Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Plant Churches in University Towns?

By Father Lee Nelson, SSC

I am completely convinced that if Saint Paul paid the United States a visit today, he would head straight for a university campus and plant a church among college students. Why?

American Universities: a Unique Opportunity

American universities are astounding places. Millions of students flock to them from around the world to participate in the most effective platform for learning and the exchange of ideas the world has ever seen. They are filled with hand-selected future leaders in our culture. They have large populations of students on student visas, who will return to their home countries to lead and innovate. 

Students have come to the university with learning in mind. They know that they will be taught, and formed, and leave with a significant set of tools at their disposal. They will have higher incomes, and nestle into the fabric of American life as teachers, engineers, physical therapists, nurses, doctors, and architects.

They are also searching for truth and meaning. Much as English universities sparked an Anglo-Catholic revival in the 19th century, it is time for us to bring these eternal truths to American university students in the 21st century.

The majority of these students grew up in American churches, but they didn’t become Christians. In fact, they have no idea what the Gospel really is. They believe in the distant, yet therapeutic god in the sky, who leaves them alone but will punish the truly evil. It was this god in whom they were taught to believe by their youth groups and pastors and they have become disillusioned with him.

What will it take to evangelize these students? New parishes, planted to make disicples and catechize this generation in the enduring truth and tradition of the Catholic Faith, parishes which play an active role in the intellectual and social life of the university and its students. It will take well-educated clergy, who can proclaim the Faith on the campus, modeling the Incarnation and the sacrificial outpouring of the self which we see on the Cross. And late nights on the phone, and a stomach for greasy pizza, and deep maturity, and the ability to like Paul, show forth Christ in the midst of an unbelieving, but inquiring world.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

ACNA's Emergent Planting Process

By J. West

Anglican 1000: Then and Now

When he was installed as ACNA's first primate in June 2009, Abp. Bob Duncan kicked off what was labelled “Anglican 1000” to plant 1000 new Anglican churches in North America. He appointed David Roseberry as provincial canon for church planting, who was succeeded in 2012 by Alan Hawkins. When he was installed as ACNA’s second primate in 2014, Abp. Foley Beach appointed Dan Alger as the ACNA church planting canon while retaining Hawkins as a canon for development, i.e. provincial fundraising. (Alger is leading church plants in Foley’s Anglican Diocese of the South while Hawkins is in PEAR USA that is joining ACNA).

Anglican 1000 hosted a series of conferences from 2010 onward. In fact, the podcast section of the website has audio from dating back to 2010, and more recent content from conferences in March 2013 and May 2014.

While the Anglican 1000 blog and podcasts have not been recently updated, Canon Alger is still leading ACNA church planting efforts. Both Canon Alger and Hawkins have been on the road for church planting training for several years, including a September 21, 2013 joint presentation to the Anglican Diocese of New England in Amesbury, Mass. (captured in an 82-minute YouTube video).

Their most recent visit was to the Diocese of Western Anglicans Sept 25-28, delivering two church planting workshops in Southern California and then Arizona. About 30 of us attended the first two-day session at Bethel Seminary in San Diego, which emphasized what dioceses, deaneries and sponsoring parishes can do to support church plants and church planters.

Anglican Church Planting Resources

There are many resources for church planting on Amazon, websites, paid consultants and elsewhere. Most of these resources are for launching evangelical non-denominational churches — hence the interest of FiFNA in providing materials for Anglo-Catholic church planters.

The ACNA has also noticed this gap. Attendees at the DWA workshops received a 44-page training manual, entitled Building a Church Planting Diocese.

The last six pages were a 3,000-word excerpt of Alger’s January op-ed from the ACNA website, entitled “Sacramental Church Planting.” After an ACNA process that has often seemed very AMiA (if not non-denom) influenced, he wrote:
As an Anglican church planter, and because the sacraments and church planting are two of my greatest passions in life, I am excited both about the liturgical church regaining its missional side and many mission-filled churches coming home to their roots. My giddiness is tempered, however, by the great variance in the quality of this meeting of mission and sacrament; it is sometimes a beautiful, life-giving symbiosis and sometimes, as previously described, a gory, carnage-filled train wreck.
In my opinion, this recognition (by ACNA’s church-planting spokesman) that some Anglican church planting is not all that Anglican is already a relief if not encouragement for Anglo-Catholic minded members of the ACNA.

A Seven-step Process Model

To anchor their workshop on supporting church planters, the canons presented a model of a support process. It has seven steps:
  1. Strategic Oversight: the deanery/diocesan oversight of planters needs to balance too much vs. not enough structure, to encourage initiative while restraining chaos.
  2. Leadership Pipeline: training church leaders builds on a foundation created earlier in life, so we must begin our pipeline training in nursery, Sunday School and youth group. Catechesis is needed for any potential leader.
  3. Assessment: not every one is suited to church planting, so we can dramatically improve the odds of success by using proven (decades-old) research to assess potential planters before they go into the field.
  4. Training: training of a week or more (for both clergy and lay planters) dramatically improves the odds of success. Clergy need to understand Anglican distinctives while at the same time evangelizing and making church accessible.
  5. Coaching: church planters need a range of spiritual advisors — including mentors and a paid coach — to help them deal with unexpected challenges and be accountable for following through; there is a shortage of experienced coaches.
  6. Funding: building a new community is harder, longer and more expensive than you think. Church planters should be developing financial support a year in advance. There are major challenges in years 3-7 as the initial excitement fades. How much support for how long will diocese, deanery or sponsoring church provide?
  7. Ongoing Support: church planters need ongoing support, including relational support, mentoring, advice from church planting peers, continuing educational, and support structures for their spouses.
Below is my diagram attempting to illustrate this process.

The remainder of the workshop was organized as a series of 7 lectures followed by breakout group discussions of assigned questions for each step.


The needs of assessment differ whether the planter who is one who is familiar with the local context, part of a team of planters, or a “parachute planter” who builds a network from scratch. Still, there are common requirements for assessment:
  • Assessment instrument: a personality test evaluate the strengths and weaknesses as potential planter; only about 30% are ready to “solo” as a church planter.
  • Holistic assessment: In addition to the paper test, the local evaluation includes observing existing behavior and interviews.
  • Relational: assess existing relationships, including the (essential) spousal support
The canons showed a draft of the (50+ page) ACNA Church Planter Assessment Manual, which is scheduled to be released in early 2016.

Guiding and Mentoring the Planter

Canon Hawkins presented his own typology of 7 types of advisors for spiritual formation:
  1. Counselor: probing emotional and behavioral patterns
  2. Mentor: imparting wisdom
  3. Confessor: tells us the truth
  4. Pastor: disciples us, practices “soul care”
  5. Spiritual director: helps us recognize the grace of God in our midst.
  6. Spiritual companions: friendships with peers who spur us on.
  7. Coach: holds us accountable to our plans and promises, specifically for church planters; often combined with a mentor.
In our breakout group, each of us were asked to identify which roles we had covered and which ones were vacant — illustrating the gaps in our own support and guidance.

Going Forward

Over the next few months, “Always Forward” (née Anglican 1000) will be releasing its new website and its assessment manual. While there is a goal of developing a full church planting manual, it seems like that is several years off (2018? 2019?).

Meanwhile, the training suggested three key questions for our deanery church planting committee:
  1. Until the ACNA materials are available, what resources do we use? Popular (nondenom) church planting books — and if so, which ones? Or do we (temporarily) develop our own custom materials? 
  2. For coaching and training church planters, do we use experts like Titus Institute, CMM and Lifeway, which have proven expertise (but are expensive). Or do we develop our own capabilities — if so, how?
  3. The deanery has limited funds to support new church plants. Should we spend it on improving the odds (assessment, training, coaching), or on directly supporting the planter/mission? Or is planting attractive enough to attract new or expanded donors?
The latest ACNA efforts bring us closer to understanding the process, but planting a new church still requires a lot of patience, persistence — and prayer.