[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Church of England’s Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, has suggested that churches should “renegotiate the Sunday contract” to include adult Sunday schools and eating together. The bishop made his comment during a plenary discussion on discipleship at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting ACC-16, which is taking place in Lusaka, Zambia.
Churches, he said, should be “schools for discipleship” – and he had noted that this different “expectation” of what it meant to go to Church was evident in churches he had visited in the Anglican Church of Kenya and the (American) Episcopal Church.
“It amazes me that in England we go to all this effort to get people to church and then we let them go after an hour” spending more time “trying to persuade them to come back later the same day,” he said. “Why don’t we renegotiate the Sunday contract? What if we did Sunday differently like in Kenya? That might be best way of discipling people of God in the world.”
The ACC members were holding the plenary around a draft resolution which is expected to come before the Council on Monday. In its current form, it calls for a period of intentional discipleship throughout the Communion.
The Bishop of Edmonton in the Anglican Church of Canada, the Rt Revd Jane Alexander, described the suggestion as “life-giving” and urged members to be “audacious” in calling for a nine-year period of discipleship. “If we have a nine-year period and fail, never mind; but if we name it then we can have something to work towards.”
Professor Joanildo Burity from the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil) said that Christians need to understand that ongoing life formation was to be found both in the life of the Church and also in their commitment outside of it. Discipleship was about living as a Christian “in the workplace [and] in their everyday life [as a] witness to Christ to express how deeply they are following Jesus.”
The Archdeacon of Suva Ovalau in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, the Venerable Sepiuta Hala`api`api, stressed the importance of mentoring young people. They were looking for role models in the wrong places, he said, with a focus on sports and movie stars rather than the inspirational biblical characters of Elias, Samuel, Timothy, Naomi, and Ruth. “Young people don’t need any more events,” he said, “they need someone to walk alongside them [like] Jesus did with his disciples.”
The Anglican Consultative Council is meeting in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia, to discuss and set out the mission and priorities of the Anglican Communion Office for the coming three years and beyond. They are doing so under the theme “Intentional discipleship in a world of differences” – asking how Anglican churches can help Christians to move beyond faith as something done in Church on Sundays to living their whole live as a follower of Jesus Christ.
- A report has been produced to help Anglicans around the world think how discipleship can be applied in their local context. It is available to buy from the Anglican Communion shop or to download as a pdf.