Saturday, January 01, 2011

Notes on Evangelism

As I promised, I have moved this post by Fr. Nalls to the top of the blog so that readers would not miss it. We have other items posted today (below) as well. Have a blessed feast of the Circumcision-Fr. Hart

“Evangelism-A Discussion and Exposition of Basic Issues.”
July 31, 2010
Saint Alban’s Pro-Cathedral (ACC)
Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic States
Conference Director: The Very Rev. Canon Charles H. Nalls

On July 31, 2010, St. Alban’s, the Pro-Cathedral of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic States, held a conference “Evangelism-A Discussion and Exposition of Basic Issues.” The conference provided a mixed media presentation including apologetics videos and, most importantly, interactive sessions and question and answers designed to involve all the members of the parish communities present. In addition to a number of diocesan clergy, some fifty laity from around the diocese provided the most telling commentary. Any errors or omissions are solely the responsibility of the Conference Director. If there is something missing, incorrect or incomplete, please e-mail your comments to

The problem: Our parishes face the practical problems of ordinary evangelism such as introducing the Anglo-Catholic expression to practicing Christians yearning to lead a fuller faith life. More importantly, though, is the question of reaching increasing numbers of un-churched, particularly young people, in a world in which there is a rejection of any and all truth claims.

How do we speak to those for whom even basic truth is a wholly individual matter, dependent upon personal feeling for validation? How does an incarnational faith reach those who have been taught to “question reality”, yet are yearning for that which is larger than themselves?

Recent discussions on American Family Radio and in other venues have admitted that Anglicanism, even in its currently fragmented form (as well as the Orthodoxy and the Roman Church), offer concrete notions of truth to a generation weary of doubt and flux. The overarching question is how, then, do we speak to such a generation? What is the basic message we need to convey to convince the un-churched to come in the door and learn more?

Our Goals: To identify the large issues and questions for the non-Christian or “post-Christian”, and to set out what has worked and what has not in reaching this increasingly large demographic. The focus was on the practical, rather than the academic, and participants are encouraged to present concrete examples of experiences and efforts in evangelism and outreach including those which have failed. The goal of this first session was to provide attendees ideas to further discuss and develop at the parish level, and for further development in subsequent sessions.

A second goal aimed at the formation of a broad group of individuals throughout the diocese who will regularly focus on evangelism and engage in ongoing sharing of new ideas and innovations for showing forth the light of Christ in a darkened world.

As a third goal, we agreed to attempt two more sessions in the coming year-one at mid-year with a national speaker/leader involved in evangelism and apologetics, and a third next summer to wrap-up of the year and kick-off the next year of evangelism.

Results: The results were at once convicting and, yet, hopeful. The bottom line: the future of traditional Anglicanism is at stake.

I. First Session-Defining the Issues

A. Session Task: To identify some of the major issues, general and specific, that confront the Church both from a “mere Christianity” perspective and from the Anglican-Catholic standpoint

B. Goal: To develop a list of specific barriers to effective evangelism at the personal (individual) level and at the parish level

C. Results:

The participants distinguished between outreach and evangelism. Both are important to church growth, but they are very different in aim and goal.

Outreach-We defined this effort as advertising and presence in the community. The goal is to reach those who already are Christian believers in an effort to offer them a parish home. Our concern is essentially one of advertising and program. The target demographic likely will be attracted to and willing to come to a church that appeals to them or offers something different. Also, this group may include those who already are traditional Anglicans or separating from the Episcopal Church (this latter pool is decreasing). Typical tools include door hangers, mailers, advertisements, holding special events (movie nights, participation in community festivals and other activities), a strong Sunday school, and a current appealing website. The task is to explain to believing Christians why they should be Christians of the Anglican Catholic variety.

Unless at least a strong core group within the parish can explain the faith catholic, then outreach, no matter how glossy, will fail. This puts a premium on catechesis and adult education. Some frank discussion must also be had concerning “gate keepers”, proper levels of friendliness to newcomers and “cloying.” The task is to convey an open image that bespeaks genuine Christian hospitality, without over-pitching newcomers. Greeters and/or ushers should be at the ready to guide and welcome newcomers and introduce them to the other members of the parish. Do not attempt to immediately recruit newcomers into parish activities—they likely will need to learn basic faith and practice questions, or to decompress from the shock of having had to leave their former parish in the case of ECUSA refugees.

Gatekeepers are poisonous, and must be educated about toxic behaviors. These include: those who feel the need to address levels of churchmanship (when there may, in fact be no churchmanship), those who favor negative outreach by disparaging other churches or denominations especially other continuing churches, or those who like to ask probing personal questions to see whether an individual is “right” for the parish. Listening and openness win more new parish members than a recitation of what happened in the “former church” or rehashing animosities with other bodies. Finally, parish members need to avoid false distinctions between “protestant” and “catholic”—the Baptist, Presbyterian or independent Bible Christian seeking the sacramental life will never get past such comments.

Evangelism-The participants defined this in terms of fulfilling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:16-20. There was a sense that many Christians have a wrong understanding of what the Great Commission of Jesus Christ is. They conflate this essentially with outreach and believe that tools like radio, television, publications, and the internet, we will be on track. Assume that a commission is (1) an authorization to perform certain duties or tasks, or to take on certain powers, (2) authority to act in behalf of another, (3) an entrusting, as of power, authority, etc., to a person or body. There then needs to be an appraisal of who is doing the work, how well they can engage in a Christian apologetic, and how these “evangelists” view their work.

The target demographic is much broader in the case of evangelism. We are looking toward a wide variety of non-believers, secular folk, disillusioned Christians (usually young people) who think they have lost faith, skeptics and, increasingly, people who have not been exposed to the faith. Among these groups, we cannot begin with ceremonial (i.e. how many liturgical turns are in the Mass, how to genuflect, or how much incense to use). Here, we need to be operating at a mere Christianity level. The participants viewed some video of live evangelism—base line questions to engage and interest the unbeliever or seeker.

There was some difference of opinion among several participants. There was a distinct minority notion that we “are who we are” as Anglican-Catholics and that people need to immediately accept that standard of worship and belief. It seems that this hard-line approach was tempered by the real life examples and the idea that we do not have to compromise faith and practice to get the unchurched in the gate of the churchyard if not the parish doors.

Several concrete ideas emerged from the session:

Outreach Method: Use your resources, people with talent to sponsor an event. Use special events.

- Animal Blessings

- Healing Services

- Offer house blessings

- Music

- Start and end with prayer

- Build your church building or make the existing facility presentable

- Include the basic message of the salvation via worship (here)

- Petition the Lord for guidance

Evangelism: How do we equip our people to be evangelists?

- Scripture awareness

- Bible study

- Courses to explain the Anglican Ethos

- Know God is behind you / supports you

- Examine yourself

- Confront fears

- Accept flaws

- Awareness of your sins before you forgive others

- Take initiative

- Watch for opportunities

Who do we approach?

- Everyone in your sphere

1. Young

2. Older

3. Family

-A fundamental consideration: Are we merely looking for members or spreading the Word of God? The first approach may put people in the pews-temporarily. Numbers are an elusive game. Absent a desire to teach people about the Incarnate Christ and boldness to do so, we are doomed to failure.

-We need to tailor message - 5 minutes in person or through an electronic medium such as YouTube.

The 4 Questions: Engaging the Unbeliever

We explored tools such as this mini-apologetic for the self-proclaimed atheist or unbeliever who states, "There is no God":

1. What do you mean?

2. How do you know?

3. So what?

4. What if you’re wrong?

Obviously there is overlap between outreach and evangelism. However, a grasp of the fundamental differences is key to the approach and work needed.

II. Session Two-Successes and Failures
A. Session Task: To list what has worked at the individual and parish levels in the past and to list what has failed. Parishes are invited to briefly share their experiences for inclusion in our post-conference notes. Of particular interest is the experience of younger parishioners who are encouraged to share their thoughts on why they are Christians and Anglican-Catholics despite secular pressures.

B. Goal: To develop and share approaches, tactics and materials that have positively impacted evangelism, and to frankly discuss those approaches and behaviors that constitute “negative” or “toxic” evangelism and should be avoided.

C. Results: This portion of the discussion was both lively and very frank. The consensus of the group was that continuing Anglicans had generally done a poor job of outreach or evangelism. While there are many obvious bright spots, a number of “parishes” have not grown over the last thirty-five years. More pointedly, participants believed that some long-established parishes may well be closed and disappear within a few years absent a concerted effort at evangelism and outreach.

The participants had a keen notion of approaches and methods that are pre- destined for failure.

1. What does not work?
- Defining ourselves as what we are not. This is a key point. Remember the lesson of the Pharisee and publican: yes, we are like that person “over there”. Pronouncements about catholic “purity” in dogma and doctrine over and against other Anglican bodies make us seem like angry, sectarians.

- High Church/Low Church. Churchmanship is an important matter but not a “deal breaker”. The ACC has a wide range of liturgical expressions, but it is Christian and catholic to its core. We must recognize that certain liturgical expressions will frighten away any number of people. One must grow into an appreciation of Anglican practice: beware of jumping into a “Spanish madrigal” show lest you want to empty a parish.

- Our basic Christian witness-For many, there are fundamental gaps in how we teach even the rudiments of the faith. Adult inquirers classes need to focus on the elements of Christianity and Biblical literacy. Did we mention Biblical literacy? This ties squarely to clergy training and formation, as well as lay leader study and formation.

- Impersonal conversation. While we do not wish to counsel effusiveness, surely we wish to engage newcomers and inquirers in some form of conversation. Speaking only to the in-crowd is off-putting.

- Are we present to the world? To often we do not get out of our cofortable little parishes. St. Paul took great chances, appearing in many different venues and cultural melieus. So the faith catholic spread. We do not use the opportunities such as new media, community events and face to face encounter to evangelize. We often are worried about reaction, manners or have a fear of talking about Christianity and Anglicanism.

- Irrelevance. We have to face the fact that we have, in some cases, evangelism materials that are decades old. Young people do not identify with the image of that dad in a fedora and driving a Hudson sedan. Are we even familiar with the issues of the day, much less addressing them? This is not a plea to give in to the spirit of the age, or introduce pull down screens and liturgical dance. However, we must have a clear definition of who we are as part of the ancient church in the modern world.

- Teaching office-We have failed in many ways to teach basic faith. Anxiousness for membership has caused a lapse in catechesis. The need to work has hindered clergy from staying up on their studies, and the failure of some parishes to support clergy education-initial and continuing-impairs the teaching office. We must “teach the teachers” so they may in turn teach others in the faith catholic.

- GATEKEEPING, GATEKEEPING, GATEKEEPING-A number of participants indicated a need to give up “Angricanism”. Few people wish to hear of the sleights and wounds of the past, even if they were ever aware of them. Remember: the Anglican-Catholic Church was founded over 35 years ago, and the grave events of things like Deerfiend Beach (Do you know what that is?) are nearly 20 years gone by. This is not a cry to forget history, but to keep it in perspective. As well, those who would impose a personal standard on others who approach Christ’s Church do well to check the log in their own eye.

2. What does work?
- A willingness to engage-Where we go out and engage people with our faith, there is interest. This ties in to the next point…

- Direct invitation-“Come taste and see how good it is” is effective. Christianity Today surveys indicate that the single most effective method of outreach or evangelism is the personal invitation.

- Counter-cultural-We are counter-cultural as Anglican Catholics. We stand in stark relief to the cheap and easy of post-modern culture and morality. “I want something better in my life,” is the opening to tell people that there is that something. We know that it works, but it involves a process of growing accustomed to that counter-cultural milieu in which the newcomer has entered.

- Symbolism => Sacraments, true reality-There is a reality to the Sacraments that is profound and deep. The symbolism of our worship draws people toward that reality until they finally confront it. We need to keep this tied to Scripture.

- Meeting people where they are (loving people). This speaks for itself.

- Presenting a win-win-This point emphasizes that we need to keep the negative at bay.

- Involvement-Again, our involvement in and engagement with the community around us makes Christ present to the world. People are drawn to that.

- Bible Study-This is the most emphasized point by the participants. A Biblically literate, thinking individual-properly guided by orthodox teaching-is the single most effective member of the parish. Whether it is apologetic, or teaching or daily life, a parishioner well-armed with the Word is an effective force for evangelism.

- Living with Faith-Here is a straightforward point: where our parishes have taught the faith and have lived it, they have grown. Where we have concentrated on mere appearance of faith, we have withered and died.

III. Third Session-Small Groups

A. Session Task: To address in small groups the issues identified in the first and second sessions, identifying specific apologetic answers, approaches and uncomplicated answers to the issues.

B. Goal: Small groups will develop “bullet points” to include in parish literature, websites and apologetic guides to offer concrete answers to questions as well as “dos” and “don'ts” for evangelism. An additional goal is for the post-conference materials to include summaries of these notes for use by participants, as well as pocket “reminder” cards and materials for use by individuals.

C. Results: This practicum put the groups in the position of a parish evangelism committee of Saint Swithun’s Parish (ACC). The question posed was:

1. Why should people come to or stay at St Swithun’s?

The groups reached a consensus on the following points:

- Contact with God-This is a personalist appeal to physical contact through the Real Presence of Christ and to the intellectual contact in Word.

- Prayer life-Parishes must seek to foster a regular prayer life among the members. This, in turn, draws others into that circle of prayer.

- Community/Communion-In an impersonal world, our parish offers a real community, one not founded on contract or rule, but bound together in a mystical body. We are all parts of that body and the unique roles for each makes this wholly unlike any any other group to which one might attach oneself seeking community.

2. Education/Retention: Some Methods

- Teach the faith

- User friendly:

- Worship bulletins / booklets

- Greeter / Mentor

- Classes to be Greeter / Mentor

- Guest-book sign in

- Follow up to sign in

- Priest

- lay person

- Consistent Worship Services

- Be positive

- Warm welcome (not smothering)

- Create opportunities for all kinds of service

- Instructive Service

- Youth Service

IV. Fourth Session: Summary of the Group Sessions A. Session Task: : Continue to address in small groups the issues identified in the first and second sessions, identifying specific apologetic answers, approaches and uncomplicated answers to the issues.

B. Goal: Consolidation of the groups’ bullet points in a “keep the best” effort for materials to include in parish literature, websites and apologetic guides to offer concrete answers to questions as well as “dos” and “don'ts” for evangelism. An additional goal is for the post-conference materials to include summaries of these notes for use by participants, as well as pocket “reminder” cards and materials for use by individuals.

C. Results: As is the case with all good discussion, the third and fourth sessions merged together. The bullet point reminders are listed above. There was a remarkable agreement among the participants by the end of the day on these points and methods. The reader is welcome to “lift” those points for teaching within the parish, to place on reminder cards or to use in a Power Point presentation. (All we ask is that users of the materials ask their readers to pray for St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral and her people!)

V. Fifth Session: Ideas for Specific Settings

A. Session Task: To examine evangelism in specific settings, particularly the workplace, school and in social gatherings and propose potential approaches for each. The workplace and school account for the bulk of our time depending on our age group.

B. Goal: To develop approaches and written materials for evangelism in each setting.

C. Results: As the time grew short, the group looked at only one setting for evangelism: the workplace. It is there that we spend most of our waking hours, and there we maintain major relationships with others. Work is a rich field, but must be worked with caution. Here are some methods and some potential hazards in today’s climate:

1. Ways of workplace Evangelism:

- The way you treat your co-workers

- How you do your job tells much about how you live out Christian values.

- Bible Studies-You may want to organize one on lunch hour or after work off-site. The study may have to initially take a literary, rather than overtly religious, perspective.

- Opus Dei: Make all that you do a work of and for God

2. Dangers:

- Reprimanded

- They might say no

- Dismissal

- It could affect your work relationships

VI. Wrap-Up
The results of this first conference were at once convicting and, yet, hopeful. It is clear that we are entering a new stage in the life of the church, one that calls us from the effort to preserve to the work of growing and prospering. Many of the old methods no longer will suffice, and certainly, it is now time to lay aside old wounds and live in the joy of Christian orthodoxy, the faith catholic, and all of the great storehouse of liturgy and music that is distinctly our own. The future of traditional Anglicanism is at stake.

ALMIGHTY God, whose compassions fail not, and whose loving-kindness reacheth unto the world’s end; We give thee humble thanks for opening heathen lands to the light of thy truth; for making paths in the deep waters and highways in the desert; and for planting thy Church in all the earth. Grant, we beseech thee, unto us thy servants, that with lively faith we may labor abundantly to make known to all men thy blessed gift of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Anonymous said...

These are all very fine ideas.

Our former assistant priest, who was ordained in the Anglican Church of South Africa, and served there many years before relocating with his family to the USA, mentioned that one of the parishses at which he seved inaugurated a weekly service of choral Evensong; a late afternoon service, which followed the primary Sunday services of Morning Prayer and Eucharist. The Eucharist, of course, always included a brief homily, but the Evening service served as a platform, not merely for the singing of anthems, Canticles and the Psalter, but for a fuller exposition of God's Word from the pulpit, in a sermon of approximately 30 minutes duration.

It soon became the most popular of their services; and it drew people from outside the membership of that parish-both churched and unchurched.

The offering of choral Evensong- at one time, a frequent event at many Anglican churches-has fallen on hard times, which is a pity.
But perhaps the tradition could be revived as a tool for both outreach and evangelism?

If your church is blessed with a decent organist and parish choir(come to think of it, you really wouldn't have to have a choir), you could hold Evensong services every other Sunday afternoon (followed, of course, by a display of hospitality in a modest table spread with refreshments), where the priest could preach on topics that address issues such as faith in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation; finding objective hope and true meaning in a world weighed-down with hopelessness and skepticism, in Christ and by being a member of His Body, etc.

These would be followed-up with inquirer's classes during week nights, for Christians from other traditions, who are attracted to traditional Anglicanism, and with forums for non-Christians, who want to learn more about Christ and the faith once delivered.

This would require significant participation from parish laymen, of course; but that is exactly what you want to happen

A traditional choral Evensong is a glorious thing; it appeals to non-churchmen as much as churchmen, making it a splendid tool for reaching the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Implementing a program along these lines could revive what has become a lost tradition in orthodox Anglican circles, and serve as a fruitful means of growing God's Kingdom.


Anonymous said...

I tried having Evensong as the organist of the parish. I recruited an ecumenical choir to sing, etc.

It did bring in the choir members and their families.

But sadly the people of the parish wouldn't support or attend it. They won't attend any service except the Eucharist. It seems that if they can't be bribed with a communion wafer to attend, don't expect them to come.

It's sad really, and reminds me that the RCC's mmebers are much the same. We have lost our Anglican identity is why our people are behaving like RCs.

It did bring in visitors, but many of them walked out of the service the minute the clergy started using Incense (and will never return). I had begged him not to use incense, because so many people in today's world suffer from allergies and breathing ailments, and it turns people off in this area. One lady, who didn't understand the use of Incense, has told everyone in the area that the ACC priest is a "devil worshiper". She knows this to be true "because he uses Incense like a warlock."

While we may know that the use of Incense is Biblical, etc., the general public doesn't - especially in a fundamenalist Bible belt area such as this. Personally, suffering from allergies myself, I think using it is just plain rude when it makes people literally sick.

Thus the good point in this article that if you have visitors one must be careful about being too "over the top" with churchmanship that is misunderstood by people in the area where the church is located.

I think the Evensong might work other places. It just didn't work here.

The members of the congregation here view themselves as "catholics" and not Anglican and are the type that are ashamed of Anglican traditions like Evensong.

Organist/choir master

AFS1970 said...

I have always found it odd, and not limited to Anglicans, that one form of outreach seems to be overlooked. We all recognize that inviting pet owners to a blessing of animals is a good tool, but how many would invite local Law Enforcement to the feast of Saint Michael, or Firefighters to the Feast of Saint Florian? These two groups are often only in church together when it is time to mourn, let them have a chance at joyous brotherhood.

How many would feature Bagpipes at the Feasts of Saints Andrew, Patrick or Columba? It does not have to be every hymn, although if you could find a piper who knows how to play a variety of liturgical music that could be spectacular.

The outreach opportunities really are endless. This might actually keep some people coming back for more. If nothing else it firmly cements your place in the community.

This and by holding these as regular services and not special events, it allows guests to mingle with the rest of the parish and to get a real picture of how things are on any given Sunday.

I do think that we need to be careful not to turn these into parodies or novelties, and I am not sure how to do that. I periodically read about an RC outreach called Theology on Tap that involves small lectures/gatherings in local bars over a beer. For some reason these never seem to last very long as an ongoing event. I have always wondered if too much attention is paid to the special event and too little to the actual theology.

Anonymous said...

Dear, Organist/choir master

What a sad situation. It sounds like your parish is full of good people, who, frankly, are ignorant of the theological and liturgical riches of their own patrimony.

The Eucharist, of course, is the supreme act of the Church at worship, but I never understood why that meant that the Daily Offices must be disparaged.

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly in the importance of the daily prayer offices, and especially praying those offices on Sundays.

You are right. The people think they are "catholic", but ignoring the offices makes them far less so. The daily offices are a very important part of what it means to be truly catholic as the primitive, undivided church.

Good people, yes. But in the last year we have lost over half of our members and 8 of 9 of the new members who had joined just last year. The 9th one who hasn't "officially" left the church, doesn't attend either.

One reason is that they had not been properly taught the faith in confirmation classes/new member classes before they were rushed into joining the church. Not only were they not instructed by the Vicar, the bishop did not question them to make sure they were instructed before confirming them.

They went through a brief class that could best be described as "chancel prancing 101", in which they learned about vestments, Altar frontals, candles and other "stuff" from Ritual Notes, etc. They were literally taught nothing about the Anglican faith; or that the English Reformation ever happened, or why it was important. The one brief lesson on church history portrayed Anglicanism in a very bad light, and would have made any thinking person run to the local RC parish to join. They were not even taught about the "real presence of Christ" in the Eucharist, etc.

They had no idea what they were joining, and within about one year 8 of 9 new members have all left the parish, and the 9th one never attends.

Many of them left because they said, "Everything is the same every Sunday", and similar comments that show they were not taught about the BCP or liturgical worship, just "chancel prancing".

I don't honestly think the parish will survive even another 3 years.

I have begun playing the organ in a second church so when the ACC parish closes, I will already have an established "church home".

In the ACC system, the clergy control, and even the vestry have little input, so there is nothing the laity can do to try to solve the problem. Sadly, the clergyman doesn't understand that there is a problem, even though the congregation is falling apart in front of his very eyes.

Organist/Choir Master

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Don't blame that local problem on the ACC. It's not the case down here.

Anonymous said...

Father Hart:

I am sure the clericalism isn't a problem where you are. You obviously have better sense than to treat people that way. You obviously have the good sense to work with the people, instead of treating like your personal servants who are supposed to "pay and obey."

But sadly, your situation doesn't exist all over the ACC, anymore than our local situation doesn't exist all over the ACC.

However, the Canon Law of the ACC gives little or no input to the vestry or the laity. And if a clergyman is a control freak, the ACC Canon Law supports the clergyamn in being a control freak.

Believe me, I have read and reread the Canon Law and there is nothing that can be done when a clergyman becomes like this.

Organist/Choir Master

Fr. Robert Hart said...

However, the Canon Law of the ACC gives little or no input to the vestry or the laity. And if a clergyman is a control freak, the ACC Canon Law supports the clergyamn in being a control freak.

What Canon Law have you been reading? I have read the Canon Law too, and there most certainly are steps that the local church may take, and it's even easier if the man is, as you say, a vicar. But, they have to want the bishop to act, and it has to be for cause. Churchmanship alone is not cause.

It does appear that the local church you are in is doomed, especially if the vicar thinks that teaching people about the altar and vestments is going to hold the interests of new members for long. He sounds like exactly the kind of man we don't need.

AFS1970 said...

It occurs to me that learning about the altar and vestments and such is only important when taught about the underlying theology. Teaching about why incense is used and the history of it's use if far more important that the smoke or incense itself. However the very fact that it is seen as something that can be dispensed with due to allergies shows a lack of theology.

In keeping with not teaching from a negative attitude, we should not be teaching about what we are not. This is not just about Rome or even other Anglicans. This is about teaching how we differ from mainline protestants or free form mega churches.

We should instead teach about who and what we are. As each lesson comes up we can say why we do what we do in a positive and relevant way. Why others don't do something is not only irrelevant but largely something that we likely lack the perspective to speak on anyway.

On another not, I visited a church several years ago when traveling. At the time it was the same jurisdiction as my home parish. I found the congregation to be very welcoming and more than one person took the time to make sure I was coming down to the basement for refreshments. I have been back to that church a couple of times since then and it is always the same thing. There are certainly no gatekeepers there.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


Mostly I agree. But, other than symbolizing the ascension of our prayers before the throne of God, what is the theology of incense? In my experience, as much as I like it myself, it is not worth the trouble it causes in parts of the country where allergies are rampant.

Anonymous said...

While I am no great fan of the "church growth" movement, it does have some insights worth pondering. In dealing with the question of why some churches grow and others do not, the answer seems to be quite simple. Churches grow when they want to, but remain stagnant when and because they prefer not to grow. I have never known a clergyman or laymen who does not give lip-service to evangelism, church growth, and outreach (three very different things, by the way). But I have known quite a few clergy abd laity who privately resent new-comers. If a congregation grows by say 20%, so will the parson's workload, just that many more hospital visits and that many more people to work with. Think of the altar guild directress who will complain "our church isnt growing," but get very huffy if the Rector suggests that she enlarge the Altar Guild. Think of the lay-reader who has been the only one in the parish for many years, but suddenly finds himself on a rota of two or three. He privately resents having to sit next to his wife in the congregation.

Periods of growth generally are followed by back-door losses. The AG directress leaves in a huff, the lay-reader takes up golf on the Sundays he is not on the schedule.

Vestries can and should identify anti-growth attitudes and behaviors. Take the newcomer who is welcomed profusely at the front door by greeters (I'm all for that), but is ignored at coffee hour (a problem in most places).

I could go on and on, but you catch my drift.

Anonymous said...

Fr Nalls seems aware of the important distinction between evangelism and outreach, but I wish he had been more emphatic about that difference. Many of the "church growth" ideas are very good, but would be equally appropriate for "How Do We Have a More Vital Kiwanis Club." Have a pet show and maybe the neighborhood will drop by.

Evangelism is the bold and clear proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. The only effective way I know of is through persistent and painstaking expository preaching. While the laity should support this in the welcome of newcomers and (what's more important) the incorporation of those newcomers into parish life when and if they return, evangelism is quite frankly the job of the clergy. I do not know of any churches that are stale or moribund where there is an effective preaching ministry.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart:

The problem is that I don't think that Canon Law considers not being nice, kind or friendly to people, or refusing to allow the vestry to have any inpuy and being a "control freak" to be "just cause."

These things have taken our parish from about 20 members to only 5 left. People don't like being mistreated, or not being allowed to offer input as to how their money is spent.

A sham election is held each January where a "vestry" is elected, but it hasn't had a legitimate meeting in years. The vicar collects the offerings counts them, deposits them, and writes all the checks. The "treasurer" is treasurer in name only. I want to make it clear that I do NOT believe the money is being mishandled, or that anything dishonest is going on. But it just is not good business, and it leaves room for questions and potential problems.

It is my belief that appointed counters from the laity should count and deposit the money, notify the treasurer of what the deposits are, then the treasurer writes the checks with the approval of the vestry. This is how any church I have ever attended operates. The way the vicar handles the money and check writing in this ACC parish just does not seem responsible.

The congregation is so small, and so doomed at this point, that there really isn't anything to do but wait for it to fold.

I am trying to stay on and play the organ because I really like the lay people that are left and I want them to have music for what time is left.

But, as I said, I am also playing the organ for another church where I feel "at home", and where the congregation is operated in a business-like manner by the laity, so when the ACC breathes its last in our community, I already have a church to attend.

Organist/Choir Master (and a member of the vestry that isn't allowed to meet)

Fr. Robert Hart said...


You have said the ACC several times, but some of what you just described trespasses on Title X in our canons. It seems a reasonable question to ask, do you mean the real ACC, or are you in Canada, where the TAC uses our name? Also, doesn't your church have Bylaws? If it has, as it should, Bylaws, you will find that a vicar probably has no defined authority in (certainly not over) the vestry, for he is not the rector. You should find an office of treasurer, and you should find that the vestry has full authority to set the budget each year, and to exercise control of the money.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


Your last statement said "And I did find an ACC Canon Law that says that once installed a Vicar/Rector cannot be removed by the vestry or the bishop."

That is not true. Read Title X of the Constitution and Canons of the ACC. Concerning your recollection of Canon Law, the very opposite appears, namely the canonical remedies for clerical misbehavior.

Anyone may read the entire work online and scroll down to Title X about Discipline. The headings are

§10.1.01 Ecclesiastical Offences
§10.1.02 Sentences and Penalties
§10.1.03 Admonition
§10.1.04 Suspension
§10.1.05 Offences by Clergy Canonically Resident
§10.1.06 Offences by Clergy not Canonically Resident
§10.1.07 Offences by Clergy Licensed Only
§10.1.08 Limitation
§10.1.09 Inhibition
§10.2.01 Options for Trial
§10.2.02 Intervention by Metropolitan
§10.3.01 Deprivation from Ecclesiastical Office or Benefice
§10.3.02 Deposition from the Sacred Ministry
§10.3.03 Appeal from Sentence of Deposition
§10.3.04 Sentence of Deprivation
§10.3.05 Sentence of Deposition
§10.4.01 Degradation
§10.4.02 Appeal from Sentence of Degradation
§10.4.03 Sentence of Degradation
§10.6.02 Licence Required
§10.6.02 Inhibition of Unlicenced Clergy
§10.6.03 Discipline of Facilitating Clergy
§10.7.01 Certification of Abandonment
§10.7.02 Suspension, Inhibition, Notice and Service
§10.7.03 Deposition
§10.7.04 Notices of Deposition.; Substitute libellus
§10.7.05 Restoration
§10.7.06 Abandonment by a Bishop
§10.7.07 Deposition of a Bishop
§10.7.08 Notice of Deposition of a Bishop
§10.7.09 Certification and Declaration by Neighbouring
§10.7.10 Effective Date of Amendments
§10.8.01 Declaration of Renunciation
§10.8.02 Order of Proceedings
§10.8.03 Renunciation under Liability to Presentment
§10.8.04 Notice of Renunciation
§10.8.05 Reinstatement
§10.9.01 Declaration of Renunciation
§10.9.02 Order of Proceedings
§10.9.03 Renunciation under Liability to Presentment
§10.9.04 Notice of Renunciation
§10.10.01 Those holding any Office or Appointment
§10.10.02 Repulsion from the Holy Communion
§10.11.01 Official Gazette
§10.11.02 Notices
§10.11.03 Disciplinary Sentence"

I am unhappy to have to say that I will not publish a comment that simply contradicts the truth, the truth which everyone may read. And, not only has the ACC enforced Title X on clergy; it was once enforced on an Archbishop named Falk.

I don't know what canon you read, but it was not from the C & C of the ACC-OP. The good news for you is that you can appeal to what the Canon Law actually does say.

AFS1970 said...

Theology was not the best choice of a word, maybe tradition is better. Incense like much of what we have is symbolic or traditional of something. I was not thinking that we should always use it, simply that we should not reject it out of hand. We should talk about what it symbolizes and why it is used, and not just that it is used.

The example given that someone thought of the use of incense as satanic, might well have been combated by a lesson on it's uses and traditions.

This could be the same with any item that is not seen in non liturgical churches. In this age of electricity the carrying of candles to read the gospel by is not really a necessity. However it is done fairly regularly in high church parishes. I would hate for someone to leave because they object to the number of servers this adds or to some aspect of flames or candles.

As Anglicans, we are nothing if not traditional.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


I don't want to divert this stream from discussion of evangelism, so I think we may continue a discussion behind the scenes via email. You can find out how on my profile.

Anonymous said...

One thing that I would like to see more Continuing Churches do is to place a greater emphasis on helping those in need and reaching out to the poor, the marginalized, and the outcast. Before I left the ACC, I was a member of 3 different congregations (based on various moves for college and employment). Of those 3 congregations, only 1 had a meaningful committment to those in need. These congregations ranged from membership of about 40 to membership in excess of 200. My prayer is that as more Continuing Church parishes and missions of all stripes become increasingly stable, healthy, financially secure, and robust, they will turn their attention more and more to those in need outside of the four walls of their buildings or meeting places.


Anonymous said...

David 11:56 AM

From your mouth to God's ears. And if Continuing Anglicanism is unable to do this, few will be the remaining days of it continuation.
If this new evangelistic fervor we see here at The Continuum is worth its salt, then it can't help to be manifested in such in way that will effectively reach out to the poor, the marginalized, and the outcast. If, on the other hand, it is nothing more than a merer "succession plan" to replace the old blue hairs with somewhat younger blue hairs, then God help us.

If, on the other hand, Anglicanism *is* The Faith, then it is for everyone, poor and rich man, wretch and sophisticate.

God help us in these dark and uncertain days to do what Jesus did, and nothing less.


Anonymous said...

Having attended this event. I can sat it was very constructive and most of the attendees were very excited about evangelism. Our parish spends several weekends a year at public events mixing it up with the public, challenging worldviews and encouraging people to become Christians. Most of our members are engaged through-out the week in some way to make a connection to bring people into community and receive Christ.

We get all types. The effort pays off. We also use social media and have had a number of visitors, some joining from that effort.

Since then the Diocesan website has been updated, bringing it out of the pong era, and a decent and active FB page has been added.

We have gotten one inquiry regarding planting a mission and using google analytics we are tracking the 'new' visitors and the results have been a steady increase in new traffic.

Perhaps the best incentive for evangelism is- what will you say to Jesus when you face him? taking the gospel to all the world is not optional.

J. Dixon
St Athanasius ACC
Glen Allen, VA