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Reformed meets Anglican: Matt Tuininga Interviews David Alenskis

20 September, 2007

matt tuninganigel priest For this interview, I spoke with David (a.k.a. Nigel) Alenskis. David is a bit of an anomaly at Westminster Seminary California, being our lone representative of the Anglican Church. He is a second-year student, and spent this summer working with the Anglican churches in Peru.

Matt: David, Let’s start with an easy straight forward question. Who are you and where do you come from?

David: I come from a godly family of four and mostly grew up in Indiana. I attended Cedarville University in Ohio and graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a B.A. in Philosophy in 2005.

Matt: Engineering and Philosophy? Those don’t seem to have much in common. Why did you go that route, and why Cedarville?

David: I began studying Engineering due to some early interest I had in mathematics and physics. Cedarville has an amazing engineering program, is a Christian university, and my parents and I thought that I would receive a rigorous education and good environment from the institution. I quickly realized, however, that I was keener on philosophy than engineering, and about halfway into my time at Cedarville also began to feel a call towards pastoral ministry.

Matt: That’s interesting. What form did that sense of a calling take in your life? How was it related to your interest in philosophy?

David: I had always enjoyed studying theology (it really goes hand-in-hand with philosophy), but it was at that time that I had a clarified sense, not only of studying and lecturing in an academic environment, but of teaching, preaching, and shepherding the people of God, and eventually of administering to them the sacraments.

Matt: What was your denominational affiliation and how would you describe your Christian views at that point?

David: I grew up in the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) for the most part, although in college I began to attend a Reformed Baptist church. I was introduced to a convincing case for belief in the doctrines of grace through classes in philosophy, theology, history, and the humanities.

Matt: What did you find most compelling about the doctrines of grace?
David: They compelled themselves to me because 1) they were clearly biblical, 2) they promoted a view of God who was truly sovereign and in control of his creation, 3) they promoted the only view of humankind which could produce true humility, and 4) they showed the magnificence of the redemption wrought by God in Christ.

Matt: So how and why did you end up in the Anglican Church?

David: By the marvelous grace of God.

Matt: Hah, hah. Well there’s certainly no rational explanation. But really, how did it happen? Most of our readers will wonder why someone who just discovered the doctrines of grace would end up in an Anglican Church.

David: It was a combination of many things. My attendance at an Anglican funeral piqued my interest in the Book of Common Prayer (1928) and the 39 Articles of Religion, and as I read it, I found that, as someone who held to the kind of theology expressed in the doctrines of grace, I could not think of a better liturgy to express this belief, and I had only some problems with infant baptism and a few other issues at odds with the Reformed Baptist theology that I held to at the time.
However, I loved the liturgy and the theology expressed by the liturgy, and I was shortly afterward introduced to a parish in the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC). Through their godly instruction and edification, I eventually came around on the few sticky points about which I was initially perplexed.

Matt: That’s quite something. Many Reformed people don’t realize how consistent the old Anglican theology and tradition are with the doctrines of the Reformation. What are your thoughts on the current state of Anglicanism?

David: Anglicanism, like many other denominations coming out of the Magisterial Reformation, has had something of a memory lapse when it comes to its roots. While Anglicanism had always been a target for Socinianism, Arminianism, and a host of other heresies and sundry errors, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many sectors of Anglicanism finally capitulated to beliefs which directly contradicted the Church’s formularies (The Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, and the Articles of Religion). They also diverged wildly from the theological and devotional paths initially plowed in the years after the Reformation by Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Bucer, Vermigli, Jewel, Davenant, Hooker, Hall, Ussher, Donne, Andrewes, and countless others in the centuries after them.
Recent moves taken by faithful Anglicans to reinstate the classic Anglican formularies and to pursue biblical doctrine and order is a turn in a positive direction, but we have a long way to go. Still, I put my trust in Christ who is the Head of his Church, including its Anglican branch, that he will in his time repair and restore our sometime wounded and fractured denomination by his Spirit.

Matt: Amen to that. Praise God that there are still many conscientious Anglicans working to that very end, such as yourself. But how did you hear about Westminster Seminary, and what made you decide to come here?

David: I heard about WSC from a former pastor who highly recommended it. When I visited I was prepared not to like it, but the rigorous academics, commitment to Christ-centered theology and preaching, lack of specific denominational affiliation (although certainly Reformed), and very practical focus made an impression on me and I ended up applying to come to Westminster.

Matt: How would you describe your experience as an Anglican on a Presbyterian/Reformed campus?

David: Well, frankly, it has been good but difficult. As an Anglican, I believe that I share a great deal about many of the finer points of theology and divinity with the Reformed and Presbyterian traditions, and it has been wonderful to dive into the nitty-gritty of these areas. At the same time, some of the points at which we differ can make life difficult at times, not so much externally (all my colleagues have been most polite) as internally, as I am constantly confronted with the honest opinions of my very godly and intelligent professors and fellow students and am forced to reevaluate my own position. But, as you can imagine, this has been very helpful as well.

Matt: What do you think your Presbyterian, Baptist, and Reformed brothers can learn from Anglicanism?

David: I think that my Presbyterian, Reformed, and Baptist brothers can perhaps learn a few things from Anglicanism:
First, Anglicanism has an appreciation for allowing worship to be beautiful, emotive, and rich.
Second, Anglicanism recognizes the centrality of the Sacraments as well as Preaching in the Christian life.
Third, Anglicanism recognizes the importance of a time-tested and doctrinally sound liturgy for both corporate worship as well as the regulation of the Church’s practical theology and thereby systematic theology.
Fourth, Anglicanism holds in tension a desire for doctrinal purity while at the same time emphasizing the need for tolerance on some peripheral issues for the sake of unity in Christ’s body.
And fifth,
Anglicanism recognizes that a godly episcopate is a historically valid and most biblical manner of governing Christ’s Church.

That is not to say that all of these are lacking in all Presbyterian, Reformed, or Baptist churches, simply that they are part of the Ethos of the Anglican church which has at times been neglected in these other traditions.

nigel peru boat Matt: What are your future ministry plans?

David: I believe that our Lord is calling me to minister in the Anglican Communion as a presbyter for a congregation, either here in the United States or, what would be more my desire, in the Diocese of Peru or some other country in South America.

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4 Comments
  1. 22 September, 2007 2:54 pm

    It continues to amaze me that nowadays it’s so hard to know what you’re gonna get in the Church, and where you’re gonna get it. It seems more and more like there are as many really solid churches in stereotypically weak denominations, as there are weak churches in stereotypically solid denominations. It reminds me again of the pilgrim nature of the Church during this present age–and that Christ will continue to build up his Church and one day reveal us to be the spotless bride we are because of his righteousness, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican (or Arminian!). Good interview guys.

  2. 22 September, 2007 9:31 pm

    Very very informative, thanks

  3. 29 September, 2007 11:05 am

    Thanks so much for this article. I began studying the Articles and the BCP a few months ago, and find myself astounded by the beauty of Anglican Liturgy and the rich orthodoxy found in the 39 Articles. Thanks for the interview. I’m a student at a Baptist college who is actually planning on attending Westminster West when I graduate college. A great encouragement indeed.

  4. creedorchaos permalink*
    29 September, 2007 8:55 pm

    Hi, Jordan. Thanks for your reply. You won’t go wrong at WSC. For sure the brightest time of my life. Hope you like soccer.
    I also am eager to check out one (or two) of Nigel’s church’s worship services.
    (chaos)

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