“What hit me the hardest was when you said that Evangelicals need to be a praying people even more than we need to be a preaching people. I have always been a preaching pastor, but haven’t been a praying pastor. Over the last couple of months, the Lord has changed that. He is making me a person of prayer first and foremost, and it is changing me, my family, and my ministry. Thanks again for your bold words. I know they were from the Lord, and I needed to hear them.”
Those powerful words were sent in a note by the Rev. Nick Braunschneider, transitional deacon at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Auburndale, to the Rev. Charlie Holt, rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lake Mary, following Holt’s keynote speech in mid-April at “Positively Evangelical”, the 2017 EFAC-USA Conference at the Canterbury Retreat & Conference Center in Oviedo.
Holt’s speech, entitled, “Encouraging Lay People in Evangelism,” was one of several well-received orations at this year’s EFAC (Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion)-USA conference. Holt and Braunschneider were two of approximately 50 people representing 10 dioceses from throughout North and South America who attended the annual event, according to EFAC-USA spokesperson the Rev. Zac Neubauer.
The three-day event offered attendees the opportunity to meet evangelicals from across the country, discuss plans, be inspired, hear notable speakers and worship the Lord.
“I thought it went very well,” Neubauer said. “Everyone commented how encouraging it was to meet together.”
The event was unique in that it allowed folks from the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada as well as the Anglican Church of North America to come together for fellowship, discussion and prayer. “There was zero animosity or awkwardness, as everyone gathered was there to be encouraged and to be better prepared to be a witness to the gospel, whatever his or her location or denominational jurisdiction,” Neubauer said.
Speeches by Holt and fellow keynoters Bishop Greg Brewer of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida and the Very Rev. Andrew C. Pearson Jr., dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, kept people’s attention throughout the conference.
“I think we have reached a place where evangelical witness has become a desperate need,” said Holt, who spoke as a conference plenary speaker for the first time. “Living in a post-Christian time, the call of the evangelist to reach out to the lost is mission-critical. We can no longer take for granted that if we build an Episcopal institution, all of the Episcopalians in the area will flock to it. But, the task now is more basic than counting on transfer growth.
“We are called to make disciples out of the nations,” Holt said. “As evangelical Christians, our call is to take the gospel to the population that desperately needs to hear the saving message of Jesus Christ.”
Holt said Brewer gave an excellent speech on “Recruiting for the Church of the Future That Is Needed Right Now.” Pearson’s speech on “Cheerful Protestantism” proved dynamic on opening day.
“I think the talk that was the most distinctive was the Very Rev. Andrew Pearson’s talk on the Protestant roots of the Anglican tradition,” Neubauer said. “This is a subject that some of us take for granted and others have never considered, so it was tremendously encouraging and helped to center the whole conference.”
Brewer’s speech was one of three from a representative of the Diocese of Central Florida. Josh Head, who is director of music at Grace Episcopal Church in Ocala, spoke on “Shared Vision: Collaboration for a Thriving Music Ministry.”
“It was nice to hear those three speak because even being in the same diocese, they didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to do so before,” Neubauer said.
Holt said he used the passage from Ezekiel 37 about the valley of dry bones as inspiration for his speech. “I encouraged us to see that the church is a vast army that is mobilized primarily through visionary preaching of the word of God and invoking prayer which calls upon the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Far too often we lack faith to see that the people of God can be the army of the Lord, which He envisions them to be. ‘Can these bones live?’ ‘Only you know, Lord!’ Our job is to faithfully preach and pray; the Lord will mobilize his laity.”
Attendees also discussed ideas, and provisional nominations were accepted for members of a board for the organizational restructuring of EFAC-USA, Neubauer said. The board will be reorganized at a yearly meeting in June.
The 2018 EFAC-USA Conference is tentatively scheduled to be held the week after Easter at Canterbury Retreat & Conference Center, Neubauer said.