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Hallo again to all.

Pentecost iconGlossolalia, speaking in tongues, is an act we normally associate with more 'charismatic' quarters of the church. It raised our eyebrows, then, when this past week the archbishop of Canterbury said that he spoke in tongues as part of his morning prayer routine. This is not a part of the Anglican tradition with which we are familiar. One will not find mention of it in the prayer book, nor will one often find it as part of Sunday worship in an Anglican parish.

We found our own reaction to it striking, in that we were immediately uncomfortable. Our relationship to worship runs more to the liturgical—not always needing to be thoroughly Anglo-Catholic, but with a definite emphasis on neat order of worship and on the unity of worship created by the rubrics of the prayer book. Of course, Paul does mention glossolalia among the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, so was being un-Anglican, to us, somehow the actual offense?

Paul does hasten to point out, not two chapters later:

For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their building up and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.*

This is not exactly a ringing endorsement. Clearly Paul feels that too much emphasis on speaking in tongues overshadows speaking to God's people. Still, he does not rule it out either.  He goes on to prescribe an order of worship (not itself without issues for a modern Anglicans, as he forbids women to speak) that limits speaking in tongues unless someone can interpret them.

So, in this sense, we can say that the archbishop is on good ground keeping this as part of his personal devotions and not letting it stray into public worship. Perhaps none of this is surprising given Justin Welby's attendance of Holy Trinity Brompton before his ordination and that parish's Alpha courses, which do include speaking in tongues. We are glad that Cantuar is moved by God's love such that it bubbles out so enthusiastically.

We are also glad that it is not required of us personally. Our corner of the church does not assert, as might a Pentecostal denomination, that speaking in tongues is a definitive proof of God's Spirit. Instead, we are encouraged to come to God in our own ways within the historic methods of the church as expressed in the Anglican tradition.

Perhaps, in that spirit, what the archbishop is doing is most Anglican indeed.

See you next week.

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27 January 2019
*1 Corinthians 14:2-5

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