I knew of Robert Webber more than I knew anything about Robert Webber as a college and seminary student. He had been a professor at Wheaton (where I was a college student). And a professor at Northern Baptist Seminary (where my father did his DMin and my brother got his MDiv). I was aware of his work in the area of ‘Ancient Future Faith’.
But other than hearing about Webber, I am not sure that I actually reading anything by him until two years ago. I read his first book (the 1978 Common Roots) and was struck by how much it felt like many books I read that have been written in the 5 to 10 years.
A few weeks ago I picked up an updated version of his second book, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail when it was briefly on sale. It is a very brief book. I read it in two short sittings. The first half of the book is Webber’s own story about coming to faith and then moving toward the Episcopal Church as an adult. The last half of the book are new stories about other Evangelicals also moving toward the Episcopal/Anglican church.
The new stories pay attention to the changes in the Episcopal church in the United States since the 1980s. Part of what Webber was interested in was finding a church that had a relationship to the ancient church (but he was theologically not Roman Catholic) and a church that was consciously ‘catholic’ (lower c). However, the worldwide Anglican communion has had difficulty maintaining that catholic stance, especially over the past 10-15 years.
While I did not read the first edition, this second edition seems to be more conscious about the weaknesses not just of the modern Anglican problems, but also of all Christian communities.
One of the stories in the second half was from one of his children. I always am interested in how faith is communicated to children and how those children find adult faith.
I am not sure what the right word is to describe people that transfer from one stream of Christianity to another (I don’t really like using conversion). I think learning from different streams of Christianity is an important part of a healthy understanding of Christianity broadly understood. But I also think that as noted several times in this book, there is not a perfect steam of Christianity. All streams have weaknesses and if you are leaving your stream of Christianity in search of a perfect Christianity, you will not find it.
Webber has been an important part of helping Evangelicals find both the ancient church and a theology of what liturgy can mean in a free church setting. He is someone that is constantly cited when I read modern theology about the church and worship. This was well worth the brief read to give more of his story.
Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church by Robert Webber (updated by Lester Ruth) Purchase Links: Kindle Edition