Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, friends of the Anglican realignment,
I’m packing up my bags and getting ready to head home after a rich and rewarding week of ministry with Bishop Kevin Allen of Cascadia and his clergy. We just completed the third session of our Clergy Leadership Training Institute (CLTI) here at the beautiful Cedar Springs Christian Retreat Center in Sumas, WA. I am always so very blessed and encouraged to be among faithful, humble, earnest clergy leaders who are seeking to serve the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. It truly is a privilege to share with leaders like these – not only here in Cascadia, but all across North America where we have offered our CLTI’s.
In this third gathering of the CLTI, we focused on clergy as “change leaders” within their local churches, and the skills they need to help congregations embrace a vision and mission that is shaped by Christ’s Great Commission, including the changes required to move from maintenance to mission. We shared about the life cycle of the local church, whether decline is inevitable (it is not!), how to build a leadership team to discern and communicate fresh vision and new mission, and where they as clergy are in the life cycle of their own ministries. Here are just a sample of the comments we received:
“The program [CLTI] is so supportive and reassuring – yet challenges my ministry to make it more than it currently is.”
“I feel it [CLTI] held all the elements necessary for my personal and pastoral growth.”
“I especially enjoyed the small group discussions and prayer times.”
- Bishop Kevin Allen of Cascadia with Canon Phil Ashey
During our time together, I was approached by a number of clergy who had been reading some of the blogs which are deeply critical of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). They came to me with this question: “Will we survive?” Their concern, even anxiety, has to do with the season of transition that is upon us as we prepare for the Provincial Assembly in June and the election of a new Archbishop.
And it was an epiphany to be able to realize, with them, that the same heart and skill set we have been seeking to impart to them as “change leaders” in their local churches – the very same principles – apply exactly to the transitions we are facing in the ACNA:
– Staying focused on Jesus and his Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).
– Clear line of sight from the present reality to the God-given vision of “What God wants to do through my church in this community at this time.”
– Not personalizing inevitable resistances and conflicts but staying calm and maintaining a non-anxious presence.
– Above all, leading as Jesus would if he were in my shoes.
In our closing meditation it was my privilege to say to these dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the clergy in the Diocese of Cascadia, “I know we [ACNA] will survive because of what I see in you:”
– A genuine missionary bishop who is all at once a keen theologian, shepherd, pastor and bridge-builder, leading his clergy into mission;
– Clergy who are at the end of litigation, leaving their buildings behind with anticipation rather than regret; with a resolve to discern God’s vision for their church to reach their communities with the transforming love of Jesus Christ, free from the limitations of previous resources, and open to the Holy Spirit;
– Clergy who genuinely love each other, enjoy each other, pray for each other, and support each other eagerly, even when they disagree on some issues like whether women should be in Holy Orders;
– New, young leaders and church planters warmly embraced by older clergy and welcomed right into the fellowship;
– All generations sharing their “best practices,” taking notes, inviting each other to exchange pulpits and resources, and open to new possibilities for reaching people who are not yet followers of Jesus Christ;
– And in this spiritually dark region of the Pacific Northwest (it’s among the highest unchurched areas in North America), clergy who recognize that they need to be “clothed with power from on high,” the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49), in order to lift the spiritual veils that have descended from the enemy, blinding unbelievers to the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
I am deeply thankful for leaders who recognize the need for a new Pentecost, an ever-fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit to empower and enable them to face spiritual darkness in the Pacific Northwest with the overcoming power of God and the love of Jesus Christ. I am so encouraged by leaders who love not only their people but love their communities, recognizing the truth of Jeremiah 29:7, that as the church seeks the welfare of the community in which God has planted it, so the church will also find its own welfare and great blessing.
Will we survive? Count on it.
With love and confidence in Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit,
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey,
CEO, American Anglican Council