In the fall of 2014, a Baptist church in Edmonds, Washington, planted another congregation. But this wasn’t an ordinary planting experience—rather than starting another church in their own tradition, they planted an Anglican one.
When they heard about it, the editors of CT Pastors had to talk with the two key leaders behind the new church plant. Barry Crane is lead pastor of North Sound Church in the Seattle area, associated with Converge (formerly known as the Baptist General Conference). Todd Hunter is a bishop of Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO) in the Anglican Church in North America.
Barry Crane: North Sound Church is located in Edmonds, just north of Seattle, about 15 minutes from the Interstate. We debated buying property next to the Interstate to become a regional congregation, but we decided to drill deeply into our own community. We considered planting neighborhood churches. But we don’t have the population density of Manhattan; many people would just drive to the main building.
Eventually I called a group of people together in 2011 and asked, “What would it look like if instead of a traditional church-planting model—planting our denomination in a different geography—we looked at it from a missiological viewpoint? What if we saw the unreached people groups in our area? Who in our community is not being reached by existing churches?”
Crane: We estimated that if you added all the folks attending liturgical churches in our area, there would be a maximum of 3,000. That left most of this group unserved. The fact is, although it has been a challenging half-century for all churches in America, it has been especially so for mainline liturgical congregations. From 1965 to 2005 they have lost anywhere from 15 percent to 46 percent of their adherents.
Crane: Our history somewhat prepared us. We were planted by a Baptist church in 2004, so we became part of a church-planting network, “paying it forward” by helping another church get started financially. We still do that with Converge. And in this church-planting world we live in, there is a principle we take as axiomatic: “Churches committed to church planting don’t make sense to other churches. They give money and people away.”
Usually we don’t apply that beyond our own tribe, but it’s not a big stretch to say, “We want to give people and money away, to show love to our community. Who could our Anglican friends reach that we’re not able to reach? And how can we help them do that?”
Crane: We flirted with that idea at North Sound: “Should we do Communion every Sunday?” I realized, Unless you have a sacramental theology, it won’t work. If a liturgical service was going to work, it had to be authentic to the people, and that’s not who we are.
Crane: My mentor wasn’t too sure of our plan. I said to him, “You are the person who taught me the theology of the kingdom of God. And this is the logical extension of your theology.” He looked down at his plate and said, “I know.” Then he became a cheerleader.
Hunter: Barry knew of me through a friend, and my days at Alpha. He contacted me and proposed we start an Anglican congregation in North Sound’s building, sponsored by them. I said, “It may be a little strange, but this could work.” In October 2013, I sat with Barry’s elders and we said, “What would it look like for a Baptist church to plant an Anglican church on top of it?”
Hunter: Barry and I had easy, automatic trust, but for this to work, we had to form a partnership of North Sound Church, Converge, C4SO, and the Anglican Diocese of Cascadia. There was this immediate question of episcopacy.
Since the books Missional Church and The Divine Conspiracy, there’s been a lot of kingdom rhetoric. And it’s easy to work together for the kingdom when, say, three churches get together to refurbish somebody’s home. But the reality in this situation was harder—when you plant a church that will be under a bishop, that church can’t be under someone else. And this church would be planted not in my diocese, but in Cascadia, under Bishop Kevin Allen, so he also needed to support the plan.
Crane: We hoped this church plant would reach three groups: (1) de-churched Christians from mainline churches, (2) baby boomers who had tired of contemporary worship (I was an executive pastor in a large church, and I understood other people like me), and (3) young people who wanted to capture the mystery of ancient-future worship. There appears to be a growing interest for an alternative to contemporary worship led by a soft rock band. Robert Webber saw this years ago when he said that in a postmodern setting, young people would be drawn into mystery and sacrament.