HOUSTON, TX: Anglican Mission Winter Conference Concludes
By Cheryl M. Wetzel, reporting from Dallas
January 15, 2012
The Anglican Mission closed their winter conference Saturday, January 14 in Houston. Amid the context of morning worship, Bishops Phil Jones and TJ Johnson drew summaries for those in attendance from their own times of doubt and uncertainty. The conference theme was the Work of the Holy Spirit. The final encouragement was to embrace the Spirit and follow the work he has already begun.
Bishop TJ Johnson compared the current time of troubles in the Anglican Mission with the story of David and Goliath. "David picked up five stones from the river bed and ran across the valley to meet Goliath. We are all going home to meet our own Goliaths."
"I have picked up three stones here today, to take home with me:
1) The cause of Christ
2) The Kingdom of God in context of Anglican heritage
3) The Hope of glory
"Those are my stones. Rwanda took me in 3 months after leaving TEC. It was 2 years before we heard any official statements from Rwanda. We went from 1 church to 6 and it was a lonely, difficult time. I didn't see it as a garden. I felt it was a wilderness but the Holy Spirit began to prepare me, just as surely as he preparing you. He began to build into me those things that are unshakable truths. He was preparing me not for that day but this day. These last two months. This time of doubt and uncertainty.
"So I want to leave you with this: do not avoid the wilderness. If you are in a wilderness, the Word of God will come to you. He empowers, transforms and enables. That is where we are and I have great expectations."
The challenge of wrapping up the conference fell to Bishop Phil Jones. He concentrated on the Magi who traveled to an unknown destination, following the star of Bethlehem. In Jerusalem, they met with Herod and after that meeting, found the baby Jesus. They determined to go home a different way, not back to Herod as promised. "The Magi didn't understand everything, especially when they started the journey, but they wanted to be a part of what was happening. That's what the Anglican Mission is all about. We don't understand everything, but we want to be a part of whatever God is doing here in the US, right now," Jones declared.
He continued, "The future of the Anglican Mission is about clarity and mission. We are called to living out our own personal holiness, with God doing things in people's lives and changing people's hearts. We have a set of values that define who we are. We are filled with the Spirit, and centered on the Scriptures. We have freedom within fences. We are not institutionalized. The people that are responding are outside of the Anglican world. They don't say, 'I want to know more about your structure. They say I want to know more about the sacraments or the scriptures.'
"Its time now to get back to work, to get back to mission. Just be patient about the rest of it. The magi go and see the baby Jesus, then go back home another way. We are leaving this winter conference and going back another way: more humble, more dependant, more open to God's mercy and his grace. More willing to give his mercy and his grace away and bless others with it. 130 million unchurched Americans are out there. Go home and get back to work," Jones concluded.
For straight-line thinkers, the current status of the Anglican Mission is untenable. Their "jurisdiction" is not certain, although the Province of Rwanda House of Bishops has not acted on their resignations yet. The bishops are not under certain authority and may not be for several months, yet they continue in their offices and provide pastoral care for their priests and parishes. No meetings are set with Rwanda in the next few days, although phone calls and emails continue. Some priests and parishes in the Mission will decide that they have to have classical catholic/Anglican structures and certainty of authority; hierarchy, if you will. They will be released to other jurisdictions. That means more surprises and pain, as departures always do. Communication between the Mission bishops, priests and parishes will be improved and erroneous blogs will be refuted.
I suppose it is not a surprise that the Internet has played a significant role in the sense of chaos experienced within the last two months. Letters were published in blogs prior to being delivered and read by all of the bishops. The way forward is not uncertain, because the Mission will rely on everything they have learned in the last twelve years. One parish to just under 150 in 12 years. Clearly, they have touched a need across America better than many others who are also trying to do the same.
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