Crane: I would call it miraculous or at least awesome. We had sent Ryan for the Converge assessment, and he began developing himself and preparing to plant a Baptist church. But during that process, several people crossed his path who were Anglican, and he began to rethink his approach. I said to him, “Ryan, we made a commitment to you to help you plant a church. Are you now hoping that church will be Anglican?”
Hunter: Ryan and his wife, Emily, spent time with me, and I approved them as planters. What I love about this model is the great safety network it gives the church planters. Ryan and Emily interact daily with the North Sound staff. Barry lets Ryan use his church space and serves as a mentor. Converge pastors are his friends, and he has Bishop Kevin overseeing him.
Crane: North Sound Church and the plant, Holy Trinity Edmonds, join together for community events and even a joint service on Good Friday. Relationally, we are very connected. Many pastors ask, “What if the churches in our community were actually able to work together?” Unfortunately, unless you start that way, it tends to break down.
Hunter: Holy Trinity Edmonds is now working to plant another Anglican church in Everett, about 30 minutes north—in partnership with North Sound Church, C4SO, Converge, Bethel Baptist Church in Everett, and the Anglican Diocese of Cascadia.
Crane: We can do innovative, effective, low-cost church planting this way. Consider the savings: The plant has essentially no initial facility costs. And it starts with the launch church’s computers, copiers, and receptionist. Our hope is to provide a proof of concept that can be adopted at the national level.
Crane: For us there were three issues that required the most understanding: infant baptism, the Real Presence in communion, and episcopal authority. I do not want to minimize what may be very different understandings of important practices, but as we learned more, we realized there could be cooperation. On baptism, for example, I was influenced by my Greek professor, George Beasley-Murray, and my theology professor, Dale Moody. Both uphold believer’s baptism but ask that we extend grace to 1,500 years of practice.
Crane: In our history, we essentially took over a church that was dying, and along with their building, we inherited their by-laws. Those stated that if you had been baptized as an infant, you couldn’t be a full member; you could be only an associate member. And long before there was any thought of planting an Anglican church, I had said, “Folks, for at least 1,500 years, our brothers and sisters in Christ have followed this practice. Are we really ready to say that people like John Stott, J. I. Packer, and N. T. Wright are somehow less Christian as a result of this experience?” They agreed, and we started to welcome as full members those who were baptized as infants (who could always be baptized as adults, if they wished).
Hunter: I give big bragging rights to Barry and his people. They didn’t ask us to negotiate our position or compromise our beliefs. They just bit the bullet and said, “We’re planting Anglican churches, and this is what they do.” They never once made us be something we are not.
Ultimately the reason this worked was that Barry and North Sound Church looked at their community from a kingdom point of view. Not like a McDonald’s or Starbucks, making sure they have a unit in every part of Seattle.
Crane: This is a gift for the kingdom. It is not a quid pro quo arrangement. Our denominational systems reward denominational progress. Our resources are poured into the expansion of our own tribe. Imagine what can be accomplished for the kingdom if we move beyond models of denominational competition toward strategic partnerships.
But strictly speaking, one reason an evangelical congregation can plant an Anglican church in the same facility is because there is such a dramatic difference between a contemporary service and a liturgical service. Typically the evangelical congregation will not “lose” many people to the liturgical expression—other than those who are encouraged to assist in the startup. You can plant on top of yourself if you reach a different universe.
Crane: The need for church plants. New churches have a much younger age profile than do older churches, and new churches have two to four times the conversion rate of new Christians than older churches do. New churches are required to keep the church species healthy and strong.