We first suggested new Anglican church planting in Europe in 1991, before there was a NAMS. We were traveling in France, and the need seemed so obvious to us. But whenever we discussed it with anyone in authority in the Church of England we were met with incredulity. “Why would you plant new Anglican churches in Europe?” The question, oft repeated, should have sparked a deeper understanding, but at the time it only irritated me. The need was so clear to me, and I could not understand the question.
Now it is abundantly clear to me that it was revealing a major blind spot in much of the contemporary Anglican missionary vision. If “Anglican” simply means a peculiar type of Christian community, suited for a small group of people who “like that sort of thing,” then new churches in Europe, or anywhere else, really does not seem that important. After all, there is usually one Anglican Chaplaincy in every major European city already. But, what if that is not how God sees “Anglican?”
We are persuaded that God thinks of the community called “Anglican” as a part of the church of Jesus Christ, charged with all the same responsibilities and privileges as his beloved Bride everywhere in the world. Whatever is the calling of the Bride is the calling of the Anglicans. Whatever is not the calling, is not. The only alternative we can see to that syllogism is that the Anglicans are not part of the church of Jesus Christ. We know better, of course.
Seen in this light, the field of modern Europe calls out for new missionary endeavor from Anglicans. No effort the church can ever make is as effective, for the spread of the kingdom of God, as new church planting. If we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, then the call to share that gospel everywhere is incumbent upon us.
Does this mean we are to barge in to the fields of Europe where there are already Christian denominations and networks that have suffered in the heat of the day? Of course not. NAMS never suggests that, nor countenances it! We always try to work cooperatively with the faithful church. But we would ask these questions of church leaders: “Are you confident that you are doing all you ought for mission? Is your missionary effort in Europe adapting and growing at a pace with the changes in Europe? Would you like help from brothers and sisters who are called to this kind of new work?” NAMS stands ready to help, if asked.
But what if we are not asked to help, and the need remains so glaringly obvious to us at NAMS? At this point we have to ask ourselves: “Who is it that gives the authority for new work that makes new disciples?” Did the risen Lord Jesus give his Final Commandment to the church in conditional terms? “Go (wherever existing church authorities will let you) and there make disciples.” How ridiculous it is to even write it down!
Peter and John once confronted a similar situation: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19,20) Should our attitude be different?
— Jon Shuler