I don’t know much about the Anglican Church, really, but I have always been fascinated by their ability to hold a wide variety of fellowships within their ranks. From an outside perspective, at least, there seems to be a great deal of freedom given at the local level for church leaders to do as they see fit with their congregations, without a lot of denominational interference, or the concern that everything looks similar.
Specifically the "church-within-a-church" idea (a traditional or modern church planting a postmodern church, oftentimes using the same facilities, and supporting it financially) has worked well in the UK, especially amongst Anglicans (called "fresh expressions"), but has never really taken off in the US. Jonny Baker attributes this to a "culture of permission" amongst Anglican and UK churches in general. So why isn’t there the same "culture of permission" present in the US? Dan Kimball thinks it has something to do with differing leadership philosophies (quoted from Emerging Churches):
The church-within-a-church in America doesn’t work because the senior pastor cannot handle a congregation in the church that may do things differently. It totally goes against the way senior pastors have been trained to think of a church, and their role as a senior pastor. It is an issue of control, and Anglicans are able to handle that diversity while Americans struggle with it.
I wonder if UK churches are simply more desperate for life than their American counterparts, because they feel closer to death. It has been noted that what happens to UK churches tends to happen 50 years later to American churches, so I wonder if UK churches allow more diversity simply because, feeling closer to "death", they’re more desperate for life, and their desire for life outweighs their desire for control.
Dan Kimball says that most of the church-within-a-church services he’s seen are simply "Mini-Me’s" of the main church and never get around to the hard work of rethinking the nature of the church. Still, I’m hopeful that modern churches can work alongside postmodern churches, even here in the US. But we’ll need more leaders who are close enough to "death" to feel desperate for life. And a few visionary leaders who will understand that it’s time to change now, even while the old model seems to be working better than ever.
The best horse-drawn buggies ever built were constructed during the years the automobile was invented, after all. Sometimes you have to sacrifice that which is working well in the present in order to position yourself for fruitfulness in the future.
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