News and opinion about the Anglican Church in North America and worldwide with items of interest about Christian faith and practice.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
From Canon Phil Ashey
Dear Friends in Christ,
Sometimes it is easy to be discouraged about the future of our local churches, the realignment and renewal of orthodox Anglicanism in North America and globally, and the relentless assault upon Biblical Christianity and "the faith once delivered" by forces here and abroad that deny and even repress the essentials of the Christian faith. And when I talk about such forces I mean not only the secular forces in society that have become increasingly hostile to Christianity in the marketplace of ideas and specifically towards the rights of individual Christians to practice their faith freely. I am also talking about the persecution of Christians worldwide - the killing of Christians and the burning of churches by radical groups such as the Islamic Boko Haram. And I am also talking about the persecution of the orthodox remnant within The Episcopal Church in dioceses where bishops are using Soviet-era Gulag tactics under the cover of the new Title IV of the TEC Canons to declare faithful clergy "mentally unstable" because of their beliefs in order to remove them and seize control of their congregations.
It is also discouraging to see the deliberate strategy of leaders in TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, acting in concert with the Anglican Communion Office, to continue to spread a false gospel which compromises not simply Biblical standards for human sexuality and holy orders, but by necessity the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all and the authority of the Bible for all Anglicans everywhere. As we predicted from their declaration at TEC General Convention 2009, these leaders are acting under the conviction that they have a "manifest destiny" to share this new "prophetic" baptismal theology which is divorced from biblical and catholic teaching. Consider the following:
- LGBT Activists, bishops and clergy from The Chicago Consultation met with African Anglican bishops and clergy in Durban, South Africa to discuss theological and "justice" perspectives on LGBT sexuality. Approximately 30 participants came from Africa, specifically Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. You can read more about the gathering and its purpose of incrementally advancing the blessing of same-sex unions and the theology behind it throughout the Anglican Communion here.
- Phase 2 of the Continuing Indaba Project of "dialogue" has begun. As we wrote about extensively, the purpose of this TEC-supported continuing Indaba process is to "dialogue" as TEC leaders did for many years on issues of human sexuality and holy orders until orthodox Anglicans "see the light" and abandon Biblical and Communion teaching. According to recent notes of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, Phase 2 will now include the development of "toolkits" and training materials, recruiting and encouraging "advocates" and "encouraging local adoption of Indaba around the Communion."
- This June, close to 20 bishops from Africa, the United States and Canada will converge on Toronto to engage in building better relationships between national churches. You can read about it here. The event is being hosted by the Anglican Church of Canada, and one of the hosts is Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster who has publicly written and repudiated the essentials of the Christian faith-specifically that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all-and who has gone ahead and authorized same-sex blessings in his diocese. The 12 bishops from Africa include bishops from the GAFCON/FCA provinces of Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana. The stated purpose of the gathering is to move away from "impaired relationships" and back into partnerships based on areas of mutual interest.
- Trinity Wall Street (TEC) continues to fund "Theological education by Extension" to African Anglicans, specifically in Kenya and Zambia (May 2011)
These meetings are not just conversations across differences. Grants for "Theological Education" are not simply attempts to help train leaders. They are ways and means of spreading a false gospel throughout the Communion, and especially among orthodox Anglicans in the Global South. TEC and its friends in Canada and the Anglican Communion Office are seeking to gain a foothold among African Anglicans, and to use their new friends to demonstrate to the rest of the Anglican Communion that there will be no cost to approving same sex blessings and no cost to the erosion of Biblical convictions within the Communion.
But I find hope in the LORD who inspired Psalm 80. Asaph (or one of his descendants) probably wrote Psalm 80 after the Northern Kingdom of Israel was defeated and its people deported to Assyria. It is a prayer for revival and restoration in the wake of defeat, destruction and bondage by an enemy whose material resources are overwhelming. Can you see the application? Let me suggest three points for us:
1. God's restoration of his people is always POWERFUL. "Restore us, O LORD God Almighty" (Ps 80: 19a)
First, "Restore us, O God" (v.3), then "Restore us, O God Almighty," (v. 7) and finally "Restore us, O LORD God Almighty," (v. 19). As the Psalmist reflects upon the destruction and bondage of Israel, and considers the grace and power of God (v. 14), his confidence in God grows as he makes his plea. So should ours. Who can forget the powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the gathering of orthodox Anglican bishops, clergy and other leaders in Jerusalem in 2008 at GAFCON? With less than 10% of the time that it took for the Anglican Communion Office to prepare for Lambeth 2008, and with fewer resources, God blessed this GAFCON gathering with a supernatural unity expressed in the Jerusalem Declaration. Will you join me and others in praying again for the same kind of powerful outpouring on the gathering of 200 orthodox Anglican leaders from the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, from all over the Communion, who will gather April 23-27 in London to pray and consider how we can build up and defend Great Commission Anglicans everywhere? Will you pray with me that our LORD God Almighty will empower us by his holy Spirit to develop relationships that will promote the fulfillment of Christ's Great Commission everywhere?
2. God's restoration of his people is always PERSONAL. "Make your face shine upon us" (Ps. 80:19b)
This stanza is an echo of Aaron's blessing in Numbers 6:24-26. It recalls the heart of our loving God who personally seeks to turn us from our wandering ways (Ps. 80:14) so that he may shine upon us - each of us - with his mercy and love. It is a cry for the blessing of a personal, face-to-face encounter with our LORD whose love in Christ Jesus transforms us.
We may not be able to compete with the dollars pouring out of TEC and Trinity Wall Street. But such material riches have no comparison to the love of God and his face of mercy that can transform lives through Jesus Christ. Anglicans in the Global South, whose numbers have exploded in the last decades, know this better than we do. We would do well to find ways to come alongside them face-to-face and enable their efforts to turn those who do not yet know Christ to the glory of God "in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6)
What might that look like? Here is one example. The American Anglican Council and SOMA USA have an opportunity to go to a diocese in the Sudan and share resources for leadership training for clergy. It is a way we can meet, face-to-face, with faithful Sudanese Anglicans and enable their efforts to reach others for Christ, spiritually and materially, in ways that are consistent with the Biblical, orthodox Anglican faith that they have embraced and witnessed to at great cost. What an honor it would be to stand with them - hundreds of clergy - and help them experience the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ to shine upon them! Will you stand with us in prayer and support?
3. God's restoration of his people is always PURPOSEFUL. "...that we may be saved." (Ps. 80:19c)
This prayer for restoration and renewal goes beyond a kingdom, an institution, or a polity. It is not about structures. It is about the salvation of people, body, soul and spirit. And isn't that exactly what is at the heart of our gracious God, who takes the initiative and turns us back to him even when we have turned away and are unable through our sin-sick souls to turn his face back to us? (Ps. 80:14; cf. Romans 5:8-11)
One of the greatest tragedies in the Anglican Communion is that structures have seemed to become ends in themselves, places where power and the lubrication of those structures by money are preserved at the expense of the Gospel and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I have to remind myself continually that structures and governance are never perfect, and that they must always serve Christ's Great Commission.
Yesterday I was in Houston, TX, in a meeting with clergy and lay leaders, most of them from PEARUSA (formerly the Anglican Mission). It's part of our mission at the AAC to "coach" groups who are seeking to become ACNA Dioceses. This group, led by the Rev. Clark Lowenfield of HopePointe Anglican, Woodlands, TX, has done extraordinary work in coming together to form a new ACNA Diocese-in-Formation for this area of Texas-- including congregations in Lousiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. But what impressed me the most was their commitment to making the constitution, canons and other structures serve and promote evangelism, discipleship and church planting. Several times I heard people say "we want the stability that comes with some structures so that we can spend more time and energy reaching people for Jesus and planting new churches."
AMEN! Structures that exalt Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all, serve the fulfillment of his Great Commission, and enable church planting. May such restoration and renewal happen in Texas, in North America, and throughout the Anglican Communion.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey Chief Operating and Development Officer, American Anglican Council