In Historic First, Belgian Bishop Calls Church to Bless Lesbian & Gay Couples

Bondings 2.0

For the first time in known history, a Roman Catholic bishop has explicitly called for the Church to recognize and bless committed same-gender relationships.   New Ways Ministry strongly applauds this bold and courageous move.

Bishop Johan Bonny

Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium, made his comments in an interview with De Morgen, a Belgian newspaper that was published on December 27, 2014.  He called for the Church to recognize the faithfulness and commitment of same-gender couples in the same way that the Church recognizes the relationships of heterosexual couples.   A news story about the interview in The National Catholic Reporter contained excerpts translated into English, including:

“There should be recognition of a diversity of forms. We have to look inside the church for a formal recognition of the kind of interpersonal relationship that is also present in many gay couples. Just as there are a variety of legal frameworks for…

View original post 744 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

AMiE : Gafcon Mission in England

Anglican ‘Church’ For Conservative Christians Launches Mission In England

The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) sets out its goal of planting 25 new churches by 2025 and 250 by 2050 in a new video.

Gafcon
The Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh is backing a plan to plant hundreds of new evangelical Anglican churches. Archbishop Okoh, who leads the conservative Anglican fellowship Gafcon, says: “We are so thrilled that the Anglican Mission in England exists and we are delighted that it is keen to start many new churches in the years to come. AMiE has the full support of the GAFCON movement.” AMiE is seeking “pioneers” to plant the new churches. The mission is also seeking assistant ministers and “partners” where local Anglican churches can link with AMiE churches and support them financially. Christians will even be encouraged to move house and relocate to new area to plant a new mission church. AMiE was established in 2010 and was given full validation by the GAFCON Primates as authentically Anglican in 2013. Pastor Pete Jackson, of Christ Church Walkley, says in the video that many will attempt to evangelise England from within the structures of the Church of England. He adds: “But this isn’t always possible. Sometimes there’s no enthusiasm for starting anything new. Sometimes the timescale is an unreasonble constraint on mission. “Sometimes a whole diocese is closed to conservative evangelicals. And sometimes there is false teaching at the very heart of the leadership, and we can’t be sure the work of the Gospel will be safe in present structures. In these situations, the Anglican Mission in England can help.”

Lee McMunn, chairman of the AMiE pioneering task force, says: “By 1555, John Calvin and his supporters in Geneva had pioneered five new churches in France. Four years later, they had planted 100. And by 1562, a total of 2,000 new, Gospel churches had been started in France.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the same thing happen in England today?”

AMiE – Richard Coekin

 

Richard Coekin, director of co-mission, quoting Mark’s gospel, says: “When Jesus looked at the crowds, he was filled with compassion. They were harrassed and helpless, crushed and tortured, like sheep without a shepherd, desperately in need of Jesus.

“And ever since Jesus and the Apostle Paul, the best way of reaching them has always been church planting. In fact it’s part of the Anglican DNA, to start new Gospel churches across our land to reach the lost. And we need to get involved, in our time.”

Richard Leadbeater, pastor of King’s Church Guildford, which started meeting publicly in 2014, says that although it was “terrifying” to start the church it was also “thrilling”. This was because, while they had almost nothing, they “did have God.” The church has grown through “prayerful dependence on God and his word.” They don’t own a building and did not even have a musician at first. Yet they have grown both spiritually and numerically.

_________________________________________________________________

This article by Ruth Gledhill, published in ‘CHRISTIANITY TODAY’, informs the Church of England hierarchy of the imminent threat of invasion by the conservative Provinces of the Anglican Communion contained in GAFCON. 

Archbishop Okoh, in this article, which tells of the inauguration of a special new push by the Gafcon-sponsored ‘Anglican Mission in England’ (AMiE) – a parallel sponsored faux-Anglican church to that of ACNA in North America – designed to replace the local mission of the traditional of the local Anglican Communion Church of England; is, in effect, taking into his own hands the responsibility of inaugurating a takeover bid for the worldwide Anglican Communion, in the territory of its founding province; the Church of England.

This latest chutzpah by Archbishop Okoh and his cohorts in the Gafcon Provinces shows a blatant disregard for the rest of the Anglican Provinces around the world represented by the Anglican Communion Office, the Lambeth Conference and the Archbishop of Canterbury, its Primus inter pares; currently wrestling with issues of gender and sexuality that will affect the future of worldwide Anglicanism.

With schism already brought about by the actions of Gafcon in north America, this latest push for supremacy in the Anglican Communion would seem to be a deliberate intention to further split the Communion into Conservative and Liberal factions – a situation now desperately being brought into contention in the original Church of England.

 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Church: Inclusive or Death-dealing

Inclusive Church

Published: 19 September 2016

Revd Nick Bundock shares his church’s journey to being an Inclusive Church, born out of tragic circumstances.

‘Lizzie Lowe took her own life in a forgotten patch of farmland behind the river Mersey on 10 September 2014 while her parents were at a film club run by a small group from St James and Emmanuel , Didsbury. It isn’t possible for me to adequately convey the explosion of grief and dismay that hit the Lowes, the church, her school, and her wider network of family and friends.

Two years on from the tragedy we are all still wrestling with Lizzie’s death. She would be 16 by now and no doubt excelling at her A level studies. The litany of ‘what ifs’ is literally overwhelming.

Lizzie Lowe was gay. Nobody in her family or church knew this, how we wish we had. As a 14-year-old girl she was still exploring her feelings and trying to juggle the many powerful emotions of the teenage years, but it was painfully clear from the coroner’s hearing in December 2014 that her sexuality and her perception of faith were at odds with one another and had become a chasm too wide to cross. Lizzie had become convinced that God couldn’t love her the way she was, a feeling she expressed by text message to the few confidants she had leading up to her fatal decision.

St James and Emmanuel church has undergone a revolution since Lizzie died. It’s not that we were ever ‘hard line’. Actually we’ve always been a pretty broad expression of evangelicalism. But like many similar churches we’ve largely avoided the topic of homosexuality in order to preserve the peace. I now realise, too late, that ignoring the topic of sexuality is by definition exclusive and very unsafe for people who are gay.

In the months following the coroner’s report St James and Emmanuel has been through a revolution. It started with a decision by the PCC to adopt a statement of inclusion. This was followed by three structured ‘listening evenings’, and inclusion is now a regular item on the agenda of the PCC.

We lost some members during the turmoil of 2015. That was immensely painful as a vicar. But we’ve also gained members, including a wonderful gay couple who were told not to play in the worship band of their previous church when they found out about their relationship. I can also say that worship in our church has never been more vibrant and alive. Our paradigm shift has swept a new imminence into our worship and a new honesty into our interactions. Personally, I’ve crossed the Rubicon, there is no way back. When I do look back I do so with horror at what a spineless and passively homophobic priest I have been.

I don’t want anything I’ve written to sound like a hackneyed ‘rags to riches’ story, or even a resurrection after death story. There is no way to erase the horror of Lizzie’s death, or the sheer madness of the wider Church ripping itself apart over this issue. But two years on from Lizzie’s death I hope that we’ve gone some way to amend for our failures and I’m proud to lead a church that is both evangelical and inclusive.’

To find out more about Inclusive Church, visit their website at inclusive-church.org.uk/

_________________________________________________________________

If it takes a human tragedy to bring Christians to understand the crisis of young Gay people and their problem with the Church’s prejudice; then here is a very clear example:

” we’ve always been a pretty broad expression of evangelicalism. But like many similar churches we’ve largely avoided the topic of homosexuality in order to preserve the peace. I now realise, too late, that ignoring the topic of sexuality is by definition exclusive and very unsafe for people who are gay.”

This is one reason why I, at the age of 87 – who am intrinsically Gay – feel I must protest at our Church’s continuing marginalisation of LGBTI people – especially those young people who are affected by this particular social disadvantage in certain overtly ‘Christian ‘ contexts – must spend time doing all I can to disabuse Church Leaders and others of their perceived need to marginalise and judge people whose sexual orientation is different from the majority.

For the Church to continue to believe and teach that homosexuality is a ‘chosen’ way of life, born out of a need to be ‘different’ is, for me, an unreality so hideous that it needs to be labelled as sinful behaviour, labelled as ‘homophobia’, for which sheer ignorance is no longer a viable excuse.

It has been mainly evangelical conservative Churches that have perpetuated the myth of homosexuality as a ‘state of sin’, in the belief that the Bible expressly condemns the state itself – rather than the random promiscuity that homosexuality – like its symbiotic twin, heterosexuality – is heir to if randomly allowed to take over one’s life. It is acknowledged – even by the anti-gay people who rely on Scripture for their institutional prejudice on this matter, that Jesus; while talking a lot about unfaithfulness in heterosexual marriage, said not one single word about faithful monogamous same-sex relationships.

However, there are now Evangelical Churches around the world discovering that there are LGBTI people, often hidden in their own congregation – especially among young people – whose need for understanding and proper pastoral care ought to bring forth compassion and help from Church leaders and members.

This tragic story of Lizzie’s death and the effect it has had on her local Evangelical Church community testifies to the readiness of some aware congregations and their pastors to realise the intense harm that can be done by harbouring and preaching homophobia. Young people today can be much wiser than their elders in their understanding of those of their number who just happen, through no fault of their own, to be sexually different. We need to encourage youth, not turn them away by our intolerance of a sexual identification that we may find difficult, though genuine.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Anglicans & Romans Together

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

For the next two weeks,  Cardinal John Dew will be away on an IARCCUM (Anglican/ Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission) Pilgrimage.

Cardinal John will first go to Canterbury, in England where he will join the IARCCUM Pilgrims; 36 Anglican and Catholic bishops, representing 19 different regions.

The bishops will begin the first leg of their meeting on 30th September in Canterbury.

They will be staying at the Lodge in Canterbury Cathedral, will take part in the liturgical life of the Cathedral.

And they will make a pilgrim visit to the shrine of St Thomas à Becket, where Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie prayed together.

On October 3 the bishops move on to Rome and will be staying near the Vatican.

They will make a pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles, Ss Peter and Paul.

They will then participate in the vespers celebrated by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby at San Gregorio al Celio on 5th October, to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

At these vespers it is anticipated that the bishops will be mandated by Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby, in their ecumenical mission.

On the same day the bishops will attend an academic symposium at the Gregorian University.

“50 years of walking together in faith” is a symposium to be held Wednesday, 5 October 2016 at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

This symposium will be an opportunity to explore in detail some of the achievements of 50 years of dialogue between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

IARCCUM is a commission established by the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church as an official joint commission.

IARCCUM exists in parallel with the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, the theological commission known as ARCIC.

ARCIC is the Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission established by Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI in 1967.

_________________________________________________________________

In these days of in-fighting between Provinces of the Anglican Communion, on issues of Human Sexuality, Equal Marriage and Biblical Interpretation on such matters, it is refreshing to realise that the ecumenical world of Anglican and Roman Catholic relationship  proceeds apace – with the announcement in the local R.C. Media (N.Z. ‘Cath News’) of the local Roman Catholic Cardinal ++ John Dew’s joining with 35 other Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops from around the world in the next Meetings of IARCCUM – the successor to ARCIC, founded by ABC Michael Ramsay and Pope Paul VI in 1967.

Here is the schedule of the first meeting at Canterbury, U.K., where Anglican Archbishop Runcie and Pope John-Paul II first met together – at the shrine of Saint Thomas a Becket – to renew their common Baptismal Vows:

 

“The bishops will begin the first leg of their meeting on 30th September in Canterbury. They  will be staying at the Lodge in Canterbury Cathedral, will take part in the liturgical life of the Cathedral. And they will make a pilgrim visit to the shrine of St Thomas à Becket, where Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie prayed together.”

For those of us who are keen to help the cause of Church Unity, dear to the heart of Jesus, this sign of the willingness of our two Churches to continue together in dialogue – despite the differences that still exist between us on matters of Church Order and Doctrine –  this openness to one another in Love is a charism sadly lacking in the constituent members of our own Anglican Communion.

May God continue to work through these Bishops of our two Churches, gathered together in fellowship and loving concern for one another and the parts of the Body of Christ they together represent, remembering the Prayer of Our Lord: “Father, that they may be one”.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

L.G.C.M versus GAFCON

Reactions to the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitude have issued a joint statement:

Statement from Changing Attitude and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement on the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality.

Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
James 1.21-25

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitude have welcomed the establishment of a Reflection Group under the leadership of Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich. Whilst expressing disappointment that a group tasked with reflecting on issues of human sexuality does not appear to include any openly gay people, we recognise that this simply reflects the reality within the church’s leadership – that LGBT people are invisible, our voices often silenced, and our experiences unheard. We welcome the opportunities which have arisen as part of the Shared Conversations to included the lived experience, deep conviction and prophetic witness of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and we recognise the enormously costly nature of the contribution many people have made to that process.

The Reflection Group must now consider the Church’s steps into the future. In doing so, they will be called to listen carefully to all they have heard during the Shared Conversations. We call upon them to lead the House of Bishops towards a future that celebrates the gifts of all God’s people including the LGBTI members of the Church of England and embodies the radical equality to which we are called in Christ.

Our prayer is that, strengthened by the Spirit, the members of the group will be enabled to listen, reflect and discern, and that as they undertake their work they will be granted moral courage and prophetic vision. For we are all alike called to be not only hearers of the Word, but doers too; our actions must match our words in seeking God’s justice, compassion and truth.

We continue to look forward to a future where LGBT people are no longer seen as a problem to be solved, but as gifted members of the Body of Christ, equal partners in prayer, service and mission. Anything less than that falls short of the Good News that God’s abundant love is for all humankind and that although LGBT people may struggle to find their place inside the church at the moment, God will travel with them when they choose the path of life, wherever that takes them.

GAFCON UK has issued this statement:

GAFCON UK Statement following the appointment of a ‘Bishops’ Reflection Group’ on homosexuality

18th September 2016

GAFCON UK is puzzled as to why the Church of England needs a ‘Bishops’ Reflection Group’ on homosexuality. Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference is clear, and the Bible is universally clear. We stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are same-sex attracted, and faithfully living according to God’s revealed plan for human flourishing. As pastors, teachers, friends, and neighbours we can have no other response. The Church of England needs to have the courage of its foundational convictions, return to them, and move on to its mission of calling the nation to turn to Christ as the only Saviour and Lord.

Comments from various people have been reported in the media:

  • John Bingham Church liberals’ anger over ‘traditionalist dominated’ bishops’ gay marriage panel
  • Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 21 September 2016
  • ___________________________________________________________
  • Being a reader of the liberal Anglican web-site THINKING ANGLICANS and its lead commentator, Simon Sarmiento in the U.K., I find it most interesting, here, to note the two very different reactions to the appointment of the ‘Bishops’ Reflection Group’ in the Church of England which has been charged with the responsibility to find a way forward that will allow for a fit and proper way to include LGBT people into the fullness of Church life and at the same time, consider the possibility of Blessing a legally-instituted Same-Sex  Civil Marriage.
  • The LGCM and the advocacy group ‘Changing Attitude’ have cautiously welcomed the formation of the Bishops’ Reflection Group, while questioning the fact that there is no input from anyone known to be Gay. Bearing in mind the fact that the fairly recently episcopally-ordained Bishop of Grantham was made a bishop in the C. of E. – with the ABC and other bishops knowing about his sexual orientation and same-sex partnership – one might have thought that he would be a valuable asset to the group. Especially when one considered that one of the actual members of the Bishops’ Reflection Group, +Rod Thomas, also newly-ordained as a bishop, is known to be a fully paid-up member of the opposition to the LGBT movement in the U.K
  • Predictable is the reaction of the GAFCON (UK) sodality, which has been raised up specifically in the U.K. to oppose any forward movement towards the inclusion of Gay people in British Anglican Churches – all on the basis of its view of the few negative Scriptural references to homosexuality (although Jesus is not known to have even mentioned the subject directly; though he may have made an oblique reference to it in his statement about: ‘eunuchs, who are so from their mother’s womb” – Matt.19:12).
                                                         Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
_______________________________________________________________________________
Here is a comment by Anthony Archer, former member of the General Synod,

“This joint statement from LGCM and Changing Attitude is completely on message, in sharp contrast to much else that has so far been said (and no doubt will continue to be said) by others. The House of Bishops, and the Presidents ++Welby and ++Sentamu have the awesome task of leading the Church of England forward on this most vexed issue. For the moment, it is their task alone, with the added benefit of input from other members of the College of Bishops, to report to the General Synod in February 2017.

To enable that to happen a working group had to be formed, hence the announcement of the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality. Its membership was always going to be criticised. It contains no person or persons who identify as LGBTI. No surprise there. But is does consist of members from across the conservative-liberal spectrum of traditions. It has two conservative evangelicals (with an eye to the status quo), two rather more open evangelicals (but who can probably be expected to hold traditional views on marriage) and six other members who may be expected to hold, to a greater or lesser extent, more progressive views (each of whom would of course have to be asked for their opinion, else this remains speculation).

To those who say the group contains no pro-LGBTI supporters, well how do we know that? Bishops have, largely, been tight-lipped on where they stand. The Church’s teaching currently stands and there is the inevitable collective responsibility. But watch this space. As a representative group of the House of Bishops it could not be bettered, and with a very experienced and wise Chairman, well capable of holding the ring in discussion. It contains no co-opted members who could have provided a LGBTI voice. No surprise there. This is a group appointed from within.

The time for talking is largely over for the moment. The experiences of LGBTI Christians have been given much-needed voice throughout the Shared Conversations and of course more need to be heard and acknowledged. But this is now about process, set of course within the inevitable political framework. To those who are calling for action, this is the group that will advise the House on possible actions. The College of Bishops has been sworn to secrecy and there have been few, if any, hints as to what the nature of the discussion was. But it is unthinkable that more than a tiny minority believe that the status quo can prevail.

This task is therefore about what change might be proposed, and over what timeframe. It is also unthinkable that mere tinkering with concepts of further pastoral accommodation will be adequate. Armchair commentators such as those like me who inhabit TA would be well advised to go back into our boxes and pray.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 21 September

______________________________________________________________

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

C.of E. Dilemma: Double-Think on Gay Clergy

Andrew Foreshew-Cain
22 September at 05:53
Here’s a thought that struck me as I read a blog on marriage today from a priest who is, as he says, in the middle of the Church. He doesn’t go for the full conservative approach to LGBTI but doesn’t think that marriage in Church should be for gay and lesbian couples but would happily bless a couple in church after their marriage at the local town hall. He is, I suspect, firmly in the majority of middle Englanders on this – not wanting to be nasty to the gays and at the same time still feeling that somehow the idea of two husbands or two wives is a bit icky or just a bit odd. He does confess in the blog that he has moved over women clergy and remarriage of divorcees in Church, so I am guessing he is ‘on a journey’ as the phrase has it.

Now, lots to say about the oddness of refusing to witness and register a marriage but being willing to bless what he refuses to witness. I am sure Alan Wilson can fill us all in on the odd view of marriage, the role of the state and state registrars (who are also clergy) in that pastorally complex approach.

But it did get me thinking about the double-think of the Church of England about marriage. In this country (ignoring the obvious problems about the Same Sex Marriage Act) – marriage is marriage is marriage, whether conducted in a Stately home, a Town Hall or the most glorious little country parish. The law and the Church treats them all the same. The Church of England has an exemption from officiating at gay and lesbian marriages but not from recognising them as legal marriages.

Which is why I registered mine with the pensions board and come the day I go to glory my husband is going to get a widowers’ pension from the CofE. (Just watch him take them to court if they try not to pay it!)

So – I’d not thought of this before – we are members of a Church which officially in defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and is hierarchy has a jolly good go at making clergy, lay people and the country believe it is so. (whilst failing convincingly to persuade even the members of the hierarchy in their private selves and the majority of its members publicly). And yet at the same time accepts the reality of marriage for gay and lesbian couples as well as for straight people

Crazy – no?

______________________________________________________________

Fr. Andrew Foreshew-Cain, one of those redoubtable clergy in the Church of England who have contracted a legal Same-Sex Marriage while still serving as a parish priest, has posted this message on the Face-Book page of ‘Changing Attitude’, one of the Anglican groups dedicated to opening up the Church to include LGBTI people.

Father Andrew makes, I think, a valid claim when he points to the fact that, in its General Synod, the Church of England has already agreed to pay pensions to the same-sex surviving partners of its gay clergy. Having registered his own Same-Sex Marriage with the Clergy Pension Board, he claims that his partner now has a legal right to claim a pension from the board if he, Fr.Andrew, pre-deceases his partner.

This will, no doubt be subject to a legal ruling in such a circumstance but, in the meantime, there is this gap between what the General Synod has authorised – on behalf of Same-Sex partnered clergy and their spouses; and the present inability of the Church to fully recognise the legal marriage partnerships of its gay clergy.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Diocese of Toronto: Growing Church

Congregational development: On the importance of leadership

Members of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Edmonton attend Festival Sunday, an event co-led by all ages that takes place every five weeks and includes inter-generational telling of the Scriptures. Rector Christopher Pappas is standing at centre in the back. Submitted photo
By Matt Gardner

The following is part of an ongoing monthly series on congregational development, which features reflections from Anglicans on how they are responding to the challenges facing churches today.

More than any other factor, the Ven. Christopher Pappas sees effective leadership as the single most vital quality of developing parishes and congregations.

“We need good clergy leaders and we need good lay leaders … In healthy parishes, these are not mutually exclusive,” says Pappas, currently rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Church and diocesan archdeacon for congregational growth and development in the Diocese of Edmonton.

Pappas cites the importance of learning from both church and secular thought leadership, as well as the need for diocesan support, praising the example of Bishop Jane Alexander.

“Your bishop has to be inspiring, has to be open to experimentation, and has to enable leaders,” he says. “You need to be able to step back in a congregation and look at the big picture … Good leaders are necessary to help us tackle our problems, to be vital, and to help engage the world around us.”

A graduate of Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, Pappas himself has served in both church and secular leadership roles, including as the Assistant Secretary of State for Connecticut.

His interest in congregational development was spurred on through attending consultations on Vital Parishes more than a decade ago. Pappas has served as a member of the Diocesan Congregational Development Commission in the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, and is currently studying for a Doctor of Ministry in Congregational Development.

“To me, congregational development [and] parish development are ways to help our parishes to serve, to reach their potential to become healthy, to become vital, and to impact their surrounding contexts … to build up the kingdom of God in our parishes and in our context in order for us to effectively carry out God’s mission.”

Effective congregational development, he says, begins with helping parishes and congregations find out where they are and where they wish to go. For the Diocese of Edmonton, Pappas uses an analytical framework known as the Congregational Assessment Tool to identify the strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and goals of congregations as a starting point.

“I’m a big proponent of using their strengths to grow parishes, to move them forward … I don’t think we should be pouring resources into the areas that we’re weak.”

The other key element is for congregations to determine how to engage the surrounding culture based on their own role as a church in God’s overarching story.

In the case of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, members focused on the arts as a way to increase their ties with the community, looking for ways to “make Christ visible” through the visual, musical, and theatrical arts.

Pappas highlights increase in traditional growth indicators such as increased attendance and money given to the community, but also measures success in less measureable indicators such as the congregation’s increased sense of mission and closeness to its neighbours. Holy Trinity has further developed its relationships with the community by administering ashes and going caroling in light rail transit stations throughout the city around Christmas among other ways.

“The people in our community now know who we are,” Pappas says. “Six years ago, if we went out in the streets, three blocks away from the church, many people wouldn’t know where the church was.

“Now we walk into markets and places throughout the city and you mention Holy Trinity and they’ll say, ‘Yes, you’re the church that does this stuff with the arts; you’re the church that’s engaged in the neighbourhood.’”

In assessing successful congregations, Pappas finds a number of common factors within the Diocese of Edmonton:

  • High satisfaction, marked by a sense of wholeness and prosperity;
  • High energy, as members find a compelling purpose or message and feel highly engaged in the process;
  • Flexibility in approach, e.g. if the church wishes to reach children and families, it may be willing to change its time or style of worship;
  • High hospitality to newcomers;
  • Healthy ways of resolving conflict;
  • Educational opportunities, promoting life-long discipleship;
  • Good governance structures, in which members feel represented by their leaders; and
  • Good worship and good music

Across the diocese, he adds, there has been a consistent emphasis on putting mission first.

“We shouldn’t be looking for church-shaped missions,” Pappas says. “But we should be a mission-shaped church.”

______________________________________________________________

This article, from the Anglican Church of Canada’s web-site, gives encouraging signs of the growth of congregational development in the Diocese of Edmonton, where our own diocesan Bishop Victoria Matthews, the first Canadian woman to be ordained a bishop was once the diocesan. 

Rector Of Holy Trinity Church, Toronto, Fr. Christopher Pappas, presently undertaking further studies in ‘Congregational Development’, praises the initiatives introduced by the present Bishop of Toronto, +Jane Alexander, (colleague and friend of our Bishop here in Christchurch) allowing parishes in the diocese to  re-orient their sense of mission – from being church-centred to being a mission-shaped Church. This cannot but be a healthy sign of life in the Anglican Church of Canada, where our own Bishop Victoria was one of the pioneer Women Bishops in our Communion.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments