Saturday, May 14, 2011

General Convention

For those of you who are interested there is a report on the 10th General Convention of the UECNA posted at

What does not come across very well in the report is the focus that we had on Mission and Evangelism at this Convention. I believe that there are two factors behind this. The first is that there are quite a few younger clergy in the UECNA who are mission-minded, rather than maintenance-minded. This represents a major shift from three years ago. Then the 'mission-minded' felt sufficiently marginalized that a number of them left the UECNA for the REC shortly after the 9th GenCon. Secondly, I think there is a general realisation in the UECNA that being God's chosen frozen is no longer enough, we have to grow in order to survive, and that this involves a measure of adoption. Please note, that I use the word adaption not change.

In 1978, when the first bishops were consecrated for the original ACNA, secularism and media technology was still only in their first flood. Since then a lot has changed, and the tide has risen much higher. The attacks made by the tiny secularist minority in the USA have grown ever more strident, and the media - especially TV - has promoted a entertainment culture that discourages serious thought - especially about the state of one's immortal soul. This does not apply only to religion. When did you last here a politician talk in a comprehensible way about issues?

Also unhelpful has been the mega-church phenomomen, which, whilst preaching a form of Christianity, tends to eschew the intellectually difficult, and fall into step with the entertainment culture. I suspect this strategy is successful with baby-boomers who at least received a veneer of 'real religion' before the entertainment culture really began to take over. For them, the spoon feeding works, and keeps them active Christians. However, it does not tend to promote profound commitment, though there is a certain element of the Walmart effect.

However, I think those who study Christianity are beginning to realize that the mega-churches, whilst having tremendous influence do not make deep disciples. Certainly a an unscientific survey of what I loosely refer to as 'Christian spam' seems to reveal an obsession on the part of Church growth gurus with deeping discipleship. Some of the big tin shed preachers I have talked to freely admit that only 5 to 10% of their people do more than turn up on a Sunday morning. This tells us that at the moment American Christianity is probaby more characterized by its quantity than its depth. That is not necessarily a bad thing, having lived in both the UK and the USA I have to say that even a veneer of Christianity makes for a far freer society.

I suspect therefore, that there is a significant group of believers and potential believers who want to connect with something deeper than entertainment religion. This bears some superficial resemblance to the situation as American Anglicans found themselves in during the 1820s and 1830s. At that time, there was a significant group of Christians who had been touched by the Second Great Awakening, but wanted something deeper. This was precisely the era when Evangelical Episcopalianism grew expontentially within the Protestant Episcopal Church. Why?

Well, the short version is that Evangelical Episcopalian offered a heart-felt religion that did not neglect the intellect, nor tip over into mere emotionalism. It was orderly and reverent, by contrat to the extremes of revivalism. It also learned to use 'the culture' against itself. Evangelical Episcopalians made use of Prayer Meetings and Street Preaching, but they centred it all in the worship of the Church, and in faithful preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. They connected the religious sentiment of the day, and harnessed it to something deeper - a presentation of Christianity which was deeper being not just Biblical, but Biblical, Creedal, and Liturgical. Anglicans are uniquely placed to supply the 'something deeper' - what we are less equiped to do is tell people about it.

So far, Continuing Anglicans have tended to remain stuck in the defensive mindset that they adopted in 1977, and have made no concerted effort to Evangelize. The prevailent belief is that we just need to continue doing what we have always done until the world comes to its senses and returns to us. Unfortunately, that is a very poor mission strategy, and something that the UECNA has decided it can no longer afford to do. Over the next six months we will be looking long and hard at Mission, and seeing where we as a church have been going wrong, and how we can do better. Hopefully that will produce a plan that we can begin to impliment next year.

One last note. As always, the UECNA GenCon was more of a family get together than a meeting. I think that we are very blessed as a church to have this freedom from rancour, factionalism, and Church politics. Long may it continue!

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had known about it before hand because it was close enough that I could have dropped in and just said hello.

    The whole process of evangelism which seemed so easy when I was seventeen and PECUSA still seemed sane and orthodox, now seems so difficult because so many of the things we took for granted are simply gone. It leaves us, I believe, in much the same position as the Church was under the Cromwellian Interregnum except that we won't have soldiers barging in on the Communion service and arresting us . . . yet!. At the moment I think I might even welcome a bit of that.

    But I think our primary mission is to keep the faith and practice of the earliest church until that point that the wider society finds that they need it to be truly Christian. And I am sure that day will come.