Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tale of 2 Churches

(Affiliated to ANiC)
(affiliated to liberal ACC)
This coming Sunday will be the first Sunday service for one of the largest and well known Churches in Vancouver. The former congregation and parish of St John's Shaughnessy Anglican Church will vacate their old premises at Nanton Road, and rename themselves as "St Johns Vancouver." They will be having their first official service on the 25th September 2011 at 5350 Baillie Street a couple of blocks farther down South. They will be renting the existing building owned by Oakridge Adventist Church. Here is what I know.

  • St John's Vancouver Church is an Anglican Church affiliated with wider global Anglican community. They have officially aligned themselves with the Anglican Network in Canada, an evangelical arm. They have terminated their links from the more liberal Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). After a bitter legal battle, the courts have awarded the Shaughnessy building and its properties to the liberal Canadian Anglican diocese. The name 'Shaughnessy' cannot be used by the congregation that has left the ACC.
  • The Oakridge Church location is a temporary one, deemed a transition step while the Church continues to search for a more permanent location.
  • Both SJV and ACC are still negotiating over certain properties in the old Shaughnessy building.
  • ACC will have a new clergy and new parish beginning 25 Sep 2011.
  • Oakridge Adventist Church has their services all day on Saturdays. Thus SJV is able to use the same building for all Sundays. Thus there is no scheduling conflict for both churches.
This is a historic case. Even though the law courts have ruled against SJV in their judgments, it seems that SJV has taken the whole situation in grace. Weeks before their move, the leaders at SJV invited volunteers and Church members to clean up the whole Church prior to handover. The main intention is to be Christlike, regardless of the underlying emotions over the bitter lawsuits. Members arrived in droves. They offered their time and resources to clean up the Church that they have worshiped in, some for decades. They wanted to leave the Church in clean, spanking condition for the incoming parish. At the same time, members write personal messages of love and kindness, wishing whoever that comes into that place God's blessings. It was all done tastefully. That's class. SJV showed us that even though parties disagree on major points, they can still demonstrate graciousness.

This Sunday will be an emotional one. Members and friends will flock to the Baillie street locations. I am not sure how many people will be at the old Shaughnessy location. Safe to say, the old St John's Shaughnessy is no more. It remains to be seen how the new parish is going to run the Church. Just from the looks of the websites, I think SJV without a permanent home is more ready and more prepared. At SJV's site, there are loads of information giving everybody clear instructions on what the Church stands for, the history of the legal cases, the details of ministries, the directions to the Church, explanations from the clergymen, and so on. It still has a page that allows Church members to post well wishes to the new congregation at the Nanton location!

The same cannot be said for the incoming church. If you swing over to their website, there is only one splash page. It simply shows a colourful building, the minister's name for that day, and the times of services. It makes me wonder if this is a glimpse of what is to come. SJV is a Church without a building, but with huge numbers of members and friends. Shaughnessy Church has a beautiful building but we don't know how many people will turn up. SJV may have lost the legal battle. They have lost their beloved building and property. Yet, the people remained. It is a classic reminder that the Church is made of people, not stones. It reminds me of the song:

We are gathered as the body of our Lord

And we worship Him in one accord

For He does not dwell in buildings made of stone

He dwells within the hearts of men alone…

In a moving message to the SJV people, Rev David Short writes:

"As a congregation, we too are facing a time of change. After a 10 year process of participation with others around the world, seeking to repair the torn fabric of the Anglican communion, our appeal has been dismissed. As we believe it is more important to submit to the authority of God in his word than the institutional authority of a wayward Church, it means we will have to move from our current buildings. Nothing has changed in our commitments, what has changed is our structural alignment and now our physical location. 
This brings grief and relief. Grief at the Canadian church which is walking away from the Anglican Communion; grief at losing these wonderful buildings, with all our memories and hopes for them. And relief at moving from the posture of contending for the faith, to one of proclaiming, rejoicing and growing in that faith. We move forward in unity with many in Vancouver and around the world who confess Jesus Christ as Lord."
Well said. May the Lord lead and guide the people of SJV, to go forth in faithfulness, to grow forth in faith, and to be the light of the world wherever they may be. May all of us count all things but loss, compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.

The late John Stott once said, "Greatness in the kingdom of God is measured in terms of obedience."  May we all learn to obey, regardless of the cost.

Pray for SJV.


1 comment:

AT said...

Interesting information about the Anglican church in Vancouver. Indeed members of SJV are gracious and Christlike to clean the church before leaving. May God bless all members at SJV.

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