Gafcon Chairman’s January Letter

Beloved in Christ Jesus: Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Light of the world!

On Epiphany we remember the Magi who came to worship Jesus as the King of kings, bringing to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold, a most precious gift representing nobility and royalty. Frankincense, an expensive beautiful smelling incense offered to the gods (Origen: Frankincense is the incense of deity). Myrrh, a costly perfume emphasizing his humanness, often used for burial. Here in their offerings to Jesus, we see gifts emphasizing his divinity and his humanity; gifts honoring his birth and honoring his death.

There was also a dark side to the Epiphany story. On the 4th Day of Christmas (December 28) we are reminded of King Herod’s ruthless massacre of the children of Bethlehem in an attempt to exterminate the infant Jesus. Even in the midst of such blessing to the world, evil seeks to destroy all the good that God does and His plans for humanity. Of course, we know evil (and evildoers) will not have the last word as demonstrated in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!!  Until the fullness of the Kingdom is realized in the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must still face this reality in our daily lives and ministries.

For many of us, Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Word becoming flesh, and enjoying time with family and friends. However, for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, Christmas has become a time of increased threat. This was graphically and barbarically demonstrated by the beheading of a young Nigerian woman, Martha Bulus, and her 10 companions who were abducted by Boko Haram on their way to her wedding on December 26th in north eastern Nigeria’s Borno state. It is reported that the executions were filmed and the video posted online.

It is truly appalling that families who should have had videos of a joyful wedding were faced with a video of their loved ones being butchered to death. This tragedy has illustrated again the deep reluctance on the part of many Western governments, church leaders, and media to speak out on behalf of persecuted Christians. But last year the British Government accepted a report prepared for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, commissioned from the Rt Rev’d Philip Mountstephen, Bishop of Truro. It recognised the large scale of persecution worldwide, involving an estimated quarter of a billion Christians in 144 countries. 

While the West mostly remains silent, it is the global family of the Church who must be at the forefront in standing with those who suffer by prayer, practical care and advocacy. Those of you who use the Gafcon daily prayer diary will know that we regularly pray for the Suffering Church and during 2020 the Gafcon Suffering Church network will play an important part in Gafcon’s global ministry. (If you do not yet use this wonderful aid for your prayers, why not make it a New Year’s Resolution to do so?)

We must never speak glibly of suffering, pain and trauma, but in solidarity with the Suffering Church we gain the liberating perspective of faith. The Apostle Paul tells us that he was seeking to know Christ “and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10), and that he hadn’t obtained it yet, but “I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). 

I am reminded of the Epiphany Collect in which we pray, “Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face.” For all of us our life on earth is temporary, but we trust in what we do not see, and are sustained on our pilgrimage by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit until that glorious day when we shall see Jesus face to face! Hallelujah!

Suffering as a mark of the Christian life carries a powerful message to Church leaders who have compromised Christian teaching and morality in order to try and win acceptance from secular societies that celebrate relativism and narcissistic individualism. Compromising biblical truth only leads to more compromise, and eventually becomes unrecognizable as anything Christian. It demonstrates in real life that this faith in Christ is not just ‘my truth’ or something merely therapeutic, ‘but is truth gloriously and uniquely revealed in Jesus Christ who said God’s word is truth (John 17:17), and “I am the truth” (John 14:6), and has promised “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.20).’

Bishops of the Anglican Communion will gather in June for the Gafcon 2020 Bishops and Wives Conference, hosted by Archbishop Mbanda and the Anglican Church of Rwanda. It is this unquenchable hope in Jesus, the unfailing truth of His Word, the redemption of all suffering, and joyful life of serving Jesus as found in the Gospel, that we bishops will proclaim in solidarity when we gather in Kigali.

Finally, as we remember those in the midst of distress, let us continue to pray for God’s mercy upon those in Australia who are enduring bush fires on an unprecedented scale which have brought loss of life, trauma and widespread destruction. Archbishop Glenn Davies has commended a special prayer which I in turn commend to the whole Gafcon family.

Your brother in the hope and faith of Christ,
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The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Chairman, Gafcon Primates Council

Bishop Ronald Jackson Resigns

The Rt. Rev. Ronald Jackson has communicated to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes his resignation as the bishop ordinary of the diocese, citing health reasons and to be effective immediately. The diocese has accepted his tendered resignation and is grateful to Bishop Ron for his years of service. Adhering to the canons of both the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes and the Province, the Standing Committee will begin implementing the details of the transition immediately and will share more information about that process in the weeks ahead. The Rt. Rev. John Miller, appointed temporary bishop for the diocese in November 2019, will continue advising the Standing Committee and serve as a liaison with the Province.

Bishop Jackson has been on administrative leave since November 2019 concerning information brought to the attention of the Archbishop’s Office that called for an impartial investigation to be conducted. At the provincial level, the investigative process has entered its middle stages and remains ongoing. Locally, a pastoral team has been put in place to provide holistic care for Bishop Ron and Patty.

The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, commented on the transition: “Please keep Bishop Ron and his wife, Patty, in your prayers. This has been a difficult and complicated decision for them. Please also pray for the Standing Committee. I have been impressed with how they have proactively and wisely led the diocese over the last couple months. They will have my prayers and full support as they move forward during this challenging time.”

College of Bishops Communiqué

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:1-3. Reading for the Feast of the Epiphany)

Introduction

We began our meeting on Monday, January 6th by celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany, and concluded our meeting on Friday, January the 10th. We began each day in worship of Almighty God with preaching from the Scriptures and the celebration of Holy Communion. Our business and fellowship throughout the day was punctuated with Midday Prayer and Evening Prayer. It was a great joy to use the Book of Common Prayer 2019 for each of our divine worship services.

On Thursday, we were blessed by the generous hospitality of Prince of Peace Anglican Church in Melbourne, Florida. Their clergy, staff, and volunteers hosted us for lunch, and, meeting in their consecrated space, we consented to the election of Bishop R. Charles Gillin as bishop ordinary of the Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (REC). More about the election can be read here.

Clergy Care, Health, and Wellness

As bishops, we have an ongoing commitment to care for our clergy and their families and to equip our clergy to care for their people in the midst of the world. We gave thanks for Archbishop Beach’s Epiphany letter to the clergy of our province which provided practical, biblical advice for developing and maintaining a healthy and balanced life. We commend the letter in its entirety to all of our clergy, as well as those lay leaders, such as vestry members, who share a responsibility for the health of their parish culture.

Recognizing the importance of the physical health of our clergy and their families, we spent time discussing our concerns about the rising cost of health care.

Also this week, Jay Haug, representing the ministry Living without Lust, was invited to make a presentation to the bishops. In a measured but straightforward way, he reminded us of the staggering statistics of pornography involvement in all sectors of our society, including the church. The internet has radically increased access to pornography and dramatically lowered the age at which it is first experienced. Having drawn our attention to the huge challenge, which we must not ignore, Haug shared strategies and resources to go beyond the outward behavior to the heart of the problem, which is the root of desire. The good news is that there are effective support groups available and principles for recovery for the many who are caught in addiction and there is assistance for all to help avoid any involvement in pornography.

Prayerbook & Catechism

We gave approval to a traditional language version of the Book of Common Prayer 2019. Parts of the traditional language version will be available electronically in the near future and the book will be in print by the summer of this year. We also received a report from the Prayer Book Task Force. They are producing an Altar Book for the Book of Common Prayer 2019, the book Occasional Services, and a lesser feasts and fasts book to be called Sanctifying Time. The College commends the work of the members of the Task Force and thanks God for the contributions they have made to the wider Church.

The College also learned of the appointment of an expanded Music Task Force, now under the chairmanship of Mr. Mark Williams of Christ Church Anglican, Savannah, GA, and its new website, www.acnamusicresources.com.

We received with great joy the final version of the Catechism, To Be a Christian. We were thankful to be joined by leaders of Crossway Books, Mr. Anthony Gosling, COO of Crossway, and Mr. Dane Ortlund, Chief Publishing Officer, who presented us with copies of the final edition of the catechism straight from the press. We expressed our appreciation for Crossway and the partnership we have developed over the years. The Catechism will be in stock later this month, and is now available for order.

Issues of Race

Following a video presentation by the Rev. Dr. Esau McCaulley, Director of the Anglican Church in North America’s Next Generation Initiative, and the Rt. Rev. Alphonza Gadsden, Bishop of the Diocese of the Southeast (REC), the College spent time in discussion and prayer about issues of race, racism, and recent mass shootings. Particular attention was given to the great need for multi-ethnic outreach and church planting, ensuring that all peoples are reached for Christ and to addressing the public witness of the Province and our dioceses on matters of justice.

Via Apostolica

Last year, on January 10, 2019, Bishop Todd Atkinson was accepted into the College, while the jurisdictional status of his churches in Canada, called “Via Apostolica,” was still to be determined.

At this meeting of the College of Bishops, exactly one year later, the following proposal, moved by Bishop Charlie Masters, Bishop of the Anglican Network in Canada, was presented and accepted:

This College of Bishops recommends to the Provincial Executive Committee and Provincial Council the establishment of Via Apostolica as a Provincial Missionary District under Canon 12 and recommends Bishop Todd Atkinson be designated a ‘Bishop for Special Mission” to lead this ministry.

This will next be presented to the Executive Committee in February of this year and the Provincial Council in June.

Global Relationships

The Anglican Church in North America continues to maintain and develop strong, strategic, and growing relationships with Anglican provinces around the world. Through the international ministry of Archbishop Beach and as a result of his ministry as Chairman of the Gafcon Primates’ Council, the global missional relationships and outreach of the Province have been strengthened through new and existing partnerships. The Gafcon Primates’ Council represents the majority of the world’s active Anglicans.

The bishops of the Anglican Church in North America welcome the invitation to attend and participate in the Kigali 2020 Bishops’ Conference in June which will provide an opportunity for the bishops of Gafcon to stand together, uphold the faith once for all entrusted to the saints, and strengthen gospel and ministry ties that bind us together in Christ.

The College also received a report from Canon Phil Ashey and Bishop Bill Atwood (Dean of International Affairs) on the Global South Anglican Covenant adopted by the 7th Global South Assembly in Cairo on October 11, 2019. This Global South “Cairo Covenant” addresses the “ecclesial deficit” or lack of discipline for false teaching in the Anglican Communion. Gafcon continues to address the “gospel deficit” of false teaching by proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations, and authenticating Biblically faithful Anglicans.  The College recognized the different charisms that Gafcon and the Global South have expressed in upholding the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) and rejoice in the renewed opportunity presented by the Cairo Covenant for both Gafcon and the Global South to work together for the sake of Gospel mission and the recovery of genuine Communion among Anglicans. The College received the invitation to review the Cairo Covenant in preparation for ratification by the Provincial Council in June 2021.

Ecumenical Relationships

We celebrate the work of our Ecumenical Task Force and thank God for our ecumenical partners. We have endorsed concordats with the Episcopal Missionary Church and with the Independent Catholic Philippine Church (also known as the Iglesia Catolica Filipina Independiente). These concordats will be presented for approval to the Provincial Council in June.

We continue dialogue with numerous church bodies with the goal of healing the Church and working towards Christian unity. Two guests from the New Day Kingdom Assembly Church were observers at the College as their church explores the “Anglican Way.” Archbishop Thomas E. Wallace and Rev. Theron Davis Ham made the trip from Houston to be with us, and we enjoyed their fellowship throughout the week.

Finally, we want to encourage members of the Anglican Church in North America to attend our joint conference with the North American Lutheran Church entitled “DiscipleLife 2020” to be held in Orlando, FL on February 13-15.

Holy Orders

Over the last three years, the Bishops’ Working Group on Holy Orders has continued to serve by proposing creative and innovative ways to continue the discipline of conversation, seeking to understand the varied differences in our perception of the nature of holy orders. During this time, we have discovered again and again that there are layers upon layers of differences in ecclesiology, hermeneutics, theology, and tradition. These layers result in deep differences in our perspectives on the nature of holy orders in general and the role of women in orders in particular. We recognize that there is great pain over these differences both within our working group and throughout the Province. During the week, we spent time in small group discussions on this topic, both formal and informal. The working group continues to encourage the College to lead in both lament and prayer as we seek a way forward.

Chaplaincy Ministries

We heard a report from Bishop Michael Williams on behalf of the Special Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy about the continued strong growth of the Province’s chaplains. There are now 23 hospital and hospice chaplains, 17 community chaplains, 3 prison chaplains, 17 Commissioned Lay Chaplains, and 81 military chaplains, with an additional 24 actively engaged in the application, ordination, and endorsement processes. We gave thanks for this fruitful ministry and prayed for our chaplains, particularly for those serving in areas of conflict.

Sexuality

We had an engaging and unified conversation around the opportunity for pastoral care to those within our churches who are same-sex attracted. We identified the ways in which the church has not always seen and heard the reality of men and women living with strong same-sex attraction, and we discussed the importance of developing greater clarity around this pastoral ministry and providing more theological leadership for our province. Our discussion included the greater debate within the larger evangelical church around the kind of language that should be employed to describe a faithful follower of Jesus who seeks to live under the authority of Scripture while experiencing the reality of unwanted same-sex attraction. The Archbishop assigned a task force, chaired by Bishop Stewart Ruch III, to develop a theological and pastoral statement for consideration at our next meeting that addresses the use of this language as well as an articulation of our heart as bishops for many who have various kinds of sexual brokenness.

Conclusion


We thank all those across the Province who prayed for us last week. As the Lord moves us from strength to strength, we give thanks for the blessing of fellowship provided by the collegial atmosphere and the common commitment we have to reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.