By Barbara Gauthier
At his investiture in June 2009, Archbishop Robert M. Duncan called the newly formed Anglican Church in North America to plant 1,000 new churches within the next five years. It was a “God-sized number and a God-sized assignment,” Duncan admitted March 4 during his address at the opening of the Anglican 1000 Summit 2013 in Wheaton, Illinois. “Who could have imagined the result of that vision when it was first cast?”
In the first three years of its existence, the ACNA planted 230 new congregations and created Anglican 1000 to equip, encourage, and catalyze church planters. It hopes to fulfill Duncan’s call by June 2014.
The first three Anglican 1000 Summits met at Christ Church in Plano, Texas, which had left the Episcopal Church in 2006 with property and resources intact. The Rev. Canon David H. Roseberry, rector at Christ Church, had helped form Anglican 1000 a few months after Duncan issued his call, and Christ Church had launched a daughter church just the year before. These initial meetings focused on developing church planting strategies and gathering those with a passion for spreading the gospel through new congregations.
In 2012 Duncan appointed the Rev. Canon Alan Hawkins as vicar of Anglican 1000. Hawkins had church-planting experience with the Anglican Mission in the Americas and a vision for bringing the gospel to millions of unchurched North Americans.
“We spent the first three years grieving, healing, and asking ‘How do we do this?’” Hawkins said. “The next two will see church planting as part and parcel of what we do as a province, with the diocese as a church-planting engine and each congregation forming strategies for reaching their own city.”
The choice of Church of the Resurrection, Wheaton, as the venue for this year’s summit reflects the emphasis on evangelism and mission. In 1987, the Rev. William Beasley was charged with rescuing or closing the 20-member Church of the Resurrection, located in West Chicago at the time. Within a few years Resurrection had outgrown its church building and began meeting in downtown Wheaton. The 300-member parish left the Diocese of Chicago in 1993 and seven years later became a founding member of the Anglican Mission. In the past 15 years, more than 20 new Anglican congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have emerged from Resurrection. Resurrection is now the ACNA flagship parish for the Upper Midwest, with an average Sunday attendance of more than 1,000.
After 20 years as a mobile church, Resurrection bought an abandoned manufacturing warehouse in downtown Wheaton and moved into the refurbished 95,000 square foot building just four months ago. It seems to reflect the new face of Anglicanism in North America, as Duncan noted in his opening address.
“This is the first time I’ve preached in a factory,” he said. “Who could have imagined the reintegration of so many who’ve been restored to us from the Anglican Mission? How many could have imagined that we’d stop using the rear-view mirror? Who could have imagined the thousands of young people who have caught Anglican fever?”
Duncan spoke to a congregation of 500 people, the vast majority younger than 40.
Hirsh spoke of the need to recover the apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic charisms of the early Church, which he believes the institutional church of the West has lost. If you remove those gifts from the Church, he said, it ceases to be missional and inevitably declines.
Hawkins reminded those who had attended any of the 30 breakout sessions that the goal of planting 1,000 churches did not stem from “a desire for institutional survival veiled in spiritual terms.” He encouraged everyone to consider the goal of 1,000 new churches by June 2014 not as the finish line but rather as the starting point for planting thousands more.
Hawkins outlined a “1-2-3 Plan” for planting the remaining 770 churches in the next two years. If each of the ACNA’s 950 congregations will commit to planting one church within the next two years using one of three methods, there will be 1,200 new Anglican churches. What if a church thinks it is too small to plant a church?
The Rev. Jeff Weber, director of assessment and regional events for Anglican 1000, said that statistically “churches that plant churches grow faster spiritually and numerically.”
The first of the three methods is the traditional diocesan model of planting a church in a specific location with a trained church planter equipped with the necessary financial resources. Hawkins noted that using this method alone “it would take us 1,000 years to get to 1,000 churches.”
Fifteen percent of the ACNA’s new church plants have been formed using the congregational model, in which a church sends out a leader, a group of core members, and resources to start a daughter church. This second method of a mother-daughter church plant removes many obstacles to successful church planting found in the first model.
The remainder of new churches have been planted through pioneering, an organic method of creating new congregations in specific demographic groups through lay catechists under the direction of a parish priest. This third model, used primarily by the Greenhouse Regional Church Movement, is based on the East African model of spontaneous church multiplication by “birthing churches that are born pregnant.”
One significant change at this year’s summit was the growing multicultural presence in the ACNA. A choir of 50 young Latinos drawn from Chicago’s six Hispanic congregations sang an offertory with such energy that the entire congregation soon joined in
The Rt. Rev. Stephen Leung of Vancouver, a suffragan bishop for Asian and multicultural ministries in Vancouver, works with Greenhouse to begin planting churches among East Asian immigrants in Western Canada. The Rt. Rev. Gregory Bowers, worship leader at Anglican 1000, represented a group of 12 Pentecostal African-American churches “on the Canterbury trail” which are forming a Jubilee network within Greenhouse.
“We sang Alabaré with Chicagoland’s Hispanic/Latino Choir Monday night and I thought to myself how very different this Anglican Church is from the one I was raised in,” said Beasley, now canon of Greenhouse. “Two days later we heard Melvin Tai, a Singaporean priest from Toronto, give an impassioned call to help convert the nations of the world to Christ by reaching out to the many immigrants around us with the good news because they can be the most effective missionaries for their own countries. … Then when I saw the ACNA bishops embrace African American pastor, Bishop Gregory Bowers, after he had led us in heartfelt worship, tears welled up in my eyes, because I knew that we as a church had truly changed. We will never be the same.”
Hawkins noted the importance of meeting at “a congregation planted in a factory, so that we can see that our churches become living factories of the gospel and not something sterile.”
The “congregation planted in a factory” still has nearly 50,000 square feet of its building marked “unfinished storage” on the conference site map, so the Church of the Resurrection has plenty of room for growth. The same can also be said for the ACNA. Anglican 1000 workshops for the coming year are scheduled in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Ottawa, Phoenix and Seattle.
Barbara Gauthier, a member of Church of the Resurrection, is a blogger for the Greenhouse Regional Church Movement.
Anglican 1000 image by Michael Johnson (occasionalmomentsofbrilliance.com)