January 8-12 marked the tenth time that Sally and I, with Bishop Quigg and Annette, have gathered with the ACNA bishops and wives for fellowship, teaching, and daily worship, and to do our collective work in council together. By now, it has become a bi-annual reunion of good friends and colleagues, a familiar and blessed collegium.
The regular pattern includes a daily Eucharist and lots of reports during the week. We hear from the archbishop, leaders of major categories of our collective ministry (e.g., ecumenical affairs, international activities, etc.), leaders of specific task forces and initiatives (catechism, liturgy, youth ministry, etc.), and leaders of core operational systems (communications, finance, etc.). Many of the reports call for on-the spot discussion, prayer, decision, and action. Imagine a parish annual meeting, or a Diocesan synod, on steroids, stretching for 3½ full days, in a retreat setting, surrounded by huddles of people talking about issues.
I know, many of you read that and think “I’d rather have three root canals!” But hold on. Take the “most boring” aspect of such a scene – dozens of reports. These reports come from people who have a deep passion and calling to specific ministries. Each of them represents teams of people who have put in countless hours to do the work of God in our Province. Almost never has any report, in any area, dipped into procedural swamps or bureaucratic mazes. They come with heart and love for Jesus and his Gospel. They are about people, by people, for the sake of people. They are filled with stories of answered prayer, or calls for renewed and strengthened prayer in the face of challenges.
Something else that always happens is teaching. This January, we had our minds opened by a presentation on the history of racism and the church from Dr. Albert Thompson, an African-American academic who attends an ACNA church. If you want a new (and biblical) way to see this issue, take time to watch this: https://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/1594
Let me tell you three stories that give more flavor of our meetings. On one end was one of our most “spiritual” activities – electing (or not) an assisting bishop for the Special Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy. We committed a ½-day to this crucial responsibility. The examination of the candidates was friendly but pulled no punches. The testimonies of the two men were powerful, but what about core issues of theology? What about their vision for their work? How do they understand and articulate this call? What happens if the other is elected?
At the end of the 2+ hours of examination, the College continued in discussion and prayer for another 90 minutes. Through our examination, we had come to realize the profound need to care and equip chaplains who serve in military bases scattered all over the world. We heard stories of chaplains ministering in cases of extreme PTSD or serving families whose spouse / parent is lost or permanently disabled by enemy fire. We heard two men whose love and commitment to the chaplains is clear. As we prayed, there was a genuine move of the Spirit. We were surprised at what unfolded, but we were completely united: we decided to elect both – two assisting bishops rather than one. We rejoiced, celebrating the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit among us.
Go to the other extreme of our work, being schooled on congregational reporting from every church in each Diocese. (I hear the groans.) But the heart of Canon Andrew Gross to see the stories and messages behind the statistics, and to enable us to connect and communicate well, reflects the heart of Jesus. Andrew’s humor made even that work fun, and out of it came a discussion (stories) about encouraging clergy to finish this work well. (I am proud that the Diocese of Christ our Hope is one of the Dioceses that does best at this. Kudos to our team!)
Finally, a third story: We heard reports from three bishops who had to intervene in crises of clergy failure. These were hard, sad stories, laden with warnings to all of us about proactively guarding and protecting the Church. Nevertheless, as tough as this was, faithful intervention of godly bishops brought redemptive grace and protection for victims and sufferers, peaceful order to local churches, and in most cases the opportunity for repentance and a meaningful future (out of the ministry) for those who had failed. Altogether these reports united the College in renewed determination and prayer for holiness and integrity.
I share this report to encourage you that we are part of a Province that does good, godly Gospel work from the local parish to the College. The bishops of the ACNA are honest and committed enough to be agents of growth and healing amongst ourselves, as a College, and to carry health into every aspect of the leadership of our Dioceses. They are trustworthy, godly men who take the call to shepherd Christ’s flock with eternal seriousness.
Here’s a link to the official communique: https://www.anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/1583 As you read, remember that underneath this clipped summary is a week of great, prayer-filled work by bishops for the glory of Jesus and the sake of his Church.