by Mark Tooley (@markdtooley)
Hundreds of Anglicans are gathered at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton outside Chicago for Anglican 1000, a summit on church planting. Anglican Church in America (ACNA) Archbishop Robert Duncan was the opening evening’s speaker, recalling the “perilous season we went through,” which included many congregations losing properties when they quit the old Episcopal Church. “Who could have imagined so many new churches would be planted,” he rhetorically asked with appreciation.
In 2009 the newly created ACNA pledged to found 1000 new churches. It has since created 230 churches, with ACNA now totaling 950 churches. ACNA’s growth contrasts with the Episcopal Church’s ongoing membership implosion. “Who could have imagined so many young people catching the remarkable disease known as Anglican fever,” Duncan asked smilingly. Referencing the mammoth new Church of the Resurrection that’s hosting the conference, Duncan quipped: “This maybe the first time I’ve preached in a factory!”
Despite ACNA’s success, Duncan quoted scripture to warn: “Some will not receive you.” And he emphasized that effective church planting depends “wholly on The Lord,” and must emphasize “reaching America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.”
ACNA church plant leader Alan Hawkins called ACNA’s new church starts “pretty amazing for a bunch of Anglicans.” He stressed that the 1000 new churches goal is a “starting point,” and “not a finish line.” Hawkins also implored that church planting not be seen as means for expanding the institution but for “Gospel proclamation” and “reaching the lost.” And he challenged each ACNA congregation to plant a church in the next 3 years: “If you want to see something last throughout eternity, plant churches.”
As a snow storm approached the greater Chicago area, “Anglian 1000” announced that the imperative of church planting precluded any delays or cancellation of the conference. It declared: “CHURCH PLANTERS ARE TOUGH. GOD IS SOVEREIGN. WE WILL ALL BE FINE.”