One week ago, I was in Washington, DC, where I attended a day-long conference on the campus of Georgetown University. The conference was called “Evangelicals for Peace: A Summit on Christian Moral Responsi- bility in the 21st Century.” It was time well-spent, and I will have much more to say about what I learned and experienced there, but I think I will hold off on that commentary until after Election Day. The issues addressed at that conference are far too important to be diluted or misinterpreted or ignored amid the clamor of propaganda and demagoguery, from both sides of the ideological spectrum, that assails the senses and clogs the airwaves and the internet during this highly-charged political season.
I mention this event because of a conversation I had while I was there. I was seated next to a gentleman who serves on the staff of the International Criminal Court, and as we chatted during the break times throughout the day, our exchange became progressively more substantive. During the mid-afternoon break, I shared with him, as succinctly as I could, my vision for a new church in the vicinity of The Ohio State University.
I described the yet-to-be-birthed congregation, which we are calling St. Patrick’s Church, as a community of faith in the Anglican tradition, established on a foundation of evangelical orthodoxy and committed to radical discipleship. And then I used a term which I don’t think I have ever used before. At least not often. I said, “We want St. Patrick’s to be what every church should be but few really are… an outpost for the Kingdom of God.”
Given the context of our conversation and the themes being addressed by the conference speakers, he knew exactly what I meant, and his response was framed in terms with which I have become familiar. “Sounds like a no-brainer to me,” he said.
I have lost count of how many times I have heard that phrase or words to that effect. In fact, virtually every time I share my vision for St. Patrick’s in a face-to-face exchange, the response is some variation of what my new friend said to me in that crowded conference room in Copley Hall on the Georgetown campus last Friday.
And yet, nearly two years after I first shared the rudiments of that vision with my bishop as part of the process of preparation for my ordination as an Anglican priest, St. Patrick’s exists only in “potentiality,” and not yet as reality.
The purpose of this blog post is to make it clear, for anybody who cares, that, although the vision for St. Patrick’s has not yet materialized, neither has it died. I don’t address the topic here as frequently as I used to do, and I admit that I had begun to consider other ministry opportunities, some of which would require relocation outside of this diocese and a move away from central Ohio. But then I find myself in a setting like the one I was in last Friday, and somebody who is genuinely interested asks me about my hopes and dreams for future ministry, and before I know what has happened, the vision is spilling out of me like an open hydrant on a summer afternoon.
From my limited human perspective, an orthodox Anglican church, liturgical and connected to the ancient traditions but with contemporary awareness and cultural sensibilities, rooted in a local community but reaching out to university students—all of this describes an enterprise which could easily be thought of as a “no-brainer.” Add to this a desire to demonstrate the most fundamental characteristic of a true church, i.e. to be an agent of the Kingdom of God, indeed an outpost for the Kingdom, and you have a vision which is balanced, biblical, and worthy of support.
I have said much of this before, in earlier posts and in the Prospectus which I wrote last year. For the remainder of this post, I am turning in a different direction. In the spirit of good ol’ American advertising, I am going to make the case for why it would be prudent and practical to support the vision for St. Patrick’s.
First of all, there is a priest already prepared to undertake the task of leading the new parish and commissioned by the bishop to establish a new work. This priest (and that would be me) has years of experience in vocational ministry and congregational leadership, the ability to relate to people across the age and socioeconomic spectrum (including college students), and the gifts of preaching and teaching necessary to build a solid foundation for the church’s growth.
Second, I am sixty-two years old. I believe I have a number of years of fruitful ministry yet remaining, but it should be clear that I will not approach this endeavor as an opportunity to establish an institution which I would expect to lead for decades to come. I would give priority, from the outset, to the cultivation and development of leadership to succeed me and to lead the work into a productive and Christ-honoring future long after I am gone.
Third, I am very careful with money, frugal you might say, and I work cheap. You can be absolutely certain that any money invested in the work of St. Patrick’s will be used wisely. I will not handle any money contributed to this ministry. We will receive no financial contributions directly until a reputable and responsible treasurer is in place to maintain scrupulous records. Until that time, any contributions would need to be made to the diocese and earmarked for St. Patrick’s.
God called me to vocational ministry more than forty years ago. I have never been generously compensated, and that’s okay. Every dollar which is part of my compensation package is a dollar which cannot be used for other Kingdom ministry. Although I would expect, eventually, to be compensated at some level for my service to the Kingdom through the ministry of St. Patrick’s, I am not pursuing this vision in order to generate a paycheck. If God blesses the work with growth, then I would expect that a modest compensation package for the priest would ultimately be part of a prudent budget.
I have been effectively unemployed for four years. In 2008, after fourteen years of service as a member of the faculty in a small Mennonite Bible college, my contract was terminated since I could no longer comply with the institutional bylaw which required all full-time faculty to be involved in a Mennonite church. In the four years since then, my wife has fought breast cancer, and I completed preparation for Holy Orders as an Anglican priest. I was ordained in May 2011.
Despite the loss of my income, we remain financially solvent, owing to my wife’s full-time employment, the generosity of friends, and our careful stewardship. Since I was terminated “for cause,” I was not eligible to collect unemployment compensation. We have sought no financial assistance, either private or governmental, nor have we received any. Although we have exhausted our savings, and I am eager to get back to doing the work God called and equipped me to do, we are not destitute. God has taken care of us.
I mention all of this to illustrate the point that I am not in ministry for the money. I do not view vocational ministry as a profession. God and I entered into a covenant nearly forty years ago. He called me to give my life and use my gifts in the service of Christ and His Kingdom. In return, He promised to meet my needs. So far, we are both keeping our respective sides of the bargain.
I am convinced that the vision for St. Patrick’s is not only God-given and Christ-honoring. It is also a wise investment and a good deal. Are you absolutely sure God isn’t nudging you to consider joining us in this endeavor? I’d be happy to correspond with you if you have specific questions about this vision. Better yet, I’d love to sit down with you and share my vision eyeball to eyeball, so to speak. If any of this, as they say, “resonates” with you, click on the “Contact” button at the top of this page and drop me a line at the email address you will find there. And, as always…
Soli Deo Gloria.