ANGLICAN 1000: Clergy Couple Build Unique Anglican Church for All Faithful; Focus is on Functionally Disabled and Developmentally Impaired
By David W. Virtue in Dallas
March 9, 2012
The Rev. Warren Mueller had an 'Ah-ha' moment, a turning point if you will, when he looked at his mother behaving inappropriately while suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. He cried out to God, where is there a church for her?
"I realized that 'normal' congregations were not places for people like her, so I had it out with God. Well, be careful what you ask for. God made it very clear to me that I was to start a church for people like my mother," Warren told VOL.
He was unsure initially; then it became clearer, "'I can start a church which welcomes people like her.'" The idea grew. Warren persuaded another couple to join him. Together they started a church plant in Diamondhead, Mississippi.
Warren, a physicist for 33 years in the chemical industry and defense industry, wanted now, more than ever, to be a community chaplain and to work with the disabled, bringing Christ to them with no one left behind. His vision was for those with functional disabilities - especially those with mental disabilities - and for the visually impaired. "I believe a blind person can read Scripture, a paraplegic can be an acolyte, a crucifer can function as one in a wheelchair. The possibilities are unlimited. All it requires is some imagination and a fundamental belief that all God's children can worship Him.
"I tried to find a model, but found none in the US," he told VOL while participating in the ANGLICAN 1000 Church Planters Conference in Plano, Texas, this week. "Some parishes will cut out a place in a pew for a wheel chair. I felt there was much more to it than that. I firmly believed that whatever state you are in is just fine. We are all here to worship...we are all here together, there is a job there in the church for you."
The people he saw and visited who were supposed to be vegetables inspired Warren. One can say the Lord's Prayer with them and their lips move.
In January, he and his wife Nan formulated a mission statement which said, "Bringing all to Christ with no one left behind in particular those with functional disabilities - those with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease, those with physical and mental disabilities, and the visually impaired. We sought to create a worshipping community with them and their care givers so they would no longer be excluded or set aside."
Warren said they started their small church in a hospital cafeteria. Within a week they outgrew that and moved into a building given to them by a local Presbyterian church.
While he was engaged in this new ministry, both Warren and his wife Nan were rethinking their ecclesiastical loyalties.
Warren, a cradle Episcopalian was ordained to the Diaconate in 1999 in the Diocese of Louisiana at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge where he stayed for three years. He later transferred to the Diocese of Central Florida where he became canonically resident as a deacon and became the pastoral care minister of St. Michael's in Orlando.
However, The Episcopal Church's moral and theological drift drove Warren and his wife to say, "Enough is enough. We can no longer stay in the Episcopal Church the moral rot is too deeply entrenched."
This past week Warren and Nan knelt before a new orthodox Anglican bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns (CANA) who was assisted by Suffragan Bishop Julian Dobbs. In a moving ceremony at Christ Church, Plano in Texas, Warren was ordained a priest. Nan was ordained a transitional deacon. Typical of his commitment to the disabled, Bishop and Mrs. Minns's daughter Rachel who suffers from Downs Syndrome assisted as a crucifer in the ceremony.
Bishop Minns was assisted by Bishop Derek Jones who also ordained Nan. Bishop Bp Neil Lebhar ordained Warren.
"It was a deeply moving occasion for both of us," Warren told VOL. "My wife and I both feel more empowered to go out and reach our community and offer what we are doing [it] as a model for all the US.
"Our vision is not to be just accommodative but also empowering. We want the disabled to be empowered and participate in worship to God in a way God is calling them despite the limitations holding them back."
Nan is on track to becoming a VA chaplain under Bishop Derek Jones. - Deanery for Chaplains for CANA/ACNA. Bishop Jones himself was received in June of 2010 to serve as "Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies" in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) under Archbishop Robert Duncan.
Warren, 60, will maintain the dual role of community chaplain and chaplain to a Parkinson's support group in Mississippi. "My second role will be as a church planter and the name of our church plant is Resurrection Anglican Church on the Gulf. I think it is appropriate considering the pioneer work we are doing," he concluded. Warren and Nan are also the proud grandparents of four.
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