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The Falls Church Anglican: The Long March to Healing Ministry Excellence

John Yates graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1971, and then served at an evangelical Episcopal church as a youth minister. After he was called to be rector at The Falls Church he earned a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Yates led The Falls Church into a strongly evangelical and orthodox position. This was not easy, as there was opposition to that focus from parishioners who were content with the less demanding “broad church” mode of Episcopal life that enjoyed a good liturgy but rocked few theological boats. Yates tactfully handled the situation while he continued to preach the evangelical Gospel. For help, he invited such Anglican evangelicals as John Stott to preach and confirm the evangelical persuasion. The fruit of this was that, while some left, the numbers of truly committed parishioners grew steadily, reaching a thousand, then over two thousand.[5]

Under the Rev. Yates important programs were initiated, including the Second Chance ministry which gave counsel and assistance to abused women and their children. He also set up a program for college graduates—the Fellows Program—to teach apologetics and how to encounter America’s increasingly secular culture. Another ministry focused on helping the poor in the Washington D.C. area with legal issues. These ministries were run by qualified lay volunteers, and given that many of the parishioners were experienced government or military personnel, there was no lack of qualified and experienced persons to staff and lead the various ministries.

During the 1980s the argument about orthodoxy and Biblical authority within the Episcopal Church continued unabated.

One of the most important of Yates innovative ministries was the Timothy Program to train recently ordained priests. For three years these clergymen would be on staff, fully paid, as they learned the craft of parish work. They were mentored by experienced staff members, and placed to lead various ministries. After three years, they were then sent to establish new churches that spread the renewal and evangelical fire that The Falls Church had acquired. Note that this was and is an expensive program that includes constantly losing ordained clergy and members to new churches.

Thankfully, among the ministries that the Rev. Yates wanted for The Falls Church was the healing ministry. In 1992, with Yates’ blessing, the assistant rector assembled a group of people to begin praying about starting a healing ministry. There were some connections made with the Order of St. Luke,[6] but it never really got off the ground. However, before we delve further into how the healing ministry ultimately succeeded, we need to mention the struggle that The Falls Church had with the national Episcopal hierarchy which led them to ultimately separate from the Episcopal Church and lose their buildings and property.

During the 1980s the argument about orthodoxy and Biblical authority within the Episcopal Church (and other mainline churches) continued unabated. All through this decade the liberal “demythologizing” campaign continued, made infamous by the writings of Bishop John Shelby Spong of New Jersey.[7] The argument became focused in the popular press on the homosexual issue, specifically wither a practicing homosexual could be ordained into the priesthood. That was debated and rejected by the Archbishops of the world-wide Anglican Church, but the Episcopal hierarchy in the US defied various directives on this issue and went ahead and began ordaining openly gay persons to the priesthood. When Jean Robinson was elevated to the Bishopric (2003), many orthodox and Bible affirming Episcopalians felt this was the last straw and decided to separate from the Episcopal Church. They left either individually or collectively to form new congregations, and eventually new denominations.

The situation for the Rev. Yates and his congregation was perplexing in the extreme. Yates did not want to separate from the Episcopal Church and did everything his conscience permitted to remain Episcopalian. Yet he, his staff and the congregation saw the continued slide of the national Episcopal Church into un-biblical spirituality and into a sexual ethics that made human desire the ultimate authority. It became clear that separation was the only option for them. The congregation eventually voted overwhelmingly to separate from the Episcopal Church. Yates sent a letter to Bishop Lee, Bishop of the Virginia Diocese, notifying him of this decision (September, 2005). Negotiations for a separation settlement began, and indeed an amicable agreement was reached, in which the congregation retained its buildings.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2020

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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