I have been invited to contribute this chapter to a book, THE FUTURE OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA, being written by bishops and to be published later this year. Paul Cavanough and I have found our exploration informative and challenging. The initial outline looks like the following (your prayers for the final version!)
A NEW OPENNESS TO CHANGE (draft outline)
Things Current: Deep Change or Slow Death
There is no doubt that a new openness to change is evident within the Anglican Church of Australia. Two decades of National Church Life surveys have provided a shocking reality check grimly detailing our critical decline. Many of us have taken these and similar challenges seriously. The key question is whether this is a new openness to deep change that will bring new life or simply tolerable minor adjustments that are only making slow death more palatable.
Evidence of Openness to Deep Change: Decade of Evangelism, Crisis in Our Context, God preparing the people.
The evidence of an openness to deep change is found where leaders are bravely stepping out of institutionalised culture where protecting the status quo is paramount to refocus on the church’ biblical mandate as God’s mission agency. These leaders are committed to the reality that “We are not in the business of institutionalizing mission; we are in the business of liberating the people of God for mission.” Carey, 1996
The Process of Change: Change theory and the Tasmanian Experience (See Attachment A)
In Tasmania the question was asked, “Bishop, what would you like form the diocese as you commence your episcopate?” – The answer, “A website for the diocese.” The diocese obliged. A new openness to change was evident. However, the much deeper challenge came when the bishop shared the vision of “Every Tasmanian committed to Jesus Christ” and declared that the diocese be known as “The Missionary Diocese of Tasmania.” This strong statement of missional intent highlighted the commencement of intentional deep change toward our part in God’s plan for Tasmania in the twenty-first century.
The Knowing and Doing Gap:
- Because we do not know how to do it
- Because we’ve talked about it we feel we’ve done it
- Because we have made a plan we feel that is equivalent to doing the plan
- We fear moving forward because of the unknown
- We have set ourselves up for too much change too soon
- We have been delayed by ‘other’ issues
The Fruit of Change: A healthy church-transforming life committed to God’s call to mission.
The Anglican Church faces the challenge of a major readjustment. A commitment to deep change will transform us. Is it worth the effort? Yes!