Nearly one thousand people converged upon Myrtle Beach last week for the 5th annual Anglican Mission in America Winter Conference. Some are calling it the ‘best yet’, with a clear focus on being equipped and empowered for mission—a theme chosen a year earlier by the sponsoring Archbishops of the Mission. People came from 34 states, 4 continents and 9 countries to participate in the week of worship, challenge and learning.
The opening worship service featured a blend of styles but a common attitude of celebration. Featuring a choir, brass group, and praise band, the liturgy touched on the various streams within the Anglican Mission (Evangelical, historic and Spirit-filled), even to the chanting of the gospel by Bishop John Rodgers. The preacher, Bishop Geoffrey Rwubisisi of Cyangugu Diocese in Rwanda, challenged his hearers to allow the difficulties of life to teach and train. “Who trained the prophet Daniel….what seminary did he go to?” the Bishop shared in an interview. “Yet he, as a young man, had strength of character and the will to follow God. This is what we, also, must do”.
The international flavour of the conference came from five archbishops (Rwanda, SE Asia, Congo, Central Africa, Kenya), numerous bishops and clergy from various regions, and guests from England, Canada, Puerto Rico and other countries. It was also clear that the Anglican Mission was participating in common cause with other Anglican groups, as representatives were introduced from the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Network, Forward in Faith North America and Anglican Mainstream.
The real thrust of the event, however, was to call people to continued emphasis on evangelism among the 130 million un-churched in the US. Bishop Chuck Murphy, the Chairman of the AMiA, painted the picture for conference attendees. In his annual address, he celebrated the last five years of the Mission, noted special progress in 2004 and called for vigorous energies to be committed to planting new churches in the next year.The plenary speakers supported this perspective, a call that was fleshed out in 45 workshops taught by a variety of resource people, both inside and outside the AMiA.
But it wasn’t all work. A healing service featuring the teaching of Bishop David Pytches was well attended, and a special ‘soaking prayer’ service on Saturday night brought strength to many before they headed home to take up the mission in their local settings once again. According to one pastor, “This is the best conference I have attended. There is a freedom and openness, and I feel a real opportunity to move forward in our church.”
Next year’s conference will be held in Birmingham, Alabama around the same time in January.