Picture yourself sitting on the second floor of Bishop Todd Hunter’s beach cottage overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with a small group of other men and women. You’re sipping coffee and swapping ideas about contextualizing Anglicanism to a 21st century culture.
Some of the questions are:
What does it mean to have a functional and honest conversation that begins “on their terms”?
Is “missional” an outdated word? What does it mean, and how do we live it out?
How can we listen, observe, notice and be alert as the doorway to ministry?
What is sacramental leadership that leads to and facilitates discipleship to Jesus and the kingdom?
A Dream Come True?
Does that conversation sound like one you’d love to join? If so, you’re in luck, because similar conversations—called Learning Communities—are starting up all over the United States. The first one happened last year at Bishop Hunter’s house when a group of eight people gathered to talk about the topics above. Nobody had easy answers, yet the conversation swelled with hope and energy, peppered with names like James K.A. Smith, Tim Keller, Simon Chan and Robert Jensen.
Bishop Hunter had invited these men and women, all hailing from the Anglican Church in North America, to come together to share their passion for one thing—effectively sharing gospel in contemporary culture. All in all, he hosted six experimental Learning Communities with different groups of men and women. Each Community only met once, but they sparked a conversation that is changing the way the Anglican Church reaches culture. These conversations catalyzed the Telos Collective: Anglicans at the Intersection of Gospel and Culture.
The Telos Collective is a thoughtful response to a world that’s increasingly disinterested in church. Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America commissioned Bishop Hunter to gather strategic missional minds from around the province, men and women who would form a small alliance that will decode the gospel for the next generation. The Telos Collective is now on a journey to do that together, replicating Learning Communities to carry our disciple-making DNA into the culture.
“Learning Communities will explore, ‘What does it mean to have a missional ecclesiology?’” Bishop Hunter says. “These groups will ask, ‘What does it mean to use that specific modifier ‘missional,’ and how does it change how we think about church and its connection to culture?’ This makes leadership rise to the top.”
MY LEARNING COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE
“As a woman and a person with ministry experience all over the world, it was both an honor and a joy to bring my voice to the table in an empowering group of fellow Anglican church leaders. The opportunity to learn from others…was enriching and encouraging.”
— Ally Kern, L.A.-based adjunct professor, writer, speaker and activist who attended the first Learning Community
What’s Happening Now
The next generation of Learning Communities is being birthed out of the Telos Collective’s annual event called the Intersection Conference, held May 18-20, 2017. Leaders attended the conference, then returned home and are starting Learning Communities in their own churches and communities. Meeting throughout the year, Learning Communities will create a safe place to share ideas and missional strategies on a local level.
Two Kinds of Learning Communities
Our goal is to involve each Telos Collective member in an ongoing Learning Community. There are two types:
- Church-Based Learning Communities
Each Telos Collective leader will be asked to host a periodic Church-Based Learning Community in his or her area. These Communities will draw together a diverse group of 5 to 10 lay people, both Anglican and non-Anglican, to listen to one another and take an intellectual journey together toward mission in contemporary culture. These Learning Communities can meet in homes, coffee shops, or just about anywhere. Members might read a missional book, do peer-based coaching or simply meet to talk and ask questions. Leaders will foster an honest, life-giving environment where people feel safe to share and are emboldened to creatively make disciples in their own spheres of influence.
- Clergy-Based Learning Communities
Bishops and rectors will be invited to host or participate in a Clergy-Based Learning Community for groups of 5 to 10 clergy or leaders in their region. These individuals will meet together a few times a year to discuss their unique missional contexts and what they are learning on the ground.
Listening: Learning Communities’ Secret Sauce
So you gather people to talk about mission—how do you make it work?
“Leaders must begin with listening,” Bishop Hunter says. “Listen to the people who are there so you can create a mutual agenda. One group might be focused on the work of the Spirit, while another is focused on missional leadership. Each group will be unique. Then, you can ask participants to come back the following month with an article or chapter in a book they want to discuss.”
Another key to effective Communities is keeping groups intrinsically motivated and organically growing. Because leaders are already busy, Bishop Hunter says Learning Communities must be doable in terms of days, times, place and frequency. If they are warm and relational, with an intellectually, relationally and emotionally honest atmosphere, people will be excited to participate and open up.
Bishop Hunter is looking forward to taking the insights gleaned from Learning Communities and sharing them with the Anglican, and eventually mainline, world at large.
“I’m thrilled for Learning Communities to explore how to be change agents in our world, how to simultaneously listen to your church community as well as the unchurched community around you, and how to get those things in conversation with each other in a way that’s fruitful without compromising gospel or core of Anglicanism,” he says.
Interested in starting a Learning Community in your area? Contact Bishop Hunter.