Meeting Anglicanism

Jason Poling

S.T.M. ’15

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I serve as Senior Pastor of New Hope Community Church, an independent evangelical congregation in the Baltimore area which I helped to plant in 2003. I am at The General Theological Seminary doing an Anglican Year as an S.T.M. candidate at the direction of the Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, in hopes of working out a fruitful ministry partnership between New Hope and the Diocese of Maryland. I was confirmed in The Episcopal Church by Bishop Sutton on August 31, 2014, at All Saints’ Church in Reisterstown, Maryland, my sponsoring parish.

From its inception, New Hope has worked to engage faithfully in both ecumenical and interfaith venues.  We do so without in any way compromising our commitment as Evangelical Protestant Christians; just as we don’t expect our neighbors to compromise their commitment as Methodists, or Roman Catholics, or Jews. To be honest, I don’t think ecumenical or interfaith dialogue can be very fruitful unless it involves people who have a firm sense of their own identity even as they respect the identities of others.

Recently I was invited to serve as a Co-Convener of the national Evangelical-Jewish Conversation. Through this conversation, Jewish and Evangelical leaders around the country have developed solid friendships which enable us to speak candidly in love to our neighbors, and to trust the goodwill of our neighbors as they speak candidly in love to us.

I met Bishop Sutton in 2010, when the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies invited us to participate in an interfaith clergy trip to the Holy Land. (I was the token Evangelical; he was the token bishop.) We developed a friendship on that trip that continued after it was over, and about two years ago he approached me about the possibility of working out a partnership between the Diocese of Maryland and our congregation.  His idea resonated strongly with me because it didn’t involve either party simply becoming like the other; its success will rest on each retaining its own integrity while working cooperatively with the other.

I couldn't study the Anglican tradition at any place where the roots of The Episcopal Church run deeper than they do on the Close. My year at GTS is an immersive experience that is forming me for ministry in The Episcopal Church, while respecting and recognizing the ministry in which God already has me involved. I’m learning in the classroom about the Church’s history, polity and liturgy; I’m learning the liturgy inductively in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd; and I’m learning what it is to be an Episcopalian by living life with my colleagues on the Close.