In my youth we enjoyed the old game of seeing how many people we could squeeze into a Mini.
Little did I know how useful those skills would be when trying to organise ReNew, a new conference for conservative evangelical Anglican leaders that took place last November.
ReNew’s conviction is that in a fast-changing world, and denomination, conservative evangelical Anglicans must work together more closely and more effectively than in the past. In that spirit, members of Reform, AMiE (Anglican Mission in England) and Church Society, together with representatives of Gospel Partnerships, contributed to the planning process.
Word had got around and during the days leading up to the conference we were inundated by individuals asking if there was any chance we could squeeze them in. High Leigh obliged wonderfully.
ReNew was to be a conference with a difference. For sure, there were excellent biblical expositions from Hugh Palmer, Alasdair Paine and Paul Williams. Yes, there were encouraging reports of church growth in urban and rural parishes. Yes, the conference hoped to bring the work of GAFCON 2 ‘home’ to England.
So, what made it different? In a word – consultation. ReNew was designed to allow detailed consultation with the delegates, so that their wisdom could help shape plans for evangelical Anglicanism in the coming decade. Accordingly, much of the first day was spent in small groups discussing the past, present and future, sharing experiences, describing successes and failures and praying together. Just as at GAFCON 2, there was much need to repent as well as to plan.
Consultation makes for a complicated conference programme. The desire to assimilate and respond to the feedback from the groups meant that many of those speaking on the second day were found scribbling late into the night. New delegates arrived on the second day needing to be brought up to speed and be given a chance to feed their thoughts into the process. A degree of unpredictability had to be accepted and decisive decision-making was required. More than one delegate noted that such spontaneity and clarity have not always been traits that have marked our evangelical Anglicanism!
So, two months on – was ReNew just another talking shop? Three things encourage me to believe that it might be not just a moment in the year, but a movement for years to come.
First, the consultation revealed an almost universal desire for clear leadership within the constituency. That was, perhaps, no great surprise, but the obvious question remained – who should lead? As the consultation progressed, it emerged that there was an identifiable group of men to whom those present looked for direction and to whom they were willing to entrust planning the future in more detail. Since November they have been working in increasingly close co-operation, particularly in relation to the Pilling Report.
Secondly, following what was set in train at GAFCON, general approval was given for AMiE to take more concrete shape. AMiE has the twin aim of serving faithful Anglicans, whether within the traditional structures of the Church of England or otherwise, and enabling faithful Anglicans to reach the lost in England.
Thirdly, and perhaps most hearteningly, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of emails I have received offering to share financial, and other, resources with members of the ReNew network.
These three outcomes reveal a growing commitment to practical partnership in the gospel and for this we must give thanks to the God of grace and pray that he might grant a reformed future for the Church of England!
Susie Leafe, Director of Reform