16th December, A.D.2011
TO ALL FAITHFUL ANGLICANS IN NORTH AMERICA:
Beloved in the Lord,
Advent begins to turn toward Christmas. In the early days of the season, Charles Wesley’s hymn “Lo, He comes with Clouds, descending” summarizes the focus on Christ’s coming again at the end of the ages. Now the strains of “O come, o come Emmanuel” direct us toward all the prophecies of the first coming at Bethlehem in Judea.
In Britain, eight different evening antiphons were used (seven on the continent) – a different one each evening – as a “countdown to Christmas.” These eight antiphons are the source of the hymn now known to almost everyone. Come Wisdom (O sapientia)! Come Lord! Come Root of Jesse! Come Key of David! Come Dayspring! Come King of Gentiles! Come Emmanuel! Come Virgin Born!
The ancient Advent antiphons are cries to the Lord that He would come and “ransom” us, that He would fulfill His promises to us, that He would be God with us.
In this Advent of the Year of our Lord 2011, as we shift our call from Revelation’s Maranatha! [Rev.22.20] to Isaiah’s Emmanuel [Isa.7.14] there are many, many situations where we need the wisdom, the key, the dayspring and everything else promised in Scripture and rehearsed in the familiar hymn. There are so many needs that require the Lord’s help and our conversion: hunger, homelessness, sickness, despair, oppression, conflict, addiction, abuse, no one to care…
One need is peculiar to us as Anglicans and as Christians: unity in Christ. These last weeks have been filled with much heart-break for our brothers and sisters of the Anglican Mission in the Americas and, as a consequence, for us in the Anglican Church in North America. At Pentecost of 2004 Bishops Leonard Riches, David Anderson, Chuck Murphy, Keith Ackerman, Don Harvey and I wrote to Archbishop Rowan Williams pledging to make “common cause for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America.” The crisis of the moment is also opportunity. We need the wisdom, the key and the dayspring for this as for every situation. We need to seek the Lord’s help and commit our best efforts to this Anglican need as well as to all the other needs of our human family. I, as Archbishop, will do my part. As your gift to Jesus this year, I trust you will do yours.
We received word this week of a decision by the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan that their House of Bishops had taken action to recognize “fully” the Anglican Church in North America as a “true faithful Orthodox Church” and to commit to “work with [us] to expand the Kingdom of God in the world.” I pray we will prove worthy of the trust this Province has expressed. I pray we will do it in the same fidelity to the Word of God and with the same Christ-like charity they have shown. I pray we will do it with the same courage and unity in adversity as the Church of the Sudan has shown through thirty years of civil war, suffering and martyrdom. What trust they place in us!
“O come, o come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here, until the Son of God appear.” Our God has come and is coming. We have nothing to fear with Him, as long as we are in Him.
Be assured of my prayers for every one of you in these closing Advent days, in the twelve days of Christmas, and in all the days that are ahead.
Faithfully in Christ,
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America