FORWARD IN FAITH North America Report - 2005 Assembly
November 22, 2005
A Hope and a Future Conference
Realizing A New Day in the West
by the Revd Keith Acker
Communications Director, FiFNA
The first day of a Hope and a Future was marked by Bishop Robert W. Duncan, the Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network & Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, telling a story of meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury three weeks prior. Archbishop Rowan Williams tapped him on the shoulder and greeted him. And in their conversation said, "I recognize the bishops, priests, and people of the Network as full members of the Anglican Communion...no matter what the jurisdiction."
This leads the way forward for a new life of Anglicanism in the United States and North America. "It's a long way to the promised land," said Bishop Duncan, "but we must follow behind the cloud of the Lord who leads our way." He warned that we must not give into impatience, idolatry, or self-righteousness. It is easy to murmur in the wilderness, to make false gods of buildings, pensions, and the familiar, and most importantly to think that we didn't play a role wandering down the wrong path - we all need to repent and return to the Lord. It is Jesus Christ whom we must trust and follow, no matter what the path looks like, feels like, or how we are challenged along His path.
There are three choices we must make and in which we must stand, continued Bishop Duncan: truth over accommodation; accountability over autonomy; and mission over sullen inaction. There is but one truth that leads to eternal life who is Jesus Christ. There is one body who is Jesus Christ; we must find ourselves in Him. Our Lord himself has given us the great commission (Mt 28); obedience to Him means going out and making disciples for Jesus Christ. Whether evangelical, catholic, or charismatic, we are at a new beginning for Anglicanism in this country. We have a hope and a future in Jesus Christ alone.
Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda, echoed by the other primates and bishops speaking, reminded us that we will suffer for the faith. But be of good cheer. The suffering is for a short while and the reward is heaven. Don't lose hope. After Jesus death Peter went fishing and caught nothing, but Jesus came and told him to let down the net, fed him with breakfast, and then sent him to Feed His Sheep.
The time for debate and talk is over. We need to get on with preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Though it may cost us dearly, we need to rejoice in this important work. Fix your eyes on Jesus. "See what He is doing and get there, be where He is!" The primates made it clear, the Network needs to walk with the Anglican Communion and not be held back or be distracted by the Episcopal Church USA in its endless talk and delay.
Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria, told about the explosive growth of the Church in his country. We do it by "seeking to give our neighbor the best gift, Jesus Christ. I encourage you [do the same.] You have everything going for you [in your country]. How long will by waiver. You need to take a stand." Anglicans in this country let too many things get in their way of taking a clear stand for the Gospel. From a great nation we make a weak stand for the faith. "We are with you. But you have to tell us what we can do to help you."
The first day of speakers was anchored by Bishop Keith L. Ackerman, president of Forward In Faith North America and the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy. The new Anglican sitting next to me was thrilled to hear that we are not about compromise if we are to preach the Gospel. God's arms are open with a clear message, and yes it contains guidelines - God is comprehensive. But the Episcopal Church USA is has change the message to be inclusive, subjectively selecting by their own definition, who is "in," as if it were the selector instead of the "author of our salvation." We have a firm foundation, Jesus Christ. We must not fail to proclaim the divinity of Jesus Christ. The Gospel isn't incomplete, with something lacking, some missing truth. Jesus is the full revelation of God to man. We must not fail to proclaim the Holy Trinity. "You need to know the original," God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Not part. Not some aspect, but the real thing. We have failed in our accountability to the Church. Bishop Ackerman apologized for our failure to our brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion.
Today we are "biblical fundamentalists" and there are "canonical fundamentalists. I know the author of each. And I know which I want to be!" We are called back home, back to our Anglican Communion where we are the Body of Christ. This is our Hope and our Future - to be in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.
Primates gathered with Moderator Duncan at 'the Hope and a Future altar', surrounded by bishops of the Network, Common Cause Partners, and the Continuum The first day concluded with Moderator Duncan concelebrating with eight Primates of the Anglican Communion, surrounded by dozens of bishops from the many Common Cause Partners of Anglicanism in North America. There was the new Anglicanism for the West, in union with Anglicans from the Global South, setting aside differences that we all might be one in Jesus Christ. Here was an historic moment, a rebirth of Anglicanism in love and obedience to Jesus and His command to "be one."
The second day of the Hope and a Future conference, focused on the interwoven fabric of diverse ministries, organizations, and jurisdictions who have come together in their common faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus, in his death for sin and resurrection, is his being the way of salvation. This inclusivity spoken of by Bishop Ackerman on the first day, was not about being comprehensive, the type of all inclusive new religion of today's Episcopal Church USA. Our commonality is in our one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins upon the cross that we each might turn to Him and be saved.
Moderator Donald Harvey, Anglican Network in Canada, preached that our witness to the truth comes with a price which is born out of love for souls needing to be saved. He said, "the talk is finished." Stand firm in the Gospel, don't compromise the truth; and thank God when you're counted worthy to suffer for Jesus' sake.
From his own suffering and that of his diocese, Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti, from the outcast diocese of Recife, Brazil, urged those of the Network to "not be afraid of losing position, status, job, or licenses in your proclamation of Jesus Christ. You are the world's strongest nation, but your message of the gospel is weak." He and his diocese refused to give into the revisionist and have now come under the protection of Archbishop Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone. "There is an urgent need to reform Anglicanism, and it begins with us," said Cavalcanti. In dealing with the institutional church, "It may be necessary to break man's law that we may follow the law of God. Please don't be afraid. Go and tell!"
2005 FiF North America Assembly Eucharist David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, a group promoting biblically orthodox Anglicanism, described the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA as a last deciding moment: "'Choose today whom you will serve.' Walk with or walk apart." Until this meeting in June 2006, he urged those still within the Episcopal Church USA to "stay as long as you can." But it was the common consensus of most attendees that the 2006 General Convention was the last chance to respond with repentance in the spirit of the Windsor Report.
The move to ensure an Anglican Communion presence in North America expanded beyond Archbishop Rowan Williams' original concept of network of confessing dioceses. What began with the Archbishop of Canterbury, historically the cornerstone in the Anglican's proclamation of Jesus Christ, grew to a much broader coalition of many groups of Anglicans which have distanced themselves from one another over the last hundred years. The chairman of the Common Cause Partnership, Presiding Bishop Leonard Riches, used his own Reformed Episcopal Church as the oldest example having separated over baptismal regeneration some 132 years ago. Most of the fragmentation has occurred in the last 40 years. It's like 40 years in the wilderness. We each may have been trying to remain faithful in our proclamation of the Gospel, but we were walking separately. "We are making common cause to proclaim the Gospel. Difficulties remain, but we have a common Gospel purpose."
The Primates Panel received questions from the audience. The conference was told, "Time is not on your side. Tell us where you stand." The "fudging" of the ECUSA in its delays and justification of its action is not sufficient. "The final answer lies with the Primates." The Primates expressed their disappointment in the failure of the Panel of Reference, appointed to hear cases of oppression of orthodox Anglicans, has not even heard its first case. "The urgency is not evident" in the action.
The Primates all talked of our need to minister to the young. They need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Savior. This has to be the focus of a growing church. "When we lose the youth, you lose the church. To turn our backs is suicide. Leadership should start with the youth."
Notably, one moment was marked by its failure to talk about Holy Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When asked by the audience, "How the Primates mangage to get along with differing opinions on the ordination of women to the priesthood?" Biblical and historical reference went out the window. It was like stepping into a different conference which reminded many of an ECUSA meeting. This was an important question given the diverse coalition of the Network. Obedience to Jesus Christ, Holy Scripture, and historic Anglicanism was completely absent in their responses except in Archbishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung, Primate of South-East Asia. Instead it was commercials, personal experience, and feelings oozing through a crack. What the people wanted to know was how we can get along while we study this issue. Archbishop Yong Ping Chung commended the biblical study done by the Anglican Mission In America as a place to begin, recognizing that we must approach ministry and priesthood from the ground of Holy Scripture.
An encouraging highlight of the Conference was Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best seller, Purpose Driven Life, and his involvement in Anglican evangelism in Africa. He commended the Archbishops present as models of grace and truth. Using Revelation 2 ("I know how much you suffer for the Lord...) as a framework for moving forward in the Gospel proclamation, he said, "God is interested in you, not your building; the church is people, not the steeple. It is about faith in Jesus Christ." He encouraged everyone to serve Jesus in their fellowship, knowing the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Quoting Isaiah 14:18-19 (I am doing a new thing...) "Something new in Anglicanism is happening!"
He challenged to ask ourselves, invite others to ask: "What did you do for My Son?" And as with staff of Moses, God is asking us "What do you have in your hand?" And in letting go God creates a miracle with life in it. Taken up in to Moses hand again, it the miracle disappears, the life is no longer seen. "Lay it all down to me [says God], and I will make it alive; but if you pick it up it will just be a staff. It became the Rod of God." In laying down your rod, God will create the miracle of growth, of life - its God's blessing.
One of the challenges Rick Warren set before "western" Anglicans was the challenge to break the bond of materialism. Just like "The church is people; not the steeple," so too we need to let go, to give, to use our influence to speak for those who have no voice. "Who are your widows, orphans, homeless...There is real spiritual emptiness; share your faith with them. There is egocentric leadership; be servants, not power gatherers. Say 'It's not about me.'" Make a gospel difference to poverty, to illiteracy, to pandemic disease. "To have cures we need to have real leaders."
Only the world wide church, in all of its local expressions, will this new leadership be seen. We need to be working planting, equipping leaders, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the next generation. His next book, 40 days of Peace, is about making that happen in the live of the Church.
Warren put forth an agenda, God's agenda - taken from the Bible, to be lived in our lives. "Will anybody be in church because of you?" 1. Do what God is blessing; building a kingdom of every nation. 2. Abandon all distractions; seek first the kingdom, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done." Be wherever Jesus is King. "What is keeping you from God's agenda?" 3. Appropriate God's power; go in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment; Mission and Obedience. "Will you be divided by politics or driven by purpose? What is in your hand?"
Archbishop Yong Ping Chung, the soon retiring Primate of South-East Asia, was honored. In speaking he praised Moderator Robert Duncan for always being an encourager and having a smile. Speaking about the Hope and a Future Conference, he said, "I've been praying for this kind of gathering in the USA for a long time. This is a big event; North and South in one, holy catholic and apostolic church." We need to affirm our leaders who do God's will; submit to God's plan; work together so that God's way is upheld. "God is saying today, to each group here which has been raised up by God - the Common Cause Partners - Look to Him for renewal and authority. Our authority is the Bible. Jesus is our leader. Uphold and protect your leaders. Honor God and lift up the Name of Jesus."
Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, spoke about who is Jesus. "As if the Archbishop of Canterbury, [or some other leader], could tell us what the Bible does not! We need to know Jesus. We need to know Him personally as our Lord and Savior. She reminded us of that personal relationship made known in the Incarnation as we hear it in John 1:1-18 - and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
The concluding day began with a bible study by Short on Acts 4. Jesus is the center of the church's mission, seen in the work of the Holy Spirit after Jesus' ascension. He's always pointing to Jesus. Acts speaks to a church under attack. "False teaching, tyranny, and violence are Satan's tools to destroy the church." You've seen it in the "issues of power, crushing by law, and force them into silence. If you serve Jesus, you will be an offence. The disciples were brought before the same people who put Jesus to death. 'By what authority do you do this? How dare you go out of our jurisdiction!" Verse 12 reminds us: There is no other Name under which we might be saved, but the Name of Jesus. How can you act in opposition to God? How can you build a religion without God? In doing so you reject the only salvation! You may be told not to teach in His Name, but we must be faithful to God. Short concluded with, "We need to speak the truth with boldness, submit to God's sovereignty, aim to glorify Jesus, and 'Do not fear' - Rely on His grace!"
Cox spoke of the persecution of Christians occurring today. "We are losing ground in many places, places where others die for our Christian faith." Islam rejoices when the West affirms immorality because if feeds the fire of Islamic growth. There is an urgency in the prayers of Christians under persecution, those battling against the oppression by Islam, against the fastest growing religion. In Burma, there is ethnic cleansing; In Northern Nigeria, there are shiria courts and a move to an Islamic constitution; In Indonesia, there is an Islamic jihad. Christians are imprisoned and killed for their Christian faith, for our Christian faith. Cox encouraged us to "look out", to look around the world, and to pray.
Joni Eareckson Tada moved the whole crowd in her reality of living with suffering by the constant help of Jesus' grace in her life. A member of the Reformed Episcopal Church, a Common Cause Partner, she became a quadriplegic in a diving accident. "I cried for His help and He asked me to rely on Him. I still need him - my disability isn't getting better. I need His grace, to be His friend, and to suffer with Him. Lord, lend me your smile." She encourage those gathered, who would be facing, in the words of Bishop Duncan, their "Good Friday," a time of persecution. "Your cross to bear is not your wheelchair, but you're grumbling about it. Anxiety, fear, worry - our sins are revealed; we can share his gladness; we can thank and praise Him!"
Moderator Robert Duncan concluded the conference saying, "We've been given a choice today for Jesus Christ. We've been sent out by the Primates to do the work He has given us to do. Are we ready to give it all up for our Lord? This is a new day! A choice for one another; even in our differences. It is a choice for God's plan, not ours. Will you choose less? Choose this day "a Hope and a Future!"
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