John Bowen has written an article about The Meeting House, why it is so successful and why Anglicans find that so irritating.
Some, of course, would think that 8,000 people showing up for worship, even in a cinema, would naturally be a good thing. What could there possibly be to criticise? Well, for a start, from an Anglican point-of-view, it is not liturgical worship. There is a lot of singing (led by a local worship band), followed by a pastoral prayer and announcements, and then a 45-minute sermon, broadcast on the big screen from the church’s headquarters in Oakville. Then we go home. So there is no liturgical shape or content to the service. Neither is the service (usually) Eucharistic. I was there once when there was a Eucharist, but it was in the last five minutes, tacked on at the end almost as an afterthought, and again with virtually no liturgical framework.
But, if we are honest, there is one thing that irritates us more than all of these combined: it is that The Meeting House is successful. Successful in attracting people—a lot of people, and a lot of young people at that—successful in holding on to (not all but many) of them, and successful in opening and filling new churches. If there is one thing that rankles with us, it is that kind of success.
He goes on to enumerate the aspects of the Meeting House that Anglican parishes might consider emulating in order to grow: use leadership gifts wisely; Christian education; home groups; rented worship space; discourage spectator Christianity; humility.
As is usually the case in this kind of analysis, two important points are missing:
- The meeting House actually believes what it is peddling. There is no Anglican dithering about the meaning of the concepts of Resurrection, substitutionary atonement, the divinity and uniqueness of Christ, the sinfulness of man, the reality of salvation, heaven and hell. The Anglican Church of Canada has for the most part abandoned this Gospel.
- The reason the Meeting House wants to draw in people is because of point 1, not because it wants to get bigger. The Anglican Church of Canada wants to draw in people in order to get bigger so that it can continue its middle-class social club.
In its more earnest moments the ACoC does engage in its favourite pipe-dream of immanentising the eschaton and it even hires people to help.
Rachel Jordan has some advice for Christians who believe that someone else is going to build the kingdom of God here on Earth. “There isn’t a Plan B – you’re it,” she says. “You are the people God has chosen to be his agents right here, right now.”
It still has nothing to do with the Gospel.