A Report from the Field

By The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey, J.D.

phil study
Canon Ashey

Chief Operating and Development Officer



Dear Friends in Christ,

Over the last few weeks I have been traveling, visiting rectors, associate clergy and other leaders in Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama to share about the work of the American Anglican Council. I’ve been blessed and encouraged to see and hear firsthand what God is doing through our affiliated congregations and chapters. While on the road, I have also been blessed to continue to work with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Governance Task Force and to work with a group seeking to form a new ACNA diocese.

Let me share just a few observations from my travels:

1. In the Anglican realignment in North America, governance structures continue to serve mission

The ACNA Governance Task Force gathered again to review our Constitution and Canons, now that we have had some time to “live into them” since their ratification in Bedford, Texas, in June of 2009. We reviewed the realignment of North American Anglicanism in the light of Acts 15 – like the Gentile Christians, we too are a movement “outside” the existing recognized structures of the “synagogue.” Like the Gentiles, we have been approached by certain leaders and asked to conform our governance to the laws of the institution in order to be properly recognized as brothers and sisters in Christ. (In our case, it is Canterbury and its party asking us to be “circumcised” by the “purported” schedule of requirements for a new Anglican Province, administered by the Anglican Consultative Council rather than by the Primates). We are, like those Gentile converts, a church planting movement with a very missionary structure and without many established buildings.

We noted that in Acts 15, the Jerusalem Council, in the words of John Stott, “secured a double victory – a victory of truth in confirming the gospel of grace, and a victory of love in preserving the fellowship by sensitive concessions to conscientious Jewish scruples.” (The Message of Acts (IVP: Downers Grove, IL, 1990), p. 257). Applying these principles, we reviewed our Constitution and Canons, reaffirming the principles of Biblical essentials, minimalism and subsidiarity that shaped them. We reaffirmed our fundamental declarations, including the gospel of grace. We made adjustments where needed to serve both the fundamental declarations and the mission of the church, just as the Jerusalem Council did for the missionary movement among the Gentiles. We reaffirmed the principle of conforming our governance to the governance structures of other Anglican provinces, especially those who provided us with pastoral oversight during our exodus from TEC. In this way, we are also preserving the fellowship by sensitive concessions to fellow confessing Anglicans worldwide. Of necessity, a number of issues regarding the preparation, licensing and transfer of clergy must be referred to the College of Bishops. With the Archbishop, they will continue to address these issues and the manner in which they order their life together for the welfare of the mission of the Church.

The work of the Governance Task Force will now be reported to the Executive Committee for review, and then to Provincial Council in June of 2011, where any changes will be voted on, and if approved, forwarded for final ratification by the Provincial Assembly in 2012.

2. Mission is reaching out closer to home

I was pleased to meet with the Washington DC chapter of the American Anglican Council, and to give a briefing on the new Title IV revisions of TEC’s canons on ecclesiastical discipline, the theology behind them, and how that theology is being reinforced at the highest levels of the Anglican Communion. That’s the bad news. But the good news is the Chapter’s response to the call for focusing on local outreach that will address the needs of people closer to home. I am pleased to announce that the Washington DC chapter of the AAC is launching a ministry, based at Christ Church, Accokeek, MD, that will help counsel the unemployed in the DC-Maryland area. You can read the press release here.

Everywhere I visited, I heard wonderful stories of local churches reaching out to those in need in their own communities and circles of relationships – a Sunday afternoon service and ministry to the homeless at Truro in Fairfax, a preschool for disadvantaged and low income children at Christ Church Montgomery, and letters of love and witness from the children of All Saints Dale City to construction workers, posted throughout the new facility they are building. Anglicans everywhere are beginning to recover our tradition of “incarnational ministry” to the local community. Such ministry is a base camp for evangelism and community transformation, and is one of the four benchmarks we have identified for healthy and growing Great Commission Anglican churches in our Sure Foundation Project.

3. New facilities built for mission

I was blessed to be taken on guided tours of the new facilities for All Saints Dale City in Virginia, and Christ Church Montgomery in Alabama. Both of these facilities are shaped by a focus on mission. All Saints Dale City includes expanded space for prayer ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry, conferences and spacious grounds for outdoor events for the local community. Christ Church Montgomery also has expanded space for ministry to families, children and youth. As a result, they are already experiencing the addition of new families from the surrounding neighborhoods. At a time when we often hear discouraging news of litigation and loss of buildings, it is a tremendous encouragement to see what God can do through faithful Anglicans who will persevere, give generously, and shape their new buildings around mission!

4. A hunger for a culture of leadership

In discussions with bishops, rectors, clergy and other leaders, I heard time and again the cry for a culture of leadership – where everyone is discovering their passion or vocation for ministry (whether full-time or not), where everyone is discovering their spiritual gifts for ministry, and where the church is doing a better job recognizing gifted and entrepreneurial lay leaders and raising them up as church planters for the coming harvest.

Because it is God’s passion and priority, it is the passion and priority of the American Anglican Council to help raise up and develop faithful leaders to fulfill the Great Commission. It was a pleasure to share the resources we are launching to develop such faithful leaders – The Clergy Leadership Training Institute – scheduled for February 22-25, 2011 in Asheville, NC, with Dr. Leighton Ford. We will begin a process of developing faithful leaders for Great Commission Anglican Churches by focusing on the personal spiritual life of the leader, a life of attentiveness to God’s direction. We will also begin to equip leaders in how to deal with the inevitable challenge of church conflict in ways that are healthy for both the leader and the congregation. We are focusing on a first cohort group of 20 clergy and church planters, with plans to have subsequent CLTI’s running in 2012. We aim to reach younger clergy (with many years ministry ahead, regardless of their age), and to provide ongoing small group support with individual and group coaching as needed. You can find out more information on our website if you are interested in attending.

I hope you will join me in giving thanks to God for the signs of his blessing and reformation of Anglicanism in North America! And if the Lord leads you to do so, please donate to the AAC’s Clergy Leadership Training Institute, Sure Foundation project, or general operating fund.

Yours in Christ,
Phil+

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