Reflections on the Lines Consecration by James Oakley

 

Reflections on the Lines Consecration by James Oakley

Author: 

James Oakley

On Friday 30th June, at 4pm UK time, the Anglican Church of North America held a very special service to close their Provincial Assembly. Canon Andy Lines was consecrated bishop. In a previous post, I wrote about the lead-up and background to this.

By the wonders of modern technology, it was possible to watch the whole service live-streamed on Facebook. I tuned in, and found the whole service most encouraging. I'd like to share why.

These are personal reflections drawing out the features of the service that I found particularly heart-warming. (I make no claim that these are, objectively, the best bits, and "all views are my own" certainly applies).

Some Source Material

Before I make my remarks, here are a few bits of source material.

You may wish to read the ACNA post about it. There's also a press release from GAFCON from the day after.

There's a 2-minute interview with Andy Lines from immediately after the consecration:

For as long as the live-stream video is still on Facebook, you can watch the entire service here:

So, then:— My 6 personal "best bits" of last Friday's service:

1. Public

The event was public. "It was not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). Indeed, very much the opposite.

The service of consecration was announced well beforehand. Not all of the bishops taking part were primates, and some of the others used the time to inform their primates that they intended to attend. For example, you can read letters by Archbishop Glenn Davies of Sydney and by Rt Revd Dr Richard Condie of Tasmania.

A very different approach would have been to have consecrated Andy Lines as a bishop on the quiet, shortly following the Scottish Episcopal Church's Synod last month. After a few days with news awkwardly leaking that there might be a new bishop, this would then have been announced only as a fait accompli.

Instead it was done publicly, with Facebook live-streaming, and the world's media able to watch if they wished. This was nothing to be ashamed of; things were being done properly.

2. Marked by Integrity

Speaking of things being done properly, the whole service was marked by great integrity.

The GAFCON primates had decided that they wished to support a consecration of Andy Lines. However the ACNA College of Bishops had not yet given their assent to have Andy join their number. During the week before the consecration, I heard Andy speak of how he had been questioned by the College as to his beliefs and his conduct. The ACNA bishops wanted to satisfy themselves that he was a man they wanted to have as bishop in their church.

The oaths Andy took before and during the service were the same ones that would have been taken by any ACNA bishop who was to serve domestically.

"Andy, the Holy Scriptures and the ancient canons require that we should not be hasty in laying on hands, and in admitting any person to authority in the church of Christ, which he purchased with no less than the shedding of his own blood. So before we admit you to this office, we will examine you in certain articles, in order that this congregation here may know how you will conduct yourself in the church of God." (Archbishop Foley Beach)

This was not a pragmatic affair, in which someone thoroughly unsuitable was pressured: "You be our leader". After all the proper enquiries and legalities, Canon Andy Lines was found to be a man of great integrity. It gave the bishops of ACNA no greater joy than to add him to their number.

3. International and Unifying

The consecration took place on United States soil. However this was not an event with a mere three bishops taking part. There was a clear show of support from the worldwide Anglican church.

That's a lot of hands! It was hard to see exactly which bishops took part in the consecration itself; so many were crowded round, and the camera angle was not chosen to facilitate an ID parade. At least the primates of Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, South Sudan, South East Asia, ACNA and Myanmar took part. Then there were a number of other bishops (the Archbishop of Sydney, the Bishop of Tasmania, and the Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East). Then we could list at least 3 retired primates, the Primus of the Free Church of England, and probably many more. They spanned 5 continents, and there was an impressive display of flags at the front of the chapel where the consecration took place.

Any Christian should weep when they see churches disunited, denominations fragmenting, multiple Christian churches in an area refusing to work together. We're called to make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Sometimes, such fractures are necessary because of false teaching, but that does not take away the sadness and the pain.

How refreshing to see a truly worldwide gathering of bishops, clergy and lay people gathered from every continent to worship with one voice, and to see a new bishop ordained into the church of God. This is the kind of foretaste of the heavenly worship of every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9) that the worldwide Anglican church should be.

4. Missionary-focused

One definite highlight for me was the sermon by Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop of Abuja and Primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria. Quite simply, it was the most biblically faithful charge that Rt Revd Andy Lines could have wanted to set him on the right course. However it was more than that. It was an outward-looking, missionary-focused address. As such, it served to encourage any minister of the gospel who is working away in their little corner of the planet. His text was Matthew 28:16-20.

Here are a few excerpts:

"There were also, in the history of human beings, the challenges thrown up by the renaissance, and after that the enlightenment and also the industrial revolution. For Africa, there was the challenge of the slave trade, and also some very terrible traditions, such as killing of twins, burial of kings with living human beings, obnoxious widowhood rights, and other ungodly traditions. But we praise God because of the Jesus revolution.

"The universal challenges of today include some of these: the climate change, increase in violence and terrorism, human sexuality palaver, the fierce spirit of independence, freedom and human rights, migration, hunger, poverty, disease — including HIV and AIDS, and of course nuclear threats. In all the ages and challenges mentioned above, it was never easy for the men and women who had to speak in the name of God and make disciples."

Sometimes, people accuse GAFCON of focussing on human sexuality as if it were the only issue that matters. As the above quotation shows, this is a caricature. The focus here was on the call to make disciples of all nations, and the many contemporary challenges to that call.

Archbishop Okoh issued a call to preach the real Jesus Christ, and to resist the temptation to water him down in an attempt to make him more palatable. In particular, we mustn't remove "repentance" from the gospel.

"People of God. It's not true, and will never be true, then when we water down the gospel message, more people will accept the church. It's not true, and will never be true. {Applause} In fact, I am convinced that the opposite is the truth. That when we concentrate on delivering the message of Jesus Christ, people will be cut to the heart and say, 'Brothers and sisters, what do we do?' And they will repent.

"Christianity without repentance is not true Christianity. We can not say any less to you, our brother Andy, and to all of us. For all of us today, in one way or the other, are being sent out like our brother is being sent out."

The focus of the sermon was missional — the need to go and make disciples.

"You are to go, to raise new disciples, and bring them in as heirs of the eternal kingdom of God, through the sacrament of holy baptism, in the name of the divine Trinity. And you are to teach, to teach. This is a ministry that is fast dying out in favour of ceremonies. Instead of teaching the people, ceremony is gaining the ascendency. Please teach! To refute erroneous doctrines, and uphold the true word of God. In the words of Jude verse 3: 'I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend to the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's people.' You are to contend for the faith that has been entrusted to the church. This is to contend to ensure that falsehood does not prevail. It is your duty to ensure that that is done."

There is a need to take heed to ourselves and to our hearers. This means being aware of the dangers of false teaching. We live in "a slippery world", and if we're not careful "we end up on the floor". Here's why false teaching is so dangerous:

"As you go, beware of false teaching. Always bearing in mind that in most cases heresy, false teaching, is not necessarily an outright falsehood, but an ingenious mixture of truth and falsehood, like a creature that is partly an animal and partly a human being. It takes the discernment, the spirit of discernment, to be able to recognise, and to be able to know what to do. You are to flee from such teaching."

The call to gospel ministry is a call to suffer.

"Remember that our Lord Jesus Christ suffered vicariously, and you can't do any less. There is vicarious suffering in it. In John's Gospel it is written, in 10:11, 15, 17: 'I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, I lay down my life for the sheep. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life." So there is great risk attached to this errand, brother. It could cost anything."

He then reminds of the suffering of the prophets of old, of Cranmer Latimer and Ridley, the Ugandan martyrs, of some Christians in Nigeria, and of the recent history of ACNA.

"Dedicate your whole ministry to the Holy Spirit, not just a segment of it. So preach in the power of the Spirit! Pray in the power of the Spirit! Call down the power of God in the name of the Spirit. And it will revolutionise your church. When that happens, the dead will rise — the dead all around us! The blind's eyes will be opened to see what had not been seen, to hear what had not been heard, to understand what had not been understood. Follow it!"

His sermon ended with a call from Haggai to be strong, because God says "I am with you", as Jesus promised in Matthew 28.

"God has never disappointed anybody. And he will not disappoint you. So, Andy Lines, keep going. Keep moving. Jesus, our Lord, who is sending you today, is himself the chief missioner. And he's always in it to make you more than a conqueror. And what is more, 'I am with you' — as a person, with your family, with all of us. When the contention is over, when we arrive on the other shore, in the brightness of God's holy presence, in his eternal felicity, he will be with us. Yes! 'I am with you to the close of the age!'"

5. English

Yes, the event took place on American soil. Yes, it was thoroughly international in character. However Bishop Andy is English, and is being sent by ACNA to serve in Europe with a particular initial focus in Scotland.

There were a number of touches to the service that ensured the English context was not lost. It was good to hear Bible readings from Robin Weekes, incumbent at Emmanuel Wimbledon. Another was ready by Mandy, Andy Lines' wife.

However the big encouragement was the personal message of support by two serving Church of England bishops. Before evangelicals in SEC turned to GAFCON for support, they approached the English archbishops for support. None was forthcoming. Apart from Justin Welby's unwelcome reminder about the dangers of border crossing, no English bishop had broken ranks to speak in support of Canon Andy Lines' forthcoming consecration.

So how delightful to hear Archbishop Foley Beach read out these words:

"I received this morning an email from two bishops in England. I'd like to read it to you.

To Archbishop Foley Beach, and those gathered for the consecration of Andy Lines as bishop in the Anglican Church in North America.

Archbishop Foley, we send greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ as you have invited us to attend the consecration and we cannot do so. We remember with joy our fellowship at the Global South conference in Cairo in October 2016. We pray for you today, especially for Canon Andy Lines, consecrated as a bishop in the church of God. It has been good to meet and pray with Andy in recent years, and to know his heart for the gospel and the witness of the church. Please pray for us in the Church of England, for faithfulness and fruitfulness in these days.

With love in Christ, Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, and Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead."

6. Anglican

What does it mean to be Anglican? There are a host of answers to that question. First and foremost we trace our identity back to the Book of Common Prayer, and in particular to the 39 Articles of Religion and the Ordinal within. From there you can read the doctrines that all faithful Anglicans should believe, and that Anglican churches should practice (whether they still use the 1662 liturgies, or whether they've adopted modern ones that remain faithful to that heritage).

However there is a style of worship that is recognisable to people who have worshipped in Anglican churches the world over. Different Anglican churches will incorporate this style to varying degrees, but nevertheless there was no doubt at all watching this service: It was Anglican.

As an Anglican who truly enjoys worshipping in the Anglican style, it was lovely to see traditional Anglican worship done well. It had reverence and yet was full of the Spirit, it was liturgical and yet heartfelt.

This was a service that included a liturgy that was recognisable as that for the consecration of a bishop (including singing Veni Creator). It included the sharing of the peace, and the gospel reading with a reverent yet not idolatrous procession; bishops and other ministers were smartly dressed in matching Anglican robes. We opened with a procession led in by the cross, followed by the collect for purity. Prayers were led in the "litany" style, there were multiple readings from Scripture including the psalms. Amongst the hymns was For All the Saints, by the former Bishop of Wakefield, William Walsham How. There were many other identifiably Anglican features.

This was not low-church non-conformity, merely borrowing Anglican credentials for its identity. This was not quasi-Roman Catholicism, trying to appeal more broadly by calling itself anglo-catholic. It was, quite simply, red-blooded, full-bodied Anglican worship, and it was wonderful. It was uplifting to watch and listen via Facebook; it would have been even more joyful to have been there in person.

What Else?

Those were my 6 personal encouragements from that service. I'm sure there were many other things I could have said. I said at the beginning that these are personal reflections, simply what I most appreciated.

Was there something that you particularly appreciated seeing? Do leave a comment.

Reprinted with the author's permission from oakleys.org.uk
 
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