PHILADELPHIA: Anglicans Sweep Into The Mainline To Engage The Public Square
New Anglican parish to form
By David W. Virtue
September 28, 2011
Anglicans have always been holistic thinkers. One need only think of men like John Wesley, John Stott, William Wilberforce and someone called John Jay (1745 –1829), an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States (1789–95).
Jay was also an Anglican, a denomination renamed the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America after the American Revolution. In 1785 Jay was a warden of Trinity Church, New York. Following the Revolutionary War, and as Congress's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he supported the proposal that the Archbishop of Canterbury approve the ordination of bishops for the Episcopal Church in the United States.
John Jay was one of the top ten American founders, but today he is largely forgotten. Often I meet attorneys who ask: "Who was John Jay?" It's always a little embarrassing for me to mention that he was the first Chief Justice of the United States and a co-author (along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison) of the Federalist Papers, arguably the primary original source document for Constitutional interpretation.
John Jay may well have been forgotten if it wasn't for a single thoughtful and winsome scholar in the person of Alan R. Crippen II, age 49, himself an Anglican.
Crippen had a vision to engage the public square. His theological education had geared him for the pulpit ministry, but he felt called in a different direction. From his musings and theological reflections, he believed that Christians should engage in the public sphere because he saw a huge epistemological gap between the church and the state.
"I saw the need for an institution that would reflect a holistic vision of what has popularly been called 'the naked public square'."
Hence was born the John Jay Institute, the only faith-based inter-collegiate organization in the US exclusively dedicated to making principled public leaders. The John Jay Institute recently relocated to Philadelphia to better serve its mission of preparing Christians for principled public leadership. "In our view education is as much about inspiration as it is about information and arguably more so."
We think there is no better place in America to inform and inspire young men and women about American ideals and institutions, about American character, civic virtue, and constitutional principles than the metropolis of the American founding -- Philadelphia. Philadelphia has a legitimate historical claim to the person of John Jay. It was an arena of his life and calling as a Christian to public service. Furthermore, Philadelphia is a mainstream strategic cultural, educational, and commercial center right in the middle of the northeastern corridor of the United States. Sandwiched midway between New York and Washington, D.C. and easily accessible to both, Philadelphia seems the perfect location for the Institute. Recently, the Institute relocated from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Philadelphia. The Institute was named for John Jay because he's an iconic figure for people of faith called to public service. Jay is an American Wilberforce. Like the famed British statesman and abolitionist, Jay was a devout evangelical Anglican Christian whose life was dedicated to public purposes. Over the span of his lifetime Jay served in many governmental capacities as a congressman, diplomat, jurist, and state governor. Beyond these roles he was active in public philanthropy including: church work, Bible and missionary societies, educational endeavors, and abolition. In fact Jay and Wilberforce were friends, lively correspondents, and co-labors in abolition of the slave trade after having met in England in 1794. The John Jay Institute seeks to make leaders like Jay for the 2lst Century.
VOL spoke with Alan Crippen, its visionary founder and leader.
VOL: What is the aim and objectives of the John Jay Institute?
CRIPPEN: The John Jay Institute is a para-academic, intercollegiate organization that prepares Christians for service and leadership in the public arena.
The organization revolves around a one-year program in which post-undergraduate students complete a one-semester residency followed by a semester-long field placement. During the residency, students take courses in political theology and philosophy, American Constitutionalism, and natural law, among others. They then complete their field placement through an externship in a public policy, military or government position. Through it all, there is a commitment to orthodox, trinitarian, Christian theology.
VOL: So, as you are not a university or church sponsored institution, are you concerned at all with the spiritual side of students' lives?
CRIPPEN: Yes, we're very concerned about the spiritual formation of our students. I am also a non-parochial priest in the Anglican Communion. We not only want to educate their minds, but also to form their souls and character.
VOL: Can you spell out your vision?
CRIPPEN: My vision is to prepare a new generation of ethical apologists who will publicly argue for the moral truths revealed in scripture. This vision flows from my understanding of Reformed theology as the proper lens through which to view society.
From my perspective as a Protestant, it seems to be the Reformed tradition that has thought the most deeply, extensively and thoroughly about culture, all the facets of culture; everything from architecture to the arts to business ethics to political thought, political ethics, and public ethics. It's a very rich tradition, and that's a tradition that Westminster [Theological Seminary] schooled me in.
VOL: What is your own personal history and background?
CRIPPEN: My call to public service began with the military. After graduating from Philadelphia Biblical University in 1983, I felt led to serve the US as a military officer and was commissioned in the field artillery of the army. Stationed in Germany during the tense days of the nuclear-driven Cold War, I began to wrestle with how theology could impact current events in the political realm and beyond.
The idea of delivering a nuclear weapon was more than a hypothetical. I thought, "Can a Christian deal with war in a nuclear age?" Some have argued that the best theology is done existentially: theology in the moment. For me, in the early 80's, it was theology in the moment. I had to have some ethical answers to my role as a soldier.
VOL: What followed then?
CRIPPEN: Following my experience in the military, I craved a rigorous theological curriculum that would enable me to find these "in-the-moment" answers. This led me to Westminster.
I wanted more. I wanted more theological ballast, and more orthodoxy. [Westminster] had a great reputation for biblical, ethical, theological education. It was a school in the Reformed tradition which has a fully orbed theology of culture and, of course, part of that culture is politics. It also had a confessional approach to education that schools its students in a tradition that is informed by scripture, history, and issues of the moment. My experience at Westminster lived up to all of that.
VOL: How do you move with the times, as the culture changes and people begin to ask different questions?
CRIPPEN: I strive to form young Christian leaders throughout the years, and to ask "in-the-moment" questions about how theology fits into public life. What is the best way to go about presenting theological and moral arguments in a society that is largely post-Christian and even anti-Christian? How do we affirm Christian truths in the political realm of a religiously pluralistic society?
VOL: Are Christians properly engaging the political scene today?
CRIPPEN: When I graduated Westminster in 1989, there were many Christians getting involved in politics, but not in the best of ways. I saw them as trying to be too "triumphalistic", trying to take back America as a "Christian nation" without stopping to realize that we had actually become post-Christian, as Christian intellectuals such as Francis Schaeffer and C.S. Lewis had pointed out.
They didn't really comprehend that the game has changed. I grew up in that, in many ways sympathetic to the concern that we've lost the moral foundation for the American republic, and literally all hell's breaking loose in ethics. We've just lost a sense of who we are as a people, we've lost our narrative, we've lost it all. So, the question is, how do we recover that? Working with a lot of Christians who were not really trained to do this, who have not really reflected in a deep way on our heritage, on the philosophical currents, on the theological currents, I realize that we have to look back and prepare a whole new generation of apologists. If we're post-Christian, and we want it to be Christian again, we've got to realize that we've got to be about apologetics.
VOL: I gather you are a disciple of Francis Schaeffer, an apologist and Reformed theologian.
CRIPPEN: Yes, although I never studied under Dr. Schaeffer, I credit him with shaping my worldview. We believe in natural law here at the Institute, and we are operating in that heritage. However, the foremost thing to remember about natural law is that it's not salvific. I think that my schooling in the presuppositional apologetics tradition has helped me to not have unrealistic expectations about what natural law can and cannot do. Natural law cannot save; it's law.
VOL: How do you reconcile this difference? How should young Christian leaders in the public realm practice apologetics in their work without unrealistically attaching salvific hope to it? And how can they effect Christian change in America without stepping outside the bounds of pluralistic public discourse?
CRIPPEN: I like how [the Rev.] John Stott [recently deceased] characterizes it. He says there are apologetics of two varieties. There is apologetics for the gospel that's very evangelistic and is making a case for the truth of the gospel, which has a goal towards conversion, and there's another kind of apologetics, which is also needful, and that is an ethical apologetics that argues for the moral truths as revealed in holy writ. That's what I think a lot of people in the public square are not good at. So, I saw a need for young people to be skilled at that, so as to not look like crazed Bible-thumpers or fundamentalists.
VOL: In the political arena today there are some presidential candidates who are hawking what looks like a combination of theocratic and dominionist views that scare a lot of Christians and secularists. From a strictly secularist perspective, they look a little frightening. Are they theocrats? Are they theonomists? What are they?
CRIPPEN: I think we need to be able to present a case for the idea of a transcendent moral foundation through our democratic institutions in a way that's not threatening, in a way that's winsome, in a way that's not triumphalistic, and in a way that doesn't create suspicion about some kind of theocratic takeover. That requires a high degree of sophistication from lay people. There's a huge need for what we do.
NEW ANGLICAN CHURCH PLANT ON MAINLINE TO OPEN SOON
VOL: You were once an Episcopalian, but now you call yourself an Anglican. You have come from Colorado into an [Episcopal] diocese that is one of the most revisionist in the US run by a bishop who was deposed for conduct unbecoming a priest. The charge still stands even though he got off because of the Statute of Limitations. What do you think you can do about this? What sort of alternative can you and others offer?
CRIPPEN: I want to help establish an authentic Anglican community of faith here free from the kind of theological and moral revisionism of far too many bishops. My goal in the next few months is to see established an Anglican parish on the Mainline that welcomes orthodox Episcopalians who have lived in ecclesiastical fear for too long, and who can rest in knowing that they now have a godly bishop and archbishop in Bob Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
But beyond offering sanctuary to disaffected former Episcopalians, I think our opportunity is to establish a parish that has a passion for outreach to unchurched and to the post-churched, people who have given up organized religion for wont of an authentic, biblically-rooted, living faith tradition.
In John Jay's day, Anglicanism was reborn in Philadelphia. By God's grace, it can be reborn in our own time. I am hard pressed to think of a better place to begin the task than right here on Philadelphia's historic Mainline. I think the time is ripe for such a parish in the metropolis of the American founding.
VOL: Do you have any details you can share?
CRIPPEN: Yes. I would like to invite anyone who would like to, to attend a meeting with Bishop Julian Dobbs, of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and constituent member of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to an exploratory conversation to assess the need and potential opportunity for a new Anglican church.
Bishop Dobbs is a veteran church planter from New Zealand and previously served as Archdeacon for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. He has traveled internationally and ministered across 6 continents including, Laos, Malaysia, Syria, Egypt, Nigeria and North Korea. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Bishop worked in Aceh, Indonesia and was recognized by the New Zealand Government who awarded him with the New Zealand Special Services Medal.
Meeting Location, date and time:
Location: John Jay Institute 306 Bala Avenue Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
Date: Thursday, October 27
Time: 2:30 pm
To find out more about the organization, visit http://www.johnjayinstitute.org/.
Sunday, October 02, 2011
PHILADELPHIA: Anglicans Sweep Into The Mainline To Engage The Public Square