Saturday, February 13, 2016

Conclusion of first Task Force meeting

The Task Force this afternoon concluded its first-ever meeting, held in the Ft. Worth offices of Christ the Redeemer (the ACNA parish headed by TF chair Fr. Chris Culpepper). We had six (of the nine) task force members present (one virtually), as well as three visitors.

Left to right: Fr. Bill Wilson, Bp. Win Mott, Fr. Michael Brooks,
Cn. Dan Alger, Fr. Lee Nelson, Fr. Chris Culpepper.
Not shown: Bp. Keith Ackerman, Mr. J. West
Anchored in the context of today’s America, the two-day meeting focused on the intersection of vibrant Anglo-Catholic churchmanship with best practice in Anglican (or other Christian) church planting.

Our special guest was Cn. Dan Alger, who is the church planting canon for both the Anglican Diocese of the South and the ACNA. He discussed their new website (Always Forward) and new framework for church planting. From the AF website:
Canon Dan Alger
A healthy church planting network has four primary components for the support of church planting:
  • Conviction. … A church planting diocese holds the conviction that church planting is a normative function of the diocese and pursues it with intentionality and passion.
  • Culture. A diocese with a church planting culture values healthy risk and celebrates the work of entrepreneurial ministry; it celebrates its church planters and naturally raises up new planters from its ranks. …
  • Collaboration. A church planting network does not see the work of planting as solely an individual endeavor, but rather the shared work of the diocese. …
  • Constructs: … Always Forward will help to educate on the importance of the proper core systems … We define these core constructs as: A Leadership Pipeline, Planter Assessment, Planter Training, Coaching, Ongoing Support, Funding, Mission Oversight
We look forward to sharing the AF resources with our church planters, and also helping the AF explain Anglo-Catholic church planting to the broader ACNA audience.

On the second day, we focused on planning our session for Forward in Faith’s 2016 National Assembly in July. As with AF, we see our goal as both helping individual church planters, and also helping sponsoring diocese and parishes build infrastructure (and culture) that empowers these planters.
Bp. Stephen Scarlett from his California study

Friday, February 12, 2016

Committing to Spreading the Faith

By Father Christopher Culpepper

Surely, the veil between heaven and earth is most transparent as the Divine Liturgy unfolds, calling us to praise through song, to transformation by the Word rightly preached, and to Communion with the Most High God when the Sacrament is duly administered. These essential elements of Christian worship, combined with the accompanying rituals make worship in the catholic Tradition a truly transcendent experience for the faithful.

Is not our charge, then, to make this experience available to everyone, everywhere, at all times? Yet, my experience of catholic-minded clergy in the Anglican tradition of my generation is that there is a strong gravitational pull exercise their priestly ministry where all of the accouterments in worship, and otherwise, already exist. And, while it is true that not everyone is called to church-planting, I cannot seem to find hardly anyone who feels the call. Otherwise, on the rare occasion when I do find that individual who has contemplated church-planting, he lacks the confidence, support, and/or skill set necessary to achieve the task.

It seems, therefore, that we who call ourselves Anglo-Catholics, have some critical concerns to address. Can we clearly articulate who we are? Can we do that in a way that reaches this present generation? With what seriousness are our bishops considering church-planting? In what ways are they resourcing for the same? Are our parish priests and congregations considering planting? Are we identifying church-planters, and have we considered the training they will require? Are we willing to make the financial commitment necessary for the task? Are we willing to make the sacrifices necessary for a start-up enterprise; that is, breaking out of our own comfort zone and even wandering in the desert for a season, doing without some of the things we’re used to having in worship, to win the right for future generations to experience the beauty of holiness in worship?

This, then, is the purpose of the Task Force initiative of Forward in Faith, North America. In the wake of the fallout from TEC’s continued apostasy, and through the emergence of ACNA, and with the hope of drawing back together faithful groups of Anglicans, who have been separated for a season, now is the time for us to consider who we are and what we will do. For, as I have said in various venues, either we believe in what we are doing and should get on about the task of advancing it to the ends of the earth, or we should roll up the tents, and go do something else. I, for one, am committed to the proposition that catholic Christianity in the Anglican Tradition has a vibrant future, provided we put our hand to the plow.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Not your grandparents’ Episcopal Church

By J. West

Today US Anglicans — like other Christians in the Global North — must confront the fact that the Church of 50 (or even 30) years ago is not the church we will see in the 21st century.

Fifty Years Ago: The Establishment Church

It is said that the Church of England is the “Tory Party at prayer.” In the US, Episcopalians had a disproportionate share of leading politicians, including 12 of 41 presidents, four of the first five, and 7 of 22 in the 19th century. (Of this year's 16 GOP presidential candidates, one is an inactive Episcopalian while another is an active ANCA member.)

Almost 50 years ago, my future wife and I went together to confirmation class at one of the largest Episcopal churches in our metropolitan region, with multiple priests and a cathedral-style music program. Her dad and my mom were both raised in the Episcopal Church.

Back then the question was not whether you went to church, but which church you attended. The Episcopal Church where rich and successful people went to be seen: at our affluent, high church parish, we had at least two judges, as well as doctors, lawyers and business leaders. The church provided a culturally enriching way to fulfill one’s weekly obligation for the Sunday-morning Episcopalian (the Protestant equivalent to the GetReligion “Sunday-morning Catholic.”)

Twenty-Five Years Ago: Restoring the Lapsed

When I came back to church 25 years ago, our local Anglo-Catholic parish included cradle Episcopalians, lapsed Episcopalians and married couples that sought an acceptable compromise (typically between Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism). We had a picturesque location for weddings and strong children’s ministries, so we attracted many new parishioners who found their way back to the Church for marriage, baptism or Sunday School.

The church sought our “time, treasure and talents,” but most of the volunteer efforts were inwardly focused. Our outreach consisted of putting on good programs and waiting the arrival of more people (just like us) who loved what we were doing and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

Today: Inculcating Belief in the Unbeliever

Times have changed. The churches we are planting and growing today are not our grandparents’ Episcopal Church, or even those of two decades ago.

Today, we can’t take for granted that our prospective members:
  • Know the BCP or other aspects of Anglican liturgy;
  • Understand how the historic Anglo-Catholic faith is different from other forms of Christianity;
  • Are properly grounded in any aspect of the Christian faith —such as the Bible or the sacraments — or can communicate that faith to their kids;
  • Have any particular loyalty to our parish or denomination.
With the decline of cultural Christianity, limiting ourselves to those raised in the Church would mean we’d be fighting for a small fraction of an exponentially declining pool of members.

Instead, it seems as though that seriously missional churches must inspire their members to
  • Demonstrate their Christian faith not just on Sunday, but throughout the week;
  • Accept the responsibility for lifelong learning to continually grow in their faith;
  • Be willing to talk about that faith to non-Christians, whether in an organized (outreach, evangelism) or an informal (work, community) setting.
In short, the 21st century church must do more than just provide weekly liturgy and fellowship: these are necessary but not sufficient. Our local Anglican churches need to raise up non-believers, catechize them into the faith, and then form them to lead, evangelize and educate the next generation of Christians.

But to do this, we first have to get them in the door. How do we break through the cacophony of voices in our media-drenched culture to convince the lost that they need the Good Shepherd? And if we do, how do we convince them that a Reformed yet Catholic faith — with beliefs and practices rooted in the historic undivided church — is the path they should take to find Him?