The Anglicanism vs. Polarization Conference

Oct. 20-21, 2023

Christ Church, Georgetown
3116 O St. NW, Washington, DC 20007

Only $30 ($15 for currently-enrolled students)

In an age of division and polarization, does Anglicanism offer a way forward to find unity in the midst of deep division and disagreement? From the English Reformation, the Revolution of 1688, the existence of various “streams” within Anglicanism, and even the Church of England’s “mutual flourishing,” diversity within unity has been and continues to be a hallmark of the tradition. But can this Anglican approach speak to the public square?

The Anglicanism vs. Polarization Conference brings together an international roster of scholars and church leaders to explore this very idea. Can Anglicanism as a theological, ecclesiastical, and in many cases an established presence provide a unique approach to public discourse, built on the foundations of the via media or the “middle way.” Join us for this vital conversation!


Jonathan Askonas

Assistant Professor of Politics, Catholic University of America

Bishop Patrick Augustine

The Episcopal Church of South Sudan

Abigail Woolley Cutter

Assistant Professor of Theology, King University

David Corey

Professor of Political Science, Baylor University, Waco, TX

Cherie Harder

President, The Trinity Forum, Washington, DC

Ian Markham

Dean and President, Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria,

Paul Marshall

Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom, Institute for
Studies of Religion, Baylor University, Waco, TX

Nicholas Norman-Krause

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Institute for Studies
of Religion, Baylor University, Waco, TX

Justyn Terry

Vice President and Academic Dean, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford
University, Oxford, UK

Albert Thompson

Howard University, Washington, DC

Marcus Walker

Rector, The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great,
London, UK

The Conference Schedule

Friday, Oct. 20

12:00 – Registration Open

1:00 – Greeting and Opening Prayer

Justyn Terry – Wycliffe Hall, Oxford

Title: Anglican Theology: Its Appeal to Evangelicals, and Value for Reducing Christian Polarization in the Public Square

Description: Anglicanism was born out of conflict and compromise, but it has developed into a sophisticated, gracious, and internationally appealing embodiment of the Christian faith, which draws together Catholics and Protestants, traditionalists and progressives, activists and contemplatives, conservatives and charismatics. This suggests that it holds real promise for those who wish to speak into the public square with a more coordinated voice to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3). In particular, it offers a possible way to draw in Evangelicals, especially if they are seeking the historical, spiritual, and liturgical resources of Anglicanism, as Robert Webber and others suggest many are. This presentation will focus on the theological aspects of Anglicanism to show how it has been shaped by Evangelicalism from the days of the Reformation, and remains a suitable home for those seeking to live out an Evangelical witness in the present age.

Ian Markham – Virginia Theological Seminary

Title: Truth and Toleration: An Anglican Perspective

Description: In Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s “The Coddling of the American Mind,” we find a compelling case that intolerance (i.e., the inability to allow someone to express an opinion contrary to your deeply held beliefs) is a symptom of both left and right. Through a brief excursus through John Locke and his connections with Anglicanism, the case is made that embracing fundamental disagreement is an essential characteristic of a healthy Anglicanism. Although this is difficult, this is a part of the Anglican vocation at this time.

3:00 – Break

Marcus Walker – The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great

Title: Anglicanism: The Golden Thread of English Identity

Description: This paper will examine how literary, philosophical, and cultural Anglicanism has defined the English (and, to a lesser extent, British) national identity and explore how this not only can continue as Britain becomes a more pluralist society but how the golden thread of Anglicanism is essential to developing a healthy national culture within which all can thrive – of any faith or none.

David Corey – Baylor University

Title: Beauty in Anglicanism

Description: Recent studies have shown that people are especially attracted to Anglicanism because of the beauty of its traditions, from choral evensong to the elevated language of the Book of Common Prayer. But is beauty something a church should take pride in, or is it just a distraction from the real business at hand, that of spreading the faith and saving souls? This paper argues that the human love of beauty is part of God’s overabundant provision for us and something that we all have (at least potentially) in common. It is therefore a good source for unity in our highly politicized and fractious age.

Cherie Harder – The Trinity Forum


5:30 – Evening Prayer

Saturday, October 21

9:00 – Greeting and Opening Prayer

Paul Marshall – Baylor University

Title: Red Tory and Blue Labor

Description: In the English-speaking world we tend to classify political leanings as a binary of or spectrum from left to right, reflecting the seating positions in the National
Assembly following the 1789 French Revolution. But political stances are more complex and we have Red Tories who stress tradition and continuity with a strong commitment to social reform. We also have Blue Labor whose adherents combine a strong commitment to economic equity with more conservative social views. In many cases, these stances reflect strong Christian commitments, especially Anglican ones.

Albert Thompson – Howard University

Title: The Legitimacy of Grievance Politics

Description: Today, in contemporary society, many groups and classes claim an aggrieved status based on purported historical wrongs. However, much of the current discourse of grievance inadequately addresses past wrongs as they fail to offer sufficient means for adjudicating or resolving allegations or harm. This paper argues that rediscovering Bishop Anthony Sparrow’s rationale for the Anglican view of confession and absolution can help resolve our divisive cultural and historical conflicts.

Jon Askonas – Catholic University of America

Title: The Via Media is the Message: Anglicanism as a Response to Fragmentation

Description: The Anglican Communion increasingly confronts societal polarization, threatening both to pull apart the nations in which the communion ministers and even to pull the communion itself apart. To consider the way we ought to go, I suggest we examine for lessons another moment of tremendous national and ecclesial polarization: the 17th Century, in which the Church of England first came into its own.

10:45 – Break

Bishop Patrick Augustine – Church of the South Sudan

Title: Contemporary Issues from the Worldwide Communion: Bringing the Voice of African and Asian Anglicanism into the Conversation

Description: The Anglican Communion started with the 1867 focused on – and singing – “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ Her Lord.” But over the years, the Communion has encountered issues of conflict and disagreement. Since 1998, Anglicanism has been increasingly polarized, but the common call to the Gospel remains: evangelizing, working for peace, justice, caring for the environment. Jesus can unite us, and he should be the focus of the Communion moving ahead.

12:00 – 1:00 – Lunch

Abigail A. Cutter – King University

Title: Remembering Our Place: How the Anglican Parish and Diocese Call Us Back to Home, Earth, and Neighbor 

Description: In studies of the relationship between digital communication and political polarization, a common finding is that concrete, local interests and in-person relationships now play a diminished role in people’s identities and affinity groups, replaced by national and ideological issues. The longstanding Anglican organization by parish and diocese, by contrast, trains our attention on our communities and regions. These units of church life, furthermore, are embedded in a larger tradition of English piety that emphasize the local, the quotidian, and the simple. This talk visits aspects of Anglican ecclesiology and spirituality that encourage rootedness to place; some recent initiatives that display them; and how we might re-learn the kind of attention to place that fosters a healthy political community.

Nicholas Norman-Krause – Baylor University

Title: Covenantal Pluralism and the Goods of Conflict

Description: This paper examines a tradition of Anglican political thought that conceptualizes pluralism in covenantal terms. It charts the trajectory of “covenantal pluralism” from its roots in continental Reformed thought, through its reception and reconfiguration by English pluralists in the early twentieth century, to its contemporary expression in thinkers like Rowan Williams and Luke Bretherton. These latter figures’ development of the pluralist tradition in distinctly participatory democratic terms—what Williams calls “interactive pluralism” and Bretherton terms “consociationalism”—invite consideration of how forms of conflictual engagement amidst difference can facilitate democratic flourishing, transforming polarized relationships of emnity into “agonistic” relations of reciprocity and recognition. Covenant, I argue, provides a social bond of solidarity and trust within which conflict can be productively engaged and “the goods of conflict,” as Alasdair MacIntyre calls them, can be sustained.

2:30 – Conference Concludes

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