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Anglican Mission: Not the demise it was reported to be

Anglican Mission: Not the demise it was reported to be

By Cheryl M. Wetzel, reporting from Houston, TX
January 12, 2011

I am at the Anglican Mission Winter Conference in Houston, TX. The conference started Wednesday night, and I arrived Thursday at noon. The first thing I noticed when I walked through the corridors was young people. Young men and women in their 20's and 30's. Gathered loosely in small groups, the animated discussions were refreshing to see and hear.

This is not your average TEC conference with gray haired people dominating the landscape. This is the church we have heard about via the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Young singles and married couples that supposedly only go to non-denominational churches - you know: no prayer books, no hymnals, no organ, no "dead white man" music. Everything is on the screen or the wall and the band is terrific. Authority? No thanks. What don't you older folks understand about the word non-denominational?

When you speak with the young people here and ask them about their church history, you hear about their prior years in the non-denominational church - or no church at all - and their desire for something more. Something bigger. Something with history. Even something with authority figures. In their searching, they found Anglicanism. The ordered service, the concentration on the reading of and explanation of Scripture. Their commitment to mission, both foreign and local. The emphasis on Jesus: his life, and his ministry and by connection, your ministry. It isn't naïve expectation, it's a real desire to find something beyond a job; something that can impact your life and improve it.

There are middle aged people here, too and even some with gray hair. Many of them left the Episcopal Church in the early 2000's and came to the Anglican Mission. Alienated by the direction of the Episcopal Church from the late 1990's on, these people left their parishes and started all over again with this "new thing". This new idea that became fact in 2001 taking Anglicanism out of the sole proprietorship of the Episcopal Church and emphasizing the validity and inviolate Word of Scripture and person of Jesus Christ. The many that left TEC prayed that this leadership would not be corrupted. They would continue to affirm the Faith once delivered for the saints. Scripture would maintain centrality in every aspect of this church's life and the divinity of Jesus Christ. No bishop would declare that Scripture deserved and was getting a necessary revision. No legislative assembly would renounce the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the virgin birth.

The Anglican Mission took off like a rocket. It started with one parish in 2000 and today there are nearly 150 parishes. Most of them are new starts, with about 1/3 of that number being parishes and clergy that left TEC. Many of the young people here are clergy, ether in the pipeline for ordination or newly ordained. Listening to the stories of the church planters and those who have special gifts for reaching out into communities has been exciting . No one is Xeroxing; each must develop that unique path for these people in that place. Listening to the young tell why they left their corporate jobs and went to seminary reminded me of the '60's when we went to seminary. The same candor, the same devotion, the same conviction, the same desire to do something - maybe anything that counts - for God thru Christ Jesus.

They came to this conference for answers. Most of the discussion this afternoon centered on the situation with Rwanda and the possibility that the Anglican Mission may still split from that jurisdiction and forge a new way ahead. Yet tonight, with the authority of the Province of the Congo, four new deacons and a priest were ordained in a service that was solemn, joy filled and yet redolent with hope. Bishop Doc Loomis said in his sermon that, "The Anglican Mission is in a time of transition and that you, as new clergy, are to lead to the next place with the clergy and bishops already in place. Hand-picked by God for this time and this place in the life of the Anglican Mission."

The blogs have pursued the whys and wherefores of this possible fracture, with vitriol and some bloggers in TEC with great glee and lots of judgment. The facts are known by the bishops here in the Mission and they are guarding the integrity of their former relationship. The facts may never be made public. The one thing I have garnered is that the true facts are not the statements we have read on other blogs and websites.

So, there is an air of confusion here. A few are angry and have come for an explanation. Some are apprehensive that the dream they signed onto may not come to fruition. Some don't want to look backwards, even 2 months. Enough of that talk. Let's get on with the God-given job. Tell me how I can be better equipped to be a Christian or do a better job leading my parish when I get home on Saturday. I would say that this is the prevalent attitude here. If that is so, this is not the demise of the Anglican Mission. It is a fresh beginning.

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Cheryl Wetzel is the Editor of Anglicans United blog

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