Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Philippians 1:4-6 “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” There is always a joy in gospel partnership: seeing God answering our prayers for each other, supporting us as persevere in good work, and assuring us of His promises for our future. That has been my experience in my ministry over years and over these past few days in particular – the joy of knowing that together we are called to share and show the good news of Jesus, not independently but interdependently, as a body and a family. When we know the joy of who we are together, we can best understand how to work together to bring Christ to our lost world.
So let me first publicly thank Bishop Rod Thomas for his faithfulness and hard work, helping establish the integrity of complementarian ministry across the country in the Church of England, and graciously and sacrificially serving us in so many crucial areas. Thanks also to the team of Staff, Pastoral Advisors and Regional leaders for the fruitful partnership that has enabled our partnership to grow.
Let me also thank you all for the many prayers and greetings around my consecration, particularly to those who navigated the train strikes and remote location (at least from a northerner’s perspective!). I had prayed that the service was able to show the integrity of a complementarian understanding of ministry, receiving male oversight in the act of consecration itself, but establishing that we are fully a part of the wider church, not having to kept apart from it. The words of the service itself were a reminder that an obedient biblical faith and practice is what it means to be truly Anglican. One of the promises I was called by the church to make was particularly poignant: Will you teach the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it, will you refute error, and will you hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to you? By the help of God, I will!
What a time to be called to serve as a bishop in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church! This week’s Church of England General Synod debate could threaten to break our Unity on the doctrine of marriage, redefine our Sanctity with respect to holiness and sexual activity, undermine our Catholicity having little obvious regard for the wider Anglican Communion or beyond, and jeopardising our Apostolicity with respect to the clear teaching of Scripture.
It is that serious! But our response should not be to fear or despair. Jesus is still on the throne; God’s Word hasn’t changed; the gospel still saves, and God’s gift of marriage is a glorious gift from him, not something of our own construction. And the promise of God is to complete in us the good work he has started, as we do that prayerfully together.
It has been heartening to see a carefully-expressed unity about the doctrine of marriage represented by the CEEC and reflected in the summary from those bishops wanting to clarify the Church’s teaching on Marriage. I will share another update on this in the light of what happens General Synod, but some links to key resources are below. In the meantime, PLEASE PRAY! Pray for courage and clarity for those who speak up for the historic biblical understanding of marriage and faithfulness. Pray for all who are impacted by such a public debate – not only for church leaders, but particularly for the many who wrestle to remain biblically faithful in the area of sex and sexuality. Pray for the bishops as they respond to whatever is decided at synod, having already admitted that on many areas they are not united. Pray for our heart and attitude to be like Jesus – broken people were drawn to his grace, yet his truth radically challenged those straying from God’s Word. It is the gospel that should make our churches a safe place of welcome to all, and make us a people known for our self-sacrificial love and joy in Christ.
Personally, I would also value your prayers. Many of the practical arrangements this role requires are not yet in place – a house, office, PA, etc. Pray for re-establishing relationships with other bishops so that I am able to serve complementarian parishes in their dioceses. I hope over the next year to visit as many (if not all) the parishes who have made resolutions, so I hope to meet many of you soon (and don’t be afraid to put in a request for a visit). I very much look forward to serving you, in every way that I can. If you want a little more of a personal introduction to who I am, with some of my hopes and prayers for the future, follow this link: https://youtu.be/64EtISl88Ys. Watch out for another brief update next week.
“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus!”
Yours in Christ,