Thursday, September 03, 2015

Great Commission Anglicans Need Their Own Service Book

By Robin G. Jordan

I have been following the progress that the Anglican Church in North America has been making in expanding into the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which is now my home state. The Diocese of the South of the Anglican Church in North America has only three churches in Kentucky. The Reformed Episcopal Church’s Diocese of the Central States, a second ACNA diocese that incorporates Kentucky, has a mission in Owensboro, Kentucky. The PEAR-USA Southeast Region, a third ACNA network of churches that also includes Kentucky, has none. This is the extent of the ACNA presence in the Commonwealth.

When compared with the number of Continuing Anglican churches in the Kentucky, the ACNA presence in the state is no larger than the Continuing Anglican presence. The Anglican Church in America has one church in Kentucky. The Anglican Catholic Church has a priory in Kentucky but no churches. The Episcopal Missionary Church has one church. The United Episcopal Church has two churches, which were formerly a single church. One has services on Sunday mornings and the other on Wednesday nights. They were originally a part of the EMC church but split off from that church. The Anglican Orthodox Church has no churches. The Anglican Province of America lists one church on its website, which it also lists as affiliated with the ACA. The APA website, while giving an address for the congregation 17 miles from Murray, lists the congregation as worship in a cemetery chapel in Bowling Green, Kentucky. So does the ACA website. The Orthodox Anglican Church has no churches in Kentucky. Continuing Anglican church websites are updated infrequently and often contain out of date or inaccurate information.

For the sake of comparison, I am listing the number of Episcopal churches in Kentucky. According to Wikipedia, the Diocese of Kentucky has “36 parishes in the diocese, with about 10,500 baptized members. A majority of the members live in the Louisville area, with the remainder scattered throughout southern and western Kentucky, primarily in communities with more than 10,000 residents.” Whether missions are included in this number is not indicated in the article. The directory on the diocese’s website lists 39 congregations but does not distinguish between parishes and missions. According to Wikipedia, the Diocese of Lexington has its “greatest membership strength is in the Bluegrass region in and around Lexington, with a smaller pocket of strength in the Northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati. The Diocese has only a few congregations in the Appalachian portion of the southeastern corner of the state.” The directory on the diocese’s website lists 37 congregations but does not distinguish between parishes and missions. The Episcopal presence in Kentucky is far larger than the ACNA and Continuing Anglican presence combined.

Since he became Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, Diocese of the South Bishop Foley Beach has attended an Anglo-Catholic Congress, launched a social ministries initiative, and made a number of promotional trips outside the United States including a recent junket to Moscow. He has to my knowledge announced nothing new on the church planting front in his diocese or in the ACNA.

While the Anglican Church in North America boasts that it has almost a 1000 congregations, no reliable statistics are available on the size of these congregations, how long they have been in existences, what kind of growth they are experiencing, and their overall viability. Church planting in the ACNA has all the appearances of being spotty. I do not have sufficient information to say that it has come to a standstill but it is certainly negligible in Kentucky.

When I visited the REC Owensboro Mission website, I noted that the mission uses the Episcopal Church’s 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the Episcopal Church’s 1940 Hymnal, not the two most effective tools for reaching and engaging the unreached and unengaged in Kentucky. The constituencies to which the 1928 Prayer Book and the 1940 Hymnal appealed is up there in age and shrinking in size. The use of the 1928 Prayer Book and the 1940 Hymnal is a sign of two major factors that hurt a church’s mission —a church’s love of past culture more than its present context and its love of tradition more than its children. While Owensboro is a fairly large town and the Episcopal Church enjoyed success in planting churches in large towns, we are talking about the 1950s and earlier, not recent times.

The last Episcopal church planted in my part of Kentucky was launched in 1980. It used the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the 1982 Hymnal, and the hymnal supplement, Songs for Celebration. It was enjoying a measure of growth until 2003 when Gene Robinson was consecrated a bishop of the Episcopal Church. This precipitated a split which cost the church a part of its congregation, a loss from which it has never recovered.

Both it and the Continuing Anglican church formed by the part of the congregation that left over the Robinson’s consecration are floundering. The Continuing Anglican church would adopt the 1928 Prayer Book and the 1940 Hymnal but they have proven a hindrance rather than a help to its growth.

Episcopalians form a very tiny segment of the region’s population--less than 1 %. Former Episcopalians who have a sentimental attachment to the 1928 Prayer Book and the 1940 Hymnal form an even tinier segment of that population. The Tudor English of the 1928 Prayer Book and the particular selection of hymns in the 1940 Hymnal, their language, and the practices associated with their use are not the drawing card that they may have been in the 1950s and earlier. Even then they had limited appeal in the region.

The use of the 1928 Prayer Book and the 1940 Hymnal creates a disconnection between a church and its community. The world outside its doors is post-Christian twenty-first century America, not post-World War II twentieth century America.

If one examines the pattern of church planting that the Episcopal Church followed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky during the nineteenth and twentieth century, one notices that the Episcopal Church typically started mission congregations in towns that were accessible by riverboat and later railroad in the nineteenth century and by the state and Interstate highway system in the twentieth century. These mission congregations were confined to communities that had a fairly dense population and in which a nucleus of Episcopalians already lived and worked.

This pattern becomes more pronounced in the period in which Anglo-Catholicism became the dominant theology in the Diocese of Kentucky. This occurred fairly early in the history of the diocese. The Anglican Church in North America in what little church planting it has done in the Commonwealth of Kentucky has followed a similar pattern.

The Episcopal Church’s expansion in these two centuries was fairly slow. A number of the mission congregations that the Episcopal Church started never grew large enough to become self-supporting parishes. They are subsidized to this day.

I have read at least one history of the Episcopal Church in Kentucky in which the author rationalized its sluggish growth with the argument that the Episcopal Church, unlike the evangelical denominations, focused on quality over quantity. A more accurate appraisal would have been that the Episcopal Church with its Anglo-Catholic theology and High Church style of worship appealed only to a very tiny segment of the population and this segment was found only in communities with a high population density.

The same history was dismissive of the various approaches such as crusade evangelism, door-to-door evangelism, radio broadcasts, and tracts that evangelical denominations at the time it was written used to evangelize the unchurched population. One observes in the Anglican Church in North America similar attitudes toward evangelical denominations evidenced in this history.

The challenges that the Episcopal Church faced in the past are relevant to the Anglican Church in North America in the present. A denomination that adopts Anglo-Catholic theology and a High Church style of worship is not going to make significant inroads in Kentucky. It will always have a very tiny presence in the Commonwealth. It will be limited in its capacity to spread the gospel and make disciples both by its theology and its style of worship. They will form barriers to its fulfillment of the Great Commission.

As well as creating a disconnection between churches and their communities, they also enervate a church’s zeal for evangelism. Considering the unfortunate fact that American Christians have a tendency to shy away from evangelism, particularly Episcopalians and former Episcopalians, anything that contributes to this proclivity represents a serious problem.  

In the mid-1980s I was involved in what was one of the last successful Episcopal church plant in the Diocese of Louisiana. In the space of seven odd years it would grow to the point where it became self-supporting parish. It would experience a major church split that was related to its rapid growth and the limits of its rector’s leadership capacity, losing a third of its member households. It would experience another setback with the Robinson’s consecration in 2003, which seriously damaged the public image of the Episcopal Church in what was a politically and socially conservative community. By 2007 it had become a subsidized mission again. Here again a major contributing factor was the leadership capacity limits of the same rector.

In its heyday the congregation was largely a mix of evangelicals and charismatics and its worship reflected this mix. The congregation was also fairly outward-looking. After the split the rector took the church in a Anglo-Catholic, High Church direction while catering to those attracted to such liberal innovations as labyrinth walking. This shift in direction did not offset the losses from the split and the harmful effects of the Robinson consecration. What new people it did attract were more inward-looking than those they replaced.

During the same time period two Continuing Anglican churches were launched in the parish—Louisiana’s equivalent of a county. Both churches used the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1940 Hymnal and targeted disaffected Episcopalians. Both churches were short-lived. If they had adopted a different approach to worship, targeted a much larger segment of the population, and had been more outward-looking, they might still be around to this day. The parish was one of most rapidly growing areas of the state.

What happened in Louisiana and what has happened in Kentucky are among the reasons that I believe that the Anglican Church in North America needs a much more comprehensive and flexible liturgy than the rites and services that the Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force have produced to date and which the College of Bishops has endorsed. They are far too Anglo-Catholic and High Church for the North American mission field. Confining outreach to whatever segment of the unchurched population that they might appeal is not being faithful to the Great Commission. Christ commanded the disciples and through them as its representatives the Church to go and make disciples of ALL people groups. The only qualifications that he added to this command were that we are to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and to instruct them in his teaching.

Just as the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1940 Hymnal have proven a hindrance to outreach for the Continuing Anglican churches, we can expect the rites and services of Texts for Common Prayer to form a similar obstacle for ACNA churches. Like the rites and services of the 1928 Prayer Book, they are designed for cathedrals, seminary chapels, and parish churches. They cannot be tailored to a variety of circumstances—to the non-traditional settings in which congregations worship on the mission field or to the limited resources that are available to them.

What congregations on the mission field need is a service book that is shaped by the gospel and embodies the teaching of the Scriptures and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies. They need forms of service that are stripped down to their bare essentials and which can be used with equal facility in a living room, a hotel conference room, a storefront, or a shared sanctuary. They need alternative patterns of worship that enable even a handful of people to gather around God’s Word on Sundays or whenever they meet. It should be evident to anyone perusing the contents of the service book that for those who prepared it the Great Commission is their first priority.

As our Lord pointed to the attention of the disciples, the fields are ripe for harvest. They are heavy with the maturing grain even in post-Christian twenty-first America. We should be girding our loins, sharpening our sickles, and going into the fields to reap the corn whitening under the sun.

The urgency of the task is far more pressing than we may realize. Ripening wheat left to stand in the fields will become unharvestable. Wind and rain will knock down the corn. Mold will attack it. Any loose grain that falls to ground will begin to sprout.

Our Lord knew this. Hence he urged the disciples to pray that the lord of the harvest would send more workers into his fields.

The mechanization of agriculture in Canada and the United States and the concentration of most of the population in urban and suburban areas may explain why we do not fully appreciate what our Lord was saying.

At the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry a team of workers went into the fields. Some workers reaped while the other workers bound the cut wheat into sheaves and set up the sheaves in shocks in the field. The sheaves were hauled by cart to the threshing floor where the wheat was threshed and winnowed. The grain was then stored.

We reap when God through our ministry and witness leads someone to Christ. We bind the sheaves and set them up in shocks when we enfold new believers into new congregations.

Remember that we must give an accounting to our Lord for everything that we have said and done. How will we explain shrinking from the task that he has appointed us to do—to spread the gospel to the remotest parts of the earth and to share the good news with all of humanity.

We cannot hire someone else to go in our place. We must go ourselves. While everyone is not called to labor in the mission field outside our community and region, we all are called to serve as missionaries to those who do not yet know Christ in our community and region. We all should make it our concern that we are equipped with the right tools for the task.


Kevin Davis said...


There is an ACC in Northern Kentucky - in the town of Dayton. It is often listed as being in the Ohio area, because it is just across the river from Cincinnati.


Kevin Davis

Robin G. Jordan said...

Thank you for drawing that to my attention. I gave the number of churches that I found listed on the websites of the various Continuing Anglican jurisdictions. The addition of that church would make the Continuing Anglican presence in Kentucky by number of churches larger than the ACNA presence.

The problem is not that Kentucky is not fertile ground for church planting. A number of new churches have been launched successfully in my region in the past 10 years. Nor is Kentucky over-churched. 70 % or more of the population in my region of Kentucky is unchurched. For a variety of reasons traditional liturgical churches do not do well. This includes the various Lutheran Churches as well as the Anglican ones.

One of the reason is the style of worship is too close to that of the Roman Catholic Church and in the case of many of the Anglican Churches the theology is also. The Roman Catholic Church is viewed as not entirely Christian by a large part of the Christian population and this view of the Roman Catholic Church is also shared by a segment of the unchurched population. Any church that resembles the Roman Catholic Church in worship and doctrine will have a public image problem. This is not the only reason that liturgical churches do not do well but it is a significant barrier to their success.

With one exception all the Episcopal churches in my region of Kentucky are located in communities that also have a Roman Catholic church. The exception has a Roman Catholic church in the neighboring community.

There is no Roman Catholic church in the community where the EMC church is located. There is also no Roman Catholic church in the community where the two UEC churches are located.

Among the reasons these three churches are not flourishing are that they have little or no connection with their community, they have a small population base, they are inward-looking, and they have a history of repeated splits.

The EMC church owns its building and could have a viable ministry and witness in its community if it implemented a number of changes. Unfortunately small churches have difficulty in making changes even when they recognize that they need to make them.

The Rev Canon David Wilson said...

St Andrews Versailles KY is a large ACNA EVANGELICAL Church pastored by a non Anglo-Catholic EVANGELICAL pastor (priest).

Robin G. Jordan said...

What do exactly mean by “Evangelical”? I ask this question because the term “Evangelical” is used rather loosely in the Anglican Church in North America and is applied to charismatics , what Gerald Bray describes as “charismatic open evangelical ritualists,” and even Anglo-Catholics. The Ancient Future/Worship Renewal Movement and the Ancient Evangelical Movement both have sought to erase the distinction between Evangelical and unreformed Catholic.

I tend to use the term more precisely when applying it to Anglicans and Anglicanism—specifically to conservative Evangelicals who embody the characteristics historically associated with the Evangelical wing of the Church of England and its daughter churches and who adhere to the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies and are committed to their Protestant and Reformed theology. Consequently, when we talk about Evangelicals and Evangelicalism, we may not be talking about the same thing.

To my way of thinking the term “High Church Evangelical” sometimes used in the ACNA is an oxymoron. Those who apply this label to themselves upon close examination prove to be far more Anglo-Catholic than Evangelical in their theological outlook albeit they may have acquired their Anglo-Catholic opinions through a different route than traditional Anglo-Catholicism with its roots in the Oxford Movement. Protestant High Churchmen of the pre-Oxford Movement variety are a rarity.

Robin G. Jordan said...

The test of where a church stands in terms of teaching and practices is the ACNA Catechism and the ACNA Prayer Book-in-Preparation. If the church accepts the Catechism and the Prayer Book-in Preparation, it is NOT Evangelical in historic Anglican sense. If St Andrews Versailles is using the Catechism and the Prayer Book-in-Preparation, it cannot be viewed as Evangelical in that sense whatever it may claim.

While on its website St Andrews Versailles lists as one of its values “planting new churches that will plant other new churches,” to my knowledge it has planted only one church to date—St. Peter’s Anglican Church Frankfort.

St. Peter’s website describes it as follows:

“St. Peter’s Anglican Church is a new church community started by St. Andrew’s Church, Versailles. We are comprised mostly of Frankfort-area folks from the St. Andrew’s congregation.”

It also describes the church as a “renewal initiative” of St. Andrew’s. It does not specify how long ago the church was started. The website, I must point out, could do with a serious upgrade.

Apostles Anglican Church is affiliated with the Diocese of the Great Lakes and refers only to the Apostles and Nicene Creeds on its website. Its website includes the following statement:

“While the Anglican Church as a whole does not have a statement of faith like you might see with other churches, we stand firm on the foundation of Jesus Christ, built upon by his Disciples and Apostles, outlined in The Bible. We believe that a life of faith can be built from the sources of Scripture, Church Tradition, Experience of God, and through the Wisdom and Reason given to us.”

One must conclude from this statement that Apostles does not recognize the Thirty-Nine Articles as a formulary of Historic Anglicanism and, along with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, as the longstanding doctrinal and worship standard of the Anglican Church. While claiming to be “part of a dynamic movement for church planting and discipleship,” Apostles did not state on its website what it was doing to plant new churches in Kentucky.

Robin G. Jordan said...

St. Patrick’s Anglican Church Lexington is also affiliated with the Diocese of the Great Lakes. Its website includes references to the “holy Catholic and apostolic faith, professed by the whole before the division of East and West” and to “three streams, one river,” as well as the Anglican formularies (albeit the page in which the formularies are mentioned is adapted from a page from the website of the Diocese of Singapore and the extent to which the church subscribes to their doctrines is unclear.)

St. Lukes Anglican Church Lexington is affiliated with the Missionary Diocese of All Saints—the Forward in Faith North America diocese. Its website describes the church as a “’three streams’” body of Christians.” Originally a part of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, it would eventually become a part of the ACNA. One of the requirements of affiliation with the Missionary Diocese of All Saints is affiliation with FIFNA-NA and acceptance of its doctrinal positions.

From all appearances these churches have been in existence for some time. The last three churches increase the ACNA presence in Kentucky by three additional churches, making it two churches larger than the Continuing Anglican presence. There is nothing, however, that contradicts my observation that ACNA church planting is at a standstill in Kentucky. Nor is there anything to contradict my observation that the ACNA is confining its church planting efforts to areas of high population density like the Episcopal Church did during its church planting phase in the state.

Here again, the test of where these churches stands in terms of teaching and practices is the ACNA Catechism and the ACNA Prayer Book-in-Preparation. Whatever they claim on their websites, if they accept the Catechism and the Prayer Book-in-Preparation, they are NOT Evangelical in the historic Anglican sense. While they may not label themselves as Anglo-Catholic, they are subscribing to unreformed Catholic teaching and practices and therefore their position on the Protestant-Catholic spectrum must be viewed in that light.

Robin G. Jordan said...

I did not mention that Apostles Anglican Church is also located in Lexington. Lexington is the second largest city in Kentucky. According to Wikipedia--

Lexington "is one of two cities in Kentucky designated as first-class, with the other being the state's largest city of Louisville. In the 2014 U.S. Census Estimate, the city's population was 310,797, anchoring a metropolitan area of 489,435 people and a combined statistical area of 708,677 people."

"Lexington ranks tenth among US cities in college education rate, with 39.5% of residents having at least a bachelor's degree."

Lexington includes all of Fayette County, with which it is consolidated. It is home to Transylvania University, the University of Kentucky and Bluegrass Community & Technical College.

Most of the Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Lexington are concentrated in the Lexington-Fayette Metro area. This may explains the concentration of ACNA churches in the same area. They were each organized around a nucleus of dissaffected Episcopalians.

For those who may be interested, Versailles, Kentucky is also a part of the Lexington-Fayette Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 8,568 at the 2010 census. It is a 21 minute (14.9 mile) drive from Frankfurt, Kentucky. With the exception of the ACNA church in Owensboro and the one in Elizabethtown, the ACNA churches are in fairly close proximity to each other. Even then Elizabethtown is only a 1 hour, 25 minute (83.5 mile) drive from Versailles.

Owensboro is the furthest from the Lexington-Fayette Metro area--a 2 hour, 25 minute (164.8 mile) drive from Versaille.