Ethnic Church Planting: Seeing the Episcopal Church from new perspectives

Episcopal Diocese of Missouri
Posted Dec 12, 2022

Missouri Bishop Deon Johnson snaps a selfie with church planters during their conference, Dec. 2 in West St. Louis County.

While many people may be looking at declining numbers in our churches, others are planting seeds for the Diocese of Missouri and The Episcopal Church at large to grow in new, and perhaps unexpected directions.

A small group of local and regional church planters gathered in St. Louis, Missouri, Nov. 30 – Dec. 2 to explore how nontraditional missional communities play an important and positive role in the future of our church.

“We intentionally invited leaders of ethnic communities and communities that are otherwise underrepresented in The Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Katherine Nakamura Rengers, Officer for Church Planting Infrastructure for The Episcopal Church.” For example, we had an Arabic-language church planter, two African Diaspora planters, an Indian church planter, a Haitian planter, and a leader who is discerning a plant among lower-income people.”

The group came together at the former St. Luke’s Episcopal Church building in Ballwin. That space is now being used by Faith Christian Church of India, a mission of the Diocese of Missouri. FCCI is led by the Rev. Dr. Clive Samson and his wife, the Rev. Sujanna Raj. Their Asian American mission has been part of the Diocese of Missouri since 2018 and is a vibrant community of faith.

“Ethnic church planting is really important,” said Clive, who served as host for this gathering. “We need to do more church planting like this and we need to have more ethnic leadership.”

The Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson, Bishop of The Diocese of Missouri, agrees. The bishop spent Thursday with the group, sharing how he looks at missional communities. “For our church to have a future, we need to plant a whole bunch of churches — especially in ethnic neighborhoods and communities,” Bishop Deon said. “We’re called to do just one thing: to make disciples. If we’re not able to do that, we’ve missed the mark.”

Along with FCCI, The Diocese of Missouri has launched a second ethnic missional community. Grace African Christians Connection had its first official gathering Oct. 12, 2022. This group is led by the Rev. Mtipe Koggani, a transitional deacon who is scheduled to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church by Bishop Deon on Dec. 17. This missional community serves the African diaspora and its allies throughout the St. Louis area – including those worshiping in other denominations.

Those attending the church planting conference recognize that these ethnic missions may not look or act like our existing congregations. And according to Bishop Deon, that’s okay. “The Episcopal Church is still a very white church. Intentional ethnic church planting is inviting us to extend the vision of what our church is supposed to look like. For us to be whole as a church, we need to look a lot more like the communities that we’re in.”

“The gathering was MORE than what we expected!” said Katie. “One evening during dinner, I found myself looking around and wondering at the immense amount of talent sitting there at the table with me. Though statistically our denomination is in decline, this gathering helped me see a glimpse of the vibrant future of our church.”

The Diocese of Missouri has received grants for both Faith Christian Church of India and Grace African Christians Connection from The Episcopal Church’s Office of Church Planting and Redevelopment. You can learn more about their initiatives here: