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BY THE REV. CANON PHIL ASHEY,
CHIEF OPERATING AND DEVELOPMENT OFFICER
During my travels over the past two months, I’ve met with the leadership of several dynamic ACNA parishes. Here are just some of the highlights I heard from the testimonies of these congregations:
Congregations which surrendered their buildings have found a renewed sense that the church is above all God’s people on mission. Many congregations have shifted resources from buildings to supporting missionaries, orphanages and mission teams around the globe.
Others are focusing on mission to the local community—like the church that has adopted an elementary school and provides one adult for every grade to help the students with reading, and another church which lets a school for disadvantaged children use its facilities.
Several congregations reported planting churches—Christ Church, Midland, Texas in Lubbock and Odessa, and St. Andrews, Mt. Pleasant in downtown Charleston, S.C. St. Andrew’s “City Church” has grown in just a few months to over 200 on a Sunday morning, with an average age of 25!
All Saints Dale City, Va. reported 500+ people involved in ALPHA.
Another congregation reported growth in worship attendance by 20 percent; still another reported that they are a different congregation now because the people joining are not former Episcopalians but rather spiritual seekers who are finding their home in an Anglican church.
Some congregations reported building brand new facilities. Others have moved from temporary facilities (including a bowling alley!) into warehouses and other churches. But perhaps the most moving story was of the Anglican church in Ft. Collins, Colo. that surrendered their building, and then turned around and gave an unconditional gift to the church that is now purchasing that building from TEC.
In early February, I traveled to Phoenix, Ariz. for the ACNA executive committee meeting, where we were hosted by the Rev. Christ Schutte, rector, and the people of Christ Church Anglican, a growing congregation in the suburbs of Phoenix. They have a ministry to the Karen people of Myanmar, with some 30 to 40 adults and children having emigrated to and settled in Phoenix.
They are also developing a ministry to “at-risk” young people in the heart of the city. But what impressed me most about the leadership and people of Christ Church was their faithfulness.
Over dinner at the home of a past senior warden who led 100+ people out of the local Episcopal Church (TEC) to which they had belonged for years, I heard their story. Our host told us how the Lord had placed on his heart to just leave their building behind and start anew. The people did so, and found for rent a local church with a sanctuary that seats over 200 with a separate complex of offices and space for groups/classes to meet. The congregation that occupied it previously, Living Streams Church, had grown and was building a new facility. They had entered a contract with a local developer who planned to bulldoze the church and build homes...but due to the economic downturn could not come up with the funds to do so. So the developer rented the building to the people of Christ Church Anglican with the blessing of the church that still owned the property. In the end, the developer did not build homes on the property. But neither would the banks lend a new Anglican congregation with no credit history the funds to buy the property. Nevertheless, the people of Christ Church continued to give faithfully to the building fund, and set aside 10% to plant a new church! When the leadership of Living Streams learned of Christ Church’s commitment to sacrificial giving and church planting, they made the financing possible for the purchase of the property! And so it goes: “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)
The lesson I take away from these churches is that no matter what primates and the people who manipulate Communion structures do, the Lord is still in charge of His church. Take heart as you read the latest news or face difficulties in your own ministry because that which is from God cannot be stopped by men. The Holy Spirit is empowering his people to serve others and draw them to Christ. “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:4-6 NIV) †