Why an Anglican priest now lives the Word of Wisdom and feels it a privilege to pay tithing

Brent G. Scharffs, director of International Center for Law and Religion Studios at BYU, moderates a conversation between the Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal, a chaplain, fellow, and lecturer in theology at Pembroke College, Oxford University, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during a BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies’ 2021 International Advisory Council reception and dinner on November 11, 2021.
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There is no denying the unique nature of Reverend Andrew Teal’s love and admiration for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Anglican priest gave an astounding Brigham Young University address in 2021, has attended general conference, and is currently working in collaboration with BYU to create a center for faith and reconciliation at Oxford. But just how deep is the priest’s love for the Church? Well, for starters, on a recent Faith Matters podcast episode, Teal spoke of attending church each Sunday, the privilege of paying tithing, and his “covenant” to live the Word of Wisdom.

Teal explained that he initially came in contact with the Church when Elder Matthew S. Holland, then president of Utah Valley University, was on sabbatical at Oxford when he knocked on Teal’s door one day. Thus began a friendship that has led to his meeting and becoming friends with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

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“At one point he said, I’d really like you to meet my dad because I’m sure you’d get on. And I had no idea who his dad was and I thought, ‘Actually I have grown to appreciate the humanity of this guy Matt so much,’ I imagined, ‘Well I wonder if his dad is a little bit reserved about him being a practicing Latter-day Saint or needs some sort of encouragement to know that his son is not only doing well in terms of his profession and his personality but also his spirituality.’ So I sort of imagined I was going to be a sort of defender or promoter of the integrity that Matt had.”

He soon learned the scenario he imagined was not the case but he also discovered a beautiful friendship with the elder Elder Holland and subsequently a great love for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I hope it’s not disloyal to my own faith community, being a priest in good standing in the Church of England to acknowledge that, in fact, of all the relationships with churches and with people that have made my love for Jesus Christ grow and deepen, I can’t think of any that have to do so more significantly than the connections on many levels with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Teal said.

Teal explained that almost every Sunday he attends his own services at the Church of England and then goes to his local Latter-day Saint ward for the last hour and a half of services. He also speaks of planning to attend a baptism for a nun from his local convent who is being baptized a Latter-day Saint in an effort to show his support.

And while some may doubt his motives, or as Teal puts it, “one or two people feel like I’m part of an Anglican plot to sort of bring you in and sort of smuggle you back into the Anglican church.” He insists, “I wouldn’t dream that for a moment because let’s be honest, the Anglican church or any church, we’re not that organized. We’re not that sort of capable of doing it but actually an adventure into love is what I’m for.”

And while he doesn’t consider baptism as a Latter-day Saint an option in his life, he does feel that he made a covenant to live the Word of Wisdom by choosing to live by the BYU honor code.

► You may also like: Here are the 7 Latter-day Saint scriptures an Anglican priest referenced at BYU

“I thought, ‘I want to keep these promises because they actually signify something,’” Teal said, explaining that while he was never one to drink a lot of alcohol, he doesn’t want to send a message to someone who struggles with self-control that these things are okay. “Alcohol was never my sin of choice particularly anyway and I don’t smoke so they were cheap and cheerful. I did like coffee but here we are. That’s gone.”

And perhaps the most surprising revelation of the interview is Teal’s thoughts on the privilege it is to be able to pay tithing despite not being a member of the Church.

“This sounds very much like propaganda as if I’ve been paid to say this by the Twelve but to be able to tithe, to be able for me as a non-member of the Church to say, ‘I want to contribute to the mission and ministry of the Church in the world because I trust this community. I trust it to be able to act on my behalf, to give back to God, and to gift to His children what they need in terms of temples, in terms of missionaries, in terms of education, whatever. I think that’s a tremendous honor to be allowed to be part of that,’” Teal said.

His most recent collaboration with the Church is seeking to establish a center for faith and reconciliation at Oxford in conjunction with BYU. The hope is that students of many faiths will be able to seriously examine theological questions boldly for the service of the world.

“I know that sounds like Messianic expectations, I know it’s going to be a long and difficult journey,” Teal said, before later adding, “But I really feel that it’s what I’m for. That sounds so self-indulgent and self-exalted but I can’t see there being anything else that’s more important for this little life to try to address and make real.”

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