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Seeing the World Change in Front of your Eyes: a week in North Carolina and New Wineskins 2019

Seeing the World Change in Front of your Eyes: a week in North Carolina and New Wineskins 2019

By the Rev. Dr. Duane Alexander Miller
Special to Virtueonline
Oct. 30, 2109

It was the second week at the seminary and I had to leave my students in Torah, Research, and Old Testament III (historical and wisdom books). I was not very happy about this, but it was mandatory; we had been instructed by our mission society.

We flew in a grandma from the States to watch over our three kids who were likewise just beginning their school year, and Sharon and I flew from Madrid to Charlotte on Saturday, and then drove to Ridgecrest the following day. (As adopted Texans I admit we liked the Carolina BBQ which we devoured on Saturday night.)

We actually had three events to attend at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina: a member-care workshop for Anglican Frontier Missions (Monday--Wednesday), the AFM pre-conference (Thursday), and the New Wineskins conference itself (Friday--Sunday). All in all it was seven days in a row in the attractive but secluded Southern Baptist enclave.

Member-care means taking care of cross-cultural workers. When Sharon and I started to partner with Anglican Frontier Missions all the way back in 2004 member-care was... incidental. It was there, but usually as a yearly visit to or from someone. Now there are professionals to speak with workers as often as needed and a retreat in Montana for debriefing and unwinding. Given that some of the main reasons why workers leave the mission field are team conflict and unmet expectations, having someone to speak to and listen on a regular basis can be very helpful.

I really enjoyed the pre-conference. We had a day of focusing on the work that AFM is doing around the world and I had the opportunity to meet a number of workers whom I had known about for over a decade but not met, and a few whom I had never even heard of, in person. These people are doing the work that Anglican Frontier Missions was founded for: taking the Gospel to where there is no church. The day started with an address by your humble servant on Trends in Christian Mission to Muslims (here) and then a panel focused on ministry among Muslims and the unreached, and then the rest of the day had updates from each of our workers around the world as well as a number of young energetic candidates.

I learned that AFM has doubled its number of workers in the last five years. What a joy to hear this good news! The reality is that when you're overseas you focus on your work. Our work is serving at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer where I serve as priest, coleading the Arabic-speaking fellowship named Kanisa, moving towards Light Madrid (which is our church plant focusing on post-Christian Europeans), and teaching Old Testament at one of the five accredited Protestant seminaries in the country (among other things). But it was a nice surprise to learn that the scope of our ministry was increasing. And indeed I had many conversations with people who were interested in possibly serving long term among those who have little to no access to the Gospel.

One of the innovations of the conference proper was the introduction of MAP talks. These are brief, 15 minute talks that are modeled after TED talks. I shared about our experience in founding Kanisa (here in English and here in Spanish), and Sharon shared about self-care for new cross-cultural workers. A high point for me was meeting the Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge at his MAP talk. His material on church revitalization has been helpful to some of the Anglican clergy in Spain. This to the point that a colleague and I had started translating his material into Spanish.

On a personal level it was also an honor to meet the Rev. John Dixon, who had served here in the Madrid area before we arrived. I had preached at Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd), a church which he had started many years ago, several times.

Every morning and evening there were plenary sessions with well-executed worship music and various speakers. The speakers were hit or miss. I'm a scholar as well as a priest and some of the figures I heard from the Muslim world begged for corroboration or some comments on methodology--but fair enough, this was not an academic symposium. The founder of Anglican Frontier Missions and its current director also received ample attention, and--call me biased--both did a fantastic job emphasizing the Church's mission to ⅓ of the world population who have no access to the gospel in their own cultural context (like those Moroccans who attend Kanisa).

Sunday morning finished with a Eucharist though at times it felt more like a business meeting than a liturgy. We left in the early afternoon and by the evening were back in the air, flying to Madrid.

A final anecdote: Sharon asked me if a certain young guy was a bishop, and I said he must be because he had a purple shirt. "He's awful young to be a bishop," she noted. Skinny jeans, beard... "Maybe he's the missionary bishop to hipsters?" I quipped. But that's not an insult. The main thing from the conference that caught my attention was the large number of young families with kids--mostly from the Anglican Church in North America as opposed to the older, larger, and more liberal Episcopal Church (USA). I didn't meet anyone at all from the Continuing Anglicans. It could just be the case that Anglican mission from North America to the world is entering a new golden age.

The Rev. Dr. Duane Alexander Miller lives in Madrid with Sharon and their three children where they teach and minister at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer. He is associate faculty at the Protestant Faculty of Theology at Madrid.

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