November 1, 2014

Interview with Peter Matthews, Pastor of Saint Patrick’s Anglican Church, Lexington, Kentucky

guitarpriest.jpgPeter Matthews was raised Methodist, ministered as a Baptist pastor for ten years and now pastors a vibrant growing Anglican Mission in America congregation in Lexington, Kentucky. When it comes to evangelicalism and liturgical church, Peter is the man. He blogs at Guitar Priest, but you need to visit his church or catch his preaching on the web.

Peter’s insights into some of the questions I’m dealing with in recent blog posts will be appreciated by IM readers.

1. You were once a Baptist, now you’re an AMiA Anglican, but you aren’t a Roman Catholic. Can you tell us a little about that trajectory, particularly what moved you out of being a Baptist, but what specifically kept you from becoming Roman Catholic?

I was a Southern Baptist pastor for 10 years. However, I grew up Methodist. So some of the liturgical and sacramental piety of Methodism still hovered in my soul during my SBC years. There was always a longing to get back in touch with the church calendar, liturgy and a greater use and appreciation of sacraments than I was experiencing in an SBC context. Therefore, while still a Baptist pastor I explored the liturgical traditions by reading more than I should have — especially the early church fathers. I found what I was looking for in Anglicanism. Here was a tradition that was overtly liturgical and sacramental but retained the key insights of the Protestant Reformation. I spent a lot of time looking at the Roman Catholic Church and I found much to commend it. Nevertheless, at the end of the day Anglicanism is where I found my home.

Two issues posed an impassable barrier for joining the Roman Church. First, were the papal claims. As I studied writings from the first five to seven centuries of the Church, I saw that the Bishop of Rome played an important role in the life of the Church Catholic, but his role was not greater than that of other leading bishops. The Church of that era identified itself as Catholic, and yet did not claim the Bishop of Rome had universal authority nor did it claim he was infallible. I concluded that the Roman view was, well, not Catholic! To be a Roman Catholic I have to subscribe to the papal claims, and I cannot, in good conscience do so. A second issue was the doctrine of justification. I believe the reformers got this right. We are justified by faith alone through grace alone and the righteousness given in justification is the alien righteousness of Christ imputed to us. Rome believes we are justified by grace. However, Rome defines justification as infused righteousness. I think this conflates justification and sanctification and can lead to dire pastoral consequences — e.g., moralism and works righteousness. However, like the great Anglican theologian Richard Hooker, I do not believe one has to believe in justification by faith to be justified by faith. I am confident there are many Roman Christians who have a living faith in Christ and thus are justified.

2. At this point, a lot of “free church” types -D.H. Williams, for example- are saying that evangelicals can and should access the resources of the early church to renew their own churches. If you were doing a seminar for a bunch of us who are going to stay in our Baptist and evangelical churches, but who want to reclaim and reuse the resources of “The Great Tradition,” what would your recommendations or message be?

I would argue that one can get in touch with the Great Tradition without losing any evangelical distinctives. Take liturgy. There is nothing “un-evangelical” about liturgy. Good liturgy unveils the gospel every week. In the Medieval Roman Catholic Church, people rarely ever received communion. When they did, which was probably once a year, they only received the bread. The restoration of weekly communion and reception in both kinds was a gospel move. The reformers wanted the free grace of Christ set forth weekly in the liturgy. Much of what now seems “catholic” and “un-evangelical” was actually created out of deeply held evangelical convictions!

Two of the greatest expository preachers of all time are John Chrysostom and Augustine. Chrysostom was an Archbishop and Augustine was a Bishop. But they held a high view of preaching while at the same time holding a high view of the liturgy and the sacraments. If they could see the two realities integrating, then surely contemporary evangelicals can find a way to do so. I would argue that good liturgy that is done well support the preaching of the Word.

3. Many who will read this interview will be Baptists who believe we have sinned greatly in devaluing and demeaning the meaning and use of the Lord’s Supper even within our own tradition and confessions. What would you say or suggest to those Baptists who are open to a greater emphasis on the Lord’s Supper in worship?

Go back to early Baptist sources. Among other things, the London Baptist Confession says the Lord’s Supper was, “Instituted by Christ to confirm believers in all the benefits of His death; – for their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him.”[1] This is a strong basis for a higher and more regular practice of the Lord’s Supper. If the Lord’s Supper is for my nourishment and growth, then I need the Lord’s Supper for my benefit. In fact, I want it every week! So many contemporary Baptists (in my experience) and evangelicals only see the Lord’s Supper as point of public profession and as an opportunity to repent. They miss the means of grace and growth aspect that is rooted in the more ancient practices of the Church. If they would dip into their own tradition, they would see that early Baptists did not intend to devalue the Lord’s Supper.

4. I took a few hits recently for saying evangelicalism needed to be renewed by mission efforts from the global south and third world. Your church is connected to Africa and African Christians. Share a bit of how this positively affects your church and ways you see it having more effects in the future?

Humility and perspective. It is humbling for wealthy white Americans to be under the authority of Africans. In the Anglican tradition, I have to swear obedience to my Bishop and Archbishop. Though this would probably never happen, if my Archbishop (Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda) wanted me to move to Africa and be a priest, he could order me to do so. I am really under his authority! The second thing the Africans give us is perspective. Africans have suffered, bled and died for Jesus. Not many Americans can say this. They do not have much and yet in many places they are spiritually vibrant. The truth is, many of our African brethren look at us with all our wealth and think we are impoverished. They have much to teach us. I hope we will be open to their lessons.

5. Any visitor to your church will feel that you could hardly be accused of deserting evangelicalism. There is a warm, evangelistic, committed spirit in your worship leadership and in the church. It immediately impressed me that the stereotype of liturgical churches as “dead” is far from a sure thing. Talk for a moment about your vision for a warmly evangelical, deeply rooted liturgical church.

The Anglican folk I hang out with often speak of Anglicanism, when it is at its best, being a movement of three streams: evangelical, catholic and charismatic. A cursory look at the patristic era shows a church where the preaching of the word and authentic conversion were held in high regard. Just read some things from Augustine and Chrysostom! At the same time, they believed in a hierarchical church that was liturgical and sacramental. Patristic Christians were unashamedly catholic. In addition, the power of the Holy Spirit demonstrated by healing and deliverance was a normal reality in the early Church.

I believe if the patristic Church could hold these three streams in creative tension, it can be done again today. That is my heart for Saint Patrick’s Church. I want to hang onto the ethos I was given as a Southern Baptist that places high value on the preaching of the Word and is radically committed to the Great Commission while at the same time loving the historic liturgy and finding nourishment in the sacraments. I think we are doing that and I pray the Holy Spirit will continue to lead us deeper into this reality.

[1] http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/bcof.htm#part30

Comments

  1. Scott M says:

    Michael, as I read this interview, I couldn’t help but think of a question I’ve often wondered about as I’ve read your various posts and essays about Roman Catholicism. Why do you limit the choices to some form of Protestantism and Rome? There is, after all, another tradition that is some 250 million strong. And it seems to me that many of the issues you have with Rome are very similar to what the Orthodox say about Rome. And much that you admire in Rome is also present in the Orthodox.

    It may be practical reasons. The Orthodox are not as prevalent in the US and there probably aren’t many in your neck of the woods. But from a theological perspective, I wonder why you don’t explore them more?

  2. Let me very honest.

    1. I have never met an American Orthodox in my life.

    2. All the Orthodox that I know are Ethiopians for whom their Orthodoxy is cultural.

    3. The nearest Orthodox church in Ky is hours away.

    4. I’ve never read a book by an orthodox author.

    5. I’ve never studied orthodoxy and have no ability to discuss it fairly.

    6. The RC discussion is deeply relevant in my setting.

  3. I looked at Orthodoxy, and though they are good on papal claims, they do not view justification the way the reformers do. They also have quite a low view of Augustine of Hippo and I, well, hey, kinda like the guy. So the Anglicans are what worked for me.

  4. Where I’ve come from: Methodist; Independent Presbyterian; Bible churches; Baptist churches; Baptist seminary (CBA); Episcopalian; Anglican–in TX, CA, CO, TN, and Austria.

    Where I am now: Big, honkin’, charismatic (them, not me), evangelical megachurch (12,000+) in Colorado.

    Where I wish I could be this Sunday: St. Patrick’s Anglican Church in KY (never been there, but I’d like Peter); or, Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, TN (been there; I think you’d like Rev. Thomas McKenzie).

    Thank your for introducing me to a spiritually kindred spirit in Peter Matthews. It’s good to hear convictions affirmed.

  5. Michael,

    I was wondering why Peter did not return to Methodism, the more evangelical daughter of Anglicanism. Does Anglican theology lean more towards Reformed (i.e. Calvinism) theology than Methodism? That would make a lot of sense if Peter attended a Seminary like Southern.

    I hear a lot from young SBCers who are almost ashamed of their church and want more. I hope they can learn from people like Peter.

  6. Peter is an Asbury guy.

  7. But is Anglicanism rooted historically in Calvinism or Arminianism? Just curious.

  8. Anglicanism doesn’t have a confession like the WCF. The 39 Articles are certainly reformed-sounding in places, but the Anglican communion is the middle way. Intentionally doesn’t choose sides in that fight. There’s some representation of just about everything in Anglicanism, good and bad.

  9. My skewed thoughts on Arminianism and Calvinism….

    I sort of think that in the early years, with the Reformation influence, after Henry VIII died, perhaps Anglicanism was leaning more towards Calvinism – but perhaps not nearly like the Puritans were. Then maybe Elizabeth I sort of softened it a bit. But over the centuries, much less so, and these days perhaps much less Calvinist (and some very Arminian). But, being the “via media” that it is, you’ll find people who are either or somewhere in between.

  10. I’ve been reading IM for a couple years, my first comment!

    Great to read about Fr. Peter and his story. I too moved from a Baptist evangelical background to an Anglican parish. I too found myself yearning for the liturgy and more sacramental theology of worship. I found my home, however, in a Continuing Anglo-Catholic church. St. Matthew’s in Newport Beach, CA.

    Reading the interview, I was curious of whether St. Patrick’s would consider themselves an Anglo-Catholic parish; and, not being terribly familiar with AMiA, if you use the ’28 or ’79 BCP.

    Clay, there are a ton of AMiA parishes in CO. You could also look into parishes of the “Anglican Province of Christ the King” or “Anglican Catholic Church”. Friends don’t let friends attend charismatic megachurches (unless less that’s, like, their thing.)

    Also, Michael, you may have commented on this before, but what keeps you from attending an orthodox, evangelical Anglican parish, such as St. Patrick’s? You seem to have such an appreciation for historical worship and liturgy, and from reading your blog for a while, don’t see where you would have major theological differences keeping you from making the move.

  11. Well…for starters, credobaptism :-) Though if I were retired and living in Lex, I’d probably be at St. Pats.

    But where I am in SE Ky, I have no choices. The nearest church choices other than Baptist and Pentecostals etc. are hours away. Anglicans don’t do well in Eastern Ky :-)

    St Pats uses the 79.

    You can google Anglican Mission in America to learn about them.

  12. Amen, amen, amen, amen! I’ve been wanting to post at various points as you delve into the “Many Protestants feel drawn to explore church tradition, yet why do we not become Roman Catholic?” theme, and have kept putting it off. And then this interview comes along and says it all. The Roman Catholic church has much to offer (I continue to point out in my blog that in terms of pure mission, in my area they almost have a monopoly). I reject those Protestants who somehow think the church leapt from 33AD to the 95 theses (or King Henry VIII’s divorce – you choose) with no caretakers, tradition or worthy thinkers. If it wasn’t for the RC and Orthodox traditions, there WOULD BE NO CHRISTIANITY IN THE MODERN WORLD, period. The Reformation reformed – it did not recreate or supplant.

    That said, there can be still be genuine doctrinal differences that keep me honoring the church fathers and saints while not embracing modern Catholicism, and while ALSO not embracing modern Protestant Catholic bashing. No denomination has it 100% right – we’re ALL going to have to do some pleading on our knees at the judgment throne for our pretensions and petty battling over trifles.

    If I were anywhere near Lexington, KY, then Peter Matthews’s church would be where I’d want to worship.

  13. Chris,

    You’re right that there are Anglican fellowships here in Colorado, but I have not found the “ton” of them you suggest. We have been to some “old” Anglican, but we are looking for “new” Anglican–evangelical in core doctrine, expository in Bible teaching, and progressive in worship (ancient-future kind of thing). We got spoiled in Nashville, but we’re hopeful. I’ll check out your suggestions. Thanks.

    As to the charismatic megachurch conundrum, we definitely are neither charismatic nor megachurch, and yet that’s where God has us for ministry. It must be some kind of test. Someone counseled me once about jobs, and it seems like it should apply to church, that I should go somewhere, not just leave somewhere. We await God’s instruction to “go,” and hope it’s to a good “new” Anglican body like St. Peter’s or Church of the Redeemer.

  14. Clay — check out the AMiA website and go to the find a church section. You can find website links there. Hope the Lord leads you to what you are looking for.

  15. Samuel Lago says:

    Josh,

    Anglicanism, since the Reformation and the writing of the 39 articles, is CLEARLY Calvinistic (Sorry Michael, but it isn’t simply “reformed-sounding”). In fact, the WCF was originally thought of as a longer commentary on the 39 articles (anyone notice it’s called the WESTMINISTER confession, i.e.-written in the heart of England).

    The reason why the Anglican Comunion is more “middle-way” is because of the exitence of Anglo-Catholic and Liberal streams. However, evangelical Anglicans (which are the only ones that can ascribe themselves to the 39 articles without wincing), whether Low or Higgh in their ecclesiology, are generally calvinistic or “reformed” in their worldview.

  16. Anglicanism is Calvinistic historically….from the Puritan point of view. And if we want to fight a historians battle that’s fine with me. No doubt it’s influenced more by the Calvinistic reformation than the Lutheran one.

    But if the questioner wants to know if Anglicanism today is Calvinistic then the answer doesn’t hold. The J.I. Packer/J.C. Ryle version of Anglicanism is tiny. And if a Calvinist goes looking for expositions of Limited atonement, etc. it’s going to be a long wait.

  17. I just wanted to kind of understand what kind of theology undergirds Anglicanism. I am a Methodist and wondered how Wesley, an Arminiam (although his theology more moderate than say “holiness” churches), fit into the equation. I think I will be looking into some church history books soon on the subject.

    The post really struck home for me because I too was raised Methodist but born again in a SB church. I have been in SB churches for 6 six years and have only recently returned to the UMC. I will be talking with a superintendant Monday about ordination. At first, I wanted to ask him why he didn’t return to Methodism but the current state of the UMC pretty much says enough. If God was not clearly leading there is not a whole lot of reasons to return to a denomination that is in the same throws as the Episcopal Church. I would love to be in a Church like Peter’s that is straight up about its commitment to God’s Word and church tradition.

    I just wonder if the future of the UMC is headed toward the same path as the Episcopal. I will be honest and say that I hope it does. Anyone else?

  18. In his set of lectures titled, The Anglican Spirit, former Archbishop of Canterbury A.M. Ramsey asserted that the 39 Articles considered election/predestination to be important, but steered clear of double predestination. One also remembers that the English Puritans thought the C of E had a long way to go in the direction of Calvinist orthodoxy, so the Calvinism of the Articles might not be really as Calvinist as one thinks at first glance. I’m not well-versed in the interpretation of the Articles, but what I’m reading lately seems to indicate that they were/are more open to interpretation than I had thought.

  19. The 39 Articles are tricky. Definitely reformed — but they were received in synod in 1571 before Dordt teased out the details of T.U.L.I.P. (Note that Article 17 on Presdestination leaves a lot left unsaid — too much for a High Calvinist.) Also, the Synod that received the articles did so as an expression of the catholic faith of the early fathers — they wanted the articles understood in light of the patristic church. So they do not fit nice and neatly within the current canons of popular U.S.A. reformed theology — which is typically Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist. ‘Tis true that the WCF is seen as an amplification of the 39 Articles, but it was an amplification made by Puritans. In other words, it is how they wished the 39 Articles would have been written. There were plenty of 16th and 17th Anglican divines who would have been uncomfortable with the WCF.

  20. Hey there!

    “The J.I. Packer/J.C. Ryle version of Anglicanism is tiny.”

    You’ve got to be kidding. Throughout the world-wide comunion there are far more “packerish” Anglicans than there are liberals (and pure Anglo-Catholics). The Diocese of Sydney alone probably has more church memembers (though not parishes) than all the other diocese put together. Let’s not even get into the Millions of protestant Anglicans in Nigeria and Rwuanda for example.

    However, as both you and Father Peter habve mentioned in regards to Limited Atonement, and Predestination, there Articles are efectively “moderate” in tone, and not neccesarily “at home” with Northamerican Reformed Christianity. I’ll give you that.

    But that’s exactly why I like them! The moderate-reformed theology allows, in my humble opinio, for more “breathing space” and for Scripture/consience to be the judge on non-essential points. It also allows for Anglican theology to be Biblical, and Reformed, without being too dogmatic. N.T. Wright is living proof of this.

  21. Edits to my post:
    Sydney diocese probably has more members than all the other diocese IN AUSTRALIA. My bad…

  22. Excuse me in referring to Anglicanism in the USA/Europe. You are correct on the worldwide scale.

  23. The famous Evangelical Anglican Charles Simeon was asked once whether he was a Calvinist or an Arminian. His reply was, “Calvinist one day and Arminian the next, as the text demands.”

    Neither a staunch Arminian nor a staunch Calvinist would like his approach. But I do and my guess is that many protestant Anglicans would fit here.

    Maybe we can call them the John Stott wing. ;-)

  24. Personally, part of what attracted me to Anglicanism is the “via media” attitude. I grew tired of the staunch and often rigid theological stances; the Calvinism/Arminianism debate being one of them. I like Simeon’s quote, and shows that we can live with the tensions inherent in our differing theologies and readings of Scripture, and leave room for the incompleteness of our knowledge.

    Of course, I like all this as long as it is still grounded in the Creeds and a foundation of Christian orthodoxy.

  25. Defintely wisdom in the words of Simeon.

    God bless, ya’ll.

  26. I moved from a non-denom Bible church in Mexico to an evangelican Episcopal church in Texas to being a very Anglo-catholic missionary to Muslims in the Middle East. Go figure.

    But kudos to this guy for moving into AMiA.

    RE Orthodox and Catholic: We can no longer say that it is East v. West. There are plenty of Orthodox churches in the US, including Western Rite parishes. And plenty of Eastern Catholics over here, though the numbers are decreasing thanks to a) low birthrates, b) emmigration, and c) it is illegal for Muslims to leave Islam. I am thinking of Coptic Catholic, Chaldean Catholic, and Maronite, and Melkite. Those are Catholic–in communion with Rome but they have their own liturgy and language and bishops.

    Blessings. Drop by islamdom.blogspot.com and let me know your questions about Islam or Eastern Christianity, or if you are called to be a missionary here.

  27. Clay, please tell me more about your experience with Anglicans in Austria … not necessarily here on the blog but by e-mail wnp@doulos.at. Thanks!

  28. Re: comment that evangelical Anglicans are reformed and implication that other streams are not.

    Speaking as an Anglo-Catholic (used to be Baptist, was brought up Lutheran) I would object to that comment just a little. While the liberals are most certainly not reformed, many Anglo-Caths would be proud to claim reformed theology as the protestant part of our DNA.

    This of course doesnt make us as purely reformed as some of our more evangelical communion mates but there is that influence without a doubt in us as well.

    I call Anglicanism the best of all worlds. It is living proof that one can have it all in an integrated and balanced form. That is what attracted me to it initially and after 4 years, I still affirm it without reservation.

    Two other notes: Because of Anglicanism’s genius for integration, it can be easily abused by cafeteria types who aren’t really interested in thoughtfully integrating the various traditional insights into a living whole. Many liberals consider themselves Anglo-Catholic but in fact are AC in form only without holding any form of orthodox belief. On the other hand, there are many AC’s like myself who consider ourselves very much the evangelicals at heart and in spirit. For the record, we orthodox cannot and do not consider the radical liberals among us to be true Anglicans. For us true Anglicans are discerned by a core of orthodox beliefs which we all share whole-heartedly. For this reason Anglicans of all ecclesiastical stripes have found common cause and unity in defending our tradition from those who no longer believe in it but still like to dress up on Sundays and put on an elaborate show.

  29. Ray Weikal says:

    Fr. Peter was my pastor when I was a member at Grand Ave. Baptist and then, later, Cornerstone Baptist in Ames, Iowa. He knew me in all of my heathen ugliness and demonstrated grace and love. Fr. Peters is one of the main people responsible for my eventual conversion as a Christian and even though it’s been years since I’ve seen him, I still consider him one of my faith fathers. I am so happy to read that Jesus is blessing his mission in Kentuky. I vividly remember long conversations with him about the role of liturgical worship and our disatisfaction with the black and white theological distinctions that divide what should be one family. God bless you, Fr. Peters.

  30. AngloReformedbaptist says:

    To be respectful of the conversation at hand I would like to put forth Article XVII for common reading to show whether or not the English Church was deterministic (not fatalistic) in its theology or if it was respectful to the concept of the freedom of the will to accept or reject the grace of God with their own will synergistically working with the divine will!

    Article XVII
    Of Predestination and Election
    Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God’s mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.

    As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.

    Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.

    Thus towards this present conversation not has a “I told you so response” the Church of England held to the intent of the Scriptures when it comes to doctrine of the double predestination of the wicked and elect. Such examples of such vindication are seen by the theologian of the Church of England, Augustus Toplady. It is very hard to ignore or maim the text of the 39 Articles to support the illogical and ultimately insane idea that man has free will…but this statement does not ignore the fact that salvation will show itself over time in ones life….but let that not loose the fact that justification or being declared dikiaos by God alone is the source of our salvation ultimately in union with what Christ Jesus has done for those given to Him (for it is the mercy and will of God alone that saves).
    So may this clarify the historical reality of the true Reformation of the Church of England not in the divorce of Henry VIII, but under the great young King Edward VI. Just because Anglo Catholicism is popular today doesn’t mean Anglicanism is Anglo-Catholic, that’s like saying modern evangelicalism is based on evangelical decisions cards-when the decision cards are just an error that has become insidious in the evangelical community….but it doesn’t mean that the meaning of evangelicalism has changed….its just ignored….. of preference and a rebellion heart!