To plant new Great Commission congregations that would plant new Great Commission congregations was central to the call of NAMS from the beginning, but it did not happen. Or rather, it did not happen very often. Why? We came to see clearly that there were two interrelated causes that contributed to the poor outcome.
First, almost everyone who joined with NAMS in the first years wanted a form of the church that had taken nearly two thousand years to develop. The settled local parish. They wanted an organizational form they knew and had embraced. They wanted something that they believed had been stolen from them theologically. Rebuilding that church required massive amounts of time, talent, and treasure. Those who wanted it quickly had very little heart or vision for multiplying it. They wanted “their church back.” And when they got it they were satisfied. We saw this happen again and again.
Second, many of the new leaders who were coming to NAMS were Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. They had come from other movements and denominational families, and they were reaching out for the structure and stability rooted in the ancient tradition that we represented. They had not joined us primarily for missionary purpose, but for stabilizing influence. When they had a faithful parish established they we’re satisfied. Their concern for multiplication was, when present at all, on the back burner.
These two realities led to much confusion. When some NAMS leaders separated from the Episcopal Church in 1997 in order to be faithful to the gospel as they understood it, others who had partnered with NAMS were very disturbed. Were we not rejecting historical structures and patterns they had embraced? Many leaders left us. When a new ecclesial structure (the Anglican Mission in America — AMiA) was formed in 2000 another fresh wave of leaders joined that group — which NAMS was supporting in North America. But soon they too discovered that the vision of the AMiA was not for them either. When the AMiA decided to reconstitute itself as a new purely missional form of the church the vast majority of these leaders separated to more traditional organizations (e.g. The Anglican Church in North America – ACNA – founded in 2008). The trauma of these years (1997-2012) damaged many relationships that NAMS had built, but through all those years we pressed ahead with our global work. What was that work?
As always, in every nation, it was the preaching and teaching of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” so that new communities of faith would be formed. We consistently sought to do this in partnership with already existing Anglican jurisdictions and communities. We were also determined that the work we did would be a multiplying work, and we knew that required a very light structural overburden. Here the weighty traditions of nearly 2000 years came back to hobble us. Did we have to have them all to begin new work? We thought not. But we absolutely believed that we were to convey “the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ” as the Anglican Family had received it. We never compromised on that. Our mission never changed.
— Jon Shuler