Anglicanism has a culture, an ethos. What follows is a taste of that Anglican ethos.
In his short tract, The Anglican Way, James Fenhagen emphasized three elements: comprehensiveness, personal holiness, and holy worldliness.
"Rather than doctrinal uniformity … being able to hold together seeming opposites." In this, Fenhagen picks up on our appreciation for paradox and synthesis.
John Westerhoff wrote that "truth is known and guarded by maintaining the tension between counter-opposite statements concerning truth … personal freedom and communal responsibility … sacred and secular." This stance toward truth goes hand in hand with our tradition's valuing of ambiguity and openness. We tolerate a certain kind of theological messiness as we wait to see more clearly. We live with differences.
"Emerging from the inter-relationship between liturgical participation, solitude, and compassion … weaves together a concern for personal freedom with an emphasis on beauty and joyfulness and awe." Terry Holmes spoke of "the mystery of the ordinary" in that the extraordinary shines through in the ordinary people and circumstances of life. We tend to see the journey as a long gradual journey into becoming our unique selves in union with God and one another.
"Life affirming rather than pleasure denying … calls people to faith not out of guilt or fear, but out of a vision of God." Our tendency has been to value a moderate, balanced, practical approach to life. There's a balance and rhythm among prayer, work, and learning. We assume that Christians are involved in all the sectors of society as instruments of God's love and that the church should involve itself in and influence political, cultural, social, and economic life.
Evelyn Underhill, in Concerning the Inner Life, saw the spiritual life this way:
"One's first duty is adoration, and one's second duty is awe, and only one's third duty is service. And that for those three things and nothing else, addressed to God and no one else, you and I and all other countless human creatures evolved upon the surface of this planet were created. We observe then that two of the three things for which our souls were made are matters of attitude, of relation: adoration and awe. Unless these two are right, the last of the triad, service, won't be right. Unless the whole of your … life is a movement of praise and adoration, unless it is instinct with awe, the work which the life produces won't be much good.
For the real saint is neither a special creation nor a spiritual freak. He is just a human being in whom has been fulfilled the great aspiration of St. Augustine: 'My life shall be a real life, being wholly full of Thee.' And as that real life, the interior union with God grows, so too does the saints' self-identification with humanity grow. They do not stand aside wrapped in delightful prayers and feeling pure and agreeable to God. They go right down into the mess; and there, right down in the mess, they are able to radiate God because they possess Him."
John Westerhoff, in A People Called Episcopalians, describes Anglican spirituality as having these characteristics:
- Liturgical/Biblical. "Rooted in communal daily prayer … intended to shape our relationship to God."
- Communal. "Communal prayer always comes before personal prayer, which is to be shaped by communal prayer ... before decisions are made … the community gathers in the context of communal prayer and meditation on the Scriptures so that the Holy Spirit might inform and influence our decisions."
- Sacramental. "Outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace … inform our conviction that just as Christ was the sacrament of God, the church is called to be the sacrament of Christ in the world … implies that our spirituality is political, combining both the contemplative and the active."
- Pastoral. "Our relationship to God is measured by our relationship to out true self, all people, and the natural world."
- Incarnational. "Emphasis on God's entry into human life … has resulted in an earthy spirituality … affirm life in this world and believe that the body, pleasure, and material reality are fundamentally good."
- Mystical. "Emphasizes a long slow journey into union with God.