By The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey
Chief Operating and Development Officer, American Anglican Council
"You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." Hebrews 10:34 NIV
Dear Friends in Christ,
I want to echo +David's last paragraph above and look toward the future - toward the "better and lasting possessions" that we are receiving from the Lord's hand as the buildings we once had are confiscated. That verse from Hebrews 10:34 first impressed itself upon me when I saw it on the sign of St. Luke's in La Crescenta, CA, on the last Sunday the Anglicans worshipped there before turning over their buildings to the TEC Diocese of Los Angeles. If you were at Provincial Assembly two weeks ago in Ridgecrest, you heard Bishop John Guernsey remind us tellingly that after 2005 when TEC Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia reneged on the negotiated settlement protocol with The Falls Church (among other departing congregations) under pressure from new TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, The Falls Church has almost doubled their total ASA (Average Sunday attendance) by planting new churches in the metro DC area. And they are still growing and still planting new churches!
I am reminded how persecution and adversity is something God historically uses to move his church from a place of comfort and into mission: "On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria...Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." (Acts 8:1, 4) Isn't that exactly what we are seeing among North American Anglicans today? The most recent reports of our Anglican1000 church planting movement is that we have planted at least 200 new churches in North America! Even if we never planted another new church before the end of the 5 year challenge (2014), this is already a tremendous accomplishment. Most, if not all, of these new church plants are in temporary facilities. In my own diocese, in several weeks I will be going to a new Anglican church in Americus, GA to lead their vestry retreat and preach. I wrote aboutSt. John's Anglican and their Rector several weeks ago. Their story is a familiar one, and the actions of the TEC bishop under the new TEC Title IV Disciplinary Canons nothing short of persecution. But like those scattered under the persecution in Acts 8, they are moving out and into mission. That's the subject of their vestry retreat. The American Anglican Council will be helping them through a MissionInsite community profile and through our Sure Foundation project to identify the unreached and unengaged people in Americus and the surrounding communities, and help St. John's Anglican to begin to formulate steps to reach them with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.
Like the Israelites on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, Anglican congregations and new church plants will be "tabernacling" in movable facilities so that we can focus more resources on mission rather than buildings, administration, overhead and legal fees. Like the Saddleback Community Church in Mission Viejo, CA, which moved 25+ times before they settled into their present magnificent missional facilities, and whose story we heard from Pastor Rick Warren at our June 2009 Inaugural Assembly, Anglicans are learning to see buildings as a means and not an end. Let others take the buildings, assume the mortgages on empty or near-empty facilities, turn them into bars and saloons, sell them below market value to Muslims [This is the DCNY's sale of Good Shepherd, Binghamton for a third of what the Anglican congregation offered. ed.], or wait in vain for the properties to appreciate so that they can sell them and replenish the endowments emptied in spiraling and vindictive litigation against Anglicans. Let them have the stuff. Like the persecuted followers of Jesus in Acts 8, we'll take the souls. We will joyfully wait for those "better and lasting possessions" (including buildings) as we spend our time, talents and treasure on directly reaching secular people and helping them discover a purpose-filled life through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
In closing, let me offer congratulations and blessings to the Church of Uganda on the election of their new Archbishop, Stanley Ntigali. I met Bishop Stanley on a SOMA Mission to Masindi Diocese and saw firsthand his outstanding leadership in planting new churches and building up the diocese. As the torch passes from ++Henry Luke Orombi to ++Stanley Ntigali, the Church of Uganda will continue to enjoy great and godly leadership. We have been blessed by their sanctuary and ongoing support, and their example of planting new churches through lay leaders. May we give thanks for our brother and sister Anglicans in Uganda, and God's choice for their new Archbishop!
Yours in Christ,