This past Saturday, Bob Duncan, the leader of our continent-wide Anglican community (called The Anglican Church in North America [ACNA]), gave a talk answering the question, ‘What is Anglicanism?’ Specifically what has Anglicanism meant to him and what is the future for Anglicanism in North America (as far as he can see it…) Our own Christine Jones was there and wrote a great summary of his talk. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. I’d be thrilled to dialogue with you about how I am seeing the future of Anglicanism…
I went to hear Archbishop Duncan speak and I thought you might be interested in some of his main points. So many of you are leaders (and future leaders) at Restoration and as we move forward together it is encouraging to remember that we are always a part of something much larger that God is doing.
Caveat – if you were there and heard something in contradiction to what I noted (or omitted), please share. Odds are I misinterpreted something!
The archbishop spent a lot of time talking about the Anglican 1000 Movement, a vision to plant 1,000 Anglican churches in the next five years. (Hey! That’s us!) Much of what I note here is in relation to this theme. He also talked about how awesome it has been to see such growth out of a time of struggle and division. Churches who left the Episcopal Church have been losing their property and “stuff” yet gaining members and so much more. We at Restoration are just a small part of this bigger divine plan as we grow beyond the walls of TBC! (Personally, I think that’s a really important perspective to maintain.)
In order for the Anglican church to grow, we need to capture young people. Congregations are the main unit of the Anglican Church and the body doing the “capturing.” He gave examples of how he is seeing this. At one meeting in a small “unimportant” town, he learned of no less than 7 youngsters desiring to plant churches. [OK, I thought this was ironic as from my vantage point most of the audience was considerably middle aged and older!]
What is essential for Anglican church plants? They are to be accountable to 4 things: Scripture, Tradition, Holy Spirit, and Social Transformation.
- On Tradition – we submit to this as a means of interpreting scripture. God doesn’t change over time and our traditions help hold us accountable.
- On social transformation – we are not to retreat from society, but are to make a difference in our communities. We are equally accountable to this as to the other three!
Basically, we believe that Anglicanism is not the only way to be a Christian but it is reliable one. It is also a gentle one. We meet folks where they are and take them to where God wants them to be. We love people in their messiness! People need to be loved first, then drawn to REAL love in Christ. Anglicanism is a useful way to Christ, not an essential way and we know this.
What is our method? Three things: converted individuals, multiplying congregations, and adult converts. One clear measure of how we are growing is to measure adult baptisms (as opposed to gaining members from other denominations and just “shifting Christians around.”)
How are we distinctive? First, we know we are LOVED and that we’ve been transformed. With this, we have the proper motivation to reach and ask God to transform others. We also know we are called to be holy (which can be rather counter cultural these days!). We love the scriptures. We are devoted to tradition. We are in constant prayer. We are devoted to strong marriages & families. We are willing to make sacrifices for others. To sum it up – we are an “ancient-future” movement of the 21st C church that is attracting a new, rising generation of leaders.
What are the challenges? There is a lot of unhealed “stuff” including baggage from the split with the Episcopal Church. We need to be careful not to operate out of our own wounds. We need workers for this great harvest of new parishes. Finally, spiritual warfare – the enemy is not happy with this reliable, gentle church!
One great challenge, especially for those of us coming out of the 20th C church is that the game has changed! Previously we assumed we were surrounded by other christians (e.g. the nature of the “Christian Nation” and all that). Now we are in a missionary age and this can be a startling reality. This informs our methods, spending (at the denominational level), etc. Stay tuned as many of these issues get hammered out.
One topic you might be interested in – the question was raised about women’s ordination in the Anglican Church. The archbishop mentioned that Anglicanism is divided on this both domestically and abroad. We cannot have it both ways and the leadership will need to find our way through this issue. They ARE willing to work hard to figure this out – and do so by listening to God and not aiming for political solutions.