Stories of Anglican Mission in action, by people who have overcome great odds and made a difference in both religious and secular life, were described recently by researchers engaged in the Global Anglicanism Project.
The project completes a two-year pilot study that focused on local congregations in Brazil, North India, New Zealand and Tanzania. Making use of 200 focus groups and individual interviews involving more than 1,000 people, GAP researchers say their work lifts up remarkable stories about the patterns and practices that shape Anglican identity today.
A report on the pilot phase of the GAP work, The Vitality and Promise of Being Anglican, will be distributed to every diocese in the Anglican Communion this month.
The project is governed by a global reference group of 22 Anglican leaders from 12 countries. The Episcopal Church Foundation functions as the secretariat at the invitation of the archbishop of Canterbury.
Vibrant church worldwide
Dr. Don Miller, a GAP researcher and director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California, describes the significance of GAP for local churches this way: “We need to understand that a vibrant church exists worldwide, especially in the global South.”
The Rev. Titus Presler, subdean of General Theological Seminary in New York, who also participated in the research, calls the report “prime material for parish discussions, adult-education programs and diocesan study groups.” “From this ongoing grassroots study, we are learning that there are several common characteristics of Anglicanism,” says project manager Maurice Seaton at the Episcopal Church Foundation.
The major findings, discussed in some detail in the report, are:
- Anglican churches are growing where spirituality and worship are rooted in local cultures;
- Anglican churches initiate life-transforming social ministries;
- Anglicans show a particular ability to pursue both inter-religious engagement and evangelism, emphases often viewed as mutually exclusive;
- Anglican churches work to reconcile the legacies of colonialism with the heritage of local cultures;
- Lay and clergy leaders often minister sacrificially in challenging circumstances and with limited resources;
- Theological education and formation for ministry are pursued amid substantial global and local disparities in financial and educational resources;
- Conflict in the Anglican Communion, which includes conflict within dioceses and congregations, threatens the capacity of Anglicans to fulfill the demand and promise of the gospel.
Foundation President Donald Romanik says he hopes these stories of Anglican life will challenge all who value the unity and diversity of the Anglican Communion to reach out and build relationships that strengthen the church. The next phase of the project will be completed in 2008 to coincide with the worldwide Lambeth Conference of bishops.
For information, contact Maurice Seaton, GAP manager, at maurice@EpiscopalFoundation.org or 800-697-2858.