“Let every nation gather with praise.
We pray Your Kingdom come. Venga Tu Reino!“
With one loud voice the attendees at the Anglican Church in North America’s Provincial Assembly sang the lines of this newly written song symbolizing much of what God did during the conference in bringing the nations together for the sake of mission in a fresh way. Over 1400 attendees from 30 countries gathered outside Chicago in Wheaton, IL June 28th-30th for the ACNA’s every three year gathering of the whole North American church. This year’s theme was “Mission On Our Doorstep: Local Mission, Global Family, Shared Gospel”. The conference highlighted the missional opportunities right in front of us and how the Global Church can help us reach the nations here in North America. It truly was a historic gathering which included the consecration of a GAFCON missionary bishop to Europe, Andy Lines (who notably served for a season as a missionary in Latin America and speaks Spanish).
This year Caminemos Juntos, rather than hosting a separate conference, integrated it’s 7th annual North American conference as part of the overall Assembly, both leading a sub-track within the conference in Spanish and assisting in the overall planning of the event so that Latino attendees would feel welcomed and at home. This an amazing opportunity to share testimony to the larger North American Church of what God is doing within and through the Latino community. Also, it gave the opportunity for the Caminemos Juntos attendees to experience and build relationships with leaders from the broader church after 6 years of stand alone conferences.
The CJ sub-track aspect of the assembly included times of worship in Spanish and both Spanish and English language workshops around themes such as a Biblical understanding of immigration, how to start church-based immigrant legal aid centers, the unique challenges faced by second generation Latinos, and pastoral counseling. Archbishop Venables of the Province of South America and Archbishop-emeritus Tito Zavala from Chile were interviewed by Canon William Beasley in one of the sessions at the end of which they both kneeled as participants laid hands and prayed for their perspective ministries and the ongoing mission and work in South America.
As to the overall Assembly several key themes emerged:
1) Reciprocal Mission
No longer is mission “from the west to the rest” but rather “mission from everywhere to everywhere,” this concept and the second phrase in particular was repeated over and over by different speakers throughout the Assembly. Archbishop Tito Zavala was one of the speakers who brought this up as he spoke on Jonah as an example of “anti-mission on your doorstep.” Examples of this reality were reciprocal mission testimonies shared by both Kenyan and Chilean missionaries reaching African-Americans and Latinos in the US, respectively.
Maria Jose Yunis, a young twenty-something Chilean missionary serving in Virginia, US shared about reaching young Central American immigrants, many of whom came to the US as unaccompanied minors.
“I began a bible study in home of one of the Honduran families I began to get to know. Since they rent out some of their rooms to other immigrants, this home in itself was a large mission field. As we began the Bible study everyone came out from their rooms and gathered to hear the word of God. After doing this study for a month, I began to teach about God’s grace. The mother of the home told me: ‘it’s incredible that I have been here in the US for so long but no neighbor or anyone came to me about the love of Jesus, but God in His Immense love decided to send some all the way from Chile to the home of some Hondurans in the United States to show them how much God loves us.’ “
There was a living out of this reciprocal mission reality immediately leading up to the Assembly as leaders from the Anglican Church in Brazil, Myanmar and Chile met with congregations-in-formation from their respective cultural groups in the Chicagoland area, a city made up of immigrants from the nations. These church leaders from around the world who were attending the Assembly weren’t just here as guests but to truly do “mission on our doorstep” in helping reach the nations here in the US.
2) Multicultural Unity
By far this was the most multi-ethnic and multi-cultural ACNA event to date. Caminemos Juntos, Jubilee (Greenhouse’s African-American church network), AMMiC (Asian and Multicultural Ministries in Canada) and AMEN (Anglican Multi-Ethnic Network) each led sub-tracks around multicultural and multiethnic ministry issues and challenges. It was also clear that much intentionality was given to highlight these different cultural expressions in the overall Assembly sessions and to make attendees from a variety of backgrounds feel welcome. Wednesday evening’s plenary featured a highly respected Chicago based gospel choir and there were testimonies by local African-American leaders. Thursday evening’s plenary session (which can be watched here) highlighted the work of Caminemos Juntos and featured music in English and Spanish and prayers in English, Spanish and Portuguese. A creative Salsa scripture presentation and dance that was part of one of Chicago’s Easter Vigil services in Holy Week this year was also part of the evening. All plenary sessions were also simultaneously translated into Spanish.
Often attempts at including voices of color and non-white musical styles can be done in a “token” way that unintentionally communicates that these voices or expressions are “extra” and can come across as seeming like an afterthought. At this Assembly, however, it was clear that this was not the case. Latino, African, African-American, and Asian cultures were clearly at the center of the conversation. Bishop Tito Zavala, speaking of the Thursday evening plenary session in which the work of Caminemos Juntos was highlighted said: “In all my 30 years or so of attending Anglican events around the world I’ve never seen such emphasis given to the Latin American community.”
3) Spirit Filled Worship
A unique aspect of this year’s Provincial Assembly was the role of songwriting and worship. Passionate and powerful worship blending both traditional and contemporary styles marked each of the sessions. For the first time, United Adoration a songwriting and worship movement, gathered songwriters from throughout North America and led a songwriters retreat the day before the Assembly. One of the song’s that was written was a bilingual song (We Pray Your Kingdom Come/ Venga Tu Reino) that was then immediately taught and sung during one of the plenary sessions with the aim that then leaders would take this song back to their local congregations. (The song can be heard here and the chords/lyrics found here). The writers and composers put in words and melody, in a remarkable way, the spirit and focus of the Assembly. Halfway through the first line the whole gathered body was singing it as if they’d known it for years. This brought breath of creativity and freshness to the whole Assembly which included a significant amount of time focused on Spirit-filled musical worship. Throughout church history revivals have gone hand in hand with new songs and an overall renewal of worship. A similar dynamic was evident at the Assembly.
Two more lines from this song marked the end of the conference:
"Send us Oh God in the power of Your Name, We pray Your Kingdom come
Para cumplir hasta el fin Tu misión: Venga Tu Reino"
At the final closing Eucharist not only was Bishop Andy Lines consecrated and commissioned for mission in Europe, but everyone at the Assembly was commissioned to go out on mission and put in practice what was experienced in the Assembly. After a brief commissioning liturgy everyone was invited to come forward to be prayed for, anointed and commissioned by one of the bishops present to go out on mission in the power of Christ’s name.