Rick Warren Wows Them. Constitution Ratified, ACNA Ready to Roll
By David W. Virtue in Bedford, Texas
He wowed them with one liners like..."You may lose the steeple, but you won't lose the people. Christ did not die for property."
"A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission will grow a great communion."
"We have an unchanging message in a constantly changing world."
Rick Warren has been named among the 25 most influential Americans. He has earned the title. His church, Saddleback draws 22,000 weekly with a simple commitment to reaching out with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today he is in Bedford, making these newly minted North American Anglicans feel special. He has accepted only three speaking engagements this year - one to the largest assembly of Muslims in America and the other to a general gathering of the Assemblies of God - two polarities one cannot imagine and to ACNA delegates in Bedford, Texas.
He makes his audience feel special.
"I am genuinely humbled to be with you on this historic event. I jumped at the chance to be here," he tells more than 800 assembled in a large tent on the grounds of St. Vincent's cathedral.
He reads the first ten verses of Isa. 43 and every word rings home to his listeners. "Fear not for I have redeemed you... I have called you out by my name...They will not consume you."
Did he have The Episcopal Church in mind with the last Biblical reference? It is hard not to imagine that he didn't. He reads on, "I will give up others in exchange for you...you are my witnesses...forget the former things...do not dwell on the past...see I am doing a new thing.... Do be afraid. I will be with you. I will bring together your children; bring all my sons and daughters, everyone who is called by my name, those who I created for my glory."
His words hit like hammer blows. The crowd nods, murmurs of approval can be heard throughout the tent. Everyone who hears these words has a story. They know what Warren is talking about. One can feel the pain and the joy; the two emotions race like two conflicting winds across the tent.
God loves to create new things, roars Warren. Heads snap back, and look up at the big, burly preacher.
"Some things never change; God's Word and God's character and God's love for you never changes," he cries out. "Our faith is unchanging, the faith once for all delivered to the saints...we are here to put new wine into new wineskins." The crowd roars its approval.
The Preacher is on a roll.
"God loves to create new things. God loves to create new things. The Bible says his mercies are new every morning. He makes all things new: a new heaven and a new earth; it is new every morning. In Christ you are a new creation."
"This is true of every level: every Parish; every Christian, a great country, a great company, a great Communion."
The audience is alive now. The atmosphere is loaded with possibilities. One can almost hear the crowd silently screaming "yes" to every word he says.
The past is the past. The Episcopal Church is dead to these people. They are done with talking about sex or inclusivity or diversity and all the panegyrics of pansexuality that so obsess Episcopalians.
A new day has arrived. America's leading preacher has helped these Anglicans put the past behind them to press forward in hope and anticipation that God is indeed doing a new thing.
Warren gets deadly serious. "Let me talk to my priest friends today. Nothing matters more than what you are doing. That God had put His children under your care, to guide, guard, nurture, train and release and send them out. If I knew a more important thing to do with my life, I would be doing it. I decided that I wasn't going to waste my life. When you are helping the church minister, disciple, evangelize, you are doing something of eternal significance."
"In April we had a spiritual revival and over 19 days had 3000 people come to Christ and 1200 new believers and a new members class with 2600 people in it. That was April. I looked and said what is God doing here? God wants to fill your church with new believers. He looks for the warmest incubator he can find. Why us at Saddleback? We were ready for them. We had a process, a system to bring them to maturity. We were ready for them. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
As he ends, one feels a palpable hope in the air. America's supreme pastor has left these new born Anglicans with spiritual food they will take back to their parishes and into their future. It is a new day.
In other news, ACNA leaders forged a new constitution. With canons passed the day before, everything is now in place. You can read a number of stories in today's digest that touch on everything occurring here. We have tried to cover all the ground. We will finish tomorrow with the installation of Archbishop-elect Robert Duncan in Plano, Texas.
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