The Formed Conference provides leaders at every level of the Church with teaching and encouragement to engage our culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ without isolating from it or compromising with it. One of the foundational principles of the Formed Conference is that the “city” in which we now live is closer to Babylon than Jerusalem or Rome. We live in a post-Christian, post-modern culture in which feelings trump facts. We know from many who have attended our Formed conferences in the past that believers feel overwhelmed with the questions and challenges posed by North American culture.
At the latest Formed Conference at Christ Church Anglican in Phoenix, AZ, over sixty people, mostly lay leaders, came from the Diocese of Western Anglicans at the invitation of Bishop Keith Andrews and the Rev. Chase Campbell, rector of Christ Church and a trustee of the American Anglican Council. The conference could not have been more well-organized by this parish’s clergy and lay leaders. Many thanks to the Rev. Bree Snow and her incredible team of volunteers! On Thursday, February 1st, Canon Phil Ashey spoke on the topic of building a faithful and courageous church in the 21st century. You can find an audio file of this address here:
Friday morning of the conference began with Morning Prayer and conversation on the faithfulness, courage, and resiliency of the prophet Daniel while he was in Babylon. This talk by Canon Phil introduced attendees to the character qualities necessary for God’s people to minister with the same kingdom power as Daniel. There were separate breakout sessions for clergy and laity led by the Rev. Cn. Mark Eldredge, Director of Anglican Revitalization Ministries, and the Rev. Bev Mueffelmann, Director of the Daniel Leadership Institute. Each workshop provided opportunities for attendees to raise the questions that were on their hearts. The breakout sessions were followed by a panel discussion that included Canon Mark, Canon Phil, the Rev. Bev Mueffelmann, and the Rev. Bree Snow of Christ Church. Our own AAC Development Manager, the Rev. Greg Smith, moderated the conversation with questions submitted by the audience. An audio recording of this panel conversation can be found here:
After lunch, Canon Phil presented the Better Story the Church has to tell than that of our culture. This four chapter Gospel encompasses the overarching story of the entire Bible. Chapter 1 is Creation, Chapter 2 is the Fall, Chapter 3 is Redemption (through Jesus Christ), and Chapter 4 is the Restoration of all things. Among the many points that Canon Phil communicated was that the whole Gospel offers hope in building up and restoring our world rather than tearing it down. Canon Phil also noted that the poverty of American evangelical Christianity has been that we have majored on Chapters 2 and 3, sin and salvation through Jesus Christ, without saying much about God’s good Creation (Chapter 1) and the beautiful vision of the Restoration of all things (Chapter 4). At one point, he observed that when we focus only on Chapters 2 and 3, the Fall and Redemption, we become, in the words of Dallas Willard, “vampire Christians” who are concerned more with the blood of Jesus than the life of Jesus which leads to a Gospel of sin management.
Dr. Micah Jacobs of Calvin University was the plenary speaker on Saturday who gave an extraordinary introduction and overview of the power of natural law to address the objections to Christian faith in modern culture. In addition, there were three workshops presented that afternoon: the Rev. Noel Collins spoke on reaching our neighbors in cross-cultural situations with love, grace, and truth; Dr. Sean McGever spoke on reaching Gen Z with the Gospel despite cultural differences between generations; and Canon Phil offered a workshop on how to present the Daniel Declaration to your church utilizing the new video series just released on our website and our study guide on being Formed in the Furnace.
The conference concluded with Holy Eucharist and a sermon by the Rt. Rev. Keith Andrews on ministering to those who are like Nicodemus in our culture.
The Formed conference has a special focus on empowering the laity to share the transforming love of Jesus Christ with friends, family, and neighbors. It is organized around the Daniel Declaration: a Call to Mission and a Place to Stand. It is, above all, a call to mission with practical implications for the contemporary issues of our day. The American Anglican Council partners with dioceses and local congregations to bring this conference to the doorstep of every missionally-minded leader and congregation in the ACNA. If you would like more information on bringing Formed to your diocese or congregation, please contact the Rev. Bev Mueffelmann, Director of the Daniel Leadership Institute, at email@example.com.
We will be posting additional resources and media from this Formed conference in the near future. You can find out more at www.americananglican.org/formed.