Calling Anglicans into Action for Life

Both events coincide, respectively, with the March for Life in Washington D.C. and Walk for Life in San Francisco. Join fellow Anglicans in the manifestation of Christ’s love for the unborn and his Gospel of Life.

Read more from Anglicans for Life President Georgette Forney below and find resources for each event at the bottom of the page.

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It is hard to believe we are in the last month of 2017! It has been quite a year with almost daily occurrences of violence and division featured in the news.  As our culture increasingly celebrates and embraces death, it feels, more than ever, like we are being besieged on every side.  I do not know about you, but I need more than encouraging sentiment.  I want to do something about all this, to see the Church fulfill its purpose as the voice of the voiceless, the unborn, the elderly, and the vulnerable.

The deepest desire of my heart is to see God’s people equipped and prepared for life ministry.  And Anglicans for Life will be holding not one but two events to help you and your church do just that!  We are excited to share that AFL will be hosting the 3rd annual Summit: Mobilizing the Church for Life on January 18th, 2018 in Falls Church, VA.  Additionally, with the Lord’s provision and support from the dioceses, we are also hosting our first West Coast event, Life Symposium: Equipping the Church for Life on January 26th, 2018 in San Francisco, CA. 

The vision of both events is the same.  As we have seen in Scripture, God instructs us to protect and value Life.  And I want to see Anglicans taking action in their churches and communities to fulfill this command!  To help with this, Summit 2018 and the Life Symposium will seek to motivate life-ministry and will feature keynote speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities to provide both inspiration and practical action ideas.  After both events, there will be an Anglican prayer service the following morning, after which we will join with hundreds of thousands of life-affirming people at the March for Life in DC or the Walk for Life in San Francisco. In addition to yourself, I would encourage you to invite a friend and to share this invitation with others, especially if God has put it on your heart to start a life-affirming ministry. As with any calling, God intends us to act in and rely on community for support and prayer. Seeking partnership within your congregation can create a unique and necessary dynamic for ministry!

As well as serving a God who loves Life, we are grateful to work with priests, pastors, lay people, and churches in the ACNA, whose very statutes affirm the sacredness of Life.  According to Title II, Canon 8, “God, and not man, is the creator of human life…. therefore, from conception to natural death all members and Clergy are called to protect and respect the sanctity of every human life.”

I am personally inviting you to come to our events, not because abortion and assisted suicide are important “hot-topic” issues and not to bemoan the state of our culture, but because my hope is that the words of this canon will be more than just a theological position.  I want people who come to these events to be filled with a passion for Life and have a sense of how God is calling them to act.  This year has been a year of violence and division but I pray 2018 will bring unity and partnership for the sake of the Gospel of Life. May these events prepare churches and individuals to protect, honor, and celebrate the gift of life given to us by our Creator and to mobilize the Anglican Church to action!

To learn more about our events and to register, please visit our website.  Additional information about each event is listed below.

In Christ,

Deacon Georgette Forney


Resources


Summit 2018

January 18-19, 2018: Held in Falls Church, VA, followed by the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Please visit our website for details about our speakers and registration information www.anglicansforlife.org/summit-2018.

Learn about one of the Summit’s featured speakers, Stephanie Gray, here.


Life Symposium
January 26-27, 2018: In conjunction with the Walk for Life in San Francisco, California. Additional information can be found on our website: www.anglicansforlife.org/symposium-2018.

Growing Together in Communion: A Visit to Rwanda

The Most Rev. Onesphore Rwaje, Archbishop and Primate of Rwanda, welcomed 500 priests and bishops from around his province for their annual clergy conference December 4-8, 2017.  The conference was hosted in the Dioceses of Shyogwe by The Rt. Rev. Jered Kalimba, who has been the bishop of the diocese for over 20 years.  Bishop Kalimba’s entrepreneurial leadership has brought about a variety of projects and initiatives, from youth ministries to water projects, which have built up the communities in his diocese.

The Rt. Rev. Alfred Olwa, the new bishop of the diocese of Lango in Uganda was invited as a special guest to give the plenary addresses on the conference theme, “Growing Together in Communion.” Archbishop Beach led the times of Bible teaching and preached at the opening Communion Service.

Taking I Corinthians 12:21-31 as his text, Archbishop Beach encouraged the gathering to honor each of its members, and for each to work in their unique gifting.  “As followers of Jesus we have all been baptized into the same body, Christ’s body.  As Paul tells us, ‘We are all individual members of him. We belong to Christ and to one another.’”

Bishop Olwa spoke powerfully of the central importance of the lordship of Jesus Christ for growth. Using the example of the tangerine tree he said, “If you grow in communion in Jesus Christ you will first grow tall.  As you mature and bearing fruit your branches will become heavy, bend down low, and be relevant for your people.”

The Anglican Church of Rwanda, which has eleven dioceses and an estimated 800,000 members, is somewhat unique in its reliance on lay catechists to spread the Gospel.  In many dioceses the parish priest overseas both a centrally located congregation, and a cohort of up to 50 lay catechists who lead outlying congregations.

The Anglican Church of Rwanda has played a special role in the founding of the Anglican Church in North America, providing spiritual leadership for some of our members before its founding, and then joining the rest of Gafcon in calling for the formation of the province.  Archbishop Beach expressed his appreciation for our brothers and sisters in Rwanda, “You stood by us in our time of need, we will always be grateful for you, and it is a joy to partner with you in ministry.” Archbishop Rwaje presented Archbishop Beach a hand-made wooden Ciborium symbolic of our provinces being in full communion with one another.

See pictures from the visit here on Facebook or below on Flickr.

Rwanda 2017

Anglican Congregation Asserts First Amendment Rights, Effects Change in City Policy

In May, Shepherd’s Heart Anglican Church in Fairfax, Virginia will hold a concert at Old Town Square Park as an outreach to the community. What may sound like a typical event in any American town is instead a remarkable story of a small church’s perseverance through an unexpected struggle for religious liberty.

Two years ago, church member Pat Broderick first had the idea to hold a gathering at a city park but was subsequently denied access by the park manager because the church wanted to play contemporary Christian music.

“It was just our way of giving back to the community and letting them know we were down the street if anybody wanted any help or anything like that,” said Broderick.

Shepherd’s Heart is a small yet faithful congregation of about 40-50 members started by the late Fr. Harold Hammond in 1990, but currently without a full-time rector.

In 2016, Shepherd’s Heart leaders and members were challenged to brainstorm about ways to reach out to the community. After watching the city tear down an old gas station and replace it with a beautiful park, Broderick got the idea, especially given the park is “right around the corner from the church.”

Upon “following the prompting of the Holy Spirit,” as she described it, Broderick submitted a request to the city to use the park. At first, she says, there was no problem. But when she answered their follow-up questions and the city learned they would play Christian music, the city told her they could not partner with a religious organization and associate church and state.

“I just got so depressed and so down-hearted,” said Broderick, describing her reaction to the denial. “[That feeling] never went away and a voice in my head said ‘persevere, persevere.’”

A great woman of prayer, Pat returned to the training she had received from Fr. Harold: sit still, be quiet, and listen. “I just prayed. I didn’t know what else to do.” Pat had waited for two months before being given the opportunity and deciding to act. That’s when she reached out to a new member at the church she knew to be an attorney.

“Pat pulled me aside one Sunday morning after the service to talk about the issue.  She knew I was an attorney and wanted to know my opinion.  I told her that I wasn’t an expert, and I’m not Virginia barred, so I couldn’t give her legal advice.  But, once upon a time, I did take first amendment in law school, and the whole situation smacked of content restriction,” described Charles Gorman, long-time Anglican, attorney, and member of Shepherd’s Heart.

The city’s policy did not expressly prohibit use of the park for religious activities or by religious groups. Instead, the city’s denial of the application was based on unchecked, arbitrary discretion – which is Constitutionally invalid.

Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, religious expression and speech are protected in traditional public forums such as public parks like that of Old Town Square in Fairfax. City restrictions on such freedoms are heavily scrutinized and must not discriminate against a particular viewpoint. Further, in traditional public forums, state actors cannot censor people or groups based on the content of their speech, except when there is a compelling state purpose and the restriction is both necessary and the wording narrowly tailored to achieve that purpose. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has ruled in other similar cases that in circumstances like these in which the forum is available to others and the event is open to the public, there is no Establishment Clause conflict.1  Additionally, in order for the state to require permits (i.e. approval) as a prerequisite for individuals or groups to engage in protected speech, it must follow very strict and objective criteria in decision making. To base such permits on vague discretion by officials making the individual decisions may be considered a prior restraint on protected speech and a violation of the First Amendment.

Fairfax City’s denial of Shepherd’s Heart’s application “was classic prior restraint, which is exactly what the Founders wanted to prevent when they drafted the First Amendment,” explained Gorman. “We used the Freedom of Information Act to get access to the city’s park policies.  Even though they said it wasn’t allowed, there was nothing in writing to back it up.  It was completely arbitrary.”

Gorman, feeling convinced of the Constitutional violation, contacted the Center for Religious Expression in Memphis, Tennessee who took on the case pro-bono.

“The city cannot treat a Christian group differently just because it’s Christian. All that Shepherd’s Heart wanted to do was just like what other groups had done but with contemporary Christian music,” explained attorney Nate Kellum of the Center for Religious Expression who handled the case.

“I can’t say it enough: I have tremendous respect for Shepherd’s Heart and how they handled themselves,” Kellum applauded. “They never wanted a lawsuit, they just wanted to be a part of the community.”

Fr. Jerry Brown, a bi-vocational Associate Rector at Shepherd’s Heart, was at first unsettled about whether to pursue the case. “[The City’s policy was] wrong, but at the same time, is this something worth fighting?”

His tiny parish had little resources, and the city had plenty. On top of that, he was greatly concerned to not take the church away from its calling to worship God and send out the Gospel. At the same time, the efforts of the church to do so were being strangled illegally by the city.

Shepherd’s Heart turned to the Lord, seeking Him in prayer throughout the process. They sought Him for wisdom whether to pursue the case. They sought Him for guidance in working with the attorneys. They sought Him for their freedom and the ability to use the park.

“We prayed about it. I,” Fr. Jerry said, “had a peace about going forward. And everybody together said, ‘let’s go for it.’”

On October 26, 2017, Shepherd’s Heart Church and the City of Fairfax, Virginia signed a settlement agreement leading to significant changes in city policy with respect to church access to city parks. It is now expressly written in city policy that religious activities are permissible uses of the city’s parks.

“Fr. Jerry sent me an email the morning he was going to go to Federal Court to settle the case.  He outlined what they were agreeing to, and my jaw almost hit the floor. We got everything we wanted and then some,” Gorman exclaimed. Upon hearing of the settlement, Broderick shouted to the Lord. “Yes, Lord! …I was just so excited!” she recalls.

Attorney Nate Kellum admitted, “I am really, really pleased with the result.”

For those involved, this is an impactful result, but they also realize how impactful this case is beyond their city. Broderick, Gorman, and Brown all noted that Christians in our society tend to not know their rights and are confused by the language of the “separation of church and state” and the “establishment clause” so readily thrown at them by government entities. Broderick herself admits that she didn’t know her rights, but she knew the denial of her request to use the park because of the faith-based content of the music did not seem right.

Gorman said, “It was amazing to me the number of people I spoke with, when telling them about our case, who genuinely thought we were wrong. That we, as a church, shouldn’t be allowed in a public square.  But that’s not the law.”

According to the First Liberty Institute, a leading religious liberties litigation group out of Plano, Texas, the United States has seen a 133% increase in attacks on religious liberty in just five years.2  As renowned religious liberties attorney and CEO of First Liberty Institute, Kelly Shackleford, puts it, “Americans have entered a tipping point.” 3

Gorman explains, “there is so much misinformation and confusion about the law that many people give up before they even get started. If we don’t fight for our rights, no one else will.” And the law is – in fact - on our side. “Our country needs us! It needs you!”

According to Kellum, “this is a very important result…[it’s time] for churches, for Christians, to really be bold enough to be able to stand up for our beliefs and the ability to share our beliefs.”

To do that, we must be confident in our faith and confident in our rights, just like Shepherd’s Heart Anglican Church in Fairfax, Virginia.


1 See Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001); Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263 (1981); Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District, 508 U.S. 384 (1993).

2 First Liberty Institute, Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America (2017), https://firstliberty.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/UNDENIABLE_ONLINE-1.pdf

3Shackleford, Kelly, A Time to Stand 2016, https://firstliberty.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2016_ATTS_3.625x8.75_WEB.pdf


Rachel Thebeau is the Communications Associate for the Anglican Church in North America. She is a licensed attorney and a Blackstone Legal Fellow with Alliance Defending Freedom, one of the nation’s leading religious liberties organizations.