It is no exaggeration to say that the global Anglican church of is at a crossroads facing its greatest crisis since the Reformation. It's been there at least since the 1998 Lambeth Conference when the vast majority of Anglican bishops worldwide rejected â€œhomosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.â€
Despite this the Episcopal church in the US and the Anglican Church in Canada have pursued an agenda of acceptance of homosexuality and the ordination of practicing homosexual clergy.
A decade later, at next July's Lambeth Conference, the battle over the nature of the Anglican communion will continue. The church is going through a painful and protracted identity crisis. Whatever happens at Lambeth, this crisis will not go away.
So what is to be done? What is the future for the world's 82 million Anglicans?
Here are some suggestions from a movements perspective. A word of qualification, I am not an Anglican. These are the musings of a concerned outsider who none-the-less loves the Anglican church.
1. Return to who you are.
Movements are renewed by making an innovative return to tradition. Rediscover the essence of the Anglican tradition in it's unity and diversity. Here's a good start from JI Packer: Who We Are and Where We Stand.
2. Don't forget innovation!
Returning to your tradition is only half of the equation. You must make an innovative return. Institutions spend an inordinate amount on energy on non-essential traditions. In contrast, movements are willing to change everything except their core beliefs in pursuit of their mission.
3. Say goodbye to the hegemony of the West.
It's time to catch up to what God is doing around the rest of the world and learn from it. Read the story of Archbishop Peter Akinola and the amazing growth of the Anglican church of Nigeria. Peter Jenkins demonstrates that throughout the â€œGlobal Southâ€ it is a biblically orthodox version of the Christian faith that is capturing the hearts of ordinary people. There lies the future of the Anglican church.
4. Learn from John Wesley
John Wesley was born and died an Anglican. Unfortunately the Anglican church of the day was not big enough to contain him. He once said, â€œI love the rites and ceremonies of the Church. But I see, well-pleased, that our great Lord can work without them.â€
Wesley was a loyal Anglican but when the clergy forbade him to preach in â€œtheirâ€ parishes he proclaimed, â€œThe world is my parish!â€ and preached without their permission to thousands who gladly heard him and joined the Methodists.
5. Make room for more Wesleys
Expect God to raise up a new generation of John Wesleys. Is the Anglican church big enough to give them room? What should happen when a bishop seeks to block the planting of a new church by Anglicans in â€œhisâ€ diocese despite it's decline? Will they be given room?
6. Pour fuel on the fire
Where is the Anglican church prospering? Where are lives being transformed by the Gospel? Where are disciples being made? Where are pioneering leaders to be found? Where are churches being planted? Where is God at work? Go there and learn.
Visit the Anglican church of Nigeria. Visit St Mary's London. Find out why the Sydney diocese has no problem growing leaders. Get excited about what the Church Army is doing down in Berkley NSW. Find out where there is unexpected success, learn from it and multiply it.
7. Have some grandchildren
Having grandchildren is a wonderful way to become young again, vicariously. The Anglican church has already birthed a dynamic movement called Methodism. Why not do it intentionally? That's what the Southern Baptists are doing in world missions. They are planting indigenous churches that are biblically orthodox but not necessarily â€œSouthern Baptistâ€.
Central Coast Evangelical Church is just one of the churches in a growing movement of Independent Evangelical Churches started and led by graduates of Moore College. Other Anglican churches are planting non-Anglican churches where the parish system frustrates the advance of the Gospel.
8. Remember your heroes
The Anglican church has produced some great leaders throughout it's history: John Wesley, Charles Simeon, William Wilberforce, Henry Martyn, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Wilson Carlile, CS Lewis, John Stott, David Watson, and many more.
Study their lives. Tell and retell their stories and the lessons from their lives to a new generation.
9. Plant some trees
The best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. The second best time? Now.
Charles Simeon was the pastor of the Anglican church at Cambridge for 50 years. When he began in 1782 there were only a dozen evangelical ministers left in the Church of England. When he finished 54 years later, one in three Anglican churches were led by evangelicals. The vast majority of them were men influenced by Simeon in Cambridge. Many of them were converted through him.
10. Thank God for the Episcopalians
We can be thankful that the Episcopalians in the US provide an insight into the future of the Anglican church. . . if the decline continues. The Episcopalians are in free fall. In 2008 they led the way with the fastest rate of denominational decline in the US.
Why would that be?
According to Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Episcopalians aren't interested in replenishing their ranks by having children. â€œThey tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations.â€ You've got to give her credit for creativity. Here's the real reason.
Is that the future you want for the rest of the Anglican church?