From the Font…From the Front Porch

September 27, 2012

The call to “make disciples” has been sorely neglected in mainline denominations over the last several decades, and Christian formation in the 21st century represents a challenge to clergy and families alike.  The Anglican Church in North America’s Catechesis Task Force is committed to equipping clergy, congregations and families in the Province to meet this challenge.  After a four-year process, the group is putting final touches on a draft Catechism and will present the 300-Question and Answer portion to the College of Bishops later this year so that Bishops can review and then discuss the document at their next meeting in January 2013. 

The Task Force has identified a two-prong primary need and strategy for the Catechism, envisioning its use within the church to come alongside parents, intentionally raising children and teens in the Christian faith and also to reach and make disciples of those outside the Church, much like the model of the first century. 

“We’re referring to this catechetical process as ‘from the font’ and ‘from the front porch,’” explains the Rev. Dr. Jack Gabig, Chair of the Task Force and Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary.  “We are committed to the concept of teaching the basic doctrine and discipline of the faith within our Anglican tradition as a progressive journey for all ages, in all stages of life – to those baptized as infants and to those seeking to understand and embrace faith for the first time.” 

Research collected by the Task Force reveals that a strong Catechism would be an invaluable tool for families and congregations.  In 2005, an extensive study by sociologist Christian Smith revealed that teenagers are not rebellious against religion but actually believe what their parents believe and practice what is modeled in their home.  The average family, however, tends to embrace a significantly watered-down version of religion that has been classified as “Moral Therapeutic Deism.”  Smith argues that based on the faith of today’s youth, “the future of Christianity in America could be in jeopardy.”

The Task Force is committed to addressing this crisis through the comprehensive Catechism. The Question and Answer portion covers core beliefs built around the framework of the Creed, which covers belief; the Lord’s Prayer, which addresses devotion; and the Ten Commandments, which covers the discipline necessary to “belonging.”  Though building on the foundation of Thomas Cranmer’s Catechism in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, this version has been expanded to train multiple generations and to cover more adequately the needs of our 21st century North American context.

“The Catechism doesn’t simply offer information,” notes Bronwyn Short, Task Force member. “The focus is transformation – changing everything about your life.”

According to the Rev. Lee Nelson, Task Force member and Rector of St John the Evangelist Church, Stockton, CA, the challenge in reaching those “on the front porch” is to retain fully the Christian faith without compromise while making sense to people totally outside that faith and with no foundation of knowledge. 

“We want to see individuals new to the faith engage true discipleship,” Dr. Gabig says, “because life in post-Modern North America needs a course correction. The idea is to see faith, hope and love along with right belief, right worship and right living emerge both individually and corporately,” he adds. “This kind of holy living becomes a signpost in the world.”

The Task Force has worked diligently to fulfill Archbishop Robert Duncan’s charge to “write a Catechism so appealing that people will want to use it.”  Bronwyn Short suggests that “the most important work is still to happen.”  Once the Catechism is finalized and approved for use in the Anglican Church in North America, the Task Force will turn its attention from the “what it will teach” to the “how it will be used” question, developing portfolios of curricula for multi-generational use in congregations and church plants across the Province.

Defining our words:
The Catechism is an instrument for instruction containing the content of the Faith, as revealed in Scripture.

Catechesis is the education and formation of Christians from before baptism through the end of life.

The Catechumenate is the operational framework and process within which the work of catechesis takes place.

A Catechumen is an individual member of the Catechumenate, typically one preparing for Holy Baptism and/or Confirmation.

Lutheran and Anglican Representatives Hold Second Ecumenical Meeting

September 20, 2012

A second meeting of representatives of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) was held in Columbus, Ohio, the location of the headquarters of the NALC.  This gathering included the bishop of the NALC, the Rev. John Bradosky and representatives from the two denominations. The ACNA was formed in 2009 as a new Anglican Province in North America. The NALC was formed in 2010 as a reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America.  Both bodies represent a biblical, confessional expression of their respective historic traditions.  A presentation was made by the Rev. Dr. William Rusch, Lutheran ecumenist, who offered an important summary of the history and process of Lutheran/Episcopal dialogues.  Dr. Rusch was a regular participant in this work at both the international and national levels.

Bishop Bradosky affirmed, “It is our mutual commitment to pursue the development of ecumenical relationships between the ACNA and the NALC on the basis of Holy Scripture.  Jesus’ prayer ‘that they all may be one . . . so that the world may believe’ (John 17:21) calls us to give expression to our unity in Him as a vital part of our witness to the world and an expression of the power of the Gospel.” Bishop Sutton, Chairman of the Ecumenical Relations Task Force for ACNA stated, “It is our commitment to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and salvation by Grace through faith alone that forms the basis of strengthening the capacity of both church bodies for mission and ministry; building up pastoral leadership and congregational outreach.”

The joint group began with study of both traditions’ foundational documents: the Lutheran Augsburg Confession and the Anglican 39 Articles.  Other topics discussed included possible cooperation in local mission and service, shared involvement in church planting, cooperation in theological education and future work together.

On the basis of the two consultations, it was acknowledged that there is agreement in the authority of the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior of the world.  The participants also acknowledged the already present consensus that has developed between the ACNA and the NALC.

Agreement was reached with regard to future consultations.  The next meeting will take place in Pittsburgh, spring of 2013. 

In addition to the leaders of both groups, participants included Bishop Ray Sutton and Pastor David Wendel, ecumenical officers of their respective bodies; along with Bishop Win Mott, Bishop Emeritus Paul Spring, Pastor Mark Chavez, Canon Daryl Fenton, Pastor Eric Riesen and Father Art Going.

PHOTO: Ecumenical officers for the NALC and ACNA, respectively: Pastor David Wendel and Bishop Ray Sutton

Principles of Christian Stewardship: Bishop John Guernsey’s Workshop Now Available on DVD

On Saturday, September 8, some 125 clergy and lay leaders in the Diocese of Fort Worth gathered at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas, for a stewardship conference led by Bishop John Guernsey of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.  Bishop Guernsey’s powerful presentation, centered on biblical and practical stewardship principles, was received with enthusiasm and appreciation.

The six-hour workshop was designed to equip Vestry and Bishop’s Committee members, church treasurers and those charged with stewardship in local congregations to develop effective stewardship programs as a key element of discipleship.

Addressing one of the barriers to good stewardship with a touch of humor, Bishop Guernsey remarked, “I’ve heard it said that church people don’t talk about money. That’s not true. We talk about money, but not in church!”

Of the three gifts we can offer – time, talent, and treasure – the subject of money, the Bishop said, “is the most difficult.

“Half of Jesus’ parables are about money,” he continued. “If the Church is not teaching about this subject, you are avoiding it.”

Bishop Guernsey outlined the need to be faithful in dealing with finances and offered guidance on how to teach and preach on the topic.  In addition, he emphasized the important role of clergy and lay leaders in the area of stewardship, stressing the need for the vestry’s unanimous and public support of the tithe.

“If you, as the stewardship chair, are trying to do this on your own, you will fail,” he noted.

Bishop Guernsey noted that money can become an area of serious disobedience, but faithful giving provides freedom and brings us closer to God.  The motive for giving, he explained, is thankfulness, which in turn leads to joy.

“If the stewardship campaign is not based on thankfulness, it’s only fundraising. Duty, pride, or a good cause are all wrong reasons to give. You do not resolve guilt by writing a check. That’s a false gospel.

“We give because the Lord is a giver, and we are thankful.”

Bishop Guernsey has extensive experience in stewardship training, having taught the financial stewardship education course at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) for 12 years.  In addition, he has led stewardship education workshops in over 30 dioceses and more than 40 congregations.  Participants have called Bishop Guernsey’s workshop “transformational.”

In order to share these sound and effective biblical principles with a wider audience, Bishop Guernsey’s Diocesan Stewardship workshop is now available on DVD from the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.  Click here to order copies.

“Bishop Guernsey’s Stewardship DVDs are an extremely valuable tool for the province,” said The Ven. Canon Dr. Jack Lumanog, Canon for Provincial and Global Mission.  “I highly recommend it to our bishops, parish clergy and congregations.”