Context, Content and Identity: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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20 Responses

  1. Richard says:

    It would appear from your article that many have forgotten the words of Paul;

    “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
    ‭‭1 CORINTHIANS‬ ‭9:19-23‬ ‭NASB‬‬

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” Indeed, yet Paul remained Paul (even in the council at Jerusalem). Moreover, he did not want a Church in which it was said,” I’m of Paul”, “I’m of Cephas”, etc. The identity has to move beyond the individual which, especially in the case of Paul, I believe it did…

  3. Jean says:

    This is an issue that the LCMS. Many people, who travel for work, or go away for school, or vacation, or who visit out of town family, would like the ability to visit an out of town LCMS congregation with the expectation of a familiar and consistent worship experience (i.e., liturgy hymnody and Word and Sacrament). However, this shared identity is not highly valued by some, which results in much more due diligence being required by the would be visitor. Moreover, outsiders are confused when it comes to the question of what is LCMS faith and practice?

  4. Michael says:

    well done, Duane.
    It’s no secret to those who know me that I believe this is a critical reason why the church is in the shape it’s in today.
    When you remove the identity markers from a group, you also remove the reasons why someone would join the group.
    When people like Hunter install clergy in Anglican churches who are utterly unaware of Anglican practice…not even knowing the centrality of the Book of Common Prayer in worship…they are destroying that they think they are expanding.
    This mindset is now applied across the denominational landscape and we are seeing the fruit of it…

  5. Duane Arnold says:


    Thank you for your candor! This is a problem for all of us. Somehow we don’t value our connection with others. When I was a university chaplain (Episcopal Church) I viewed the Anglican students on campus as having been “loaned” to me by their parish church. My job was not to push my issues or my churchmanship, but rather to strengthen them in their faith and to help them retain a connection to their home parish. I realized in doing this that I was playing a “long game”, i.e. I wanted their primary connection to remain with the parish rather than the chaplaincy. I wasn’t there to “build my own kingdom” but to be of service to my wider church and to encourage the students to a life long commitment. By the way, I ended up mentoring four future priests along the way!

  6. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks! Yes, it’s brand… it’s identity. I have a dear friend deeply involved in the success of two companies – one of which is Apple. Have you ever noticed that if you walk into a Apple Store – San Francisco or Indianapolis, you know what to expect. You find a similar level of service. The helpers there KNOW what Apple is about and what they can offer. It is not shaped to the personality of the individual manager… And guess what? It works…

  7. Josh says:

    I think SBC has an identity, but it is a bad one. I’m not sure that any amount of shifting can shake the image. It is why a lot of new SBC plants try their best not to be associated with SBC in public image. It’s a strange conundrum.

  8. Josh says:

    Sorry, that last guy was me. I put in the wrong email 🙂

  9. Michael says:


    The same thing is happening in Calvary Chapel…ironically a bunch of them are going SBC because it’s a better brand…

  10. Duane Arnold says:


    I know. It’s similar to those traditional Anglicans in the Episcopal Church (yes, they do exist!). The larger denomination colors the public perception. I think the clue is to find what are the basic elements that provide identification and emphasize those elements in ministry. For SBC it might be the pulpit. For Episcopalians it is the Book of Common Prayer. Things are so far removed from the norm, it is a struggle…

  11. Josh says:

    Seeing the SBC as a better brand…WOW 🙂

    I think the SBC is best when our public face is missions. Unfortunately, most of the big dogs seem to prefer right-wing politics.

  12. Michael says:

    Duane hit on the sweet spot.
    It’s incumbent on each group to distinguish its identity markers…then protect them.

  13. Duane Arnold says:


    Protect AND promote! If you are an Anglican, you should know the BCP; know how to do liturgy; know how to do pastoral care; know your own tradition. If you are SBC, you should know how to use the pulpit; know about the challenges of missions; etc. Content and identity carry with them a body of knowledge and practice…

  14. Michael says:


    A knowledge of the ancestry as well, if you will…

  15. Steve says:

    Duane, I know your intentions are good but for me I’m not buying into any of the branding or identity other than identity in Christ. Too much branding and churches can tend to operate primarily in a small business model and potentially loose its kingdom focus instead become tribal and competative. If someone wants to have their own club, group or social club or business than start one and define it anyway you like with the brand you desire. I have no problem with that. But I’m sorry I’m having a hard time for anyone other than Jesus saying what the brand of His church should look like. I mean no disrespect, but I’m just not completely following here.

  16. Duane Arnold says:


    No problem. I understand your concern. I used the term “brand” for lack of a better term. What I guess I’m trying to communicate is that separate groups do in fact have differing identities – in practice, doctrine, modes of worship, etc. When we abandon those identities we lose something of who we are and become something with less to offer, rather than more. Certainly our identity is in Christ, but how we express that identity varies according to our history, our manner of worship and a whole range of almost indefinable “markers”. If we lose those markers, I think we lose much of who we are in Christ.

    I’ll be doing a bit more writing on this in the near future….

    BTW, always feel free to disagree.

  17. bob1 says:

    I have a question for Duane and Michael and any other lurking Anglicans’..

    I’ve heard there are 3 main branches in Anglicanism…low church, broad
    church and High Anglican.

    2 questions —

    1) does the orientation of the parish depend largely on the priest? IOW
    if the parish was High Anglican, would the next priest they called likely be a High Anglican?

    2) It’s my understanding that Anglo-Catholics aren’t the same as High Anglicans. I’m currently looking at a book about TS Eliot and his Anglo=Catholic faith and the author makes this distinction.

    Thanks in advance!

  18. Duane Arnold says:


    First question: There are parishes that have an Anglo-Catholic tradition and, as a result, tend to call priests that are in that tradition. Occasionally, you have a high Anglican priest who will introduce certain elements into a parish that will take it “higher” – such as vestments, incense, etc. Generally speaking, moderate Anglo-Catholic worship is a bit more common now.

    Second question: In Eliot’s time there was a section of the Church of England that had a very high view of doctrine, but were not in any way ritualistic. They looked to the work of the Caroline Divines – Hooker, Lancelot Andrews (a favorite of Eliot), William Laud, etc.

    Now, in all honesty, many of these lines are blurred in current Anglicanism, but individuals gravitate toward certain parts of the tradition. For instance, I’m more Anglo-Catholic in my orientation. Michael, with his Reformed and evangelical background, tends more toward the centrist Prayer Book tradition. JI Packer is almost wholly low Church Reformed. Despite the differences in theological orientation, however, we are bound together by the practice of the Daily Office and our common worship…

  19. bob1 says:

    Thanks, Duane! Very helpful indeed.

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