“Evangelism as an activity is something that happens most forcefully, effectively and appropriately at the local level,” said Archbishop Michael Peers at the opening session of Courage to Speak, a conference organized by the Primate’s Commission on Evangelism.
The goal is to strengthen the church for the basic task of evangelism, he told about 100 Anglicans from across Canada, clergy and lay, who gathered in Winnipeg, April 16-19. “The premise is that the church in its local manifestation can rise to the challenge.”
Assessing the state of evangelism in the Anglican Church in Canada, the primate commented that “We are not everywhere responding to the call to evangelism, but we are fundamentally equipped.” He said “the role of the national church is to enable those in the dioceses to help those in the parishes.”
Three keynote speakers shared the podium with Archbishop Peers on opening night.
“If there isn’t a reason to speak, we can hardly expect there will be courage to speak,” observed Kingston Bishop Peter Mason, who affirmed the Gospel as truth which glorifies God and results in good for people. “Evangelism is a way to love my neighbour,” he said.
Anglican author Don Posterski, whose books include Reinventing Evangelism (1990) and Future Faith Churches (1997), outlined Anglican advantages and vulnerabilities. On the plus side, he said, there is a disposition to be inclusive, a comfort and familiarity with the ways of the world, and a freedom from negative stereotypes. “Anglicans are not noted for excess,” he quipped.
On the other hand, he continued, Anglican pride and religious privatism means that many worshippers are easily intimidated spiritually and avoid telling their personal faith stories. Discomfort in public worship for those who don’t get it right was cited as another common barrier to effective evangelism. Finally, said Mr. Posterski, Anglicans are prone to practise ritual without relationship, to be participants in church without experiencing God.
Rev. Jane Bass, vicar of St. Andrew’s in Luton, England, brought a storytelling approach to the theme, describing the ups and downs of ministry among people who often struggle to make a simple living.
Bob Tadman’s much-appreciated workshop on biblical storytelling further developed Ms. Bass’s narrative approach. Doug Koop is editor of ChristianWeek, a bi-weekly newspaper based in Winnipeg.