jQuery Slider

You are here


C4SO Bishop Todd Hunter is not progressive enough for The Table's taste

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
October 31, 2022

The news has broken that an Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) church plant is jumping ship and traversing the cultural divide to join up with The Episcopal Church through the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

The church known as The Table is a 2015 ACNA church plant. It has pulled up roots and replanted itself in the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

The disaffiliation was announced on October 3.

"After a process of discernment lasting more than a year, last week our members voted 44-4 to disaffiliate with the ACNA and pursue affiliation with the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, led by Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows," The Table posted on its website under the header: A Change in Affiliation.

The Table fleshed out: "We sensed there was better alignment for The Table within The Episcopal Church (and especially the Diocese of Indianapolis) than there was within the ACNA, specifically as it relates to: Our commitment to resisting patriarchy and empowering women to fully lead in the church (ACNA prohibits women from being bishops); Our commitment to social and racial justice, standing in solidarity with marginalized oppressed communities and working for liberation for all; Our commitment to cultivating a resilient, non-reactive, non-anxious Christianity; and Our commitment to practicing a generous 'big tent' spirituality rooted in the deep well of the Anglican tradition."

ACNA Bishop Todd Hunter (I Churches for the Sake of Others -- C4SO) willingly turned The Table over to the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

"I have met with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis to facilitate this transfer," the ACNA bishop writes to his C4SO clergy. "As the Bishop of C4SO, in a spirit of brotherly love and goodwill, I release this parish into the care of The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis."

After many conversations through an eight-months-long dialogue, Bishop Hunter agreed with The Table's congregation that The Episcopal Church would be a better theological and spiritual fit than remaining within the more traditional and conservative AVNA ecclesial structure.

"In many honest conversations, they told me they felt they may be better aligned with The Episcopal Church on several key issues than they are with the Diocese of C4SO and the Anglican Church in North America," Bishop Hunter explains. "... and I agreed."

Three of the four The Table clergy -- co-rectors Fr. Ben Sternke, Fr. Matt Tebbe and Fr. Spencer Ruark -- have realigned with TEC, and the fourth priest -- Nancy Nethercott -- remains with C4SO.

"I commit to care for the Rev. Nancy Nethercott, who will stay in C4SO," Bishop Hunter explained. "I count Matt, Ben and Spencer as friends, and we share mutual passions for the full flourishing of God's kingdom."

Mother Nethercott was The Table's Missionary-in-Residence and she was also a member of the vestry. She was ordained to the diaconate at The Table in May 2021 and then to the priesthood in November 2021 by Bishop Dan Scott, who is a retired bishop in the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA).

Her name is now stripped from The Table's website, as is any mention of the congregation's affiliation with ACNA or C4SO. The church's web page announces its new affiliation as such: "The Table is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, led by Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, which is part of the Episcopal Church, which is a member of the Anglican Communion."

While The Table was in conversation with ACNA Bishop Hunter, the Episcopal Bishop of Indianapolis had been meeting, praying, talking and worshipping with the congregation's leadership team to help them discern a way forward.

Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows (XII Indianapolis), along with Canon Brendan O'Sullivan-Hale and Canon Kristin White, saw a strong call in The Table to join up with The Episcopal Church.

"In them (The Table's leadership), we encounter a strong and faithful call to The Episcopal Church, and a hunger for deep formation and enculturation in our traditions and practices," the Indianapolis bishop explained. "They have told us that our diocesan mission pillars, especially our call to stand with all the vulnerable and marginalized, have helped them discern their path forward to us. They are committed to being a safe place for LGBTQ people and to joining with us in our work to dismantle systemic racism and discrimination."

Although the cultural, same-sex issue is not specifically addressed by The Table as a specific reason to depart from the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others, the progressive ACNA diocese has a reputation for being Gay Pride friendly.

"My vision is that C4SO churches would create communities in which gay and/or same-sex attracted people are not left to make sense of their sexuality alone," Bishop Hunter said in early 2021. "Rather, we want C4SO churches to be places where we all can share our stories, find community, and seek support on our journey of transformation into Christlikeness."

Bishop Hunter is an Anglican convert. He came into ACNA through the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) where he was consecrated bishop in 2009 by Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini (II Rwanda). He is an avid church planter, and before becoming involved with Anglicanism he was connected to The Vineyard movement, the Jesus Movement, Calvary Chapel, and Alpha. His formal theological training comes from Regent University, which is associated with Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. There he earned a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies.

Although he is in ACNA, his theology and politics are decidedly more progressive than that of his brother bishops. He is gay-friendly, embraces Critical Race Theory and he is considered to be on the "cutting edge of culture and faith."

Last year Bishop Hunter founded The Center for Formation, Justice and Peace, which is self-described as "an interdenominational community seeking to develop the Christlike character necessary to activate justice, leading to a life of deep peace for all people."

The Center for Formation, Justice and Peace lists nine core commitments: 1) Following Christ; 2) renouncing violence & prioritizing love; 3) pursuing diversity; 4) cultivating the holy habits of thought & action; 5) prioritizing the poor; 6) embracing suffering; 7) laboring together; 8) resisting injustice; and 9) seeking peace.

Even with Bishop Hunter's progressivism, it was not liberal enough for The Table. The church wanted out. It wanted to unite with an Episcopal diocese that fully embraces all of the cultural social issues with a black person in leadership and a woman as a bishop.

Bishop Baskerville-Burrows has been at the helm since 2017. In herself, she checks two diversity boxes -- black and female. She is the second woman bishop in The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. She follows on the heels of Bishop Catherine Waynick (X Indianapolis), who held the crozier for 20 years.

Bishop Jennifer, as she is known, is one of a growing list of black bishopettes, including: Carlye Hughes (XI Newark); Phoebe Roaf (IV West Tennessee); Paula Clark (XIII Chicago); Shannon MacVean-Brown (XI Vermont); Kym Lucas (XI Colorado); Ketlen Solak (IX TEC Pittsburgh); and Gayle Harris (Massachusetts-suffragan). In fact, the first female bishop consecrated in the Anglican Communion was black. Barbara Harris (Massachusetts-suffragan) became bishop in 1989.

As the sitting Episcopal bishop of Indianapolis, Bishop Baskerville-Burrows attended Lambeth Conference earlier this summer. However, she did take time out to partner with Bishop Douglas Sparks (VIII Northern Indiana) to comment on the August 5th passage of Indiana's Senate Bill 1, which prohibits abortion at any stage of gestation except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies or when the pregnant person's life is at risk.

"We are here with Christian leaders from across the world in Canterbury, England, at the Lambeth Conference, a gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion. Together, we have been discerning our way forward on many critical issues facing our world, including how we can best support women in all of our countries and contexts. And so to hear about the passage of Senate Bill 1 is a particular heartbreak. We want to assure you that the Episcopal Church and those who follow Jesus in the Episcopal way stand with all women and pregnant people and support their right to make healthcare decisions with dignity and respect," the two Indiana Episcopal bishops posted on Facebook on the Feast of the Transfiguration (Aug. 6).

"We want to say very clearly to Hoosier women and pregnant people: Even if it feels like the state has abandoned you, the church has not," they continued. "We will continue to stand on the side of women who seek to have control over their bodies and the ability to plan their families. We will continue to create profound opportunities for lament and healing that provide safe space for all who come. No matter what, we pledge to pray, advocate, and work for a world where women have safe and available access to the healthcare they need."

While at Lambeth Conference, Bishop Baskerville-Burrows signed the Inclusive Bishops' Statement Affirming and Celebrating LGBT+ People in protest to the attempted reaffirmation of Resolution 1:10 to confirm traditional, Biblical sexual morality in marriage, in personal life and in the Holy Orders.


The Table is a Church-in-a-Box operation, meaning that it has no property of its own and it is sharing worship space at Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Therefore, there are no church buildings to haggle over, which, in the past, has led to multiple years-long and costly court battles when TEC congregations departed for ACNA.

Many church plants are Church-in-a-Box congregations. They often rent Sunday worship space in a friendly neighboring church or in a local community center or store front until they are financially able to purchase or erect their own church structure. Sometimes, that dream takes years to become a brick-and-mortar reality.

Occasionally, a parish can cross the denominational lines with its buildings intact. In 1994, the entire congregation at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Arlington, Texas, became Roman Catholic and with the blessing of Episcopal Bishop Clarence Pope (II Fort Worth), they were able to keep their building. St. Barnabas became St. Mary the Virgin Catholic Church and entered into the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in 2015.

Another Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church, this one in Omaha, Nebraska, also swam the Tiber with buildings intact in 2013 and entered into the Anglican Ordinariate.

However, every once in a while, a Catholic group will swim the River Thames. In 1992, Episcopal Bishop William Wantland (IV Eau Claire) received the entire Roman Catholic congregation of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Conrath, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin bishop was able to negotiate with his Catholic counterpart, Bishop Raphael Fliss (IX Superior), for the safe transfer of the picturesque country church building into Episcopal hands.

As the ACNA congregation changes denominational hands, it is clear that the parishioners of The Table have taken their collective eyes off of the purity of the Gospel and the Faith once delivered unto the Saints and have switched their focus to postmodern cultural issues -- women's ordination, racism, the marginalized and oppressed, diversity, inclusion and equality, social justice, and liberation theology.

The Table has an eclectic list of tomes and publications it cherishes as "the books that have significantly impacted our lives and shaped us as a community."


The list, in part, includes:
*Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times, by Soong-Chan Rah;
*The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard; *Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, by Stephen Freeman; *My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies, by Resmaa Menakem;
*It Takes a Church to Baptize: What the Bible Says About Infant Baptism, by Scot McKnight;
*We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice, by Mariame Kaba;
*Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Unchartered Territory, by Tod Bolsinger;
*The Politics of Jesus, by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr.;
*Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope, by Esau McCaulley;
*Jesus and the Disinherited, by Howard Thurman;
*Repenting of Religion, by Greg Boyd;
*Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes, by E. Randolph Richards & Brandon J. O'Brien; and
*Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair, by Duke L. Kwon & Gregory Thompson.

ALSO: *The Sacrifice of Africa, by Emmanuel Katongole;
*The Great Sex Rescue, by Sheila Wray Gregoire;
*Decolonizing Christianity, by Miguel A. De La Torre;
*Decolonizing Evangelicalism, by Randy S. Woodley & Bo C. Sanders;
*The Truth of our History, by Mark Charles;
*I Bring the Voices of my People, by Chanequa Walker-Barnes;
*The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege, by Ken Wytsma; *Seeing White: A fourteen-part documentary series exploring whiteness in America -- where it came from, what it means, and how it works, by Scene on Radio;
*The Making of Biblical Womanhood, by Beth Allison Barr;
*White Awake: An honest look at what it means to be white, by Daniel Hill;
*Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, by Drew G.I. Hart;
*Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church, by Robert Webber;
*Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy, by Mark Galli; and
*Giving Church Another Chance: Finding New Meaning in Spiritual Practice, by Bishop Todd Hunter.

There are other suggested readings by more familiar names, including Thomas Merton, N.T. Wright, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri Nouwen, and St. Athanasius of Alexandria.

The Table further explains its brand of churchianity:
✓In a reactionary world, we are cultivating a robust, non-anxious Christianity that's not afraid to wrestle with deep questions, navigating life and mission in the 21st century to make faith possible for our children.
✓In a world obsessed with short-term results and the 24-hour news cycle, we're focusing on long-term discipleship and leadership development to see generations multiplied over the long haul.
✓In a culture fawning over the latest fads, we're cultivating a strong, ancient spirituality grounded in Anglican tradition.
✓In a world where patriarchy has silenced and oppressed women, we're seeking to be a repenting church where women are fully empowered to lead with every gift the Spirit has given them in mutual submission alongside men.
✓In a world languishing under the legacy of White colonialism, we're activating the Body of Christ to engage in racial justice and mission among the marginalized, learning to love and serve in the power of the cross for the sake of others.

The Table's vision is: "We steadily become more recognizably the church, welcoming one another and the stranger in love, listening to one another in grace and truth, proclaiming good news to one another and our neighbors, and going to join in solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed in the name of Jesus."

The Table has applied to become a missional community under Canon 20 of the Diocese of Indianapolis as such Bishop Baskerville-Burrows is in "close touch with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and his staff to ensure that we are proceeding in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and with love and respect for our siblings in Christ who have endured the pain and hardship of schism and property lawsuits with ACNA."

The Indianapolis bishop continues: "I have also sought counsel from and had conversations with my fellow bishops, including the bishops of dioceses that were forced to reorganize after bishops and clergy left the Episcopal Church for ACNA as our church moved closer to the full inclusion of God's beloved LGBTQ children."

As The Table leaves C4SO and ACNA for TEC, both bishops are working to facilitate a smooth transition.

"I have talked with Bishop Todd Hunter of the Anglican Church of North America, whose diocese The Table is leaving, and am assured that he intends for their transition to be peaceful and free of conflict," Bishop Baskerville-Burrows explained.

"I have met with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis to facilitate this transfer," Bishop Hunter confirmed. "Going forward, my prayer for The Table is this: may 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.' (2 Corinthians 13:14)."

It is doubtful that The Table's 48 members will be able to shore up the Diocese of Indianapolis' sagging numbers.

From 2017, when Bishop Baskerville-Burrows first put on the miter, until 2020, the latest year TEC figures are available, there were 48 congregations -- no gains and no losses. However, the diocesan wide church membership has dropped by 100; communicants have dropped by 86; and the ASA has dropped by 156.

Baptisms have dropped by 82, with only eight adult baptisms in 2020; and Confirmations have dropped by 111. There were no youth confirmations in 2020.

In 2020, there were only seven converts, 17 weddings, and 108 funerals. Although there was a modest increase in offering, plate income with the 2020 Plate & Pledge offerings was only $110,329 more than it was in 2017.

With The Table joining The Episcopal Church, it potentially becomes the 49th congregation in the Indianapolis diocese. The 2021 Episcopal Church statistics are expected to be released later this month. However, The Table's statistical numbers will not be incorporated into the diocesan totals until the 2022 statistics are released in late 2023.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top