On June 23, the 10th National Anglican Church Planting conference came to an end. Gathered at the St Barnabas Church, Kensington, London, 450 delegates from across different traditions within the Anglican Church came together to investigate practical ways to build a fresh expression of the Church. The conference was so popular that places were sold out weeks ago, revealing the Anglican Church leaders' enthusiasm for breakthrough and reformation.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan William showed full support and commitment for the event. He gave a keynote address on the conference yesterday, and acknowledged the decrease in churchgoers. William emphasized the need for a change.
Williams addressed that the greatest challenge for the church nowadays is “that society does not always see Christianity as culturally relevant.” In addition, 24-7 pressurized lifestyles can be a reason for the decline in Sunday service attendance. Even though he is quite disappointed by this, he believes that there is a strong need to renew the church and respond to the need of people.
Williams described that the church now-a-days should resemble the “remarkable transforming nature of the first century church.” In the early church of the apostles, it took the form of a community, which enabled them to encounter Jesus and his teachings through the lives of individuals and communities. As a result, they received salvation and their lives also transformed accordingly.
According to Williams, churches should also take up the mission in "encouraging people to find space to encounter God in their daily lives in a way that best enables a relationship to be sustained".
Williams also said that the church structures have to be "more permissive than prescriptive." Now-a-days, it seems that the current church structure dominates and becomes a nuisance for people to reach God. He expressed his denomination that the church needed to “break through in the stand-off between the extremes of conservative and radical positions” in presenting the person of Christ, and went on to state that church structure does not present God to individuals but "it is a real encounter with Jesus that does that."
During the conference, Williams announced the recent appointment of Stephen Croft as Archbishops' Missioner as central to helping the church in transforming to a mission-shaped church. He described it as "an exciting and unchartered future."
George Lings Director of Church Army’s Research Unit, the Sheffield Centre commented, “We have an Archbishop who openly makes the fostering of fresh expressions of church one of his two highest priorities. Delegates were delighted that he has supported a conference focused on enabling people to think about doing mission-shaped church in their locality, theologians to explore for what reasons church should be mission-shaped and develop strategies to implement Mission-shaped Church’s recommendations in dioceses.”
The Archbishop’s support for the Mission-Shaped church has actually in turn brought the backing of the Church Army, Church Mission Society (CMS), Anglican Church Planting Initiatives and the Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Church of England who jointly sponsored the conference.