Anglican1000 Conference: some modest thoughts

A couple of friends have asked me to share my thoughts about this conference.

Anglican1000 is a yearly church planting conference (which just ended) which was held at Christ Church Plano, a parish in the northern suburbs of Dallas which left the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas a few years ago. (The rector, David Roseberry, who planted the church in the mid-1980’s and grew it to become the largest parish in the entire Episcopal Church when it exited that church body, then led the church into the Anglican Mission in the Americas, and then subsequently changed affiliations to the ACNA.)

Some thoughts:

1. Praise God for the missional energy and excitement which is spreading in this group. The planting of biblically-based local churches can only be good.

2. It was kind of a surreal experience, on the other hand, being in the midst of a group of folks who are forming a reactionary or alternative church body, in opposition to a more liberal one. This was the air in which I lived and moved and had my being for about a decade in the Presbyterian Church in America, including several years as a pastor. The temptation for such a new body to define themselves against the “apostasizing ones” is absolutely undeniable, as is the potential arrogance and self-congratulation which go along with that.

3. It was also surreal to hear Tim Keller in this group. Keller’s rich, nuanced, thoughtful, culturally savvy theological engagement (which I have been studying for a decade) was soaked up by them like parched desert soil soaking up a shower of life-giving rain.

4. I noticed a tendency in the group (there were perhaps 500 church planters and other interested parties in attendance) to push for a more confessional Anglicanism, something I had known about previously at a more theoretical level from Dr. Philip Turner, who has argued against a confessional framework against Stephen Noll from Trinity School for Ministry. Several folks with whom I spoke explicitly argued for this, the need for a more confessional commitment as something that will bind the church together in unity. I continue to think, however, that this is not classically Anglican, and, quite frankly, that this makes this group tantamount to the PCA (especially since one can find great liturgies all throughout the PCA).

5. Connected to #4 above, this conference has deepened my commitment to catholic liturgical practice as the only way the Church can withstand the onslaught of modernity. (To play devil’s advocate for a moment, the strongest argument against this posture is the global south: that is, a non-liturgical christianity could well outlast and outflank modern secularism by continuing to take root in Africa and other 2/3 worlds countries, which then continue to bring this evangelical faith back to the post-Christian west.) It is clear that for these Anglican brothers and sisters at this conference, it is not the liturgy which binds the church together in unity. As a result one sees wildly divergent ways of worshipping among the church plants and a longing for a more robust commitment to confessional standards.

5. I did attend one workshop during the conference put on by a group in New England (led by Bishop Bill Murdoch) that is embodying a “new monastic” way of practicing intentional community that was truly encouraging, motivating, and inspiring. God willing, I will implement some of these practices in my ministry, and the worshipping community that God is forming, in Tyler.

All in all, I am grateful to God for doing a new thing in this group, and that “denominational” disputes cannot stop the work of God in the world. However, as a liturgical catholic Christian who embraces a “communion ecclesiology” (along the lines of Rowan Williams, Radical Orthodoxy, the Windsor Report, and John Zizioulas) who enjoys the oversight of a godly bishop, I am glad I am not directly numbered among them.

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Matt,
Thanks for this “field report.” I have friends in TEC and other friends in ACNA. I’m curious: were other options mentioned or discussed, besides confessional unity, as a way of binding anglican churches together? Was liturgical/eucharistic unity discussed at all?

No, justin. No other options were discussed at this conference.

And I know why. It is because evangelicals (and that is what this group is) don’t know to think about ecclesiology. Strong words, I know, but this has been my experience. They are trapped in a modernist epistemology which simply assumes that the most important thing is doctrinal / ideological agreement. This, to my mind, is little different from secularism (for example, a secular political party).

Alternatives are articulated however by the Windsor Report as well as Radical Orthodoxy.

Windsor report: http://www.religiocity.org/2008/05/09/hope-for-the-anglican-communion-part-1-of-4/

Radical Orthodoxy: http://www.religiocity.org/2007/11/07/mclaren-milbank-christian-change/ (listen to the interview linked at the bottom of the article)

Thanks for the clarification. I have high, perhaps overly high, hopes for this new ACNA, because they have the POTENTIAL to combine a fresh, evangelical zeal and a cross-centered message with the rich sacramental resources of a “big tent” Anglicanism, such as the ones you linked to. But only time will tell if they succeed in doing this well.

Matt,

Thanks for the report. I was really struck by your obersevation to the tie between liturgy and ecclesiology, and the lack of both when doctrine/confessionis the basis for unity.

And let us not forget that even though Philip may be a low-church evangelical, he also holds such an extremely deep ecclesiology.

Hope you’re doing well brother.

matt,
thanks for your thoughtful response to the conference. it’s intriguing to read what different people take away from the same event. i do think though, that much of your impression about a ‘confessional unity’ is limited to your experience and the tables at which you were sitting.

i’m an amia guy and i also recognize that my opinion is limited to my experience, but the guys that happen to be my friends are network leaders, canon missioners and even some of the bishops; in other words, the guys in leadership positions (at least for the amia). i don’t hear much about a confessional unity at all in discussions; at least no more than what we already have in place (articles, creeds, etc).

i’m not the brightest guy and i’m hard of hearing, but that’s another take on it.

gracias y Dios te bendiga.

Michael,

Thanks for your perspective, and I’m glad to hear it!

Perhaps there is a good deal of diversity in the ranks on this issue. Surely Dr. Stephen Noll has some broad support though … one would think.

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