Anglican Church Planting Done Right

There are a lot of bad church plants and established churches out there in the Anglican world. Theology is thin, sometimes Arminian, sometimes idolatrous. Discipline is lacking, discipleship does not exist. Some churches don’t want to be terribly liturgical despite a 2,000 year liturgical tradition. A focus on digging into the Bible isn’t there, mission mindedness towards the local community is lacking, and the list goes on. At the top level, the AMiA looks corporate and atheological. There are simply a lot of problems.

And yet, there is hope. Here on the East Coast there at least six parishes pastored by men with strong Augustinian convictions, a commitment to the Bible, a desire to see healthy Christian living and a focus on mission. A new article outlines the history and status of the three RenewDC parishes, one of which I attend:

Through AMiA, Claire became a Rwandan missionary to Washington, D.C., and started the Church of the Resurrection on Capitol Hill.

Now Resurrection is about to celebrate its seventh year in the same rented historic church building near the Library of Congress. Two new churches have already been planted out of Resurrection, and a fourth and fifth in the D.C. region are in the works. The three current churches meet inside the Capital Beltway on Sunday evenings, renting historic church buildings in keeping with a mission-minded, streamlined budget where church planting is a priority.

Together, these congregations compose a church-planting movement known as RenewDC.

Consistent with the theology of Anglicanism’s founding documents, Claire is Reformed and paedobaptist. But joining RenewDC churches requires subscribing only to Christian essentials, which are “hopefully the same among all the gospel-centered churches in the city,” Claire says. The churches focus on gospel essentials (worship, discipleship, and community) leading to mission. As a result, the RenewDC churches resemble missionary outposts and could perhaps be compared to military chapels outside the United States.

The diversity of backgrounds among congregants is striking, if not surprising given the urban environment. In the midst of such diversity, one perhaps counter-intuitive strategy for bridging the gap between people is simple, liturgical worship. “It provides a common framework,” Claire says, “a common language for people.” These Anglican worship services follow the same basic outline as most Christian churches since the earliest days of the church: worship, prayers, Scripture reading, sermon, affirmation of belief (creeds), and the Eucharist. They practice these ancient rites using contemporary music and language.

It can be done right, it should be done right, it will be done right! To read more about it, click here.

Ending the Anglican Alphabet Soup

With the creation of the Anglican Church in North America, the time has come to end the various sub-groups which were necessary for the time of trials just passed through. Part of me doesn’t like this much because I think that parts of the AMiA are the best current representation of what a Biblical Church should look like. But it seems to me that every dollar spent on maintaining separate organizational structures is wasted. Why have a separate communications structure for CANA, AMiA, REC, etc? It’s waste of effort and money. And yet we see Bishop Minns saying:

Since Day 1, CANA has been and will continue to be a full participant in the life of the new province, and will continue to maintain our own identity.  We will encourage groups of congregations when they are ready, to establish themselves as free-standing dioceses.  Our goal is to support the work, mission, and ministry of the gospel on this continent and bring our own particular distinctive to that task.

Bishop Murphy has said similar things about AMiA continuing in something of a “Canterbury and York” model. Indeed, as I was writing this I received an e-mail from AMiA where Bishop Murphy says:

As a founding member of both the Common Cause Partnership and the emerging province, we will continue to fully participate in ACNA.  As we have consistently explained, however, we remain a missionary outreach of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda under the authority of Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini.  This allows us to enjoy dual citizenship, a similar relationship to that of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

But I think we need to ask whether in ten or twenty years we will need all of these separate groups? It’s great for AMia and CANA to continue missionary efforts, but they should be able to do this as some kind of missionary diocese under ACNA, without needing their own leadership and headquarters. How much of this division is due to leftover animosities between bishops and churches?

I do understand some legitimate reasons for staying apart. As my friend Jim said to me, many folks won’t want to be under a Bishop who approves of women’s ordination, for example. But these issues need to be worked out from within ACNA unless it becomes obvious that it will never change and is un-reformable, which is hardly the case right now at its inception. I think good Anglican in all the bodies that make up ACNA should voice their desire for unity to their leaders and pray for change.

A Drive to Kilmarnock

This past weekend we drove to a town called Kilmarnock which sits in a region of Virginia called the Northern Neck, on the Chesapeake Bay. It is something that I’ve wanted to do for three years but have been prevented from doing for one reason or another.

The drive over was beautiful and very typical of Virginia. By that I mean rolling hills, trees, farms, small towns and lots and lots of old churches with their attendant graveyards. Why is it that our modern churches never have graveyards? I understand that property is at a premium for most churches and perhaps a graveyard would be “wasted” when it could be a parking lot, but I think we would do well to re-establish the practice of Christian burial in a church graveyard.

Most of these old, rural towns have a United Methodist parish, a Baptist church or two, and sometimes an Episcopal parish. It is truly heartbreaking to see these gorgeous old buildings most of which are in the hands of heretics. Just imagine working and praying to build a parish, teach, preach and serve. You go down to your grave when your alloted span is done only to have the entire thing fall into the hands of the enemy within a century or so.

The churches that we saw were mainly built of brick. I imagined what life would be like if they were inhabited by preachers with evangelical fervor and sound doctrine. What would it be like to have our rural areas dotted with churches that were sacramental and reformed? Instead we have these sad monuments to a bygone age inhabited by the opponents of the truth.

Kilmarnock itself is not much to shout about, but if you drive down the roads that lead to the Bay, you find mansions of breathtaking size, all of them new. Apparently there is a lot of old money in Kilmarnock, or else folks in D.C. and Richmond who weekend down there. These homes are unbelievable, sitting right on the Bay with no neighbors to speak of. Trust me, these folks aren’t working in town. It never ceases to amaze me how no matter where you go in this country there are loads of rich people (or massively indebted people).

We ate lunch in the parking lot of the local Episcopal parish which is gorgeous. It looked like a small version of Truro in Fairfax. I looked it up on the web and of course it is in the revisionist camp and will probably vanish within a generation.

The entire drive led me to think about the AMiA and ACNA in general with regard to church planting. For obvious reasons the AMiA has focused most of its church planting activities on cities and urban centers. I favor this and think AMiA should have a 50-state strategy of hitting key urban areas. My question is how do the rural areas get served in any new evangelization? In some sense it is much easier to plant churches in urban areas because you have so many more people to potentially draw from, whereas in a small town there are only a limited number of people.

So do entire swaths of the country stay unserved by a Medieval Protestant alternative to unbelief? Can we reach small towns as well as urban areas? How many guys would we need in the pipeline of ministerial training in order to reach these places? What kind of resources would it require? I imagine that in the old days most of these churches rose from within the ethnic communities that were pioneering these new towns, but that pattern is gone now. What is the new method of reaching the rural parts of America with a liturgical, Bible-centered church?