Leading Evangelical Voice Rick Warren Addresses New Anglican Body

on June 25, 2009

The Anglican Church in North America must move forward in mission and distance itself from past disputes with the Episcopal Church if it is to succeed, according to a leading American pastor. Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, was one of several ecumenical guests invited to speak at the founding provincial assembly of the recently constituted church.

Warren spoke Tuesday morning at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in the Fort Worth suburb of Bedford, Texas.

“We stand with you in solidarity as God does something new in your midst,” said Warren, pastor of the 23,000-member Saddleback Church in California. “God has not called the ACNA to be a reactionary group. In the first place, you didn’t leave them [the Episcopal Church].” Warren said that it was in fact revisionists in the Episcopal Church that had departed from the faith.

Warren spoke specifically to the tensions in the Anglican Communion, as well as referencing the ongoing lawsuits initiated by the Episcopal Church against departing parishes and dioceses.

“You may lose the steeple, but you won’t lose the people,” Warren said. “The church has never been a building; God did not die for property.”

The megachurch pastor quickly moved into discussing evangelism, encouraging delegates to focus on Jesus’ Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations.”

“A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission will grow a great communion,” Warren said, quoting Isaiah 43:17-18: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

Warren said that Christians are intended to worship and serve. But worship always comes before service, he said.

“Don’t pray ‘God, bless what we do,’” Warren said. “Instead ask, ‘God, bless us to do what you want us to do.’”

If God is going to bless the ACNA, Warren said, the church must do three things: First, “get the Father’s perspective on the world”; second, “follow the Son’s pattern”; and third, “appropriate the Spirit’s power.”

“The trinity is evident in every aspect,” Warren said.

Warren explained the history of Saddleback Church (it has met in 79 different locations over its existence) and the urgency of evangelism that has defined much of the California church’s experience. Saddleback has seen gradual, sustained growth, said Warren, due to an ability to meet seekers where they are, but also move them ahead in the development of their faith. Warren spoke against an exclusive focus on “quality not quantity” of church growth. Instead, Warren said, Saddleback sought “quality plus quantity.”

“Jesus ‘turns up the heat’ and requires more of disciples,” Warren said, adding that Christ moves people from “come and see” to bearing fruit. There is “quite a spectrum of maturity between come and see to come and die.”

Warren also emphasized the need to evangelize as a church.

“The more you love Jesus, the more you love the Church, the bride of Christ,” said Warren. “It is immature to say, ‘I love Jesus, but not the church.’”




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