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Liturgical Fads? 5 Questions for Thomas McKenzie, Author of The Anglican Way

Why isn't he squinting?
Why isn’t he squinting?

I am delighted to share this brief interview with my friend, Thomas McKenzie. Thomas is a Rabbit Room friend, a pastor, and an author. When Gina and I make our annual trek to Nashville, one of the highlights (among many highlights) is visiting Church of the Redeemer to worship with the saints there on Sunday. It’s the worship we really anticipate, but we always end up marveling at how excellent Thomas’s sermons are –how full of wisdom, biblical understanding, and how hey always proclaim the Gospel with clarity. I’m excited about his book, the soon to be released The Anglican Way, which he is funding through Indiegogo. You can see how to help him out here. I urge you to pitch in. –Sam

SS: When did you realize you were actually the long lost brother of Conan O’Brien?

TM: The first time I ever heard the name “Conan O’Brien” was in college, when someone compared the two of us. I like Conan, but I rarely actually take the time to watch him. The other person I sometimes get compared to is Jack Black. When that happens, I usually take it as a hint that I should go on a diet.

SS: When I’ve heard you preach, you have always emphasized the Gospel from Scripture and life. Is the Gospel hubbub of late just another fad?

TM: The Church only has two things to offer the world: Word and Sacrament.  These two, together, are how we proclaim the Gospel. The Word is the voice of the Gospel, the Sacraments are the body. The only reason for the Church to exist is to proclaim the Gospel, in word and deed.

We’ve been about this work for 2000 years, and I don’t expect us to stop until Christ’s return. I don’t think Gospel preaching and living could be considered a fad.  I don’t see that there’s been a hubbub of late, but I might be missing something.

SS: Speaking of fads, so many people are attracted to liturgical worship in general, and Anglicanism in particular, at present. Why do think that is?

TM: The vast majority of Christians, throughout the vast majority of the world, throughout the vast history of the Church, have worshiped liturgically.  Non-liturgical churches, by which I mean churches that aren’t connected to the ancient liturgies (because every church is in some sense liturgical), are the minority group.  There are 80 million Anglicans on earth, not to mention 1.2 billion or so Catholics, 300 million Orthodox, and 75 million Lutherans. If your church is non-liturgical, you might be part of a fad!

That said, I live in Nashville, land of conservative Protestants, and Evangelical preachers with rock bands and amazing hair. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but people around here say a number of things to me about why they join Anglican churches. Sometimes it isn’t specific to liturgy—they love our community, we serve the poor, we preach a Gospel of grace, etc. When their attraction to the Anglican church is more specific to the liturgy, they say things like: they’re sick of personality focused churches, they long for a church that doesn’t change with every fad, they like that we are multigenerational, etc. People who come from more legalistic traditions are drawn by God’s grace lived out in a community that accepts and values them, even though we still challenge areas of sin. People who come from mega-churches are glad that we aren’t performing for them. People who come from some churches are glad that we are emotive without being driven by emotionalism.

The Anglican way of faith is, at best, a way of balance. We’re only radical about one thing: the redeeming love of God in Christ.

SS: Writing a book is hard. What drove you to work so hard on The Anglican Way?anglican_way_postcard

TM: I have spent thousands of hours answering questions about Anglicanism, about our worship, our theology, our history, our structure, etc.  I’ve always wanted to hand people a book that would guide them through all that in an accessible way, but that book didn’t exist. That book would just make my life, and the lives of many other people, easier and better.  So, at some point, I just got irritated enough to write it myself.

SS: Part of your scheme in the Indiegogo campaign is to give some copies of the book away. Why is that important to you?

TM:  I’m going to give the eBook away for free on my website (I’ll have to sell it on sites like Amazon, unfortunately).  I’ll also be giving away paper copies, as people help fund that.

The most important thing to me is that people get access to this material. As a pastor, I have a salary.  God provides what I need.  This is my opportunity to give freely as God has freely given to me.   It’s my way of laying down my life for the Church, trying to live out Christ’s New Commandment.  Which makes me sound like some kind of saint, which is as far from the truth as you can imagine.  There’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to give it away, that wants to wring as much money out of this as possible. I have plenty of anxiety about this, but I’m praying for the grace to be faithful.

Thanks, Thomas. Here’s his video introducing the book campaign.

5 Comments

  1. Hey, Sam, as someone who was raised Anglican and whose parents are still in the Anglican church I attended growing up and was married in, I know that homosexuality has been a divisive issue in recent years. Do you know where this priest and his church stand on it?

  2. Excellent! Unfortunately the closest ACNA church to us is a couple of hours away, or we’d be checking it out.

  3. Sam, Are there many Anglican churches where you live in rural Canada? Also on a more serious note, do you know of any resources for people interested in incorporating liturgical practices into church or family worship?

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