Anglican Samizdat

February 9, 2010

Why The Meeting House irritates Anglicans

Filed under: Anglican Church of Canada — David Jenkins @ 5:25 pm

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.



  1. What I find unappealing about the meeting house is the size of it. How can someone effectively pastor 8,000 people? It can’t be done. To be an effective pastor you have to have a relationship with your flock.

    Comment by Kate — February 11, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

  2. Kate,
    Yes, that is a good point. Some of our children were attending a while back and had the same observation. My doctor, otoh, also attends, is very enthusiastic and is the leader of a house group – where, according to him, some of the pastoring takes place.

    Comment by David — February 11, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

  3. The Meeting House theory is that their basic building block is the House Church. It is intended to be where the Laity ministers to each other.

    Comment by Jim Muirhead — February 11, 2010 @ 10:03 pm

  4. Just some quick corrections from a 10+ year TMH attendee… we have approx 4500 to 5000 people on a given Sunday. Not 8000! (Although I have been there since it was less than 200 of us… so who knows!)

    There is not “one pastor” there are MANY pastors, for each region of the GTA (and beyond!)

    The idea that “pastoring” can only be done by a “paid professional” is something that is challenged by the very core of what we believe. It’s a discipleship mentality, a community of believers, supporting one another through Home Church in practical ways, with an intimacy and authenticity that can only be achieved through honest relationship. Pastors help pastor the Home Church leaders, who help pastor the Home Church attendees and on down the line… it’s the one time we look to a hierarchy, when it’s only purpose is to serve each others needs and raise each other up into Christian maturity.

    Cheers All!

    Comment by Will Caldwell — February 12, 2010 @ 12:06 am

  5. Sure it could have said more, but I thought the article was reasonably objective.

    Comment by Warren — February 12, 2010 @ 12:24 am

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