Anyone following me on Twitter might have been bemused recently by ‘tweets’ referring to JAEC2013.
The initials actually stand for Junior Anglican Evangelical Conference, 2013 being the year — but it could just as easily have been JAEC3 as this is the third such conference we’ve now run.
It all started in early 2011 when a colleague and I, on our way to a Deanery Chapter meeting, were speculating about the lead being given to young evangelical clergy, particularly at the Conservative end of the spectrum. In particular, we were expressing concern about their grasp of, and commitment to, Anglicanism. If they were going to minister effectively within ‘the system’, they needed to be enabled to work within the system, but some of them were coming from churches which were almost ‘independent presbyterian’ in their approach. ‘Something, we decided, had to be done, and JAEC2011 was born.
Actually at that stage it was the Anglican Evangelical Junior Clergy Conference and it took place over three days at St Mark’s College, Audley End. Most of the thirty who attended were actually ordinands, but they seemed really to appreciate a programme with a positive view of Anglicanism.
At the same time, the work of preparing for the ‘keynote’ address led me eventually to write the book A Strategy which Changes the Denomination, which drew extensively on the 1945 report Towards the Conversion of England. In fact this became almost a ‘watchword’ for the longer term.
The first conference ended on a high note of expectation and it was inevitable we would have a second, which subsequently took place at King’s Park Conference Centre in 2012. After that, however, we felt we should get a bit more organized and also reconsider our objectives.
Thus by the time the third conference was being planned, the objective could be summed up as follows: ‘To identify and encourage the next generation of Anglican evangelical denominational leaders prepared to undertake the transformation of the church for the proclamation of the gospel towards the conversion of England.’
It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it means we are trying to do ‘exactly what it says on the tin’.
We also changed the name, from AEJCC to JAEC, not least because it could be pronounced ‘Jake’. And so JAEC2013 (or JAEC3) took place last week, again at King’s Park and again with about thirty ‘delegates’.
One particularly encouraging feature of this year’s conference was that we are now beginning to attract four ‘generations’ — people in the selection or ‘discernment’ process, ordinands, curates and incumbents. It was our hope from the outset that the older, more experienced, attendees would be able to encourage the younger, and so it is beginning to prove.
Undoubtedly some people will be wondering about (or should I say ‘suspicious of’?) the ‘theological tradition’ of JAEC. The answer to that is that it represents an initiative based in the Conservative Evangelical tradition, but open to all evangelicals committed to the overall goal of ‘the conversion of England’. In fact I am pleased to say we had two women presbyters with us this year, one of whom is a ‘returnee’.
The structure is fairly straightforward, including opening ‘Morning Prayer’ (from the BCP, to represent our shared heritage), a Bible Reading (this year from Lee Gatiss, of Church Society) in 2 Timothy, ‘input sessions’ (including one on sexuality and ‘Pilling’ and another one ‘where are we now’) and feedback sessions. We also had a ‘Church of England Pub-Quiz’, which I think I can safely say was unique, not least in not having a pub.
Although the programme was rather packed, the comments show it was generally much-appreciated. And so plans are under way for JAEC2014.
Reflecting on the conference, my own feeling was that in essence it is doing what NEAC was attempting to do — drawing Anglican evangelicals together from across the two provinces to be encouraged by one another and to share wisdom and insights about the ministry of the Church. The difference is that, unlike the last two NEACs, there is a sense of unity, despite a degree of diversity — and of that I am unashamedly proud, not least because it suggests a successful attempt at including such differences.
Next year’s dates are already decided — 8th-10th September, again at King’s Park. The likely price is around £130, so if you’re interested, book it in your diary. You might also like to email me at the address in the side column.
England is a long way, still, from conversion, and indeed the Church of England is probably less united than a year ago. But JAEC represents an attempt at focussing on our proper goal together and subsuming some of our differences under the banner of the Great Commission. My thanks to my fellow organizers, especially Linda Peake who took care of the bookings, and to the staff at King's Park. Soli Deo Gloria!
"I found JAEC13 to be brilliant ..."
"'Twas great ... really glad I came ..."
"What was most valuable for me was the chance to ask probing questions of you all, at different stages of ministry and process."
"Thank you very much for this year's conference. I found it very helpful indeed. Particularly like the model of its being targeted at four groups (candidates, ordinands, curates and first incumbents) with some of the older, more experienced ministers there for our benefit too. You must keep it going!"
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