Earlier in the week, I attended the Anglican Theology Conference at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. I heard about the conference via the Anglican Church in North America website. So, I decided to go. First, I looked at hotels near the university. The Motel 6 was about a few miles away and quite cheap and clean. And it was cheaper to buy a Greyhound ticket than to purchase a plane ticket. (It would take just as long to travel via bus. I take into account the time to arrive at the airport before departure and that there were zero non-stop flights to Birmingham.)
I left after midnight on Monday and arrived around 7am. After checking in, I crashed and slept. I woke up and had a BBQ lunch in the afternoon. The next day, I woke up early and attended the Eucharist service at the Hodges Chapel.
(Photo description: Hodges Chapel in Samford University. Hodges Chapel is a domed building.)
(Photo description: A mural inside Hodges Chapel, depicting the events of Ascension, Pentecost, a mass baptism somewhere in the Roman Empire, and Martin Luther posting up the 95 Theses in Wittenberg.)
(Photo description: the dome mural above the nave of Hodges Chapel, depicting major Christian figures in Church history encircling Christ with the company of heaven.)
(Photo description: A close up of the dome mural with portraits of St Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and Christ above them. Aquinas has a nimbus around his head composed of cherubim. In his hands he holds the Bible. In front of Aquinas is a scroll that reads “Summa Theologica”. Luther holds a scroll that reads “95 Theses” in one hand, and a Bible in another hand. Luther is standing behind a scene of Wittenberg. Above Luther’s head is an angel blowing a trumpet.)
Christ the King Anglican Church hosted the service, and they hold their Sunday services at the chapel. Various people entered the chapel and took their seats. The service started and the rector gave a short reflection.
After the service, we registered at the commons located on the side of the Chapel. I was having a coffee and cinnamon roll when I met Shannon, a local nurse who is a member of Christ the King. She is working on a project to serve those with mental illness. I told her that it is a laudable task as the Church needs to address this in a holistic fashion. I explained that I was Autistic and bipolar and I take medicine that is covered by insurance, which would be too high for me to purchase at market price. We chatted at length at the misconceptions of mental illness and spirituality. She invited me to sit with her and her newlywed husband during the talks.
(Photo Description: Carol with Shannon.)
Several Anglican [arch]bishops presented their talk. I did not know how important they are until later. One is the Primate of Kenya and the current chairman of GAFCON, a large organisation of orthodox Anglicans within the Anglican Communion. Real nice guy. Another was the bishop of Egypt. He emphasized that you don’t have to be British to be Anglican. His diocese has seen huge growth. And I have met my archbishop, Dr Foley Beach. He will be GAFCON’s new chairman in April. (Intriguing since the Anglican Communion does not recognise the ACNA but considered it as a schismatic church. The establishment considered GAFCON as an offshoot faction. The orthodox faction disagrees as they are the majority of the Anglican Church. So to have the majority of the Anglican Communion handing the leadership to Archbishop Beach is to tell the establishment faction that they done goofed.)
(Photo description: Carol Rutz with Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America.)
Various presenters had their idea of what constitutes being Anglican. At the panel, I asked them how come they do not include adherence to the 39 Articles as a sign of being Anglican instead of stating allegiance to Canterbury. In other words, I suggested that the earmarks of Anglicanism should not depend on recognising Canterbury (the establishment) as the spiritual head but upon the subscription of a common confession. Being a former Lutheran, I appreciate how our subscription to the Book of Concord is a safeguard against errors of any establishment/leadership that acts contrary to Scripture.
I still categorise like a Lutheran: if someone asks me what is being Anglican, I would say, “An Anglican is someone whose congregation subscribes to the 39 Articles, uses some form of the Common Prayer Book, and recognises apostolic succession.”)
After the morning prayer service, I met Bishop Stewart Ruch from Wheaton. Funny story, a bunch of us were hugging each other and the Bishop walked in and he hugged. I was behind him when one of us hugged him and I hugged him in the back, declaring, “Apostolic Sammich!” LOL! We all went to lunch at the cafeteria and Stewart and I were chatting about Dr Beach’s sermon. I told him that if the Christian Church wants to make progress on sexuality, we should promote celibacy as a fulfilling path and not as an admission that one is incomplete. (More on that in a future blog post.) We had a great talk and he’s a swell guy.
(Photo Description: Carol Rutz with Bishop Stewart Ruch.)
After more presentations, we had another panel and then we adjourned for dinner at the Vestavia Country Club. I sat with Bishop Stewart and Dr Barbara Gaultier and her husband. They invited me to attend a conference in Wheaton Illinois next January. Fares are cheap, I will have a place to crash…I’m there. Food was good.
The next morning, I attended the morning Eucharist and visited the book shop. Bought several books on spiritual formation. Sat with Shannon and after the conference was over, she took me to the bus depot and I went home.
It was a great conference and I am looking forward to next year’s conference, it’s about the Jewish roots of Christianity. I felt happy and and unlike the Symposia, I did not suffer a mental episode. I have a feeling that I am on the right path towards a healthy relationship with Christ.
Thank you all for chatting with me and it was a pleasure to meet you. See you next year, keep in touch!