I’m delighted to introduce here for the first time the burgeoning educational ministry of the Living Church Foundation — in multiple modes, spanning geography and genre — under the umbrella of the Living Church Institute. This part of our work includes (1) the in-person teaching ministry of TLC in parishes and dioceses across the Episcopal Church (soon in Canada and England); (2) the publication of catechetical materials, aimed at various ages and audiences; and (3) the happy establishment of a second office at the beautiful Canterbury House and St. Alban’s Chapel in Dallas as a center for creative work in the areas of leadership development and discipleship. Let me say a bit more about each of these, and describe the vision animating them.
Teaching in person: During the last year, the staff of TLC organized an impressive set of conferences, workshops, and teaching days, including “Living Sacrifices,” a conference at Nashotah House Theological seminary on the vocation of Anglicanism (June 2017); “Anglo-Catholicism: Uncovering Roots” at Church of the Advent, Boston (Nov. 2017); “To the Bottom of the Night,” a teaching day on the season of Advent in the Diocese of Pennsylvania (Dec. 2017); and “Wisdom Calling: A Conference on Local Formation” in the Diocese of Florida (Feb. 2018). This work springs first of all from our devotion to the Word and words of God, and to communicating the faith of the Church. It also springs from our 140 years of publishing and pedagogical know-how, our network of teachers and talent spanning the globe, and our social media and marketing heft. Add to these our many and expanding partnerships with seminaries of the Episcopal Church and their faculty members, seminaries in Canada and England, and a web of parachurch ministries and institutions (the Episcopal Church Foundation, the Saint Francis Foundation, and the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes, among others). We are now preparing for “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness,” a conference at Christ the King Spiritual Life Center in Albany (Oct. 2018), in addition to recurring events with Church of the Advent, Boston, and the Diocese of Pennsylvania, plus conferences with St. George’s Church in Nashville, the Saint Francis Foundation, and several public teaching days with the contributors to our wildly popular weblog, Covenant. Stay tuned for dates!
Publishing: We are planning a line of catechetical materials — pamphlets, curricula, catechisms, and books for teaching the faith to all ages — that we hope will become a regular and beloved part of the lives of Episcopalians and Anglicans for the next generation. Those with lively memories will recall that publishing books, tracts, and catechetical materials both for children and adults occupied a good bit of TLC editors’ time in the greatest period of our long history: when F.C. Morehouse and his son Clifford oversaw, from 1900 to 1952, the publishing of both our flagship and an exemplary catalogue of Christian literature under the aegis of the then-nascent Morehouse Publishing Company in Milwaukee. That catalogue grew over decades, and it lives today as an imprint in the care of Church Publishing, the official publisher of the Episcopal Church. We believe that now is the time for TLC to return to this playbook in precisely the same spirit, with the same catholic, evangelical, and ecumenical commitments of our forebears. We will kick things off next Fall with a set of 21 pamphlets, Anglicans Believe, each given to a brief, accessible introduction to a single topic: God the Trinity, Jesus Christ, Creation, the Church, the Book of Common Prayer, and so on. We hope this series, written by some of the best teachers and scholars the world over, edited to emphasize the fullness of the faith, will find its way into the tract racks of hundreds of parishes across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom (to start), and so help to form the minds and hearts of thousands of Anglicans, to the glory of God.
Leadership development and discipleship: As a convener of conversations across the Church, TLC has the honor of gathering and serving a broad network of leaders, influencers, teachers, and creative thinkers, and sharing their gifts with the faithful. To this end, we have taken an interest in cultivating communities of discourse in institutional and geographical “hot spots” — seminaries and universities, vital parishes, and cities of all sizes. To be sure, wherever the people of God may be found, there is the Catholic Church. But certain places, due to a confluence of cultural, intellectual, and economic energies, become creative crossroads and, in God’s providence, major forces for change in the world, including spiritual change. Dallas, set within the booming economy of Texas, is surely among these. Projections anticipate population growth of 54 percent by 2040, and the Christian dynamism of the city is palpable, enriched immeasurably by a great influx of immigrants, speaking more than 150 languages. We therefore jumped at the generous invitation of Bishop Sumner and the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas to set up a second office here, within hailing distance of neighboring dioceses in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, among others. Comfortably situated in the historic Episcopal chaplaincy across the street from Southern Methodist University and its excellent Perkins school of Theology, Canterbury House includes a large common room, classroom, library, two offices, kitchen, and three updated bathrooms, in addition to the stunning St. Alban’s Chapel. It presents an ideal laboratory for theological researches and teaching, meetings with leaders, and especially for sustained attention to formation and discipleship in an ecumenical mode. I myself am now based here, overseeing a broad program, one fruit of which we recently harvested with the inauguration of our Faith Talks series (see the story and pictures in this issue, pp. 34-36), which will double in size next academic year.
On a wall in the foyer of Canterbury House we installed three black-and-white photographs taken by our friend and colleague, the Dallas-based artist Dickie Hill, that aptly depict the missionary challenge for a communications and teaching ministry like The Living Church. On the left, Eritrean immigrants exercise civil rights in their new home; on the right, Christian leaders pray for reconciliation in the face of continuing agonies over racial division; in the middle, centered on the cross, the unswerving call of our Lord is issued to the next generation — to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
In the face of a broad decline of Christian culture in the West and too-little formation of the faithful, a living Church can only determine again to sow seeds of re-evangelization, and then head into the harvest with all the help we can muster (see Matt. 9:37). Working with Christ — in him, enabled by him — we cast anew the seed of the gospel along paths, among stones and thorns, and in good soil. We cannot know which seeds fall where, though we may be sure that God will give the growth at the proper time and in the proper way (Matt. 13:1-9; 1 Cor. 3:6). By God’s grace, moreover, and because of our Lord’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, we follow the faithful work of those who have gone before, “entering into their labor” (John 4:38; cf. Matt. 16:18).
Precisely in that spirit of loyalty to and love of the institution of the Church, given shape for us in our devotion to global Anglicanism as a visible movement within the broader Church Catholic, and above all as servants of the Word made flesh, who bids us follow him: because, in short, we believe in the unity of signs and things, as in the sacraments and the Incarnation of God himself, we see our ministry as subsisting in the enlivening word in all its forms — in print, and in the mouths of our Lord’s many servants whose feet come bearing good tidings (see Isa. 52:7) through varied teaching ministries, and in the sustained conversations of formative friendships over a lifetime.
Among the gifts that The Living Church brings to this educational work are the freedom and agility of an independent, disciplined non-profit ministry with a clear and distinctive mission, long-since accustomed to responding quickly to needs, committed on principle to creative improvisation. We subject all of these to continual prayer, relying on the leading of the Lord. Like blood traveling throughout the body, we would be communicative missionaries in service of the whole “for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). We seek to encourage common clarity, renewed zeal, and trust in all that is true, according to God’s promises and the created order.
I will write more soon about our endowment campaign, which will help to fund this ambitious expansion of TLC’s program. For now, please pray for us. Pray for the flourishing of our ministry. Pray for our own faithfulness and obedience to God. And pray about how you can lend your support. We welcome invitations to come and visit, to teach, and to partner.
If you’re on Facebook, please like the page of the Living Church Institute to follow all that we are doing — both to attend events and to read about and otherwise enjoy them afterward as we post stories, photos, and audio or video recordings. Also, please drop in when you are in Dallas — and, of course, when you are in Milwaukee, where we still gratefully produce The Living Church and operate the business affairs of TLC out of the Cathedral Church of All Saints.
Onward, in the name of Christ.
Dr. Christopher Wells
Executive Director and Editor