A message from the College of Bishops following their January meeting.
January 10, 2014
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1
The bishops of the Anglican Church in North America met in Orlando, Florida from January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, to January 10th. We were blessed to be joined by the Rt. Rev. Humphrey Peters, Bishop of Peshawar, Pakistan. This has been our largest meeting, with only a few bishops absent due to inclement weather or overseas assignment. The bishops of the Anglican Church in North America have made it clear that it is a high priority to be together to pray and meet in council to carry forward the apostolic ministry of the Church. This week we again met in an atmosphere of mutual support and affection, with much prayer for one other. Bishop William Ilgenfritz, Missionary Diocese of All Saints, served as Chaplain for the College.
In our opening Eucharist, the Rt. Rev. Todd Hunter was invested as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others, commonly called “C4SO.”
We were blessed by Biblical teaching each morning from Dr. Wesley Hill, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry. In this season of Epiphany, we were encouraged by Dr. Hill’s teaching on the nature of our triune God as both transcendent above his creation and present with us in our suffering.
It was a thoroughly productive gathering in which the bishops were able to address a range of topics, working to establish consensus and maintain fraternal relations. We were encouraged by our times of sharing about the fruitful ministries in our dioceses and by testimonies of God’s grace and answered prayers.
Following two years of work by the Catechesis Task Force, the bishops unanimously approved a new Catechism for trial use, with mechanisms for feedback and refinement planned over the next two years. The Catechism, written primarily for adults, is designed to speak to those who are exploring the faith, as well as to disciple Christians to greater knowledge and spiritual maturity. The Catechism, produced to uphold and communicate apostolic faith through pastoral application, is invitational in approach, drawing inquirers to faith in Christ, pursue a loving relationship with the Father, and welcome the power of the Holy Spirit in everyday life. We are eager for trained catechists to be raised up to use this wonderful tool, as well as for additional discipleship resources to be developed and shared across the Church.
As we continue to develop a Prayer Book to enrich our common liturgical life, the bishops worshiped using the Province’s approved texts for Holy Communion and daily Morning and Evening Prayer. We did initial work on a first draft of liturgies for Baptism, Confirmation and Admission of Catechumens, refining them to help insure that those liturgies are accessible and reflect the richness of the historic Anglican faith and tradition. The College continues to look forward to the day when the Province will have its own Book of Common Prayer.
As Archbishop Duncan is retiring as Archbishop in June, 2014, the bishops also discussed and prayed about the process of electing a successor and the subsequent transition. Archbishop Duncan reflected with the College on his experience in the office and the bishops expressed gratitude for his courageous and persevering leadership. Archbishop Duncan then graciously absented himself so we could pursue facilitated conversation with Dr. Cynthia Waisner, who again served as our consultant. Seeking to avoid a political process, the bishops committed to a covenant of behavior and a season of prayer as we move toward the bishops’ conclave in June. The College of Bishops will have regular days of prayer and fasting in the coming months, and then gather the week before the Provincial Assembly to discern in prayer the one whom God is calling as successor to Archbishop Duncan.
The Rt. Rev. Humphrey Peters shared with us about ministry in his diocese in Pakistan. It was All Saints Church in his diocese that was attacked by suicide bombers after Sunday worship last September, killing more than 100. We were all touched by his reports of both the challenges and the rewards of pursuing Gospel ministry in Pakistan. Bishop Humphrey presented Archbishop Duncan with gifts from his diocese and Archbishop Duncan responded with the presentation to Bishop Humphrey of a signed copy of our new Texts for Common Prayer.
The tragic conflict in South Sudan was also forefront in our prayers. We sent greetings and encouragement to our brothers and sisters in the Church in Sudan and promised to call the Anglican Church in North America to intercede for peace and justice in South Sudan.
We heard an excellent presentation by Dr. Louise Duncan Jakubik about mentoring, which was helpful to our work of discipling Christians and developing leaders.
We received a report from Canon Nancy Norton, Executive Director of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund. We were encouraged to hear that more than $1.2 million was given for development projects in nine countries, and for disaster relief in Oklahoma and Colorado. The bishops were enthusiastic in praise of Canon Norton and her accomplishments as she looks toward retirement at the Provincial Assembly.
We reflected on our time at GAFCON-2 in Nairobi, which was attended by almost all of our bishops. We rejoiced at the continued growth of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) and its role as a vital Instrument of Communion. We discussed our international relationships and the challenges faced by the GFCA.
Transferring to the chapel of a nearby church, the bishops prayerfully consented to the election of the Rev. J. Mark Zimmerman as first Bishop of the Diocese of the Southwest. Fr. Zimmerman has served as rector of Somerset Anglican Church (formerly St. Francis-in-the-Fields) in Somerset, PA since 1999. His consecration is scheduled for February 28, 2014 at the Church of St. Clement, El Paso, TX.
The bishops also consented to the election of the Rt. Rev. William J. White as Bishop Coadjutor in the REC Diocese of the Southeast. Bishop White has served as Suffragan Bishop of that diocese since 2008.
The Bishops received with gratitude the report of the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders. Their work includes faithful scholarship and conversations of significance in an atmosphere of respect and trust that is important to our common life. Though the issue of Holy Orders produces anxiety for some in the Church, we are thankful for the way that the Task Force is modeling a commitment to full theological inquiry and fidelity. This gives rise to the bishops’ expectation that we will emerge having faithfully found God’s guidance for our Church.
In reviewing the steps that the Task Force has taken, we approved its report on hermeneutical (interpretation of Scripture) principles. This expresses the principles by which we approach the theological study of Holy Orders. This report will now be released to the Church and sent to the International Theological Commission of GAFCON and our ecumenical partners, seeking their input. It is important to note that this careful, thorough and collegial study into Holy Orders has rarely been done before by Anglicans.
The next phase of the work of the Task Force will identify the ecclesiological (nature of the Church) principles of ministry and orders, including what the Anglican formularies say about the nature of the church, the general character of ordained ministry, the characteristics of each order, and the relationship between the ordained ministry and Christ and his Church. The Task Force has formed sub-committees which will engage scholars and scholarship from the Anglo-Catholic, Spirit-led, and Reformed traditions. A draft of this work will be presented to the bishops in June.
Church planting continues to be at the heart of our Provincial life. We heard the exciting report of the Rev. Canon Alan Hawkins, Vicar of Anglican1000, about the work of establishing new congregations and worshiping communities across the Province. In the huge mission field with Hispanics, fifty-seven Spanish-speaking congregations have been planted. Particularly helpful was his emphasis that we are now engaged in planting just the first 1000 churches. Anglican1000 continues to support diocesan leaders, church planters, coaches and the church at large. Three regional events have been held in the past few months and additional events will be held soon in Phoenix, Atlanta and Chicago. The Greenhouse Movement is also having a huge impact by catalyzing clusters of new congregations.
Bishop Ray Sutton, Provincial Ecumenical Officer, reported on the growing relationship with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), which includes the recent decision by the NALC to create at Trinity School for Ministry a “seminary center” for the training of its ordinands. The College approved an agreed statement on Eucharistic hospitality with the NALC. Bishop Sutton also shared about upcoming dialogues with the Polish National Catholic Church and the Messianic Jewish community.
An Anglican Unity Task Force was established to address the issues that have arisen through the formation of new churches and dioceses, resulting in overlapping jurisdictions throughout the province. Bishops from this task force, together with lay and clergy leaders, will meet again this spring.
Mindful of the opportunities and challenges before us, this meeting of the College of Bishops has been characterized by Gospel joy. We are deeply thankful for the fellowship we share in Christ.
We are so pleased by the gracious service and support that many people offer to our Church. The Provincial staff is a devoted and truly productive team. We are deeply indebted to them, and to the many clergy and laity who serve on the various working groups of the Province, including those task forces which reported to us this week: Catechesis, Prayer Book and Liturgy, Governance, Ecumenical Relations, and the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders. We are grateful to the Anglican Chaplains who provided administrative support to GAFCON-2 in Nairobi.
We are blessed as a Church and humbled by what we have seen the Lord accomplish in our midst in these first few years we have been together as the Anglican Church in North America. We continue to pursue the Lord’s vision of a Biblical, missionary, and united Anglicanism. May God be greatly praised.