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Report on Plano East - Day Two

Report on Plano East
Day Twp
From: Mary Ailes, Truro Church, Fairfax, VA

Saturday, January 10 Plano East Conference - Day Two

When I got up this morning in the dark, the temperatures outside in the single digits, I asked myself, why are you doing this? Haven't I heard it all? How many of these things have I gone to? Will I really hear anything new? Does anyone really have any idea what is going to happen? Wouldn't it be better just to stay in the warmth of this bed and let someone else do it? Why don't I just become a Quaker?

But I got up. And out into the dark I went. What I found when I got to Plano East were now 3,000 Episcopalians - all fired up for Jesus.

Imagine this. I feel like I have been able to stand on tiptoe and look through a small window and catch a glimpse of what may be coming. And friends, it looks real good. Come look through the window with me.

Imagine this. I am rushing through a quick lunch today at a local Potomac Mills Burger King and a young man walks over to me at the beverage counter. "May I ask you a question?" he asks tentatively, as his two young children run to join his wife at their table. I said sure, thinking he must have seen the name badge I was still wearing.

"Who are all those people over at Hylton Chapel?" he asked me. "I've never seen so many cars over there before."

"Oh, that's 3,000 Episcopalians." I answered simply.

His eyes opened wide. "Episcopalians?" he whispered incredulously.

His wonder, his amazement mirrors exactly how I feel right now as I write to you. I did not expect - at all - to go to this meeting today and come home feeling as though I have been on a major spiritual retreat. I am now so use to living in the valley that I forgot there are mountains. I am so excited by what God is doing in our midst - and this is really happening - that I hope we can build strong bridges between us, though the miles may separate us. It looks like it could be a Second Reformation. And to think I almost turned over and went back to sleep. It might be cold. But it is warm.

The Rev'd John Yates, rector of the Falls Church Episcopal in Falls Church, VA, opened the day with an exhortation on the primacy of the Scriptures in the church. The church has always through the ages to submitted to the Scriptures as God's informative guide, he said. In the last few generations our church has tolerated leaders who have jettisoned the Scriptures. We now have to say enough is enough. We bow to the authority and the total trustworthiness of Scripture. We remember Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer who held fast to this authority even though it cost them their lives.

Ridley, I think, the one who was tied to a burning fire with Latimer in the First Reformation. Ridley, the one whom Latimer encouraged in their last moments with the immortal words "Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man. For today shall light such a candle ... that shall never go out." The candle is lit, the winds blow strong, they blow cold here in Virginia - but the flame still burns.

I am up in the balcony in the full to capacity hall. Richard Crocker is at the podium and introduces David Bickel, president of the Washington DC Chapter of the American Anglican Council to welcome us to this conference. Many in the Washington diocese cannot see what causes the alarm from General Convention. They see it as a cafeteria plan - why should it impact anyone else? The DC-AAC has worked to show what corporate accountability means from the biblical perspective. ECUSA is not an island. We are in relationship with all the Christian community throughout the world.

\Kendall Harmon, Canon theologian to the Diocese of South Carolina and editor of the Anglican Digest. He looks like he just walked straight out of Hobbiton. Richard Crocker says Kendall is the "Leader of the Re-asserters." I think he's Samwise Gamgee. He is also the one who wrote the Minority Report of One at General Convention opposing CO51, the Resolution endorsing Same Sex Unions. Kendall takes the podium and speaks on Anglican Essentials, from a talk he gave at Plano I. I know his talk is now available at his website http://titusonenine.blogspot.com. But here are some highlights:

ANGLICAN ESSENTIALS: The "C's"

Catholic - We are catholic Christians: What it means above all is a sense that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. Take the time to pay attention to the history of the Holy Spirit. What does Augustine say about idolatry - Augustine said idolatry was to "worship anything that ought to be used and use anything that ought to be worshiped." Catholics are those who plead for order. God put together the universe in an orderly way. Order has an important place in the work. We find order in the liturgy. The liturgy becomes and obstacle to worship because it becomes a Baskin Robbins liturgy - each week a different flavor. Crammer sat down to write a book of COMMON prayer. The more important the decision the more we should consult because we are a conciliatory church.

Charismatic - Kendall says he learned a lot from St. Paul's Darien, CT. Drove five hours one way to worship. God exists. So He is to be worshipped for who He is. Worship Him in Spirit and in Truth for the full glory of Him. The charismatic movement is a wakeup call to the church. Terry Fullum also taught that in addition to worship, there is the power of the Holy Spirit. Dynamite. God is a God who places the same power in His people the same power that God uses to resurrect His Son from the dead.

Canonical - We believe in the authority of the Bible. 1958 Lambeth Conference Report: The church is not over the Holy Scriptures, but under them. In this sense that the process of canonization of the books of the Bible possess authority. The books were recognized by giving witness of the Apostles of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord ... To that apostolic authority the church must ever bow. We have a problem in the Episcopal Church - God is apparently doing a "new thing" but God does not do "new things" that are at odds with who God has revealed himself to be.

Christ - it is really about Jesus, Kendall said. Jesus Christ is the center of it all. Jesus is the most interesting person of all. The Life of Jesus, the Crucifixion of Jesus, the Resurrection of Jesus - this is Jesus born, died, risen for you - what are you going to do about it?

Cross - To be a Christian does not mean one starts with the world and oneself and moves into the cross, but one starts at the foot of the cross and then from there move out to oneself and the world, Kendall said. The cross is the center of it all. The author is enters His own story. Jesus is God with skin. But we took that wonderful gift and we said no. I will rule this world, I will be as God - Crucify Him! But the very same God who is refused by the world on Good Friday uses it to transform the world that crucifies Him. He has taken upon himself the rejection of Himself by the world.

Conversion - Just moving people into the community and getting them excited about liturgical worship. That's not it! It's about rescuing the lost. We must be reconciled to God - meaning you are not reconciled to God now. We are in a church where the liturgical common life is set increasing at odds with the world view. How many people in this parish have met Jesus Christ personally and have been transformed by His love?

Conclusion - There must be a realignment in Anglicanism. In Minneapolis the Episcopal Church decided to risk the church - all four authorities - Lambeth, the Primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Anglican Consultive Council said don't do it. We did not consult them and we did it anyway. It is not catholic it will not stand. The Spirit of God was grieved a way of life that is in contradiction of holiness was celebrated. This is not catholic it will not stand. The Holy Scriptures were quickly dismissed or deliberately twisted - this is not catholic, it will not stand. In Minneapolis, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was replaced with a therapeutic Gospel, a gospel of affirmation in the hands of a satisfied therapist. If we embrace the biblical Gospel we are threat to this new gospel - they see it as unjust and unchristian. There are two Gospels clashing in Anglicanism and we have only been given One Gospel. We must stand together.

The assembly rises to our feet in sustained applause. Yes, we will stand together. We must.

Then comes another memorable moment at Plano East.

The Rev'd Tom Logan, Rector of Calvary Church of Washington. Comes to the podium and sings boldly "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." The hall joins him in the song. We have been bamboozled, run amok and we need to declare the authority of the world of God. It is not a doctrine of inclusiveness that will save us, but Jesus who will save us - we know this because the Bible tells us so. Where is your faith? The Word of God, the message of hope has gotten the African Americans through the darkest days, Tom told us. He confesses that he has been complacent because he thought there were more pressing issues of what he has to face. Calvary Church is surrounded by these issues and thought he was complacent. All this discussion about sexuality was for the white community, he confesses. Very moving. Very moving. He is so transparent as he speaks. How do I know there is a healing power in Jesus? He asks. The Bible tells me so. We need to get the light of the Word shine in our lives, in our discussion, in 815, in Lambeth Palace, in this little light of mine. He concludes with the entire place breaking out into "This Little Light of Mine." The place starts rocking. Awesome!

The question is asked: Is this crisis really different from other crisis's?

Kendall Harmon comes to the podium. The ordination of women is brought into this discussion about ordaining non-celibate homosexuals. But it is very different. We see that England used the New Testament, the Scriptures, to make their case for women's ordination. There's was a scripturally based argument. There are New Testament passages that were used to make this case. But there are no scriptural grounds to uphold the consecration of Gene Robinson or the passage of C051. Some tried to take the Bible and maintain that what we think that what the Bible says is not really what the Bible says. So they tried to reinterpret the Bible culturally and say that this book doesn't apply to us. But this didn't work. Walter Wink grants the fact the Bible is overwhelming against it so let's just cast the Bible aside. Please provide me a solid biblical argument to make this change, Kendall said. The Word of God is brought by the Spirit of God into the Church of God. The Church is the means into which the Word is brought into the world. The Anglican Communion has said something different about sexuality than the ordination of women. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates, the Lambeth Conference, and the ACC all said not to consecrate Gene Robinson, but this was not the case in the women's ordination. They are not the same, don't be fooled by that argument.

Diane Knippers, President of IRD talks about exposing three myths about what happened at General Convention:

#1 This Represents the Future - This is not true, Diane said. The sexual ethics are not new but from the 20th century. It is the timeless standards of Scriptures that matters.

#2 For the Poor & Oppressed - The actual victims of the sexual revolution are racial minorities, the poor, and our children.

#3 Undermining Christian Unity - the truth is that General Convention dealt a terrible blow to Christian unity. Relations with the wider Anglican Communion, evangelicals, Orthodox, Roman Catholics, charismatic, etc., were broken. Denominational lines do not mark the boundaries of Christendom. We dissenters have learned our lessons well. The big lie is that one must choose between truth and unity. They are the different sides of the same coin. Genuine truth defines our unity, genuine unity protects the Truth.

Martyn Minns - The Network of Anglican Dioceses and Parishes: The network is a network of Anglican dioceses and parishes within the Episcopal Church. It is not a part of official structure, but a structure to be reckoned with. This network was discussed with Archbishop of Canterbury prior to his meeting with Primates. The name was his suggestion. A network of confessing churches, not dissenters. There will be a meeting in Plano on Jan. 19-20th. Writing bylaws. 12 Dioceses represented. They will come to agree set of convictions. How do you join? Individual dioceses will join by action of their own standing committees and diocesan councils. Individual parishes will join by an action of their own congregation - congregational meetings. Some parishes need adequate oversight. Geoff Chapman is working with at least 100 parishes that have asked for oversight and the network will provide this. What will do it for us? Our hope it will give everyone a community of faith - a community with a renewed emphasis on mission, to not be ashamed of being Anglican. It will give parishes new orthodox leadership to our churches, along with new partnerships in North America (including Canada - like New Westminster). It will give parishes a place to stand and fellowship. Some may participate without agreement from diocesan bishop. This may cause some controversy - but it is not our intent. What about members of parishes who have supported GC? Build your own network within your own congregation - you are not alone. Connect through the internet, meet together and pray and seek the Lord's decision. It may be that you are called to remain a faithful remnant or perhaps not. We also hope to encourage the planting of new churches. Planting churches is a proper way to propagate the parishes. Uganda wrote a stinging letter to the Presiding Bishop disinviting him to the consecration of a new bishop. We prefer to be poor. We would like to welcome a member of the network instead, they told Griswold. Bishops Duncan and Stanton are going instead. That is radical stuff. Southern Cone has also embraced the network. We see this happening around the Anglican Communion. Will the network divide the Episcopal Church? No. That division has all ready occurred. The network will give hope and a place to belong. Could it become a replacement for ECUSA. Only God knows - but we will be ready.

Hugo Blankingship - He is the former chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia. At Plano I a group of lawyers met to discuss the critical issues that could confront parishes, including property rights, redirecting of funds, clergy pensions, assets, protection of clergy. More than 70 lawyers came at 7:30 a.m. in Plano and have signed up to help. More have come forward and more are invited to join the pool. We live in a complex society - legal ramifications in what we do or don't do. Many clients say they are tired of being told not what to do. All this talk about hiring lawyers sounds as though we are advocating law suits. Not so. Great majority of law suits are instituted by liberal dioceses. Hope is that we can resolve difficulties peacefully. It should be the last resort. It compels us though to be ready. Catch the excitement of our time, dangerous times, and yet there seems to be building up a quiet confidence that God is in charge and a good day is in front of us. It could be we are entering a Second Reformation. Why would anyone want to miss out on what God is going to do?

We broke for lunch and my head was spinning.

International Missions

The Rev'd Tad de Bordenave, Director of Anglican Frontier Missions: Missions must remain a priority - how will we be known, we will be known as the missionary churches. We do much of the Great Commission do very very well. But there is a major piece that is scarce. The notion of "all." Each and every one - go and make disciples of each and every nation. Are there disciples in that nation, are there structures, is there Scriptures, are there pastors, Christian education, health care in that nation. Jesus expects and calls us to go to the nations.

Jim Oaks - Five Talents. Craig Cole is in the Philippines and then is going to India to spread the word about Five Talents. Jim says we are rich beyond imagining. The cost of our lunches - even if it was a modest lunch - would feed an African child for a week. Jesus talks a lot about feeding the body as well as the soul. Jim says we have skills about business that are invaluable. He then tells his story. He was invited to go to Africa and he had a good laugh about that. He had just started a new business and thought it was impossible to go to the Sudan for two weeks and told his wife, his Home Group, his family, and God that. And that was that. Three months later he was in the Sudan.

It's very dangerous business to dare God to do things.

Edwina Thomas - SOMA. Edwina tells the story of a church in Pakistan that she visited that was built in the center of the city. It was built to blend in with the rest of the city, you really couldn't tell it was church while it was being built. Edwina was taken up to the top of the tower. She learned that when the church was built and finished the time came for them to place the cross on top of the dome. They gathered in the tower after the completion of the church, Edwina was told, and a man went out to the top of the dome to lift high the cross. As he started to get it into place, he was shot and fell to his death. Time passed and another man went up to the dome to lift high the cross, and he too was shot to death. This went on and on - one by one. Edwina could see the bullet holes. Then one day, the Muslims stopped shooting. They learned that the Christians wouldn't stop, they would keep at it, lifting high the cross. And so the cross is there. Tears stream down my face. And I am not the only one. I am a member of the Order of the Daughters of the King. "Lift High the Cross" is our official hymn. I will never be able to hear it again without thinking of that church in Pakistan.

Time to Pray: And so we start to pray. People split up into groups of six. The first part of the prayer is dedicated to repentance. We begin by repenting for the pride and arrogance of our church. There is a hush over the room as thousands break into small groups and begin to pray for repentance. Then we pray asking God to give us humility in place of pride. Father we repent that we have seen ourselves as a church that gives dollars, that we have it all - but what we really need is to receive from other parts of the Anglican Communion, the great contribution of our faith. Forgive us for the ways we have dishonored our brothers and sisters around the world. Father, we ask you to forgive us in Jesus Name. We then were asked to pray for martyrs who are suffering around the world for their faith. Father we ask you that you will protect those who suffering for Jesus' sake around the world. Forgive us for our inactivity in the mission, we have been more concerned about our issues and not for the salvation of the lost. We then pray for the missions that have been presented this afternoon. Father, here we are before you. We do have some energy, some money, some time. Father, change us - help draw us, change us, to choose to give generously to fulfill your great commission. We want this DNA of the Great Commission in this emerging network.

Local Missions

Jenny Noyes - Alpha Course. What exactly is Alpha? Jenny outlines the Alpha Course, now called the most effective evangelism tool today. Alpha is friendship-based evangelism. How can churches find out more about running an Alpha Course? We are going to have the Alpha Conference in April 19-20 at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington with Nicky Gumbel.

Bob Ragan - Regeneration. Vice President of Exodus International. What are the lies we typically battle with? The same time we bless the lie, we curse the truth. It is a lie that it is genetically predetermined. Science has never proven this is true. These studies are not repeatable. Identical twins study - where one twin does, and one twin doesn't. Not a solely genetically caused disorder. My creator knows me best. We need to promote in our churches the truth. When the truth is not spoken the lie is too easily believed. We need the testimonies in our church - not the political but the redemptive. What does healing really mean? Sanctification is a better word for it - a process that we are all involved in. How do we define success for those who are sexually broken? We all go through the sanctification - we all go through death-styles that God brought us out of in His redemption. This does not change overnight, by daily choices. Bob is asked "do you still struggle?" He is no longer overwhelmed, but he must maintain his health and if he doesn't he becomes vulnerable. It's not sexual, it's emotional. His perspective has changed. How do we pastorally help those who are caught in sexual brokenness? Allow God to search your heart first. Before we pick out the spec on others eyes - gay specks with straight planks. Great quote. We can take off our masks. Sexual brokenness and identity are one - shame and self hatred are one. And so when one was attacked, the other was attacked as well. Talk to those who have been there. Be the image bearer of Jesus Christ. God's Truth -speak with compassion. God's Love with boundaries. Bob looks over the thousands and says, I can begin to have hope that I won't have to apologize for being an Episcopalian. When Bob went to sit down the applause began and kept going and going and going and then the people rose to their feet.

Steve Schlossberg - LAMB Center for the Homeless, Fairfax City: There was a problem in our church. Strangers came to the church with needs and left as strangers. Strangers don't come to the Episcopal Church. The LAMB Center was created. There is a table where people are met, food is shared, the Bible is studied, people who are strangers to one another, to county services, to the church and to themselves - people are met. The rest of the story is that we need them. We will parish without them. They are broken, and they know it. We are broken and we forget it. This is at least half the reason God calls us to the poor - we need to know our own poverty. And when we meet those who know impoverishment we are going to be changed, carried to the foot of the cross by the people we came to save. When you meet people on the street they are very good at surviving. It is impossible not to admire how they survive, but it's impossible to keep that admiration up because they are not surviving, they are not living. One of our temptations is to go into survival mode and not really live.

The Rev'd Tom Herrick - Church Planting: Why do we do Church Planting? The reasons that come to mind begin with the Great Commission. Evangelism has to happen in such a way that it changes people's lives. Reach new generations is another reason to do Church Planting. New churches are like adding new registers at Best Buy before Christmas. If there was a way to add more registers, even more people will go to Best Buy. That just about sums it up. Think about it the next time you're at Best Buy.

Time to Pray: Once again people are gathering into groups for prayer. First to pray and give thanksgiving for Alpha and for the Alpha Ministry, the Regional Office in Washington and for Nicky Gumbel. The people begin to pray for the Alpha. This is very cool - to see, after all these years, people praying for the Alpha Course. What a mighty work of God - to see how this tool for evangelism has become a staple in what is happening in the Episcopal Church. Then the people begin to pray for the April Conference. Imagine, 3,000 people are now praying for the Alpha Conference. This is just totally amazing! Totally amazing! Then we pray for the issue that Bob brought up - for forgiveness for sexual immorality. The issue is not sexual, it is emotional. Until we are committed to a lifestyle of emotional healing, not only in our physical bodies, but in the Body of Christ. This was followed by a time of prayer for the homeless. Pray for ministries like the LAMB Center and pray that they will prosper. We then asked the Lord to open our eyes to the problem of homelessness around us, as individuals and as the church. Then we are asked to sit down. The vicars of church plants and missions are asked to stand and we pray for them. Build up in them faith, the power of Your Holy Spirit, and the ability to see beyond the normal to that of what you want to do, gather around them key lay leaders and laity to build up Your church in a new place. Pray for their families who have also put themselves on the line. Thank you Father that you are in the business of multiplying us. Take your law of sanctification and so make us holy so that we will be made attractive to those who are hurting and lost and will find the Church.

And now comes the part where the window opens.

The Mission of the Church: The Next Generation

The Youth lead a time of contemporary spirit-filled worship.

David Young, Youth Leader from Christ the Redeemer: Shares about the vision for the Next Generation, followed by a skit. A really good skit from the youth - how is the issue affecting our young people in our churches? They open the door for us.

Ashley Barker - College student - William & Mary - major of neuroscience - went to Minneapolis General Convention and member of All Saints Episcopal Church: College is a time for social, spiritual, emotional, and philosophical growth. She's been spending time thinking about why she believes what we believe. College students are seekers of Truth and seekers of God. The life of a college student is a time of transition, purpose, and potential. But a great and successful life awaits on the other side. God promises to get us through this hard and exciting time. College students are excited to get through and become the leaders of God's Anglican Church. The audience roared and jumped to their feet in resounding applause.

Christopher Douglas - High School student: The problem is not just homosexuality, but adherence to Scripture. It is there so that we can continue to transform into Christ-like people. We need to stop trying to save the Episcopal Church as we've known it to be - we have been trying to save a church that has not been following God for a long time. We need to turn to kingdom work - focus away from the politics, the titles, the buildings of the church and to a God who is bigger than these things. Awake O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light. Do not let yourselves be taken in by fools who are filled religious sales talk. Everything is exposed by the light. The image of Christ: Christopher is teaching from the Scriptures! We need to live and walk as a transformed church, not a human church that will once again die. Let us rise from the dead not as a church that will die and perish but as a transformed church.

Yes, it happens again. The place jumps to its feet and the applause roars.

And then we sing - led by the youth:

I will bless the Lord forever
I will trust Him at all times
He has delivered from all fear
He has set my feet upon a rock

And Will not be moved
And I'll say of the Lord

You are my shield
My strength
My portion
Deliverer
My shelter,
Strong tower
My very present help in time of need.

We bow our hearts, we bend our knees
O Spirit make us humble

Time of Prayer: We gathered around all the young people under the age of 22. It was awesome. I feel like I have gotten a glimpse of the future church and it is AWESOME!

Final Address - The Rev'd Martyn Minns, Rector, Truro: Do you believe that God has a plan for you? A Hope for you? A future for you? Are we willing to talk into God's plan, claim God's hope, and go into God's future? Tells the story of the life saving service that saved people shipwrecked off the coast. After a while the life saving was replaced by a comfortable club that forgot it's original mission - to save shipwrecked people. When we invite Jesus into our lives he brings his rowdy friends into his churches. The Gospel is radical inclusion and profound inclusion.

The Gospel is radical inclusion and profound transformation - instead of accommodation and acclamation. So many of our leaders want to rewrite it or ignore it. We must stand firm in our faith in the confidence in our God who has began a work in our lives will finish. We do not stand alone but are surrounded a vast majority of Christians throughout the ages and throughout the world. We must come together with different denominations who share our passion for Christ and His redeeming love, from across the nations and around the world. What we are experiencing a global realignment - removing old institutions and new structures. Old power base of the North and West with new leaders from the South and the East. Do it. Stay engaged in the work of the gospel and let God deal with the structures. Stay engaged as a witness of Christ as an ambassador of Grace. Pray. Pray is what we do before, during, and after we act. Prayer does more than we can ever imagine - only source of power to transform our lives as well as others, face to face with the power that transformed the evil of the cross with the glory of the resurrection. "Behold I know the plans I have for you."

Final Prayer - Bishop Mpango of Tanzania: He reminded us that "there are 45 million Anglicans standing with you and praying for you." And then he gave the final prayer and blessing.

And this is just the beginning!

I hope this is helpful and encouragement to you. We are not alone. The candle continues to burn - and it will never go out. May we have the courage of the Pakistani Christians who would not fail in lifting high the cross. May we not fail and lift high the cross. For it is there, at the foot of the cross, that we find our hope.

Mary Ailes
Truro Episcopal Church
Fairfax, VA

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