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Sacramental Church Planting

In recent years church planting has exploded in popularity in our North American context (for reasons both good and bad), and at the same time, the ancient sacramental practices of the church are receiving renewed interest and attention.  It was inevitable that these two trends would intersect.  As an Anglican church planter, and because the sacraments and church planting are two of my greatest passions in life, I am excited both about the liturgical church regaining its missional side and many mission-filled churches coming home to their roots.  My giddiness is tempered, however, by the great variance in the quality of this meeting of mission and sacrament; it is sometimes a beautiful, life-giving symbiosis and sometimes a gory, carnage-filled train wreck. 

I once accompanied a friend to visit a church plant with roots in a non-denominational tradition.   He was excited to take me because he knew that I was “into Communion” and that his church had Communion weekly.  On this particular occasion the Pastor concluded the service with a prayer, the exit music came over the sound system and he walked off the stage.  We were gathering our things to leave when he jogged back up on stage, turned his mic on and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot to mention that on your way out we have some bread and juice on a table by the door.  Christians call this Communion and have done it for thousands of years.  If you are into that kind of thing, we’d love to have you grab some on your way out.” 

As an Anglican, my sacramental soul shriveled.  I literally stood where I was and said a silent prayer interceding for the people as the words of 1 Corinthians 11 ran through my head, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”  I felt like Moses waiting for a plague to spread like a wave until it stopped at my outstretched hands.  It was a profound juxtaposition to hear the lackadaisical language of the pastor “if you’re into that kind of thing” and Paul’s clear language of warning of the importance of approaching the Eucharist with preparation, solemnity, respect and awe, “this is why some of you have died.”

While atrocities like this are common, new missional works do not always have sloppy sacramentology.  I have celebrated the Eucharist with linens draped over a plastic table in a gym that smelled like sweaty kids and experienced something transcendent and beautiful, something ancient but immediate. What makes the difference?  How, regardless of the setting, can the sacraments be life giving in one and soul-sucking in another?  I do not believe the distinction is simply in practice; it is a matter of ethos, of influence and of order.  There is a fundamental difference between planting a sacramental church and planting a church with Communion stuck onto the end of the worship service.  Or put another way; there is a difference between sacramental church planting and planting a church with a sacramental veneer.

Again I stress, whether or not you are engaged in sacramental church planting is not merely pragmatic or methodological. It is not how well you celebrate the rituals surrounding Communion or Baptism (although their execution is important).  It is not simply a question of how we do the sacraments; it is a question of whether or not the sacraments shape who we are

In sacramental church planting, Communion and Baptism are not simply “add-ons.”  We do not simply make them a part of our efforts because they are hip, trendy or practical helpful; they are the center point of our worship, the primary means of catechesis and discipleship, the undergirding of our devotion, the source of our community.  Through the liturgical forms surrounding our sacramental practice, we teach doctrine and we commune with our God and each other.  Sacramental church planting means that the identity, function and values of the new faith community flow from our sacramental reality.  In a church plant that simply includes the sacraments, the sacraments are only small part among many; in a sacramental church plant, however, the greater whole is fundamentally shaped by our understanding and practice of the sacraments.   The centrality of the sacraments means that the church plant takes on the nature and attributes of a sacrament in its form and function.

The 1662 Catechism of the Anglican Church defines a sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. God gives us the sign as a means whereby we receive that grace, and as a tangible assurance that we do in fact receive it.”  So, a sacrament is a sign, a means of grace and a tangible assurance.  The only reason for the significance of the physical actions is the spiritual reality they express and transmit.  A sacramental church plant understands its nature in the same way: the purpose of the sacramental church plant is to be a physical working out of the Gospel of grace, a means by which people can receive that grace and the presence of the church should be an assurance of the reality of the redemptive work of God.  Thus, all the physical aspects of the plant are determined by the Gospel and are a means of the grace of the Gospel. This has profound implication on the way that we plant a sacramental church.

A Sacrament Is Dependent And Invitational…And So Is Church Planting

Without the initiative of God, Eucharist is simply snack time.  Without the spiritual substance, the physical accidents are simply ground grain and pressed grapes.  Without the ongoing redemptive work of the Gospel, church planting is simply entrepreneurship.   If our planting work is motivated by anything other than the glory of God, the proliferation of his Gospel and the growth of the Church catholic, we are only working to create a paycheck or a legacy or an institution.  Without God’s movement our efforts are in vain.  Sacramental church plants see the vision for their work as being dependent on the move of God to have any efficacy, but also believe confidently that he is indeed present in the work and is inviting us to participate with him just as he invites us to his waters of Baptism and his table of Communion.  So, sacramental church planting understands that our fruitfulness does not simply come down to technique, but rather to the sovereign move of God inviting us and others into his ongoing redemptive work.

In A Sacrament, The Spiritual Grace Is Ultimate, But The Physical Sign Is Vitally Important…And So It Is In Church Planting

As previously stated, the sacraments have no value without that they are the visible Word, pointing to the glorious work of the Gospel.  Although the spiritual truth is primary, the nature and quality of the physical sign that expresses it has great significance.  Haphazard celebration of the Supper caused sickness and death in Corinth; this was a spiritual issue of a lack of repentance and respect, but it was reflected in the improper physical expressions of drunkenness and disrespect.  In other words, the how is as important as the what and the why.  This has bearing for the sacramental church plant because we see our churches as the physical sign that points to the spiritual grace of the Gospel, so if we are a sloppy sign, we reflect a disfigured truth.  Our ends do not justify our means.  We do not grow or succeed in church planting at any cost, but rather our practice of planting must reflect the message we are teaching because in many ways just as the sacraments are the visible Gospel, so are our methods our message.  This attitude causes us to reflect on all of our means for gathering, strategizing, advertising, organizing and pursuing planting according to how they mirror the Gospel they are meant to be an assurance of.  The sacraments then become our handbook for planting second only to the Scripture and before any other writings, books, coaches or conferences.

In A Sacrament The Aesthetic Is Valued…And So It Is In Church Planting

The importance of the physical sign as a gateway to the experience of something greater naturally leads to a valuing of things of beauty that connect us with a sense of a deeper reality.  Sacramental church plants then should take great care not to simply be a proper physical sign in the quality of our planting methods and example, but also in our creative and artistic expression of our endeavors.  For example, worship is the activity commanded of the church, but it is codified in one way through musical expression.  So, if worship is important, then our music is important.  Our music is more than simply entertaining or nostalgic, it is a present offering of praise to the holy God as part of a great tradition, therefore it should be theologically rich and aesthetically beautiful.  It should be faithful and good quality.  We do not simply adopt what is trendy or popular, we vet things according to their quality and substance.  Part of our mission and purpose is to offer our best.

The experience of sacramental worship is rich in symbol with both deep history and contemporary expression.  We are rooted and relevant.  We value beauty because it is not beauty simply for the sake of beauty, rather we believe it points us to the splendor of the Creator.  Our worship services, our websites, our music, all our creative expression should all be done with our best effort for the glory of God.  Understanding aesthetics sacramentally, that our aesthetics also point to a greater reality, adds value to what is created and the creation process itself.  We are not simply trying to “brand” our church or “market” our efforts.  We are not trying to be hip, cool and relevant in our worship services.  A sacramental understanding of the aesthetic means that we have a responsibility for quality and integrity in all of our graphical, musical and artistic expression because how we express ourselves reveals the value of the object the expression is pointing to.  So, in sacramental church planting we need to have a high value on the quality and holiness and effectiveness of all of our outward expression be it symbolic, print, audio, digital, or any other medium.

A Sacrament Is Communal…And So Is Church Planting

“Community” is an oft-used word in the church planting world, and rightly so.  We must, however, have a biblical understanding of what that means.  In a sacramental church, community is defined by and practiced in the sacraments.  It is not simply left to social gatherings, small groups or even primarily defined by activities such as accountability or pastoral care.  How community is entered and how it is sustained are not dictated by systems or the latest book on assimilation.  Our covenantal understanding of community as the people of God who are recipients of his promises, co-heirs with Christ and participants in his sent-ness is entered into through baptism and practiced in the Eucharist.   

A Sacrament Is Catechetical…And So Is Church Planting

For the sacramental church plant, the sacraments are our primary source for catechesis and discipleship.  The liturgical forms surrounding our practice of the sacraments teach the doctrine of the church in a living way.  Liturgical forms introduce doctrine through factual tenets, narrative form and recitation of Scripture, but they also reveal that our doctrine is meant to be shared communally, experienced corporately, lived-out personally and proclaimed externally.  Sacraments break down the walls between intellectual learning, personal experience and missional outreach.  Although other books and curriculum are good and important, the sacraments remain our principal teachers of the truth of Scripture.

A Sacrament Is Missional…And So Is Church Planting

Christ gave us two sacraments- Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  Communion is the family meal where members of the covenant community come together in relationship with one another and Christ himself.  It is a meal for believers only because to share in this intimate time, one must first respond to the invitation of the host.  This has been the practice of the Church for thousands of years. There is an exclusivity in the Eucharist.  At the same time, however, there is an open gate for all who wish to come in; while only those who belong to the family can share in the meal, the beauty of the Gospel is that an invitation to belong is extended to all who will ask, seek and knock through repentance and belief.  The exclusivity of Communion is meant to reveal our need for Baptism, to show that to take part, one must enter in.  Christ gave us Baptism as an entrance into this family to experience his presence through reconciliation.  The sacraments when seen as a pair reflect the truth of the Gospel that intimate relationship with God is possible, but that relationship is not entered into by our own presumption or initiative, rather by a way prescribed by God- no one comes to the Father except through the gate of the Son.  We come to Communion through Baptism, just as we come to relationship with God through faith in Jesus, being washed by his grace.  The sacraments are a visible Gospel and, therefore, bring definition to how we are truly a part of the people of God and how the Church can brings others in.

The sacraments show that we cannot assume we are members of the covenant community any more than a stranger on the sidewalk can presume that he has inherent claim to come to our family’s Thanksgiving Dinner.  The invitational and missional nature of the sacraments, however, implores people to not remain in their isolation and exclusion, but to experience the joy of welcome to a new family.  “Come, be a stranger no more!  Enter, eat and drink!” exhorts Christ through Baptism and the Eucharist.   

The church is reminded of our missional purpose over and over as it is embedded in the entire structure of our liturgy: every Sunday our liturgy proclaims the primacy of the glory of God in the opening acclamation, reveals our need for grace to come before a holy God through the prayer for purity, gathers us together in the collect, proclaims the Word through reading and preaching, invites response to the Word through confession and prayer, offers a time for relational reconciliation at the peace, allows us to experience the reality of our new family through the communal meal at the Eucharist and sends us back out into the world to do the work of mission that he has given us to do for that week with the dismissal.  On the next Sabbath, the cycle repeats- gather by grace, receive grace, be sent to give grace and bring others in.  The liturgy and sacraments show us that we are the church both gathered and sent.  For the sacramental church, the sacraments are not only actions that are a part of  our work, but in them we find the very nature of our missional purpose.

A Sacrament Is An Act Of Submission…And So Is Church Planting

We cannot take the sacraments and do whatever we would like with them.  They do not belong solely to us.  Agreeing that the sacraments are right and good and relevant is to agree that what our missional efforts need is to be submitted to something greater than our modern innovation and local preference.  We cannot embrace the concept of the sacrament without adopting the form, practice and tradition of the sacrament.  Submission to God, to the Church, to the Great Tradition and to one another is central to the sacraments, and we need more of it in our church planting efforts.  This does not squelch creativity or spontaneity or contextualization or the work of the Spirit, rather it brings accountability to our own whims and roots us to a tradition that is greater than ourselves.  We are not the first Christians to live, nor the first church planters to ever practice the art of starting new congregations.  Sacramental church planting agrees that those who have gone before should have a voice in the work we do today.  We are allowed creative fidelity, and adherence to the form and nature of the sacrament provides boundaries to that effort so that we do not innovate beyond the scope of faithfulness.  Sacramental church planting recognizes that church planting is not a blank slate upon which to build our own kingdom by our own methods and desires, it is simply our time to carry the torch that many before us have carried and many after us will carry on.  Submitting ourselves to the proper practice of the sacraments encourages humility and constrains the modern sense of entrepreneurship that can lead to idolatry while also giving us a sense of time and perspective in our mission.

All of the implications of sacramental church planting I’ve laid out in this short article can be summed up in what the English Reformers called “similitude.”  Writers including Cranmer and Ridley taught that Christ’s choice in the particular physical signs in the sacraments has significant value because of their symbolic likeness to the spiritual truth they represent.   Augustine said it this way, “If the sacraments had not some point of real resemblance to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all (Letter 98:9).” We submerge in the waters of Baptism due to its similarity to washing and rebirth.  For Communion, we use bread because it breaks like the Body of Christ and it nourishes our physical bodies as Christ’s body nourishes our souls.  We use wine for its likeness to the poured out blood of Christ and the fact that many grapes coming together to make one cup of wine shows the unity that is created through Christ’s sacrifice.  Most of all, both the grain and the grape had to die to give us life through their sustenance just as Christ gave his life so that we may live.  There is a reason for the choices of water, bread and wine because they are similar to what they represent.

Just as there is similitude in the sacraments, there must be similitude in our work of church planting.  Our concrete and temporal actions in the work of planting have no value lest they are properly empowered by and bear great resemblance to the truth of the Gospel.  Using a dissimilar sign would nullify the nature of the Sacrament and to plant a church dissimilar to the Gospel would violate the nature of the church.  Therefore, in sacramental church planting we put great effort into the sanctity and propriety of the celebration of the two sacraments ordained by Christ in order to glorify God, edify the church and reach the lost.  In doing so, the sacraments are not one part of the work that we do; rather, the lessons we learn and the reality of God we experience in the sacraments shape and form every element of the practice of ministry.  In this way, the sacramental church plant is a physical sign of Christ’s grace, a means by which the world can receive that grace and the community and work of the church are a tangible assurance of the truthfulness of the promises of God. That is sacramental church planting, and we’re into that kind of thing.

In this way does God make known his secret purpose to his Church: First he declares his mercy by his Word, then he seals it and assures it by his sacraments.  In the Word we have his promises; in this sacraments we see them.  –John Jewell, On The Sacraments


Episode 9: Sacramental Church Planting, Part II

Dan and Shawn continue their conversation about Sacramental Church Planting, augmenting the previous article written by Dan. Beginning their conversation, they remind us of the definition of a sacrament from the 1662 Catechism of the Anglican Church:

“…an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”

They speak of church planting, then, as being sacramental in that the tangible aspects of it should point to something that is spiritual and experiential. They are clear, however, to note that they are not talking about clericalism, saying that you must be overly dependent on a priest. Rather, it is about bringing a community that has received the grace of Christ together to worship, be built up, and be sent out to take the Gospel into the world.  As such, the focus is not solely on the person who celebrates the sacrament, but rather the community that shares in it and grows because of it.

For additional resources on the topic, Dan and Shawn recommend the following:

The Power of Sacramental Church Planting with Gary Ball

Sacramental Imagination for Church Planting by Shawn McCain

Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God by Edward Schillebeeckx


Don’t miss the second half of the conversation:


Episode 8: Sacramental Church Planting, Part I

In the first of a two-part podcast, Dan and Shawn expand upon an article on Sacramental Church Planting previously published to our website. It seems that there used to be a bifurcation in thinking where, as a church, you could either be “sacramental liturgical” OR “missional evangelical”. Dan believes that this is changing. In fact, he goes so far as to say that “a true understanding of the sacraments leads you to be more missional!”

With that in mind, Dan and Shawn address the fact that the sacraments are not an add-on, a veneer, or part of some trend. They are not a means to an end. Rather, they are key elements to what God is doing here on earth as He reconciles all things to Himself. Believing and embracing such an understanding of the sacraments changes how you approach them.

Previously, Dan and Shawn spoke with Fr. Jonathan Warren at length regarding the Church Fathers. Now, looking at the history of the Church with regard to the sacraments, Dan and Shawn point out that there is a beautiful and robust voice of the Church saying that the sacraments are the means of grace given to us by God.

Check out the whole podcast and comment on our Facebook page or Twitter feed to let us know what you think.


Additional notes:

Dan mentioned two best-selling books that he’s read that provide insight into today’s increasingly challenging cultural and racial divides

Finally, Always Forward will offer a track specific for church planters during this year’s Provincial Assembly, held  June 27-30 (yes, starting one day early!) at Wheaton College. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for details!


Episode 6: The Top 10 Mistakes Church Planters Make

In the final Always Forward Podcast of 2016 (I know, we’ll miss you, too!), Dan and Shawn get into the nitty gritty by comparing their lists of the top mistakes that church planters make. They certainly don’t spare themselves in this week’s episode as they share not only what they believe to be the top mistakes, but stories of their own shortcomings.

Once more, we benefit from the different perspectives that Dan and Shawn bring to the table discussing issues such as contextualization: what is enough and what falls short? They also share their insight and lessons learned when it comes to building your leadership team, talking about practical topics like:

  • When its a good time to put a vestry together
  • Knowing when someone is right (or not!) for leadership
  • Setting and communicating expectations to your team

And don’t miss out on Dan’s final common mistake and his conversation with Shawn about your worship service and your church.

At the start of the episode Dan makes a big announcement…I’ll give you a sneak peak!

The Always Forward 2017 Conference will be held in conjunction with the Anglican Church in North America’s Provincial Assembly.

Assembly, which happens approximately every three years is a national gathering to celebrate and encourage all of the ministries throughout the Province. As such, we’ll be joining the Provincial leadership and other ministries from June 28-30th in Wheaton, IL on the campus of Wheaton College. Always Forward will have our own track specific to church planting, but we’ll also benefit from the main session speakers and activities at Assembly. Stay tuned for more information on our website in the weeks to come.

And don’t worry, Dan and Shawn will be back with the Always Forward Podcast in 2017. If you haven’t subscribed already, visit iTunes and subscribe to the Always Forward Podcast for free so you always know when a new episode is up!


The Always Forward Podcast, hosted by Canon Dan Alger, Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Church in North America, and Father Shawn McCain, serial church planter and leader of the I-35 Initiative, aims to catalyze conversations about missiology and sacramentology and how they come together within our Anglican context.


Can anything good come out of Nashville: Reflections on a Conference for Church Planters

by: Victor Schreffler

From the earliest days of my own ministry training and down through the years I was taught that the church needs to focus on the cities. “Paul the Apostle did cities.” “The rural areas are already adequately churched and the future of culture, power, and decision making is determined by the metropolitan areas.” “The city is where it’s at and the rural areas will do fine on their own.”

The recent American election with its hidden rural votes has challenged these widely held assumptions. Rural is taking center stage while people from all levels of American culture are scrambling to rediscover this forgotten world. And what they are discovering is that all is not well along the country roads.

Rural areas have extremely urgent needs in the areas of social services, food pantries, mental health care, childcare and their training—all things the church is good at providing. And contrary to long-held beliefs, not everyone goes to church. Current research is revealing that the rural population is about as unchurched as the metropolitan areas. The church may not be as bitterly scorned as in urban areas, but neither is it well attended.

This knowledge provides one very important takeaway for me: Rural North America (for there were Canadians present at the conference as well as Americans) desperately needs the church—the Person of Jesus embodied in loving congregations willing to live out the gospel in forgotten places where the social infrastructure has been crumbling for decades.

A second critical take away for me has to do with the metrics of success and its impact on those brave enough to plant churches. Perhaps shaped by the assumptions of capitalism, much of church planting culture has valued the ‘bigger is better’ definition of success. Thus in a rural setting a pastor who has taken four years to build his or her congregation to a membership of 40 feels shamed standing beside the pastor who launched with 200. In rural areas both the scale and pace of church planting will necessarily be different, often slower and smaller than its “big city” counterpart. Building relationships, developing trust and gathering resources take longer. Many planters will have to be bi-vocational for years, and may never be fully funded.

Yet in their rural setting church planters can become—often need to become—community leaders active not only in the salvation of souls but in the redemption of communities which have been shattered by poverty, family dysfunction and devastating drug addiction, among other difficulties.

However most rural clergy “feel like they are second class leaders serving second class citizens” (Bryan Jarrett). Sadly, the metrics of size and speed have obscured the heroic sacrifice of the church planter who works third shift at the furniture factory so that he can do “church stuff” during the day…all the while struggling to make sure his own children don’t forget what he looks like. Or the bi-vocational planter who gets a noonday call from a parishioner whose father is dying but can’t attend to the emergency until 4:05 pm when his teaching job (that pays the bills) lets out for the day. The agony of the tension and sense of inadequacy hammers away at an already bruised sense of purpose and accomplishment.

“Moving forward, always forward,” will have to mean redefining what it means to be a successful pastor, planter, clergy person. It will also require making real investments in the long neglected mission field of rural North America. But perhaps prerequisite to all the rest will be recovering the innate value of the rural context—like a dusty town in northern Palestine called Nazareth where some wondered, “Can anything come from there?”


Episode 5: Mission According to the Church Fathers

You’re not going to want to miss this one. In fact, after listening to our first conversation with Fr. Jonathan Warren, you’ll probably be chomping at the bit for more. We are!

Jonathan and Tish Warren

Jonathan and Tish Warren

The impetus for today’s conversation was an earlier discussion that Shawn and Jonathan had while at 35 for 35 together. While talking about how the Church relates to the world, the conversation led to the valuable voice the Church Fathers have for us.

Jonathan begins today’s conversation by helping us understand what we mean when we say, “Church Fathers.” He explains that it is a metaphorical term and those that fall under it are determined by four delineating criteria: antiquity, holiness, orthodoxy, and ecclesiastical approval.

The reason we care about what they have to say is that they help to clarify our mission as the church. Part of that is because they viewed the world through a different set of assumptions which causes us to challenge our current worldview. C.S. Lewis addresses this in his famous introduction to Athanasius’s, On the Incarnation.

This then, leads to what Jonathan refers to as a profound need to recover the apostolicity of the Bible. He explains that we must use resources from the Church Fathers to better our own approach to Christian formation. In essence, it is a way of consistently re-interfacing the Church with its current context.

Listen in to hear how the rest of the conversation continued, including multiple resources noted for theological and practical application:

The Always Forward Podcast, hosted by Canon Dan Alger, Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Church in North America, and Father Shawn McCain, serial church planter and leader of the I-35 Initiative, aims to catalyze conversations about missiology and sacramentology and how they come together within our Anglican context.


Episode 4: Sacraments and Liturgy

The Robert E. Webber Center, in affiliation with Trinity School for Ministry, focuses on the wisdom and recovery of ancient Christian tradition for the purpose of resourcing the church for the formation of individual disciples and corporate communities of faith.

Joel Scandrett

The Rev. Dr. Joel Scandrett

The Rev. Dr. Joel Scandrett, Director of the Webber Center and Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Trinity, joined us to discuss the Sacraments and Liturgy.

Referencing a talk from Jeremy Bebgie on sentimentality, Joel noted that many modern day worshippers are as focused on their own feelings as they are on the Lord. In fact, oftentimes, Anglicanism seems to initially appeal to newcomers because of the aesthetic. However, that misses the point. The form of our worship is not the end, but rather a channel towards an encounter with the living Christ. And while we discussed the both/and aspect of “going through the motions,” Joel emphasized that, “the motions are necessary, but not sufficient.”

So, what does this mean for church planters? As we talked about both the practical and theological implications, Joel recommended a book by James Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, emphasizing that it’s not just about knowing your doctrine, but also about the moral choices you make and the way you spend your time.

The Always Forward Podcast, hosted by Canon Dan Alger, Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Church in North America, and Father Shawn McCain, serial church planter and leader of the I-35 Initiative, aims to catalyze conversations about missiology and sacramentology and how they come together within our Anglican context.


Episode 2: What is an Anglican Missiology?

The Always Forward Podcast, hosted by Canon Dan Alger, Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Church in North America, and Father Shawn McCain, serial church planter and leader of the I-35 Initiative, aims to catalyze conversations about missiology and sacramentology and how they come together within our Anglican context.

headshot_hunterJoining Dan and Shawn this week to discuss the question, “What is an Anglican Missiology?” is Bishop Todd Hunter. Picking up where they left off last week, Dan further quotes Stuart Murray in saying, “Church planting reminds ecclesiology that mission is the primary task of the church.” Tune in to hear Bishop Todd, Dan, and Shawn talk about the relationship between ecclesiology and missiology.

Bishop Hunter is the founding bishop of The Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others and founding pastor of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Costa Mesa, CA. Todd holds a Doctor of Ministry degree and serves as an adjunct professor of evangelism, leadership in contemporary culture, and spiritual formation at George Fox University, Fuller Seminary, Western Seminary, Vanguard University, Azusa Pacific University and Wheaton College.

Todd and his wife Debbie have two adult children and live in Costa Mesa, California.

Subscribe to the Always Forward Podcast on iTunes.


Episode 1: What is Church?

The Always Forward Podcast, hosted by Canon Dan Alger, Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Church in North America, and Father Shawn McCain, serial church planter and leader of the I-35 Initiative, aims to catalyze conversations about missiology and sacramentology and how they come together within our Anglican context.

Bishop Stewart Ruch, of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest, joins Dan and Shawn for our first full episode to discuss the question “What is Church?” They dive into their discussion with a quote from Stuart Murray in his book, Church Planting: Laying Foundations. Murray says, “Church Planting lies at the intersection of ecclesiology and missiology.” Listen to find out how Dan, Shawn, and Bishop Ruch respond to this statement.

headshot_ruchBishop Ruch was consecrated Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest in September 2013. He obtained his Masters’s in Theology at Wheaton College Graduate School, where he was awarded the Kenneth Kantzer prize for theology. In 1988, during his time at Wheaton, he began attending Church of the Resurrection, where he would later become rector in 1999.

He and his wife, Katherine, have six children and their first love and passion is raising their children and developing their family as a “domestic church.

Subscribe to the Always Forward Podcast on iTunes.


Introducing: The Always Forward Podcast

The Always Forward Podcast, hosted by Canon Dan Alger, Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Church in North America, and Father Shawn McCain, serial church planter and leader of the I-35 Initiative, aims to catalyze conversations about missiology and sacramentology and how they come together within our Anglican context.



One-part practical and one-part theological, the podcast, which officially begins on September 15, will engage church planters and church plant leaders who are wrestling with what it means to be an Anglican church planter.

Leaning into the multiple expressions of Anglicanism, Dan and Shawn look forward to having vigorous and enriching discussions about how we, as church planters, can be employed by an Anglican sacramentology and missiology for practical ministry, mission, evangelism, and church planting.

If you, have a question, guest suggestion, or an idea that you’d like to hear Dan and Shawn discuss with their guests, email us at or simply fill out the form below. We look forward to beginning the conversation with you on September 15.


What to Expect at Always Forward 2016

The Always Forward 2016 Conference is designed to foster relationship building. We want you to not only engage with the training offered throughout the conference, but also engage one another, sharing ideas and experiences, successes and failures, blessings and hardship. 


To that end, the conference begins with a lawn party at Breckenridge Brewery on Thursday, August 25th. Dress casually and come prepared to enjoy the company of friends, old and new, committed to the work of church planting throughout our Province.



As Anglicans, we are beautifully structured to work together in our churches, dioceses, and throughout the Province. We are excited to hear from one of our featured speakers, Archbishop Foley Beach, during this year’s conference. As Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, he will share his personal experiences and discuss how church planting dove tails with the missional heart of our Anglican tradition.


Bishop Steve Breedlove, of the newly formed Diocese of Christ our Hope, will also join us as a featured speaker. Bishop Breedlove planted All Saints Church in Durham, NC in 2005. A “pastor’s pastor,” he is passionate about developing next-generation leaders and strengthening the local church in mission.


The conference offers four tracks from which to choose based on your church planting perspective. The tracks will focus on where you are within the world of church planting to provide guidance, insight, and further opportunity to connect and share with one another. Throughout the tracks, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from and connect with church planters and church plant leaders such as:

Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with your fellow planters and gain valuable training to further the work you have been called to do. We look forward to seeing you at Wellspring Anglican Church in August.


Click here to reserve your spot.