Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Adapting Church Planting to Anglo-Catholicism

By J. West

For much of the past 2000 years, the main way the church grew was to plant new churches in previously non-Christian areas. For example, every California 4th grader learns that St. Junipero Serra in 1769 started the process of planting 21 missions up the California coast. Most kids are asked by their schools and parents to visit some or (in our case) all of those missions.

Two hundred years later, the issue is creating missions to currently (or nominally) Christian territories. Beginning in the 1970s, a few Christian pastors in this country took the evangelical (small “e”) command seriously, and began to launch new churches within North America. This is the process that became known as “church planting,” and a considerable amount has since been written about the process.

Evangelical Protestant Church Planting Resources

In terms of both activity and writing, most of the activity of the past 30 years has been by the Evangelical branches of Protestantism. The most active denominations seem to be Baptist, other Reformed, and non-denominational churches.

One of the first books on church planting was the Church Planting Workbook, the first of many books co-authored by Bob Logan. It was then cited by Charles Ridley, the Fuller Seminary psychology professor who in 1988 published How to Select Church Planters. Ridley provided the first research-based system of what we now call “assessment” of potential church planters, including a recommended questionnaire and interview process for assessing candidates

In the succeeding decades, dozens of books, consultancies and training seminars have been offered to help improve the success rate of church planters. As with the earliest efforts, these bring the belief that training (and to some degree the 20th century principles of Taylorist scientific management) improve the success rate of church planters as it would for any other vocation. Among the most prolific authors have been Logan and Ed Stetzer, who writes about church planting for Christianity Today.

In 2009, Stetzer published a 17-page bibliography of church planting books on Christianity Today; Google offers more than a dozen other such bibliographies. Browsing Amazon for popular books published since 2009, the most interesting was Stetzer & Im (2016), the second edition of Stetzer’s earlier Planting Missional Churches.

Books are an essential and inexpensive resource for learning concepts and principles; however, humans learn by doing, and each planting context (unlike arithmetic problems or chemistry experiments) is different. Thus novice church planters — must like novice priests and other apprentices — need to be trained, mentored and coached by those who have done it before. At the same time, there is a heavy overlap between the experts who train, mentor, coach and write books for church planters.

The head of the FiFNA task force, Fr. Chris Culpepper (who launched two church plants in Texas) benefitted from training by Jim Griffith, author of Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by Church New Starts (which I would recommend as an excellent starting point for any church planter.) Griffith has planted five of his own churches, trained Methodist and AMiA planters, and ran a planting workshop for the ACNA-affiliated Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth. Griffith offers a series of workshops at his Dallas HQ and other locations (largely across the Southwest).

Another name is Logan, who Stetzer describes as follows
Few realize that before his keen insights and organizational acumen, church planters did not go through assessment, boot camps, and coaching networks. Why did Bob do these things? Because he cares about church planting and church planters. … Bob Logan is the most significant church planting leader in the last 50 years and every church planter needs to be aware of his writings and his toolkit.
Settler in particular recommends the Church Planter’s Toolkit as “the most widely known resource in North American church planting today.”

My former rector (now leading church planting for C4SO in Northern California) benefitted from monthly coaching by Logan. With his introduction, I was fortunate to meet the (LA-based) Logan last year, and was struck by the unusual mix of deep wisdom and utter humility that he brings to church planting.

Adapting for the Anglo-Catholic Context

Whether for church planting, liturgy, preaching or teaching, every Anglo-Catholic priest has had to adapt other Protestant resources to fit the Anglo-Catholic perspective on the Christian faith. The reasons for these changes include

  • Liturgical worship (for Anglo-Catholics above all others) constrains certain choices of worship, style or infrastructure.
  • Biblical. Unlike Mainline Protestants — and like many but not all Evangelical church plants — Biblical authenticity fidelity limits the cultural adaptation of the historic faith
  • Catholic. Our interpretation of the Bible and the transmitted faith is shaped by the traditions of the undivided church from the first millennium.

One key difference for Anglo-Catholic (if not all Anglican) church planters is that there is a limit as to how much the medium drives the message.  While any church can benefit from modern marketing techniques (have a good website, think about how newcomers comprehend your service), I believe that leaders of young Anglo-Catholic parishes must remember that such technique must be subordinate to belief.

Not evangelical church planting examples of “success” are good role models. In his 2006 book, Stetzer admitted that his initial efforts were not really about Christianity:
When I planted Calvary Christian Church at the age of twenty-one, I must confess that the church was more about me than it was missional and spiritual. When I planted Millcreek Community Church and its daughter churches, we were more attractional than incarnational and not particularly theological or ecclesiological. (Planting Missional Churches, p. 4)
One can assume that there are other church planters who share this problem, but are less candid (or self-aware). For any church planter, there is the risk of focusing strictly on organizational success measures (like attendance and income).

Leveraging Anglican Church Planting Resources

Over the last few years, American Anglicans have been developing church planting resources. Anglican 1000 became Always Forward, and now each ACNA diocese is designating a canon for church planting.

The ACNA is also working with Titus Institute for Church Planting to provide consulting and training to Anglican parishes. Meanwhile, the ACNA bishop for Southern California (Bp. Keith Andrews of Diocese of Western Anglicans) has also recommended a CoE book — Mission-Shaped Church — which emphasizes the importance of domestic missionary activity.

However, there are two limitations of these materials. First, although Always Forward promises that it will “help plant gospel-centered, sacramental, missional churches throughout North America,” its view of such churches appears to be entirely Evangelical in its orientation. For example, its nine leaders all represent the Evangelical (or Charismatic) perspective within Anglicanism. For example, a recent blog post on diagnosing church health asks “How will you maintain passionate liturgical worship?”

Second, most of the church planting in the ACNA since its creation in 2006 has been re-planting disaffected Episcopalians into non-TEC pots. While this has been important for the success of the ACNA — and provided essential spiritual homes for Christians who could no longer abide the theological drift of the TEC — such replanting did not produce a net increase in the Body of Christ.

Within the ACNA, Anglo-Catholic church planting is largely confined to those Anglo-Catholic dioceses: the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Missionary Diocese of All Saints, and the dioceses of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, after decades of post-ECUSA maintenance mode, the Continuing Anglican churches are independently developing their own church planting approaches.

Going Forward

Supplementing what is missing from existing Protestant and Anglican resources has been a major goal of this task force.

To some degree, the books and manuals can be adapted by Anglo-Catholics, just as early Anglicans adapted materials by Baptists and Methodists. However, what we feel is missing is providing advice from an Anglo-Catholic perspective, in the form of mentoring and coaching.

The task force has identified potential resources for such advising, and looks forward to working with Anglo-Catholic church planters at any stage in their planting process.

References

Archbishop’s Council on Mission and Public Affairs. Mission-Shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions in a Changing Context. 2nd ed., Church House Publishing, 2009.

Griffith, James. The 10 Most Common Mistakes Made by Church New Starts. Chalice Press, 2008.

Logan, Robert E. and Jeff Rast. Church Planting Workbook. Fuller Institute for Evangelism and Church Growth (1985).

Logan, Robert E. and Steven L. Ogne. Church Planter's Toolkit. Pasadena, CA: ChurchSmart Resources, 1995.

Ridley, Charles R. How to Select Church Planters: A Self-Study Manual for Recruiting, Screening, Interviewing and Evaluating Qualified Church Planters, Fuller Seminary, 1988.

Stetzer, Ed. Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply. B&H Publishing Group, 2006.

Stetzer, Ed and Daniel Im. Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply. 2nd ed., B&H Publishing Group, 2016.

See also Ed Stetzer’s (Christianity Today) 2009 bibliography of church planting books.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Church planting at July's FIFNA Assembly

A MESSAGE TO ALL CHURCH PLANTERS, SENDERS, AND SUPPORTERS:


Dear FIFNA members and friends,

As you are aware, the FIFNA Assembly in July will include a special presentation by Fr. Chris Culpepper on church planting in the catholic tradition for the 21st Century. Fr. Culpepper is the chairman of the FIFNA church planting task force. Accordingly, this is a great opportunity to send planters and potential planters to the Assembly, to make connections, to begin to learn about available resources for church planting, and to talk about coaching resources. Thank you for your consideration. If you would like to contact Fr. Culpepper directly, you may reach him at frculpepper@ctrfw.org.
The Rev. Christopher Culpepper
817-386-3000
Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church
6116 Southwest Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76109

To register for the assembly, click here. Prices increase June 20.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On Planting an Anglo-Catholic Parish

By Father Chris Culpepper

Of late, I have been asked by at least three different people, all of whom are friends and colleagues, who run in different circles, to write an article addressing why I am planting an anglo-catholic parish. To this point, I have resisted answering the call(s) because of my own internal perception of how this article will be received: arrogant by some, and deficient by others. So, perhaps ironically, this is why I have now put the proverbial pen to paper and make this offering with all humility.

But, before I go any further, it seems appropriate to offer a little of my background and experience. I grew up at St. Andrew’s parish in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Most are aware of Fort Worth by reputation as an anglo-catholic diocese, and those who are familiar with the inner-workings of the diocese know that St. Andrew’s is the 1928 Prayer Book, 39 Articles, Morning Prayer, Evangelical, “low-church” congregation, though I have grown a certain distaste for that last phrase, given that (at least among Evangelical parishes) St. Andrew’s has anything but a low view of the Church.

And, not only did I grow up at St. Andrew’s, but I also served on staff there for five years as its youth minister, learning to appreciate and respect the Anglican Communion as a whole, naturally with a bent toward Cranmer, Jewel, Luther, and Calvin, given the ethos of the parish, even though the latter two were not Anglicans. It was during my time on staff that my interest piqued in church-planting. With my first career being in retail leasing and development, planting seemed a natural fit for my skill set, so I regularly found myself attending church-planting workshops, when and where available.

However, from there I went to Nashotah House where, as I had hoped I would, given the trajectory I was already on toward the early Church I “grew through” the Reformation, soaking in the rest of the Church’s history, as it were. There, I drank from the waters of Aquinas and Augustine, understood Hooker in a new light, and gained a deeper and abiding appreciation for the Oxford Movement. What is more, I also developed an appreciation for the Conciliar Church, and in particular, the Undivided Church of the first 1,000 years including, of course, the Ecumenical Councils. It was through this journey that I found the deepest place of theological integrity one can find – the belief and practice of the Undivided Church, which is commonly called catholic Christianity. This occurred from the years 2002 – 2005. Upon graduating, I was priested on Holy Cross Day of 2005.

Fast forward from there to 2008, when the unfortunate, if logical, result of TEC abandoning the catholic faith and practice, precipitated in large part by the centuries-long, still on-going internal and un-reconciled divide between anglo-catholics and evangelicals, ironically yielded a kairos moment, at least for me. What to do? Rome, which remains in theological error due to its magisterium acting in an un-catholic manner concerning the establishment of its doctrine, was and is not an option. Orthodoxy, of course, is an option. Protestantism cannot be an option. Curiously, I found that I could maintain orthodoxy – and catholicity - within the Anglican Communion, quite frankly, because no one has yet to tell me I can’t, which remains an ironic impetus for planting within the Anglican Communion.

So, for the last 8 years of my life, I have been invested in planting anglo-catholic parishes. First, and still, I am planting Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church in Fort Worth, where I serve as rector. Along the way, I was given the delightful task of also planting Christ Church, Waco, where I spent the first five years as its vicar, before yielding the congregation into the capable hands of Fr. Lee Nelson, who currently serves as its vicar.

Therefore, I suppose, on to the why: why am I doing this? Specifically, why am I planting anglo-catholic parishes? Given what I have said, I suppose the short answer is that to do otherwise would be unfaithful. But, unfaithful to what, is the critical question: to my own opinion of myself, to my bishop, or to the Faith? The answer must ultimately be to the Faith.

It plagues me, and I think that is a good word for it, that we speak of anglo-catholicism as though it is a “stream” or a “strand” of theology. This implies that catholicity is deficient, or somehow incomplete, which it cannot be by definition. And, it implies that there are other equally valid streams of theology that, though they contain irreconcilable differences and even deficiencies, we are free to pick and choose from among them. Catholicity, as we know, means of the whole. Or, said another way that I have come to enjoy – here comes everyone! And, that is what I want my planting exercise to be, participating in what has been believed at all times, in all places, by all, to paraphrase Vincent. Even Abraham Lincoln understood our Lord’s words which tell us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. It is catholic Christianity that gives the Evangelical life its full conversional force. And, it is catholic Christianity that makes the fullness of the gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit expressed, while also keeping it grounded in the fullness of Truth. Those who understand anglo-catholicism as “smells and bells” have simply missed the mark. While I appreciate and employ many of the rituals that accompany catholic theology, rituals cannot be confused with theology. Rather, ritual is but a faithful expression of catholic theology. In the end, it is theology that matters.

Said another way, clearly what we Anglicans have been doing – remaining doctrinally-divided over a set of Articles that has still not yet been submitted to the whole of the Church to prove their catholicity (or lack thereof) - has not worked, as the sweep of Anglican history, with its present, tragic downfall, plainly shows us. Neither will repeating the past by doubling-down on it get us any further. Therefore, I simply want to be counted among those who preached and practiced the Christian Faith with the highest degree of integrity, and the only place I can see the existence of that Faith is in what the Scriptures say, and what the Undivided Church says the Scriptures say. How can we say we believe and trust Holy Scripture but not the teaching of the undivided Catholic Church that gave us the canon of Scripture? This, in short, is my substantial motivation for planting, for it is within catholic Christianity that we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved.

So, I ask myself, how could I do anything else? Could I be faithful and do anything else? In other words, my deepest hope is that the Anglican Communion will prepare itself for full communion with both Orthodoxy and Rome, which requires catholic-minded clergy preparing catholic-minded Christians properly formed in catholic parishes. Is not this what our Lord intercedes for us, the unity of His Church? Perhaps, it just so happens, that I am among those who has been given the opportunity to help the Anglican Communion have a fresh start, so to speak, as it undertakes the necessary internal reforms to correct its errors. Perhaps, even as I pray for my brother clergy who are working diligently within existing congregations for their welfare and renewal, I am simply among those who have been called to plant, to pioneer, to make a new place for people to hear catholic Christianity in a fresh way, that one day, we might truly be able to say as united Christians contending as one Body, with Christ himself as our Head, against the world, the flesh, and the devil, “Here comes everyone!”

And, in the end, as a sort of postlude, two things will happen, which give me great concern as a priest. First, I will leave parish life some day. God forbid that there would be any slack or lack because people were more given to my personality than the Faith. Therefore, it is my duty to practice and preach catholic Christianity. Secondly, one day I must give an account to Jesus for the work that I have done. What will I say? Somehow, I take comfort knowing that the Faith I dispensed to my flock will be judged as being part of the whole, rather than being somehow apart from the whole. This, I believe, is the essence of catholic Christianity. This, I believe, is the comfort of the Undivided Church. This, then, is where I take my stand as a priest and the reason I have given my ministry to the planting of catholic parishes in the Anglican Communion. May Christ grant us all the wit and the will to work for the fullness of the Faith and the unity of His Church.

Fr. Culpepper is the president of the FiFNA’s Church Planting Task Force.

Reprinted from Christopher Culpepper, “On Planting an Anglo-Catholic Parish,” Forward in Christ, 8, 3 (May 2016), pp. 23-24.