From January 4-8, 2016 we came together in Melbourne, Florida to join in prayer, discernment, and fellowship. The College of Bishops gives thanks for the collegial atmosphere of the gathering, and the opportunity to lead the Church “Always Forward” in its Gospel mission. We give thanks that the Rev. Dr. Ronald Jackson has been elected the second bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes (you can read more about the election here). We also give thanks for the wonderful hospitality of Christ Church, Vero Beach, Florida.
During the teaching sessions, we were blessed by Bishop Trevor Walters’ presentations on identifying and addressing potential burnout in both ourselves and our clergy. With all of the stresses and strains that ministry places upon our ordained leaders, his wisdom was an important contribution to our goal of building up healthy generations of leaders for the future of the Church. During our business sessions we heard ministry reports from across the Anglican Church in North America, but we focused our attention on ways to plant new churches, strengthen marriages, form disciples through common prayer, and guard the biblical faith of the Anglican Communion. We are truly encouraged by this fruitful season in which God has blessed us, and we pray that the resources that we have had the privilege to work on this week will be a blessing for all orders of ministry in the Church.
Canon Dan Alger shared with us the next stage of church planting in the province. Our provincial church planting initiative will now be known as “Always Forward.” Just as “Anglican 1000” came from Archbishop Duncan’s opening address to the Province, the key leaders of church planting in North America encourage us to move “Always Forward” in mission and maturity, a theme that was central to the sermon that Archbishop Beach preached immediately following his election. Using the theme as its new name, Always Forward has just launched a new website with resources for dioceses and church planters. The first resource, a “Church Planter Assessment Manual,” was shared with us, and we commend it to the larger church. Also, there will be a provincial church planting conference “Always Forward 2016” in Denver, CO on August 25-27 with registration opening on February 1.
You can learn more about church planting through Always Forward here: www.Always-Forward.com
We give thanks for the continuing work of the Marriage, Family, and the Single Life Task Force. Working groups in theology, public policy, and pastoral and parish resources are developing tools to strengthen both the single and the married. Our time together this week focused primarily on the theology of marriage in an early draft liturgy of Holy Matrimony.
The Anglican Church in North America, along with other Gospel-centered churches, is living in considerable tension today in terms of how best to be salt and light in our wider society. Contemporary Western society has abandoned the traditional rhythms of marriage. The Anglican Church in North America is working to restore a healthy, biblical model of human identity as expressed in marriage, family, singleness, and sexuality. Much of this work will be done at the personal and pastoral level, but it will be supported by the church’s canons and liturgies.
We were reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words from prison: “Most people have forgotten nowadays what a home can mean, though some of us have come to realize it as never before. It is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary.”
While the work of the Marriage, Family, and the Single Life Task Force is just getting underway, we give thanks for the early fruit of their labor. You can expect marriage resources to be released later in 2016 and 2017.
Very significant progress has been made toward a Book of Common Prayer 2019. The creation of sub-committees on Calendar, Collects and Lectionaries, on Psalter and Music, on Episcopal Services, on Pastoral Services and on Offices of the Hours and Liturgies for Special Days has resulted in a greatly increased volume of work coming before the College. The present plan is to produce all the “working texts” of a new prayer book by mid-2017, and then to use the following 18 to 24 months to finalize the texts of a Book of Common Prayer 2019, based on both website feedback and general experience.
We commended for use in the Church a third Eucharistic rite, the 3-Year Sunday Lectionary, the Daily Office Lectionary, Collects for the Christian Year, and the minor Offices for Midday, Compline and Family Prayer. These resources will be released by the end of February. We also began consideration of the Holy Matrimony liturgy, with hopes to have a rite ready for use in the Church by the end of June.
We give thanks for both the quality and extent of the work that has been received and we give thanks for Archbishop Duncan’s leadership on this project.
Those interested in reading more about each of these working texts can read Archbishop Duncan’s report to the College here.
The Theological Task Force on Holy Orders is in phase three of their process. In this phase, they are focusing on the manner in which ecclesiology relates to ordination and holy orders. The Task Force continues to identify those perspectives on ordination which lead to divergent understandings within our tradition about the nature of holy orders.
Three papers are in the process of composition, which will present the manner in which ecclesiology is understood from the three primary perspectives that comprise our Province: Anglo-Catholic, Charismatic, and Evangelical/Reformed. They anticipate that Phase Three will be complete by the next meeting of the bishops in June 2016. A webpage is going to be developed early in the Spring of 2016 to provide the resources developed by the Task Force.
We expressed our deep gratitude to and profound affection for the clergy and laity of La Province de l’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda, and most particularly to the Archbishop and Bishops of the Province, for their trust, generosity, and partnership in commending the bishops, clergy, and congregations of PEARUSA to be fully incorporated in the Anglican Church in North America. They were among our rescuers in an hour of great need. Now, at another critical moment, they bless us toward ecclesial maturity in Christ.
In our times of prayer and intercession, we have been mindful and keenly aware of the upcoming gathering of Primates in Canterbury next week. While we are grateful that our Primate, Archbishop Foley Beach, has been invited to attend, we recognize the magnitude of the challenge to restore Biblical faith and order to the Communion.
In light of the depth of the divisions in the Anglican Communion, we are deeply thankful for the partnership and solidarity we share with both our GAFCON partner Provinces and the Provinces of the Global South. Whatever the results of the meeting in Canterbury, we remain committed to sharing the transforming love of Jesus Christ in North America and beyond. It is our fervent hope that the defiant Provinces of the Communion will return to the historic faith, order, and practice.
We will continue to pray for the upcoming meeting, but, regardless of the outcome, we take joy in the knowledge of the future we share with those who remain committed to historic, Biblical, faith.
Many of our brothers and sisters live in the midst of terrible persecution. Living in the midst of issues and challenges of great measure, one could easily become overwhelmed, yet because of our position in Christ, we have great hope. We have hope in our future, because we share a godly fellowship that has faith in Christ and the power of the Gospel to bring change. In the words of St. Paul, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).