There was a time when the hierarchy didn’t know what to do with spirit-filled Episcopalians.

Since the 1960s, The Episcopal Church has been sliding steadily in membership. The trend bottomed out last year, when the denomination gained 27,000 new people.

But that long-sought turnaround came much quicker, and much stronger, in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. There, a fertile mixture of evangelical preaching, charismatic renewal, and liturgical worship is producing steady growth.

Led primarily by three robust parishes, Episcopal reinvigoration has flourished there more than anywhere else in the country. Nationwide, about 400 of the 7,200 Episcopal parishes are experiencing spiritual renewal.

The churches attract people by encouraging lay ministry, spiritual discipline, and free expression in worship. In addition, they provide expository Bible preaching. Their congregations contain a rich diversity of faith backgrounds.

The Church of the Apostles, an exuberantly charismatic parish in Fairfax, packs a local high school auditorium with up to 2,000 worshipers at its two Sunday services. Its astonishing growth from the mid-1970s—when attendance averaged about 50—has been shaped primarily by the ministry of H. Lawrence (Renny) Scott. He left the Washington area in September to accept a call to Charleston, South Carolina.

Founding member Ken MacGowan says the church decided to “go the charismatic route” in 1976. At about the same time, its mother church, Truro Episcopal, also in Fairfax, invited Graham Pulkingham, a popular Episcopalian speaker from Houston, to teach a seminar on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This brought both spiritual and congregational shakeups to Truro. Traditional Episcopalians fled to other area ...

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