A wide-ranging romp through the fields of my mind, from an unabashedly and unapologetically pro-Christian (*), pro-European (in particular, pro-Great Britain), and pro-Traditional perspective.
* Although highly empathetic toward pre-Christian European spiritual and cultural traditions that have shaped and informed the European psyche and worldview, as well as their current-day manifestations… when they’re not too far out in left field.
I am (The Rev’d) Thomas H. Harbold, and I am “The Anglophilic Anglican.” I am a native of the State of Maryland, in the United States of America. I am a deeply devoted and patriotic citizen of these United States, dedicated to and proud of the Constitutional, representative Republic which we were bequeathed by our Founders, and appreciative of its history and heritage.
But I have also long been a deeply appreciative observer and aficionado of the British Isles (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland), their history, culture, and prehistory / archaeology, and I also have a great admiration for the British Monarchy: both its current Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and the institution itself. As my friend Ryan Hunter has phrased it, in his excellent essay “Why I am a Monarchist,”
“I believe, and thousands of years of history have shown, that a man or woman instructed from youth in the art of government, a person who is trained from childhood to see their rule as a sacred duty, a solemn service, and a public stewardship rather than an earned right, governs more benignly, sincerely, capably, and nobly than someone who has either taken power through brute force, violent revolution, or contested elections. Democratic elections are an extraordinary thing in that they propose that, upon being elected, a politician who has previously been partisan, divisive, and factious will somehow, almost magically, cease to be partisan, divisive, and factious upon taking office. I believe it is the very height of naivete to believe that a popularly elected, partisan politician can somehow serve as a supra-political, unifying figure.”
Since 1989, I have also found my spiritual home within the Anglican tradition within the Christian faith. I am spiritually and theologically Anglican, deeply valuing the fact that although the essence of Anglicanism can be complex and challenging to pin down, or to describe in a few words, it is basically what C.S. Lewis called “mere Christianity,” focused through the lens of the Prayer Book tradition.
With respect to doctrine, despite the disputations that exist and have existed over the centuries, I believe that at root, the classical Anglican tradition can be described in the words of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, who wrote that it
“has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.”
While the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion do occupy a special and significant place in the classical Anglican firmament, Anglicanism is at heart a worshiping tradition more than it is a confessional tradition.
It has been said (I think, IIRC, by the late great Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, though I cannot put my finger on the passage at the moment) that while Lutherans or Calvinists, if asked what they believe, tend to say, “Look, here is our confessional document, here are our institutes, here is our catechism: this is what we believe,” Anglicans tend to say, “Look, here is our Prayer Book. Come, worship with us for a while, using this Prayer Book, and you will come to see what we believe.”
The formal, theological term for this is sometimes expressed in the Latin phrase, “lex orandi, lex credendi“: literally “the law of prayer is the law of belief”; in other words, as we pray, so we believe, or more colloquially, “praying shapes believing.” Our theology is expressed in, and to a large extent formed by, our liturgy. This is why Anglicans tend to be perhaps a bit “picky” about the forms of liturgy used, and their content…
In addition, I value the classical Anglican tradition of theological discourse – often described as the “three-legged stool” of Scripture, Tradition (or Antiquity), and (sanctified) Reason. While God’s self-revelation as contained in Scripture is paramount, of course, all are necessary to ensure orthodoxy; an unbalanced appeal to any tends to almost inevitably result in heresy, and frequently schism as well.
I am also culturally and aesthetically Anglican, deeply valuing the nearly two thousand year old history, heritage, and traditions of the Ecclesia Anglicana (“English Church,” including within its own heritage the Celtic Christian tradition as well) which, considered thus broadly, is the spiritual heritage of at least two-thirds of my ancestry: English, Scots, and a touch of Irish, the remainder being mostly German with a splash of Swedish and French Hugenot.
Ancestry.com DNA – Updated Estimate:
England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 57% (Decreased by 22%)
Ireland and Scotland 20% (Increased by 17%)
Germanic Europe (new) 10%
Norway 8%, Sweden 2% (Refined from: Scandinavia 6%)
Baltic States 1%
I am deeply fond of the classical Anglican trait of doing “all things decently and in order,” of the euphonious language and solid doctrine of the classical Books of Common Prayer (1549 to 1662 in the UK, 1789 to 1928 in the US) – and of course, the Authorized, a.k.a. “King James,” Version of the Scriptures – and of the glorious English choral tradition which enriches Anglican worship.
I am blessed to have been ordained a Priest in Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, in its Anglican expression: specifically the United Episcopal Church of North America, a traditional “Continuing” Anglican jurisdiction. Thus the title of this blog: The Anglophilic Anglican. For that is indeed what I am!
I hold a B.A. in medieval studies from then-Western Maryland College (now “McDaniel College”) – a small, private, liberal-arts college recognized as one of the top forty American “Colleges that Change Lives” – and a Master of Theological Studies from the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University, a well-regarded “Southern Ivy” institution: at the time I attended, the second-ranked divinity school in the nation.
I also hold a certificate in park management with a concentration in environmental education. Love of history, and of Nature and the out-of-doors, have been the two consuming interests and passions of my life, and in fact my sense of vocation includes the desire to help re-weave the connection between God, Nature, and humankind which have been strained and, all too often, broken by our contemporary techno-industrial society. We cannot, in my view, claim to love the Creator while disparaging, degrading, or damaging His good Creation.
At the same time, I also seek to do my bit to promote and restore respect, and even reverence, for “the Good, the True, and the Beautiful,” – the three transcendental values, according to the Western Classical tradition – in a world which has too-often lost touch with all three. To borrow a phrase or two from the owner / administrator of “Architectural Revival” on Facebook, I stand for “Beauty, Tradition, Heritage, Order, and Craft,” recognizing that “Good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.”
My mental meaderings on this blog will undoubtedly also veer down a number of more-or-less related paths – albeit not always obviously so – from things having to do with the British Isles (present or past) and their peoples, and Europe more generally, to other areas of interest for me, including Nature and the outdoors (of course!), cooking and gardening, living history, and many more.
In particular, I have a strong interest – and some background – in traditional / sustainable agriculture (yes, I’m even a traditionalist in agriculture!), having spent five years working on an educational farm using natural farming techniques (organic in practice, though not certified as such). I have also done costumed historic interpretation involving traditional farming and foodways. So food, farming, and nutrition will also be featured.
UPDATE (3/9/2017): I have heretofore been fairly intentional in trying to keep modern politics out of this blog, with only a few exceptions (Brexit being a major one, but that is very much in keeping with the “Anglophilic” aspect). I am beginning to question whether that position remains tenable.
We live in challenging times, politically, morally, economically, and socially, as well as philosophically and spiritually. At present, this blog is my only real “voice” in that discussion — leaving Facebook aside, which I do for a variety of reasons, including that it’s such a chaotic cacophony of voices that it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, and because posts thereon have such an extraordinarily short “shelf-life.”
Therefore, you may be seeing an increase in posts with political or meta-political themes here — coming, of course, from the same generally conservative, traditionalist, and pro-British (and more generally, pro-European) perspective this blog has always held. I hope you find them — and this blog as a whole — interesting and, perhaps, helpful, rather than otherwise. May God bless your own journey, wherever it may take you, and I welcome your prayers for this one of mine.
Disclaimer: While it should go without saying, I would like to make it abundantly clear that the opinions found herein are mine and mine alone, and (unless expressly noted to the contrary) do NOT represent the opinions, perspectives, viewpoints, or policies of my employer(s) – past or present – my ecclesiastical jurisdiction, or my institutions of higher learning. If you don’t like something you see here, don’t blame them – blame me! And then take yourself to a different page.
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