“Forward, Always Forward, Everywhere Forward” – Foley Beach
It is with great joy that I stand before you tonight as the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America.
This is a sacred trust. I do not take this assignment from God lightly, but pray daily that I will be a good servant and steward of the task he has placed before us; that I will be faithful, and that I will be diligent to the task ahead.
I hope you will continue to pray for me and pray for Allison as we travel this journey together.
We did not arrive where we are tonight by accident. Many who are here tonight, especially from around the world, have made it possible that we even have an Anglican Church in North America.
We have with us Archbishop Greg Venables, the bishop of Argentina and the former Primate of the Province of the South Cone, who was willing (and at that time with the encouragement of the Archbishop of Canterbury) to offer Provincial Oversight and Care to many of us in the States.
His leadership, his courage, and his foresight – all the way from Argentina, created a way for Biblically faithful Anglicans in North America to remain Anglican and under spiritual authority by inviting us to come under the Province of the Southern Cone in South America.
I, along with Fr. Lin Watts, took him up on that offer and became canonically resident in the Diocese of Bolivia, under Bishop Frank Lyons, who served as a faithful and dedicated pastor to us. Thank you, Greg Venables. Thank you, Frank Lyons. You both brought hope where there was none.
Other Provinces also helped: Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, West Africa, offering lifeboats for faithful Anglicans all across Canada and the United States. In 2008 the first Global Anglican Future Conference (what we now call GAFCON) was held in of all places, Jerusalem, the birthplace of Christian Faith.
This gathering produced the Jerusalem Declaration. This Declaration, not only stated in clear terms what faithful Biblical Anglicanism is now in the 21st Century, but it also called for the creation of a new Anglican Province in North America.
The next year, in 2009, in Bedford, Texas, the Anglican Church in North America was officially birthed.
The Church of Nigeria, the largest Province in the Anglican Communion, immediately recognized us and entered into full communion with us as fellow Anglicans. The Church of Uganda, the second largest Province in the Anglican Communion, did the same and became the first Province to release all their congregations into the newly established Province.
One by one, Churches from around the world released their American clergy and congregations to become full members, along with the Reformed Episcopal Church (which was founded in 1873).
What began as a confederation and coalition of various Anglican churches has now evolved into a vibrant, missional Province with the purpose of reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. This Anglican Movement is positioned to impact the Continent of North America with the powerful and life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ in a tremendous way.
Aslan is on the move as we see people all over the Americas drawn to what God is doing in our midst.
I give thanks to God that we have here tonight the Primates of numerous Anglican Provinces Representing the Provinces of
Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, South America, Myanmar,
Egypt, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and Jerusalem. We also have representatives sent by the Primates of Southeast Asia, Congo and Sudan. And we have bishops here from South Sudan, Argentina and Brazil.
All are here tonight to put their ‘Amen’ on our proceedings and affirm their communion with us as fellow Anglicans in the Anglican Communion. Actually, this group of leaders not only represents all of the largest Provinces in the Anglican Communion, but also the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide. We are blessed to have you here! And We are blessed to be ministry partners with you, sharing the Good News of Jesus around the world.
We also have numerous ecumenical guests with us tonight – with their presence or in their prayers… who are partnering with us in various ways to bear witness of the Good News of Jesus Christ in North America! All to put an exclamation point and an affirmation to what God is doing in our midst! We are blessed to have you here!
Our first Archbishop, Robert Duncan, was God’s instrument to bring us to where we are. I compare his ministry to that of King David, King of the nation of Israel. If you know your Bible history, before David there was no nation of Israel. King Saul ruled over various alliances but in reality, there were a bunch of tribes, scattered and obstinate, divided, and competitive. But David was able to bring the tribes together and unite them to build a kingdom which sought to honor and worship the Lord God Almighty.
Archbishop Bob brought the various Anglican tribes together and has wrought us into a united movement for the Lord. David had 40 years; Archbishop Bob only had 5 years. Thank you Archbishop Bob for all you have done for us. Thank you for the sacrifices and selfless service you have given. Thank you for standing tall for the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Today, we are now a united Church – not a uniform Church, but A united church. We don’t all agree on everything, but we agree on the essentials of the faith. We agree on the authority of the Bible. We agree on the person of Jesus Christ. We agree on the means of salvation. We are all in the same boat; Traveling in the same river; Headed in the same direction. We are united, but not uniform.
You know, Anglicanism has never been uniform – it is actually always been one of our strengths as a movement and as a Tradition of Christian Faith. When I think back to the English reformation – it depended on who was the King as to whether you stayed alive.
I think about Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Jewell, Lancelot Andrews, Hooker, Whitfield, Wesley, Newman, Keeble, Pusey, C.S. Lewis, John Stott, J.I. Packer, Oz Guiness. We have always been a diverse lot! And we are today.
The flags you see before you were brought here tonight to represent all the countries from where we have guests here for the service. But upon further reflection, it is clear that we actually have people from all those nations who are now citizens of the U.S. or Canada or Mexico and are active members in our churches in the Anglican Church in North America.
In reality – if we had a flag from every country where this is the case, there would A LOT more flags. We are a diverse lot. We are united, but not uniform.We are Evangelical. We are Anglo-Catholic. We are Charismatic. We are high church. We are low-church. We are contemporary. We are traditional. We are classical.
We are the body of Jesus Christ called Anglicans who have been given a mission to minister in North America. We have our part to play in the Great vision of God for the nations on this continent.
Yes, we are diverse, but we are all in the same river, headed in the same direction. To me, it seems like what heaven is going to be like – folks from all kinds of perspectives who love the Lord Jesus and served him on planet earth.
When we gathered in June and I was elected the new Archbishop and Primate, I was asked to preach at the closing Eucharist of the Assembly. If you were there, you may remember that the Lord gave us all a charge in the words of Archabbot Boniface, the founder the monastery of St. Vincent Arch Abbey – where we gathered for our summer Assembly:
“Forward, Always Forward, Everywhere Forward”
As I have sought the Lord about how he wants us to go forward with this Anglican Movement, I have been brought to the kind of Church I believes he wants us to be.
It’s actually no surprise if you know your New Testament. If we are going to be a Holy Spirit-filled Church in the 21st Century, an ancient Church for the modern era, a Church which is faithful to the Biblical witness, a movement that honors the Traditions of our Church Fathers, a Church which is missional and can impact North America with the transforming Love of Jesus Christ, a Church which exhibits the power of the Holy Spirit in our corporate life and ministry.
What is the kind of Church that He wants us to be? I’m sure there are many things we could say in answer to this question, but I am going to have the audacity to use an historic term to help us move forward together in the power of the Holy Spirit, as we seek to make the Father famous, and glorify Jesus Christ.
I will call these the “Four Marks of Continuing a Spirit-filled Movement” or rather “Four Marks of Modern Anglicanism”
You see, we could go on playing Church and being religious and make no impact spiritually in our world. Yes, we could be married to our forms and traditions and remain a holy huddle in the midst of an ever-increasing secular society. This, however, would quench the Holy Spirit.
We are not and cannot be the Church as we have known it in the past. We must be a living Body engaged with the people around us. We must be the Temple of the Holy Spirit exhibiting the fruit and gifts of the Spirit in all we do. We must honor Jesus in all we do and all we say. We must have a culture that frees the Holy Spirit to do His Work in us and through us.
The First Mark of Modern Anglicanism is that we must be a Repenting Church.
After all, this is the message we have received in the Gospel. Remember the message of John the Baptist: Repent
Mt.3:2 – Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Remember the message of Jesus: Repent
Mt.4:17 – From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Remember the message of the Apostle Peter – at the end of his Pentecost sermon and the people were asking, “what must we do?”
Acts 2:38 – Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children…
Remember the words of Apostle Paul when he was addressing the people of Athens in
Acts 17:22 – The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands people everywhere to repent.
He went on to write to the Romans…
Romans 2:4 – Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
We are called to be a repenting Church. That is, we must be a repenting people of God; a group of repenting followers of Jesus. When God shows us our sin, we must turn from it and return to the Lord.
Isn’t this what repent means? Literally, it means to change your mind.
St. John of Dasmacus: Repentance is returning from the unnatural to the natural state, from the devil to God, through discipline and effort.
I know…here in the south, people will say that is how you become a believer – and it is – we repent of our sins and follow Jesus.
Because of God’s love for us, Because of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Because of his resurrection and the promise of eternal life, we change our minds (repent) about living for me, myself and I, and begin to live for Jesus. And this does lead to salvation.
But this repentance doesn’t stop when one is born again or comes into a relationship with God through Jesus;
It’s a day by day, moment by moment reality.
When a person comes to faith in Jesus, God does a wonderful and amazing thing – he places within the person the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit begins to teach you, guide you, reveal to you the ways of God, change your thinking, and he also begins to reveal to you your sin.
As God the Holy Spirit reveals to you your sin – usually through His Word, you then have a choice — continue in the sin, or change your mind (repent) and begin to believe the behavior or attitude is a sin – and turn from it! This is repentance. He is constantly showing me my sin –and unless I repent, I quench the Holy Spirit in my life and in my ministry. 1 Thess.5:19.
As God shows us our sin, we must turn from it and return to the Lord, or we quench the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.
St. Paul of the Cross: Should we fall into a sin, let us humble ourselves sorrowfully in his presence, and then, with an act of unbounded confidence, let us throw ourselves into the ocean of his goodness, where every failing will be cancelled and anxiety turned into love.
We are called to be a repenting Church. I call on our bishops to repent. I call on our priests to repent. I call on our deacons to repent. I call on our vestry members to repent. I call on our musicians to repent. I call on all the laity to repent.
God loves you. God cares for you. It truly is his kindness which leads us to repentance. It’s for our good. It’s so he can shower us with His grace. This is part of what we confess as Anglicans.
Isn’t this what we pray each week when we pray the General Confession? If you pray the Daily Office, you pray it twice a day every day…
“We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent” or some version of this – depending on the liturgy.
As we confess our sins, we tell God that we are sorry, and that we humbly repent. Yet, do we? The question each of us must ask ourselves: “Is there something in my life which the Lord has shown me of which I must repent?”
As a Province and as believers, unless we repent of our sins, we quench the Holy Spirit in our amidst. If we are going to be the Church, the people of God, the Lord wants us to be, we must be a repenting Church.
The Second Mark of Modern Anglicanism is that we must be is a Reconciling Church.
When I speak of reconciliation, I am not talking about being reconciled with the world, or with sin, or with sinful behavior or giving up one’s principles or compromising Biblical Truth in order to be reconciled. However, the Scriptures do tell us that we are all ministers of reconciliation and that we are to be reconciled with each other.
This reconciliation is based on the cross of Jesus, on the Truth in the Scriptures, and on the Tradition handed down to us by the Church Fathers. To be reconciled means there was once a problem.
The Australia Anglican scholar, Leon Morris: “Reconciliation properly applies not to good relations in general but to the doing away of an enmity, the bridging over of a quarrel. It implies that the parties being reconciled were formerly hostile to one another.”
This was true with us, and The Lord. This is also true with too many of God’s people with each other. For real reconciliation to take place, you must remove the enmity – the source of the quarrel. We may apologize for our actions. We may pay back money we owe. We may return something which we borrowed.
We may make restitution for the damage we have done. In every situation there must be a dealing with the root cause of the enmity. In other words, there is no true reconciliation without repentance.
Jesus died on the cross to put away our sin; he removed the enmity between humanity and God. He opened the door for all human beings to come back to God. He made it possible for us to be reconciled to God through faith.
There is another aspect of reconciliation, however, and if this is not addressed in our lives and in our congregations, the Holy Spirit is grieved. The Apostles John addresses this in 1 John in several ways. Here is one: I John 4:20 – If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
God has called us to be a reconciling church; a people who are reconciled with God through Jesus Christ and who are reconciled with one another.
Doesn’t Jesus tell us that this is one of our biggest witnessing tools to unbelievers – our love for one another? And yet, people wound us, people get mad and say bad things, family members hurt us. Friends go back on their word. Godly people get out of the Spirit and in the flesh and do things or say things which offend us.
This happens in congregations, too – we are all human and too many times our sinfulness is brought into spiritual situations, and we can make a big mess of things. I know I have.
The biggest problem we have in being reconciled with others is our unwillingness to forgive. Unforgiveness sets in. Resentment begins to grow. Bitterness creeps in. And before long, Unforgiveness has so grieved the Holy Spirit in one’s life that there is no joy or peace, and it affects everything you do.
A simple test that you haven’t forgiven someone and you are not reconciled. You see the person walking your direction at some event – maybe a party or down the hall at church – and you turn and go the other direction because you don’t want to see them. Or you hear their name come up in a conversation, and you say, or want to say, something negative about them.
Brother and sisters, this must not be! We are called to be a reconciling Church. To be reconciled doesn’t mean you are always going to agree about everything. To be reconciled doesn’t mean you necessarily even agree about the facts of what happened. To be reconciled means that you value the Lord and each other so much, that you are willing to acknowledge your own part in the situation, repent, and you are willing to forgive and move on.
I know there are times when you have done everything you can to be reconciled with someone and they will have none of it. When you have done all you can do, you forgive them and release them to the Lord. But this is not the case with most of our un-reconciled relationships? For most of us, there is work we need to do in order to be reconciled with our sister or brother.
When we avoid this or ignore this, the Holy Spirit is grieved. Isn’t this is what we confess each week? When we pass the peace each Sunday, what are we symbolizing? We are not just greeting our neighbor, I am visibly, outwardly saying that to the best of my ability, I am reconciled with my brother or sister – before I come to the Table of the Lord.
We are called to be a reconciling Church. If not, we grieve the Holy Spirit. When we do, we can see the power of the Holy Spirit released.
You may not think it affects your life. You may not think it affects your other relationships. You may not think it affects your ministry. But it does! It grieves the Holy Spirit and His Power is diminished in your life.
Ephesians 4:30f – And do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
So the question which must be asked: Is there someone or a “bunch of someones” with whom I need to be reconciled? God is calling us to be a reconciling Church.
A Third Mark of Modern Anglicanism is we are called to be a Reproducing Church. Just as in the creation story when God told humanity to be fruitful and multiply, Jesus commissioned his disciples before he ascended to do the same.
Matthew 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you to end of the ages.
We are called to be a reproducing church – a disciple-making church. This is the major reason God gives us the Holy Spirit. Remember his words after this in Acts 1. Go into Jerusalem, and wait for the gift of My Father. And then says,
Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to end of the earth.
The power of the Spirit is related to the commission to Go and make disciples. Do we really think that God will continue to pour out his Spirit if we are not obeying his commission?
Jesus says here that we are to go. They will rarely come to us. We must go. We must get out of the four walls of our church and go. We must get out from in front of the television or the computer screen and go. We must go.
We have a lot of Anglicans who are ministering overseas on other continents. Our reception this evening after the service is sponsored by Anglican Global Mission Partners, a network of 35 different Anglican ministries doing Global mission. Added to this are many congregations and individuals across the Province who are going to other nations with the Gospel.
Added to this is the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, which provides resources to Anglican ministries overseas to help them with projects to share the love of Jesus.
It is incredible the impact these ministries are making, and we need more people who are willing to go. But our primary mission field is North America – Canada, the United States, Mexico. And God has brought much of the world to us – right into our neighborhoods and communities.
And you and I need to go. We need to go to people in our world – our sphere of influence. The people we work with, the people we have fun with, the people down the street. We need to go to our next door neighbors. Do you even know your neighbors’ names?
What would happen if your congregation took seriously the neighborhood around your church? Challenge yourself to draw a circle of a one-mile radius around where your congregation meets, and get to know your neighbors. We must go.
The fish are not going to just jump into our boat. We must go fishing where the fish are. Go and make disciples. Disciples are followers of Jesus, disciples walk with the Lord. Disciples know their Bibles. Disciples know how to pray and commune with the Lord. Disciples know the importance of worship and gathering at the Lord’s Table. Anglican Disciples know their Bibles and their catechism.
Friends, we are called to be a reproducing Church. So the question which must be asked is this: Who is my Timothy? Who is my Mary? Who am I discipling?
The 4th Mark of Modern Anglicanism is that we are called to be a Relentlessly Compassionate Church.
2 Cor.5:14 – The love of Christ compels us!
1 Tim. 1:5 – The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Galatians 5:22 – The fruit of the Spirit is love.
Jesus, in the second Great Commandment: Love your neighbor as yourselves.
Do you know what most unbelievers out there think we feel toward them? They think we hate them. They think we despise them. They think we judge them. They think we don’t care about them.
Now, obviously, they don’t know us very well because that is not true. But this is our problem, not theirs. God calls us to be relentlessly compassionate to the people in our world.
Let me challenge you pray a very dangerous prayer: “Lord, open my eyes to see the hurt and the pain in the people around me.”
Don’t pray this unless you are ready to be compassionate. Don’t pray this unless you are ready to care.
People all around us are suffering immensely. People have wounded family relationships. People are living in sexual brokenness and misery. People are financially burdened and overwhelmed. People are addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, and money. People are exhausted and can’t get off the merry-go-round, and the black-hole just gets deeper and deeper with no way out.
People have medical conditions which sap all their strength and creativity, or they live in constant pain. They are craving a little compassionate care. They are craving a better way.
We have the answer for their needs. We have the answer for the drug addict. We have the answer for the porn addict… financially broken, emotionally and physically abused, those living a life of poverty – his name his Jesus.
He cares for them and desires to help them. He deeply wants a relationship with them and to lead them into meaningful life.
However, this Jesus expects his body to be His Body in the towns, villages, cities, and neighborhoods in which we live.
His arms. His legs. His voice. His ears. His heart.
We are not and cannot be the Church as we have known it.
We must be a living Body engaged with the people around us.
We must be the Temple of the Holy Spirit exhibiting the fruit and gifts and power of the Spirit in all we do.
If our western culture continues to slide down the waterfall into the abyss, may it not be said of the ACNA that we sat still and did nothing. May it not be said that we did not pray and fast for our nations. May it not be said that we didn’t reach out to our neighbors in love. May it not be said that we didn’t love our enemies into the Kingdom of God. May it not be said that we did not do all we could to do to reach our friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers with the transforming love of Jesus.
But we must know who they are. We must know why they hurt
We must know what their needs are. We must pray for them and love them and share Jesus with them. This is not an option anymore.
It is our mission taken directly from vision of Jesus in the New Testament. His purpose has not changed. His directive has not changed.
We are to be a relentlessly compassionate Church.
Brothers and Sisters, we are called to serve God and follow him in an incredible time in human history. He has equipped us with His Word, and empowered us with the Holy Spirit. The harvest is plentiful. The fields are ripe for the harvest.
By the way, did you know that today is the first day of Sukkot? – the Jewish feast of Tabernacles; the ingathering of the harvest?
Forward. Everywhere forward. Always forward! And as we go forward, let us go forward as a repenting Church, a reconciling Church, a reproducing Church, a relentlessly Compassionate Church.