Breakout Sessions and Interest Groups Shape Upcoming Assembly 2012

Provincial Assembly 2012 is just around the corner, taking place on June 7-9 in Ridgecrest, NC. Archbishop Duncan announced that this event is “very much about building up the mission of the church and encouraging the next generation of leaders in our midst.”

In order to help build relationships among current leaders, and to educate the next generation of leaders, Assembly 2012 will feature a series of breakout sessions and interest groups throughout the three-day event.

“We’re hoping this combination of breakout sessions and special interest groups will bring both challenge and encouragement for all who attend,” said Deacon Todd Simonis, Leader of the Taskforce on breakout sessions and interest groups.

A unique feature at Assembly will be the opportunity to gather in “special interest groups” where participants will meet for fellowship, and to teach and learn from others in their area of ministry. These special interest groups will gather on Saturday afternoon toward the end of Assembly. Lay and ordained leaders from around the Province have organized thought-provoking group discussions on a range of topics.

Some of the interest groups that have been organized include a Faith in the Workplace interest group, along with Clergy Spouses, Bi-Vocational Ministry, Women Clergy, Higher Education and Seminary Discussion, Anglicans for Life, Internationals in our Churches on Our Campuses, Anglican Relief and Development Fund, American Anglican Council, Church Planting (Anglican1000), Discerning the Call, and more.

For most participants, this may be the only opportunity to gather in-person and discover valuable lessons from others in their field.

Deacon Todd added, “The special interest groups will allow individuals to connect and network with others who have a similar passion or interest.”

During the afternoons on Thursday and Friday, there will be four breakout session themes featuring several topical discussions. The four themes include Multiply Congregations, Transform Communities, Captivate Disciples, and Youth in Our Midst.

“The breakout sessions are meant to dive deeper into the main focus of the wider Assembly, which revolves around Captivating Disciples, Multiplying Congregations and Transforming Communities,” explained Deacon Todd.

In the Multiply Congregations breakout sessions, participants will hear from various leaders and experts including the Rev. Tom Herrick, Executive Director of the Titus Institute for Church Planting and Multiplication, a ministry dedicated to establishing an Anglican multiplication movement in North America. Fr. Herrick’s session will focus on the ways that every church, regardless of its size and stage of development, can develop a culture of leadership that activates the missional energies of its members. 

“We will look at practical ways to recognize emerging leaders, encourage the exercise of leadership gifts, and organically cultivate disciples who are bearing fruit in ministry and reproducing faith in the lives of others,” said The Rev. Herrick.

Mike Flynn, pastor of four churches in the Los Angeles area, will focus his Multiply Congregations discussion on Power Evangelism’s role in planting and growing congregations. How to be “naturally supernatural” will be a main thrust of the presentation and a calling down of the Holy Spirit will follow his talk.

Another key breakout session theme is Transform Communities and participants will hear from lay and ordained leaders who will share captivating stories of profound transformation both domestically and abroad.  Grant LeMarquand and his wife Wendy will hold a discussion titled “Refugees Transforming Refugees: The Impact of Anglican Churches in Western Ethiopia.” In the border region between South Sudan and western Ethiopia, Sudanese refugee pastors have planted 53 Anglican churches. The area is poor, de-forested, undeveloped, has little clean water, a high level of non-literacy, lack of health care and few educational opportunities – but 53 Anglican churches have been planted and they are beginning to transform their communities with the Gospel.

Grant LeMarquand, a Canadian and former Professor of New Testament and Mission at Trinity School for Ministry, is also the Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa with the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa. Wendy LeMarquand is a family physician who is trained in tropical medicine, has experience with community-based health care in Africa and leads prayer ministry teams.

Also under the topic of Transform Communities, Bruce Colvin, a seasoned missionary in post-traumatic cultures and communities, will hold a breakout session relating the transforming community and disaster response and relief.

“There is no better metaphor for the Gospel than disaster response and relief. This session will address how to prepare the local church to be an intact, ministering community for the sake of its neighbors, particularly in times of tragedy and misfortune,” offered Colvin.

Maintaining a focus on mission work abroad, a separate Transform Communities track is titled, “Investing in Africa: “Teach a Man to Fish: Go With Him on His Boat” and will be led by The Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll.  Prof. Noll will guide the audience in considering the opportunities and difficulties of doing business in Africa, as well as discussing his own involvement in Uganda, with a focus on education as business venture and also land development.

Fr. Eric Dudley, rector of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Florida, will lead a more familiar breakout session under the topic Transform Communities, and his discussion is titled, “Transforming the Local Church.”

Fr. Dudley explains, “Transformation within the local community must first take place within the local church. You cannot act as a vehicle of God’s Spirit to transform the community unless transformation is first taking place at a parish level.”

The third breakout theme to be discussed in various sessions is Captivate Disciples. Bishop David Bena will lead a discussion titled, “Captivating Co-Baby Boomers for the Kingdom” With all the emphasis on reaching Gen X and Gen Y, Bishop Bena will remind his audience that they cannot forget captivating the Boomers. This session will highlight some of the characteristics of Boomers and how they can be reached with the Gospel.

A fourth breakout topic that will be offered this year is Youth in Our Midst which will address varying issues related to youth ministry and outreach and will be led by experts from around the Province.

If you have not already done so, there is still time to register for Assembly 2012.  Join us this summer as we are equipped and empowered to follow God’s call to spread the transforming love of Jesus Christ throughout North America!

Reaching the Unchurched through Church Plants: Bishop Todd Hunter to speak at Assembly 2012

This coming June, members and friends of the Anglican Church in North America will gather at Assembly 2012 in Ridgecrest, NC. A celebration of what the Lord is doing in and through us, Assembly 2012 will feature several guest speakers to encourage and impassion us in our callings, both as individuals and as a church.

Bishop Todd Hunter, a church planter, author and founding pastor of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Costa Mesa, CA will speak about case studies in church planting and how it is a “strategic extension of God’s kingdom.”  Bishop Hunter is the author of Christianity Beyond Belief , Giving Church A Second Chance , The Outsider Interviews, The Accidental Anglican and his latest book on temptation titled Our Favorite Sins.  He is also the founding director of Churches for the Sake of Others, the West Coast church planting initiative for The Anglican Mission in the Americas. Bishop Hunter also founded Three is Enough, a small group movement that enables spiritual formation in one’s everyday life.

Anticipating Bishop’s Hunter’s discussion with us at Assembly 2012, the Anglican Church in North America conducted a Q&A session with him. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: In your view, what is the best way to get involved in the mission of reaching the “unchurched?”
Planting new churches. New churches attract unchurched people the best because there is not a preexisting social circle. I believe that is one of the things what the unchurched fear the most. With the death of Christendom and the advent of the post-modern mindset, evangelism has to be to be rooted in conversation – in what I call the “persuasive power of listening.”  In this world of pluralism and relativism, evangelism is more about exchanging stories.  In other words, relationship building, listening, and swapping stories need to happen first before “apologetics” can have their natural force.

Q: In your experience, what are some new tools or techniques being used to spread the Gospel?  Do you think they are effective tools for that purpose?

The Alpha Course isn’t new but is the best programmatic approach to the listening and sharing stories aspect of evangelism. One of the easiest ways for folks to be involved in the Gospel today is to be involved in social justice projects such as Invisible Children, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Most kids today are vaguely spiritual and so the easiest way to get in touch with them is to get them involved with doing something good for others. 

In a church planting point of view, there is a “missional-monastic” movement happening that gets traction with young Christian leaders.  For example, a group of 20 and 30 year olds will move into a neighborhood in, say, Columbus, OH and have a highly focused goal of transforming their immediate surrounding community.  They set their highest priority as being agents of the kingdom of God in a relational way and it’s working.

Q: What message do you hope to share with members and friends of the Anglican Church in North America at the upcoming 2012 Provincial Assembly?

Church planting, though it’s hard, and we have to find money and leaders, is doable and it’s happening. Church planting is very strategic to the extension of the kingdom of God.  It is easy for people to get frustrated and discouraged about the task of church planting, so I will bring case studies and anecdotes that bring hope and confidence.

Q: What is your current ministry focus?

“Churches for the Sake of Others” is the church planting mission that I lead, and has a goal of starting 200 mission-minded, Spirit-filled, orthodox, Anglican churches in the west coast of America. We have 20 or so off the ground and running.  I’ve started a church in Costa Mesa, CA called Holy Trinity which is growing nicely and is birthing two daughter churches.

Q: How can the Anglican Church in North America continue to pray for your ministries?

Pray that we would continue to find the right sort of leaders who have genuine, divine, callings to start churches in the west.  Also, that these potential leaders wouldn’t be turned off by current political climate in Anglicanism.

Q: Tell us about your latest book Our Favorite Sins: The Essential Guide for Beating Temptation.  What inspired you to write about this topic? What has the response been from readers?

My last two books have been more about my journey into Anglicanism and how I see using Anglican spirituality as a way of doing evangelism and discipleship. The book Our Favorite Sins is more written for Americans and not just “church/liturgical people.”  It’s a way for me to talk about spiritual formation and get at a very human topic like temptation and to highlight Anglican spirituality in the way of Jesus. 

Also, it is research based and so is statistically reliable in terms of temptations of Americans.  The inspiration for Our Favorite Sins was to have a way to talk about spiritual formation that is practical and pointed at an issue everyone experiences. I show ancient practices that Christians have used to combat temptation, yet the ideas are targeted at anybody who has a sense of being spiritual.

Q: When you’re not writing and ministering, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
Reading and walking or bicycling around the Back Bay at Newport Beach, CA.

Q: Are you working on any projects, or books, that we can be on the look-out for?
Yes, we are working on another research based book on the topic of forgiveness. Stay tuned!

Q: Last but not least, what has been the impact of Anglicanism in your life, or why is Anglicanism relevant today?

Everybody says they are spiritual today, but not many people look to Church as a fountain from which to drink to quench their spiritual thirst.  We must show them ancient wells and the connectivity that goes back to Celtic Christianity, and that there are ways that Christians have formed themselves in Christ.
Anglicanism gives a basic worldview on how to shape your life.  The church calendar builds into your life this imagination for what God is doing. The prayers of confession keep you grounded.  The creed gives you a way to profess what you believe in your own life.  The rhythm in the routines of Anglican spirituality can lead people to Jesus who is the well from which we can drink and never thirst again. If people are plugged into this, Anglicanism can be very powerful today. 

If you have not already done so, there is still time to register for Assembly 2012 and hear from Bp. Todd Hunter and our other guest speakers.  Join us this summer as we are equipped and empowered to follow God’s call to spread the transforming love of Jesus Christ throughout North America!

2012 Easter Message from Archbishop Duncan

Preached by the Most Reverend Robert Duncan at the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Vigil, in St. Peter’s Church in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, on Easter Eve, 7th April, A.D.2012.

In the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, One God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Blessed and Praised forever:  Amen.

In all four gospels it is women who come first to the tomb. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us the purpose: to anoint Jesus’ body.  Burial on Friday had been hurried.  At least the soldiers had not broken his legs to speed death.  He was already dead.  The Sabbath was at hand.  In the moment, Joseph of Arimathea was moved to give his own freshly hewn tomb, which was, St. John tells us, very near to the Place of the Skull.  Nicodemus, John tells us, had given spices, but Jesus’ own inner circle had not been able to care for his body in the customary way.  There had been so much hurry.  They had loved him so much.  Nevertheless, they could still do what was right, what at the very least they owed him, when the Sabbath ended. 

They surely recognized their problem.  They surely knew that the immense wheel-like stone had been rolled over the entrance to the tomb.  St. Mark tells us that they had actually seen this happen.  Maybe they had also heard about Pilate’s order that the tomb be sealed and a guard set to keep things that way.  It is St. Matthew that records for us this detail.

So the women meet very early on Sunday, sometime after sundown on Saturday.  They must do what it is right to do and what could not be done on Friday.  They can now prepare the spices and the ointments.  It is still dark.  They will arrive near first light.

Everything is, of course, very confused and confusing.  Their grief is overwhelming.  Have they forgotten about the stone?  Do they not think about the stone until they are actually on their way?  Do each think about it earlier, but not discuss it?  We cannot know.  All we can know is that on their way to the tomb they are saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” 

Followers of Jesus often face what seem to them insurmountable problems…challenges for which there seem to be no apparent solutions.  They will nevertheless do what is right, what they can do, even if there is a part of the puzzle they do not have or cannot conceive.  Trust in their God drives them on.  With God, there has always been a way through in the past, so why not trust Him now?

A terribly injured child?  An impossible situation at work?  A marriage in tatters?  Some debilitating illness or handicap? An unjust accusation?  An adolescent in rebellion?  A friendship betrayed?  Wars and rumors of wars?  Domestic or civil violence?  Whatever the present impossibility…  We Christians will trust him with this too.

We can wonder what the women spoke of as they went in the darkness toward the tomb of Jesus.  Was there more than “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?”  Might they have remembered the Passover story of long ago, the very feast being celebrated in these same days?  All the first-born of Israel had been spared.  Might they next have recalled the victory at the Red Sea, when all God’s people were saved and all of Pharaoh’s army drowned?  Might they have remembered Jericho, where the walls miraculously tumbled down?  Could they have encouraged one another with the stories of Ruth or Esther, or Daniel or the Three Young Men?  Might they have spoken of Judas Maccabeus or the miracle of Chanukah?  Could they have rehearsed some of the miracles they had seen at the hands of their crucified rabbi?  The healings, the feedings, the castings out, the raisings from the dead?  Might they have even dared to wonder about his teaching concerning what would follow his own death?  We cannot say what broke the silence of their preparation of the spices and ointments, or the silence of their walk to the tomb.  We are sure of their grief – for that is why they were meeting – and we are sure of the one question:  “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?

In all of our speculation about the run-up to the arrival of the women at the tomb, it is very hard to imagine that the women could have imagined in advance what actually confronted them on arrival.  God is so much bigger than our thoughts or imaginings.  Even the rehearsal of earlier mighty deeds does not prepare us for the immensity of what he can do in the present moment, in the face of our seemingly insurmountable challenges. Yes, he often appoints brothers and sisters, or sometimes even strangers, to help us – to help us in quite ordinary, quite natural ways.  But sometimes there is the supernatural, and the great stories seem to be filled with this.  Indeed, at their arrival, they would soon have the greatest story of all time to tell.  God would act.  God powerfully, God unmistakably.  God alone.  Without man’s help.

God addresses our human challenges both naturally and supernaturally.  He is God, after all.  Our chief attitude needs to be to trust him, no matter what we face.  His operation, whether natural or supernatural, is his choice, his provision by whatever means.  He is Creator, sustainer and end of everything, so why do we doubt?

But tonight’s work – this dawn of the day work – is God’s alone.  “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?”  God will.  God does.  There is earthquake.  There is an angel, dazzling light.  The guards fall away.  The stone is rolled back. 

But there is more, much more.  The tomb is empty. “He has been raised, as he said.”  They are invited to see the place where the body had lain.  They are given a message.  (Forget the spices and the ointments.)  “Go tell his disciples.”  It hadn’t been about the stone after all…or about a dead body.  The crucifixion wasn’t the last word.  Not at all.  They had mis-read what God was up to.  Yes they were being faithful, but their plan – their challenge – was much too small.  Fear – a different kind of fear – and great joy are now theirs.  They hadn’t run from their problem, from their grief, but had headed straight into it.  Now everything was changed.  So now they run with a different purpose.  They are bearers of the greatest good news of all time.  And suddenly he himself meets them:  “Greetings!”  They fall and worship, and so do we.  And his last words to them are “Go and tell.”  We, too, now fall and worship.  Our next step is to go and tell. 

There is now, with Jesus, no challenge we cannot face, not even death.  For now the last challenge has been swallowed up in victory, and – for those who put their faith in him – no stones that cannot be rolled away.  There is nothing now that can separate us from the Father’s love or Jesus’ resurrection or the Spirit’s power.  Rejoice this Easter Day!  Rejoice like never before!  Rejoice for the stone on the tomb proved no problem to our God. 

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen.  The Lord is Risen indeed.  Alleluia.