The Accidental Anglican
American Christianity, like the Southern California shore, gets hit by many waves. As a Southern California native, Todd Hunter has caught some of the most notable evangelical breakers.
In the fall of 1979, he and his wife, Debbie, were the first church planters sent out by John Wimber's Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda—more than two years before that group joined the nascent Vineyard movement. By 1994, Hunter was national coordinator of the Association of Vineyard Churches. In 2000, he became a church planting coach for Allelon, a group devoted to cultivating (here comes a buzzword) the missional church. Four years later, he took the leadership of Alpha USA, an evangelistic program with roots in a prominent charismatic parish in England. And after four more years, he left the leadership of Alpha to launch the Society for Kingdom Living in Boise. But he soon found himself recruited to plant 200 Anglican churches on the West Coast, becoming a priest this March and a missionary bishop in September.
Is Hunter's history a farrago of fads? Or is his career a history of the fresh winds that have blown across America's religious landscape?
You just became an Anglican priest in March and a bishop this month. Did you ever remotely envision aligning with Anglicanism?
Two of the earliest people to shape my theology were J. I. Packer and John R. W. Stott. Through John Wimber, I knew almost every charismatic Anglican leader in the world. In Alpha I grew to love and respect a lot of key Anglican leaders. I wasn't on the Canterbury Trail and didn't see it coming. But now I realize that I do fit this tribe.
When you left the Vineyard leadership, you connected to the early emerging church movement. What did you learn?
I linked to the emergent thing because I loved these young Christians who were trying to figure out church and what it means to be a follower of Jesus in this new era. We coached church planters all over the world who were trying to create communities of faith that made sense to their postmodern, post-Christendom friends.
Now you can't broad-brush the emergent movement. But I saw two big problems in the emergent world.
First, the emergents are so sensitive to issues of community, relationship, egalitarianism, and being non-utilitarian in their relationships, that evangelism has simply become a synonym for manipulation—a foul ball, relationally. If you and I were work colleagues and I built a relationship in which I could influence your journey toward Christ, that would be considered wrong in these circles. I cannot be friends with you if I intend to lead you to Christ.
Second, after 10 or 12 years of the emerging church, you have to ask where anything has been built. Evangelism has been so muted and the normal building of structures and processes hasn't moved forward because there's no positive, godly imagination for doing either evangelism or leadership. Such things are by definition utilitarian, and so they were made especially difficult.
What do you think about churches in the seeker mode—if that means "non-participating mode"?
I love all the seeker guys and was one myself. But anybody today who wants to be a seeker and follow God in the way of Jesus is going to want a religion to practice. I'm wondering if Anglicanism and other streams grounded in spiritual practices aren't going to be used by God in a way they have not been used since frontier America and Wesley.
America is going to become increasingly secular and hostile to the church. But what will build the bridge to whatever authentic Christianity emerges next is going to be a serious practiced Christianity. I think there's going to be a revival of religion.