The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
ACNA Provincial Council Address
June 15, 2021
For we know that in all things God works for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
It a joy to be here at The Cove and have you here in person for this 2021 Provincial Council meeting. The Provincial Team was wondering if we should meet in person, and I am so glad the Lord led us to be here. We actually sold out the housing! We are saddened that our Canadian sisters and brothers still cannot be present, but they are with us online. Let us remember to pray for them as they are still locked down pretty tight. Please know that we are praying for you and look forward to seeing your faces soon.
What a year this has been! The Lord has been ever-present. It has been challenging, but Jesus is still Lord, and He is still on the Throne.
Most of you here probably have a car, and like I do, drive most days in order to do what you have to do in your life. When I crank up my car each morning and back out of the garage, before I can look out of the wind-shield in front, I have to look in the rear-view mirror to see what’s behind me. As I look in the rear-view mirror of the Province during this past year, I see a number of things to call to your to attention.
As I look back, I can’t help but see Covid-19. The pandemic continues to rear its ugly head in parts of the world, but fortunately, here in North America, it seems to be running its course. Unquestionably, the pandemic was a hard and difficult time for nearly every person on the planet. We know that the death count for the pandemic is almost more than we can comprehend: almost 170 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and close to 3.5 million deaths worldwide. There were over 800,000 deaths here in North America alone.
In talking to our brothers and sisters in India and Bangladesh, the pandemic is reaping devastating results. Uganda recently went on a 42-day lockdown. When looking back, I think we have to admit that these 16 months had a heavy toll on all of us. I am deeply sorry for the loss of life that occurred throughout the Province. I truly am. We still have a number of people who are struggling physically because of their experience with Covid-19. I am also sorry for the cost of this pandemic on our churches, our leaders, and the mission to reach North America with the saving love of Jesus Christ.
And yet we see amazing ministry taking place; amazing resilience; amazing creativity. I am so grateful to our provincial, diocesan, and congregational leaders, both laity and clergy, who led valiantly in these days. The adaptive leadership you displayed to continue the ministry of the Gospel and to pastor people is truly inspiring. Most of our clergy are tired from the weight of continuous heavy decisions and issues around our ministries. They led well. I was so impressed that I sent a thank you gift to all of our clergy as an encouragement, all 3,000 of them.
I hope you, too, will be an encouragement to your priests and your bishops. Even though various parts of North America handled the pandemic differently, our congregations continued to meet as they were able and were faithful in pastoring their flocks, caring for the sick, and reaching out in their local communities. Church planting continues to occur and several of our dioceses are contemplating missionary districts. Despite all the challenges, it seems our folks are keeping on keeping on. And most surprisingly, people continued to give their tithes and offerings for God’s work in their local churches, communities, and throughout the world. Praise the Lord!
Social Unrest and the Internet
Another thing I see in the rear-view mirror is social unrest and the Internet. I think we saw the pandemic serve as a pressure-vent for much of the political or social unrest in the culture. People’s fear, frustration, anger, and concerns overflowed into the streets and the internet about all kinds of issues. We saw quite a cultural awakening, or some might say, a social upheaval in the past 15 months.
A number of terms were part of the 2020/2021 lexicon, and many have new definitions: racist, white supremacy, white privilege, systemic racism, cultural appropriation, Critical Race Theory, cancel culture, illiberal, woke, content modification, Christian nationalism, toxic masculinity. But what is most disconcerting to me is the tone, the vitriol, and the lack of Christian character displayed among Christians on social media. Frankly, as followers of Jesus we should be appalled by the broad labeling, assumptions, and condemning of whole groups of people, along with the mean and personal attacks on individuals.
Sisters and brothers, this is not the way of Jesus Christ.
It is one thing for unbelievers to put one another down, to cancel each other, and to treat others without respect and dignity, but there is no excuse for believers to do this, especially clergy.
Hear the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:29: “Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit.”
Hear the words of James 3:5: “The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell…. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Or Proverbs 12:18: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 2:15 what we followers of Jesus are supposed to be: “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved, and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
The sweet aroma of Jesus…
I have to be honest here. We are falling short; horribly short.
You and I are accountable before God for our words, whether spoken or written. Do not be mistaken by thinking we are not. We are. It is time to clean up our act! To repent!
One of the problems I see is that too many of our clergy are emoting rather than speaking with wisdom and thinking critically. We are supposed to be cultural thought-leaders, or at least attempting to be. I read so many angry tweets or responses to something in the news that were basically reflecting a non-critical repetition of what the media already said. Without doing any homework, research, or searching for the facts, people are emoting and reacting, many times in complete ignorance of the facts, through their tweets and comments on social platforms.
It is as if we don’t know our Bibles. In Proverbs 18:17, it says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” And in verse 13, it says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” To make matters worse, if you disagree with these emotional and uncritical comments, you are condemned and attacked. Then you are cancelled; that is, written off as not worthy of fellowship. In the Church of Jesus Christ this should never be the case unless we are following the biblical reasons for doing so, as we find in 1 Corinthians 5. Jesus and the Apostles constantly spoke of unity and oneness in the body, not of cancelling one another.
This raises another question we should ask ourselves as we pontificate to others: why do I think I am so important that I need to be publicly commenting anyway? Have you become so self-important and so self-aggrandizing that you think the world cannot live without your comments on every issue presented to us by the secular news media? St. James tells us in James 1:21, “Know this, my beloved brothers and sisters: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Don’t hear me wrong. I am not trying to shut down social media. I am not trying to shut down discussion and dialogue. I am trying to address our witness for Jesus on social media, and frankly, it is appalling. How can we expect others to want to follow Jesus when his followers are not following him, but rather are following their own egos?
Several years ago I put together a series of questions to ask ourselves before we make a post. It was entitled A Christian Code of Ethics for Using Social Media. You can find it on the provincial website. In summary, there are five questions to ask oneself before you post what you wrote. Is it the Truth? Have I talked to the person before I talk about the person? Will it benefit all concerned? Do my words reflect well on Jesus Christ? Will I have to confess what I wrote as a sin?
As I look in the rear-view mirror, I also see a lot of discussion, vitriol, and energy about various theories. So much so that they seem to dominate the discussion of the culture, and this secular thinking is creeping into the Church. Theories may be all well and good to help us begin comprehending a body of knowledge, but let us remember they are just that – theories.
I don’t know about you, but I attempt to base my life and ministry not on theories but on principles from the Word of God. As believers, our praxis is not theoretical; it is based on truth, the Truth: biblical principles from the Word of God.
How about two of the most important principles?
Jesus said this principle summarized the Law and Prophets: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-30). Treat others in the way you want to be treated, or as I learned it: do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12).
And what about these other principles? Ask and it will be given unto you; bless those who persecute you; seek and you shall find; pray for your enemies; greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends; love your enemies; give and it shall be given unto you; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not steal; you shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; love your enemies. I could go on.
These are principles (not theories) of the Gospel and of the Kingdom of God. Wouldn’t the Church of Jesus Christ be a better place if we practiced these principles, the words of Jesus? Wouldn’t society be a better place if we practiced these things?
Theories can be helpful. The one getting the most attention in the media, Critical Race Theory, has some things which are helpful, but it is also full of anti-biblical and anti-Christian rhetoric and assumptions. We know that the Bible teaches us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All races have sinned. Every person in every race has sinned. The Bible also teaches that adultery is a sin (Ex.20:14), but just because this is a sin and some people commit it, it doesn’t mean everyone is an adulterer. Racism is a sin, but this doesn’t mean that all people of certain races are racists and all institutions of certain countries are racist, as Critical Race Theory proclaims.
I grew up in an era where to view someone through the color of their skin and base my actions toward someone because of the color of their skin (or their race) was wrong. The Bible teaches this. If you remember, the Apostle Peter was confronted by God with his racism in Acts 10. Once convicted, he said, in Acts 10:34, “Truly, I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation (race) anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
The modern-day leader, preacher, and hero of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said it this way: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.” Secular theories leave God out of the equation and only in Christ will true racism be eliminated.
This is not a new problem, even for the Church. The Apostle Paul addresses the racial tensions between Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians 2:14: “For he himself is our peace, who made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” Bishop Ray Sutton, who is also the Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, one of our Sub-jurisdictions, gave some good, robust, biblical and theological meat in his address to his General Council regarding this very thing. It is well worth reading.
As I look back at this past year, we continued to confront our deficiencies regarding race, racism, and racial reconciliation. As a province, we are listening, but we are continuing to act intentionally, as we stated back in 2015. You may remember a number of us met in North Charleston, South Carolina, hosted by Bishops Al Gadsden and William White at New Bethel EMC Church. We met after the Ferguson shooting, just after a policeman shot a black man in North Charleston, not long after the tragic shootings at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, and in the midst of ongoing protests and riots in Baltimore. At that gathering, we said the following about our intentions as the Anglican Church in North America:
To this end we:
- Ask each congregation to pray and work for racial reconciliation in their community,
- Intend to develop a Provincial team to lead our multiethnic ministries and we encourage the development of regional networks to support those who are called to multi-ethnic church planting, evangelism, and discipleship,
- Invite dioceses and parishes to consider how they might actively develop more effective multi-ethnic leadership pipelines,
- Invite dioceses and parishes to make a financial commitment to supporting multi-ethnic leadership.
Out of this meeting came AMEN, the Anglican Multi-Ethnic Network, which is now led by Fr. Taylor Ishii. He took over from Canon Lawrence McElrath, who served as the Archbishop’s Canon and Chaplain but was called up to active duty and service in Afghanistan. AMEN’s purpose is stated as follows: “The Anglican multi-ethnic network (AMEN) is a group within the ACNA dedicated to encouraging the church to better embody the universal saving power of the gospel through planting multi-ethnic churches or increasing the presence of people of color in existing churches.”
In addition, out of this meeting came the Every Tribe and Nation Network initiative, which seeks to help those from other countries who now find themselves in North America, establish their own parishes and ministries within the ACNA. Thank you to Bishop Bill Murdoch who took the lead on this and recently handed his leadership role to Canon Leah Turner.
We are also in dialogue with several Black leaders who are seriously considering and working toward bringing their denominations into the ACNA. They discovered Anglicanism and would like to become part of us. The ACNA has an opportunity to get this right if we will make the effort.
So many communities in North America are now racially and culturally diverse, and if we are reaching our communities, then our congregations will become more and more diverse. Added to this, with so many newcomers to North America, we have an opportunity to reach people from all over the world. One example of this is our Cathedral in Loganville, Georgia. The last time I preached, I counted over 23 nationalities represented there. This is not unique in the ACNA.
Sisters and brothers, we are not perfect by any means in these controversial concerns, but we are attempting to be the Church of Jesus Christ in the age and time in which we find ourselves. We are attempting to look at all these issues through the lens of the Bible, not the popular culture.
When it comes to racial identity, sexual identity, or economic identity, as followers of Jesus we make a mistake if we focus on the specific identity in question. We get off-course when our focus becomes our race, our sexuality, or our economic status. When we are saved, when we are born again, and when we come to a place of following Jesus as our Savior and our Lord, he changes our identity. We become “Christ-ones,” children of God.
The Apostle John says it this way in John 1:12: “To as many who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God, who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh or of man, but of God.”
In Galatians 3:27, the Apostle Paul says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek (racial identity), there is neither slave, nor free (economic identity), there is no male or female (sexual identity), but you are all one in Christ Jesus.” He also writes in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Although we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”
When a person views his or her life from any perspective other than through the lens of being a child of God, his or her spiritual life will dry up. New gods and idols will then replace God Almighty as having ultimate authority and purpose. But our identity is in Christ and in what he did for us through his death and resurrection. It is in our faith in him, as we are adopted into his family. We are new creatures. We have been born again.
In the area of Provincial Affairs, you will hear more from Bishop John Guernsey, our Dean of Provincial Affairs, and Bishop-elect Alan Hawkins about our provincial initiatives and other administrative happenings going on in the Province. I would like to reiterate that we continue to attempt to be a “top-light” form of administration, only doing the things a diocese or local parish cannot do. We cannot speak to every issue and we cannot take on every ministry, yet there are some issues only a province can do.
I also want to speak to you about this time in which we read and hear so many moral failings happening among secular and Christian leaders. We hear of verbal, sexual, and physical abuse with children, young people, and vulnerable adults by leaders in various denominations and the misuse of funds by some Christian ministries. We are doing our best in the ACNA to be safe places for ministry of all kinds, for leaders you can trust with training, accountability, safe-guarding systems, and reporting systems in place if issues arise.
We are not perfect, as we are made up of imperfect men and women, but in the culture in which we find ourselves, where abuse, addiction, and abandonment is so abundant, all of us must be intentional about these issues, paying attention to signs of any kinds of abuse or misuse of power. From the local member and lay leaders in the congregation, to the deacon and priest, and even to our bishops, we must be diligent about promoting and upholding personal holiness and living and practicing biblical, Christian morality and ethics.
All this is to say that if you are not clear on your congregation’s safe-guarding policies, reach out to your rector and your bishop and find out. We must continue to keep our churches safe.
Here are some additional items for you to be aware of:
The Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplains began a ministry called Anglicans in Action to advocate for Religious Freedom. They have already stepped in and helped several important situations.
Archbishop’s School for Young Leaders (Next Generation Leadership and the Rev. Aaron Buttery) began its first session this week geared toward helping young leaders understand Christian leadership and what it means to be a leader in the Church.
This is the first year for the Archbishop’s Summer Essay Contest (sponsored by Anglican House). Information about how to participate in either the clergy track or the lay track was sent out and is now available on the Provincial website. This year, the topic is on the Biblical and Theological Perspective of Pandemics. Winners will receive cash prizes. This year’s judges are Austin Mansfield, Convener; Bishop Keith Ackerman; Dr. Tom Carmody, Vanguard University; Ashley Lobosier, Pepperdine University; Dr. Greg Peters, Biola University.
Anglican House released our New Gospel Book for the ACNA for use in our worship. The BCP 2019 and the Revised Catechism, To Be a Christian, are receiving amazing feedback from around the Province and around the Anglican Communion.
The College of Bishops approved Asbury Seminary’s Anglican Track as an official school of study for the ACNA. They join the Reformed Episcopal Seminary, Trinity School for Ministry, Nashotah House, Beeson Divinity School, Gordon-Conwell, and Regent College.
College of Bishops
You will also receive a report from Bishop Kevin Allen, Dean of College Affairs, about the College of Bishops. We were not able to meet in person (other than on Zoom) since the pandemic began, and we will meet in person beginning tomorrow afternoon.
This is a time of transition within the College as a number of our bishops retired or are retiring soon. We consecrated a new bishop for the Diocese of the Great Lakes, Mark Engel. We consecrated a new bishop for the Diocese of the Southwest, Steven Tighe. The Diocese of Christ Our Hope just completed an election, with Canon Alan Hawkins as bishop-elect. He will be interviewed by the College in June, and if consent is given, will be consecrated in November as Bishop Coadjutor. He committed to continue serving as COO of the Province until the end of my term.
The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina reduced the list of candidates still active in their process. They plan to elect this fall. The Gulf-Atlantic Diocese search committee is meeting and will elect in 2022. The Anglican Network in Canada is still receiving names for an election in Fall 2021. The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh began their process and will elect in 2022. The REC Diocese of the Southeast is in the process to elect a suffragan.
You probably read that during the past year I received into the ACNA Bishop John Howe, Bishop William Skilton, Bishop Bill Love, and Bishop Dan Herzog as retired bishops. Bishop John Howe is licensed in the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic by Bishop John Guernsey. Bishop William Skilton is licensed in the Diocese of South Carolina by Bishop Mark Lawrence. Bishop Dan Herzog is licensed in the Diocese of the Living Word by Bishop Julian Dobbs. Bishop Love applied to become a member of the College of Bishops and to serve in active episcopal ministry. He will be interviewed this week at the College of Bishops meeting where his future status will be determined.
One of my personal objectives as Archbishop is to encourage our bishops to reclaim the historic role of the teaching office of the bishop. Through their own diocesan channels of email, video, internet platforms, and teaching conferences, I hope that bishops will take up the mantle again that was dropped in the 20th Century. Collectively, as the College of Bishops, there are times when we will offer an official pastoral letter or statement to the Church, as we did on sexual identity this year and a few years ago on marriage. Canonically, scripturally, and ecclesiastically this is appropriate. We are not perfect, but we are prayerfully seeking the mind of Christ through the lens of Holy Scripture, our rich Tradition, and the culture in which we find ourselves.
The times we are in are challenging and confusing, and the bishops take this role seriously. People are not used to having bishops fulfilling their teaching role. They are used to running out on their own. That’s the American way: every man (or woman) for himself. But we are Anglicans, part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and the teaching of the bishops is important and critical. I hope they will keep working at it!
Internationally, you will hear from Bishop Bill Atwood, our Dean of International Affairs.
The pandemic continues to make traveling and ministry a challenge. Yet through email, texting, phone calls, Zoom, and Whatsapp, we were able to stay in touch with most of the leaders throughout the world.
I just returned from Cairo for the Installation of the new Archbishop and Primate, Samy Shehata. He replaced Mouneer Anis, who served as the Bishop of Egypt for the past 21 years, Archbishop of the Province of the Middle East and Jerusalem, and most recently, the Archbishop of new Province of Alexandria.
Next week, we will be hosting the Primate of Nigeria, Henry Ndukba, and his team in Atlanta for a time of fellowship and meetings. We are looking forward to this.
Gafcon, the Global Anglican Fellowship Conference, continues to work to share Christ faithfully to the nations. We had several primates meetings via Zoom and plans are underway for Gafcon 2023. We are hoping to gather in person in Dubai this September, the pandemic and the Lord permitting. We also give thanks to God for using modern medicine to bring healing from colon and liver cancer to the Gafcon General Secretary, Archbishop Ben Kwashi. He will be preaching at our Eucharist tomorrow night and leading the bishops in morning devotions at our meetings later this week.
I should also point out, and we give thanks to God for, the incredible hospitality offered by Bishop Quigg and Annette Lawrence in hosting Archbishop Ben and his wife, Gloria, in their home for the past 8 months. Not only did they help arrange the correct doctors and medical care, but they provided transportation and table fellowship for those many months. Thank you both for your fine example to all of us of what Christ-like Christianity is all about.
Sunday, June 27th is Gafcon Sunday throughout the Anglican Communion. We are asking that each person who attends worship that day contribute $1 for the ministry of Gafcon. Please encourage your priest to ask people to help us and forward their contribution to Gafcon. This is one practical way the average person in your congregation can impact the Global Church. One dollar. If we all participate, it will make a huge difference.
I also participated in the Primates’ Steering Committee of the Global South Fellowship and met with the primates yesterday morning at 7:00am by Zoom under the leadership of Chairman Justin Badi, the Archbishop of South Sudan, and Bishop Rennis Penniah, retired bishop of Singapore. We are planning the Global South Conference for September, which now will be via Zoom rather than in person.
Let us continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Myanmar, who are now living under military rule after the military coup this past year. Archbishop Stephan Than asked us to pray specifically for his bishops, clergy, and members who are suffering from persecution, food shortages, and work issues, all this in the midst of the pandemic.
Bishop Bill Atwood and I recently received word from Archbishop Masimango Kindu of the Congo of terrible violence and attacks in his part of the Congo. He asks for our prayers and assistance.
Anglican Relief and Development Fund
Under the leadership of Jake Stum and his team, the Anglican Relief and Development Fund continues to prosper and serve the wider Anglican Communion, providing emergency relief and monies for local ministry projects. Even in the midst of Covid, they continued this important work, and we should all be grateful. Some of the projects we participated in are quite inspiring, and I encourage you to check them out on their website.
Looking ahead, through the front windshield, we are in a new decade. I asked Bishop Kevin Allen to lead a Task Force called ACNA 2030. Where are we going? What do we want to look like? What should our priorities be as we call people to Jesus and make disciples?
I realize this is a long way out to plan for in today’s fast-paced and shifting times, but here is part of my concern. When I studied the last pandemic of the Spanish Flu faced in 1917, 1918, and 1919, I kept asking, “Where was the Church?” Then my focus was immediately drawn to the 1920’s. For those of you who were taught some history in school, what comes to mind when you think of the 1920’s? The roaring 20’s? Debauchery? Decadence, immorality, wild-living?
What are the 2020’s going to be like?
I have no idea, but all those things were happening here before the pandemic. Why can’t we so impact the culture (with our other brothers and sisters in Christ) so that the 2020’s is known as a decade of spiritual renewal, evangelism, discipleship, prayer, and Holy Spirit power? I hope you will support Bishop Kevin and his team, and let us all work toward ushering in a new wave of Christ-centered, spiritual renewal in North America.
Lastly, I want to thank several folks for their service to you and to the Province: the provincial deans, all of the ACNA staff, the Rev. Cn. Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council, and Debbie Petta and her team of intercessors. I want to thank the Daughters of the Holy Cross for their constant prayers for the clergy of the Church and their local congregations.
As the Archbishop and Primate of the ACNA, it continues to be my privilege and joy to serve you as we seek to follow Jesus in these ever-changing times. Thank you for your continued prayers for Allison and me. They truly do sustain and carry us in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 8:28, the Apostle Paul reminds us that God works all things out for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. This is an amazing statement and promise which still holds true for the follower of Jesus and the Church. We saw him do this again and again during the pandemic in the life of the Anglican Church in North America. Let’s continue to keep our eyes on him as we seek to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.