Monday, June 16, 2014

Phil Ashey: Praying for the election of a new Archbishop for ACNA

Canon Phil Ashey offers some helpful insights for praying as the ACNA College of Bishops prepares to meet later this week to elect a new archbishop.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, friends of the Anglican realignment,

The College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) will gather to elect a new Archbishop beginning Thursday evening, June 19 and, if necessary, adjourning Sunday evening June 22. I am grateful for the Collect (above) that we have been able to pray during these recent weeks leading up to the election of a leader to succeed Archbishop Bob Duncan. I am also grateful for our Lord’s hand upon the ACNA, its growth under the inspired leadership of Archbishop Duncan, and our opportunity to celebrate both during Provincial meetings June 23-28 at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, PA.

There has been much speculation on the blogs regarding the possible candidates for Archbishop, the “handicapping” of their odds to succeed, and politicking for and against certain bishops, etc. I’m going to refrain from any further comment on all that, and to resist any temptation to prognosticate. Instead, I’d like us to take that Collect quite seriously and drill down deeper, asking ourselves the question: “What should we be praying for in a new Archbishop?”

Let me offer some preliminary observations. First, unless you are a bishop you will not be doing the electing. So please pray. Pray for the bishops who will be gathering in conclave to elect. Pray for their discernment. Pray that they will be guided and governed by faith rather than fear. Pray that they will confirm by their ballots the man whom God has already chosen. Pray for the bishops’ unity behind their choice of the man whom God has already chosen from the moment they and we move forward from this election.

Secondly, please try to imagine the job the next Archbishop faces. Among the priorities and challenges he will face is how to help the ACNA become one united Biblical missional Anglican Church in North America. As the Governance Task Force reported to the 2013 Provincial Council meeting at Nashotah House:

“Our guiding principle is our vision: becoming a biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America. This is not only the vision of the Anglican Church in North America—it is the commitment we made to Canterbury and the world as far back as 1994.”[1]

By any measure, this is a tall order. Around it swirl issues and challenges of overlapping jurisdictions/dioceses, how to balance missional flexibility with Anglican order, how to shift the Anglican1000 church planting movement from the Province to Dioceses, long term financial sustainability for growth in both mission and the structures that support mission (at all levels of the Church), strong differences over the place of women in Holy Orders, Eucharistic and Baptismal theology, how to appreciate the catholic, reformed/evangelical and charismatic “streams” without compromising the contribution of each, and how to work effectively with our partners (especially fellow Primates) in the GAFCON movement.

Imagine the quality and competency of leadership these priorities and challenges will require in a new Archbishop. As one bishop quipped “We are asking someone in their right mind to accept a job that no one in their right mind would take.” Lord, have mercy—and empower your servant by the Holy Spirit with every grace he will need to lead!

One last observation before I contribute my list. As I have observed search processes for new Rectors over the years, one common mistake Vestries/Search Committees make is they frame their search wholly in terms of the qualities they find lacking in their retiring rector. This often results in calling someone who had all the qualities their retiring leader lacked—but none of the qualities their retiring leader had that made his leadership successful! Please pray that our bishops will not make that mistake; that they will also look for the same qualities that Archbishop Duncan has that made his leadership successful.

With that in mind, let me humbly offer a list of what you and I should pray for in the man whom the College of Bishops will choose as the next Archbishop of the ACNA:

A leader who PRAYS: We need an Archbishop who has the gift of leadership. That’s a given. But not all leaders have a deep life of prayer and listening. This job requires a leader who will listen to the voice of God above the voices of others—even the best counselors. We have been blessed to have an Archbishop who had such a deep commitment to prayer and listening to the Lord that he took time apart to be with the Lord, to rest and pray and listen to the Lord. The qualities and competencies required of our next Archbishop must come out of this deep, inner life with Christ.

A leader with the gift of FAITH: Every bishop I can think of in the College is faithful. We are blessed with a College of Bishops who stand in the tradition of the Apostles and the faith once delivered. But what our next Archbishop needs is the spiritual gift of faith (I Corinthians 12:9), the supernatural ability to trust God for the future even when it doesn’t look so good in the moment. Every ministry has those days, and the ACNA is no exception. But what we need is a leader who can lower the anxiety level in the system with a calm, non-anxious leadership that flows out of that supernatural ability to trust God for the future. We have been blessed to have such faith in Archbishop Duncan—every day, both when things are looking good and when they’re not looking so good.

A leader with the gift of DISCERNMENT: This too is a spiritual gift (I Corinthians 12:10). Yes, there’s a certain quality of discernment that one can cultivate, a wisdom born of experience. It’s what we teach in our Clergy Leadership Training Institutes about “The Leadership Triangle”: how to accurately diagnose a challenge (technical, strategic or cultural) and so to apply the leadership skills appropriate to that challenge. Misdiagnosis or failure to discern accurately may lead to solutions that make the challenges worse.[2] But there is also a need for supernatural ability to distinguish which spirits are at work in a particular challenge. We need an Archbishop who can cut through the cloud of confusion and acrimony that often surrounds such challenges and conflict with a supernatural ability to see God’s way forward.

A leader who calls on the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: In a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity, we need a leader who can call us to a new Pentecost. We need a leader who calls on the power of the Holy Spirit and invites Him into every situation. Whether we are dealing with evangelism, church planting, reaching people who do not yet know Jesus with his transforming love—or the powers and principalities at work in the Anglican Communion hostile to the Gospel—we are dealing with spiritual blindness (2 Corinthians 4:4). Only the Holy Spirit can lift that veil and level the playing field so that our mission can go forward from strength to strength. We need a leader who understands that, who calls upon such Holy Spirit power daily, and who calls us to do the same.

A leader who walks in PEACE: We have a saying in our Clergy Leadership gatherings: ministry doesn’t just include conflict—ministry IS conflict. Archbishop Duncan has faced conflicts of every size and shape, domestically and internationally, every day. But he has also modeled for us what it means to be a leader who walks in peace. A leader who moves toward persons in conflict, not away from them and the conflict. We need a leader who has the same commitment to walk toward others and their conflicts—even and especially with those with whom he may disagree. We need a leader who can be a bridge builder, a reconciler, and a peacemaker, even and especially when doing so makes the leader a target.

A leader who walks in HUMILITY: Humility is the virtue of John the Baptist—being able to decrease in order that Jesus may increase (John 3:30). In order for any leader to remain focused on vision, values and mission, the leader must be one who does not personalize challenge, resistance or conflict. We need an Archbishop who has that quality of humility to keep us focused on the main thing—Jesus and his mission. This virtue has an added blessing: it attracts God’s glory and power, as Andrew Murray observes in Humility:

“Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless. He that humbles himself—that must be our one care—will be exalted; that is God’s care.”[3]

God grant us a leader who, by abasing and emptying himself, will open the door for the Church to be filled with God’s glory and power.

A leader with VISION: I’ve left this for last not because it is the least important. On the contrary. Any leader must have vision in order for the ministry to experience ever renewed and renewing seasons of growth. But I’m convinced that our next Archbishop will have the vision the Church needs to move forward as a byproduct and fruit of prayer, faith, discernment, calling on the Holy Spirit, and walking in peace and humility. I’m convinced of this because I have seen it in the leadership of ++Robert Duncan. First it was the vision of coming together as the Anglican Communion Network and Common Cause Partners. When that summit was reached, then it was responding to the call at GAFCON 2008 to build the Anglican Church in North America. When that summit was reached, it was the extraordinary call to plant 1000 new churches in 5 years. We haven’t reached that summit yet—but we are well on the way because of a leader who took the time to make those qualities I’ve listed the priorities of his leadership. God-given vision flowed out of it.

God willing, we will have a new Archbishop who has the same qualities and commitments—and even more for the new season ahead of us.

I’m sure I have left out some qualities that we need. But these are the ones from my vantage point that I see as essential. Please join me in praying for them—and for all the bishops meeting June 19-22 who will be seeking such an Archbishop.

Yours in Christ,

Phil+
Litany and Collect for the Election of an Archbishop (ACNA website)