroads of leaving the faith or searching for God in different ways, I began to find a new faith in an old tradition that was focused on the sacraments and was liturgically expressed. This long journey evidently led me to Anglicanism, and specifically, joining the Episcopal Church this past year. If you have no idea what I am talking about, take 5 minutes to Google the history or watch the sermon from the Royal Wedding by Bishop Michael Curry. He is my Presiding Bishop.

Growing up in a sort of charismatic Christianity, I had several misconceptions about other Christians in different traditions (eg. Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox, etc.). Some of them were:

  1. Those people aren’t real Christians.
  2. Those people don’t have the Holy Spirit.
  3. Only us Charismatics can speak in tongues.
  4. They are blind and in sin. We are right and in favor.

As I grew up and out of my bubble, those misconceptions quickly changed to:

  1. There are many Christians who think, look, worship, and believe differently than me.
  2. There are beautiful expressions of worship and practices that come from ancient traditions and diverse cultures all over the world.
  3. All Christians have the Holy Spirit and are in the divine dance of the Trinity. 
  4. There are many Catholics and Anglicans who speak in tongues, and not everyone can speak in tongues or must speak in tongues.
  5. Tongues is like a form of meditation.
  6. We are all blind and in sin. We are all wrong and in favor. We are all saved and in Christ.

As this became a reality to me, I felt comfortable continuing faith because I realized I wasn’t losing it, it was just changing

Why would you leave your tradition, Will?

I am not exactly sure I ever had a tradition. I have been a part of the void of non-denominationalism my whole life, and there is no specific tradition in that. There are specific cultures within non-denominationalism and I was fully submerged in many of them. I like to think that I am finally joining a tradition for the first time, and it is one of the oldest traditions of the Church. 

I grew up in a Word of Faith community and I also attended an evangelical high school at the same time. In my home town, these organizations were the biggest charismatic expressions of church in this particular city, and I was largely involved in both. Because of this I spent my whole life learning how to be the classic “evangelical worship leader.” My training led me to become really good at leading three songs (1 fast song, 1 medium paced song, and 1 slow or epic anthem), in order to get people prepared for the sermon. It also equipped me to flow musically during the altar call (this was like jazz but worship and not jazz), and learning to pull songs like: “Friend of God,” “I Am Free,” or “Good Good Father” out of my pocket on the fly whenever the “Spirit moved,” but only if the pastor said she moved. (This was often used as an excuse to have a second offering.) 

So, you could say that I have been “churched” since the womb. I thank my mother for that and keeping me in it. Outside of growing in Christ and learning Love, I made a lot of friends, had a few girlfriends, learned to play guitar in a traveling youth band, and I got to go to many exotic countries. All of that to say, I am thankful for my upbringing, though it comes with a lot of pain.

Why do you call yourself a Charismatic Anglican now? 

The word charismatic is an adjective just like the word evangelical. You can be charismatic in a negative or positive way. As a charismatic, I believe in divine mysteries. I don’t know if I believe in these mysteries as exclusive gifts, because I think people are specifically good at certain things and not good at certain things. Some may call those gifts, but to paint mysteries as some sort of Harry Potter sorting hat like: I got the gift of healing and you didn’t or I got the gift of prophesy and you didn’t, seems silly to me. I am a firm believer that there are divine mysteries that we all can tap into at different times and in different seasons of life, based off of our psychological, spiritual, or intellectual state, but everyone’s story is different.

I believe miracles happen. I have seen them.

I have seen people get out of wheelchairs.

I have seen deaf people hear for the first time.

I have seen a man’s rotted foot, the size of a balloon, become healed during prayer.

I have seen levitating people convulsing and making the power of buildings go out.

I have seen some crazy things and I cannot deny the mysterious power of love, miracles, and the Holy Spirit at work today, as well as the power of darkness. 

I believe people have moments of ecstasy and see spiritual things.

I believe people can be prophetic through intellectual life-coaching, reading the scriptures, and using therapeutic practices.

I believe in spontaneous and unstructured prayer.

I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is our map for living love. 

I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in all people. 

I believe the power of Love (God) is the source of all of these divine mysteries. 

Because of this, I still call myself charismatic.

I am an Anglican because I believe the Eucharist (communion) is the center point of our worship and gatherings. Not the sermon.

I believe in being part of a Church tradition that extends longer than a century.

I believe in following the lectionary on Sunday mornings so that I am hearing and meditating on same scriptures that thousands of people all of the world are hearing at the same time.

I believe in structured prayer that guides us and lifts us up.

I believe in the power of confession and the power of the creeds.

I believe that repeating the same rhythms of prayer and worship over and over again forms us spiritually.

I believe that salvation is more about belonging than saying a prayer. 

I believe sermons (homilies) should be more focused on how to love God with our whole heart and our neighbors as ourselves. 

I believe in space for interpreting God and scripture in different ways. 

I believe in the inclusive hospitality of all people inside and outside of the Church.

In all of my Church experiences, the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church is the most inclusive church by its teaching and living-out the Gospel message. This is not to say there aren’t problems in this institution or that other traditions and expressions don’t live this way either, but for me, this is where I have found a home.

Because of this, I have joined the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

I am a Charismatic Anglican.

I have always been bothered by the separation of Christians in denominations, but I felt if I continued living outside of a tradition and outside of a denomination that I wasn’t helping the situation. I believe ecumenical work can be more effective if done from the inside and I desire to continue seeing the convergence of ancient traditions and modern expressions finding common ground together.

I believe there is hope in the dying institution of Church, because it always finds new life in genuine revivals. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of Christians fighting for inclusivity. We can’t convince people to show up to Church, but the Church can do better at showing up for them. I believe there is something everlasting about historical ancient practices because they are still living today and have made it through death and rebirth. If you are still a Christian after death and rebirth, I believe you have an opportunity to help others find new life again. Whatever tradition or spiritual context you find yourself in, will you join me?

Note from the Editorial Team:
Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.

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Will Retherford

Author: Will Retherford

Will Retherford is a “Neo Spiritual Pop” artist collaborating with the sounds of dance and Anglican mass. Will is a father, husband, activist, writer, and techno dance enthusiast. You can find him marching in protests for equality, creating sounds-rhythms-beats in studios, leading music for church gatherings, exploring dance cultures in major cities, or playing at a park with his kids.