The Future of Evangelicalism in TEC


As the 21st century begins to play itself out there is cause for encouragement. I recently attended the annual gathering of the Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion (EFAC-USA) in Orlando, Florida, of which the Fellowship of Witness was the forebear. Not only did TEC and ACNA Christians gather together for fellowship and faithful reflection, but EFAC is being led and shaped by an exciting younger generation of Episcopalians, many of whom are recent pilgrims on the Canterbury Trail, and strikingly mature.

From Richard Kew, in a recent issue of The Living Church. Three of this younger generation, Zac Neubauer, Philip Ryan and Ethan Magness (for ACNA), were elected to the board of EFAC USA at its recent meeting at Trinity School for Ministry, and have brought new energy and purpose to the board. Work on the next EFAC conference (April 4–7 2018, Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center, Oviedo FL), and several other projects, is in progress. More details on the new EFAC USA web-site soon!

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At the Florida conferenefac-usa-logoce mentioned in the post below, there was general agreement on the subject of reviving and reorganising EFAC USA with a board drawn from both TEC and ACNA. According to the by-laws of the moribund but still existing EFAC USA (some of whose board members were present in Florida), new board members are elected by the membership at an Annual Meeting called for the purpose with one week’s notice.

The Annual Meeting will be held at Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge PA, Room 103 of the Academic Building on Tuesday, June 20th, at 7 pm. Members entitled to vote are those who support the aims of EFAC USA, and have paid dues. The dues of those who attended the conference in Florida were included in the cost of registration; others wishing to be members may pay their dues at the meeting on the 20th. In addition to electing new board members, the location and date of our 2018 conference, and other items related to the organization of EFAC will be discussed.

All members of TEC or ACNA who believe that the Bible is the final authority for all matters of faith, life and worship are urged to attend. Check the EFAC USA web-site (www.EFAC-USA.org) or go to the EFAC-USA Facebook page (Facebook.com/EFACUSA) for information about participating remotely.

Please pray for God’s guidance for those in attendance!

The recent conference called ‘Evangelion II’ (see posts below) was a great success. Fifteen TEC dioceses were represented, as well as observers from Canada, and everyone seemed encouraged. The plenary speakers, Justyn Terry, David Collum and Justin Holcomb, were all filmed, and the results should be online in about three weeks. Watch this space for more information. I look forward to seeing them—when you’re one of the organisers, you only catch bits here and there, but those who were able to attend to them whole spoke highly of them.

What I was able to participate in fully were the discussions, ‘How We Got Here’ and ‘Where Do We Go From Here’, which weren’t filmed, so I’ll say a bit about them in this and the next post respectively.

After an outline of the history of the evangelical movement in TEC since the founding of Trinity Seminary, we began to talk about what we could learn from this history. The main themes were that the switch from being a teaching ministry for the Episcopal Church to being a political party within the Church had been wholly negative, and that the movement had been too clericalist. During the 1980s and early 1990s, several evangelical parishes had highly successful teaching ministries, sending out sermon and teaching tapes across the country by the hundred, but in the mid 1990s this seemed suddenly to be abandoned in favor of a political approach centered on General Convention rather than the diocese. There was much speculation about how different the history might have been had we stuck to the teaching.

A comment about the emphasis on recruiting evangelical clergy rather than building up evangelical laity sparked an enthusiastic response by the lay people present, expressed in terms which came as a shock to some of the clergy present. But when people have been under-appreciated for too long, it’s natural to vent a bit when the opportunity to do so finally comes. It was agreed by all that there was room for improvement, and I personally look forward to seeing improvement as future work is discussed and planned.

These were by no means the only subjects discussed under the heading of learning from our past, but this is enough for one post. I hope the discussion can continue here—just click on the link at the top of this post and type your heart out!

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David CollumEvangelicals in the Episcopal Church are invited to Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA, April 28-30, for the second national gathering of Anglican Evangelicals, under the title Evangelion.

This year’s theme is Expressing Evangelical Identity in the Episcopal Church, and the speakers will be David Collum, Archdeacon of Albany Diocese, Justyn Terry, Dean of TSM, and Justin Holcomb, Canon for Vocations in the Diocese of Central Florida.Justyn Terry

There will also be opportunity for discussion on the more genJustin Holcomberal subject of evangelical witness in and to the Episcopal Church. More details will be posted at http://www.evangeliontec.org/conference-2016.html and on this blog as they become available. Save the dates!

The recent statement by the Anglican Primates is slightly more than I hoped for, and if the statements by Episcopal dignitaries and the comments on Episcopal blogs are worse than I feared, more fool me, I suppose. The Primates confirmed that ‘the traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture’ (is it my imagination or there a faint tinge of regret discernible in the wording there?) ‘upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union.’ Since that is the teaching of Scripture, albeit not in those words, Evangelicals will be pleased that these leading churchmen are willing to say so, and would apologise on behalf of the Episcopal Church for all the vitriolic comments being directed their way.

The statement also asks the Episcopal Church to limit its participation in some aspects of the Anglican Communion, and hopes for the appointment of a Task Group ‘to maintain conversation among ourselves [the Primates, presumably] with the intention of restoration of relationship’ etc. Restoration of relationships with the rest of the Communion presumably depends on a return to the Biblical view of marriage, and unlikely as that it is to happen, Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church must assume that God expects us to lift up our voices in support of that return.

Perhaps this is the place to begin discussing how we might do that, and how to be faithful in a church that seems less tolerant of us than ever. Perhaps there will be some time at the Evangelion II conference scheduled for May 28–30 in Ambridge, PA for further discussion.

I could certainly use a little encouragement…

 

Lee GatissOne of the many points made at the Evangelion conference by Lee Gatiss that really struck me concerned the value of institutions. Institutions live longer and work harder than even the most celebrated workers. He gave the example of William Wilberforce, the 19th century evangelical who devoted his life to ending Britain’s involvement with the slave trade. Wilberforce is generally credited with being the single most important individual campaigner for this cause, and achieving more for it than almost anyone of his time, but there was no guarantee that anyone would carry on this work after him, and although Parliament abolished the slave trade throughout the British Empire just weeks after his death, further reform in this area did not come for generations. Church Society, on the other hand, has been at work for the evangelical cause in the Church of England for 200 years, and its work does not stop when any of its members or officers dies.

Gatiss also pointed out that Church Society is still working for the same thing in the church for which it was working 200 years ago. Unlike, for instance, the abolition of slavery, commitment to living under the authority of Scripture in the church is not something about which it can ever be said ‘we’ve achieved our goal, now we can celebrate and then wind up our activities.’ There will always be work to do. There was 200 years ago, there is today, and unless the Lord comes first, there will be work to do 200 years from now.

It made me realize how much Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church need an institution like Church Society. My prayer is that out of this renewed interest in the evangelical movement, such an organization may come. It’s not our first need, I realize, but even the most enthusiastic movements run into the doldrums eventually, and before too many years have passed, I hope we take steps towards a Church Society of our own, and that in 2215 it will be busy planning its second bicentennial celebration, as well as continuing to uphold the authority of the word of God in the Episcopal Church.

In the meantime, let’s support Church Society, which is willing to help the effort here as well as in the Church of England. Click here to learn how.

Lee’s talk should be available on Anglican TV shortly. When it is, I’ll update this post with a link.

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