“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
This promise from 1 Corinthians 2:9 has been one that Angela and I have claimed for our family. Over the years we have experienced its truth. We have come to know that the Lord that we love and serve will never fail us and will always surprise us. This summer has been no exception!
We began with the General Convention in Columbus, Ohio. The stakes were high. The question of whether or not The Episcopal Church (TEC, formerly known as ECUSA) would walk apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion was on the table. It was the moment of decision. Sadly, however, Angela and I observed first hand TEC embrace a vision and choose a course that we cannot follow. This has been agonizing for Angela and me. The Episcopal Church has been our home and our life work for almost forty years. We have prayed and worked for its renewal and yet the gap between TEC and the rest of the Anglican Communion has only widened. We have watched with sadness as a growing number of our friends have left TEC to find a new spiritual home. We have seen our missions struggle to survive because of the stigma attached to the name Episcopalian. It has been a devastating time for all of us.
A few days after General Convention I received a phone call from Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, Primate of the Church of Nigeria, informing me that I had been elected a bishop for CANA (Convocation for Anglicans in North America)—a missionary initiative of the Church of Nigeria. Many of you know that Archbishop Akinola has been a longtime friend of Truro Church—reaching back to his seminary days in 1979/1981. In recent years this relationship has greatly deepened as he has taken on leadership for the Global South provinces within the Anglican Communion and we have worked alongside him. Truro has mission partnerships within many of these provinces and we know firsthand the cost of our current crisis for them.
CANA was established in 2005 to provide a safe harbor and an unimpaired relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion for the many Nigerian Anglicans living in the USA who no longer can find a home in TEC. It is open to other Anglicans who have been alienated by the actions of the past two General Conventions. The intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of TEC but rather to provide an uncompromised setting for those who want to do the work of the gospel and witness to the inclusive and transforming love of Jesus Christ. CANA will, of course, work in partnership with our many friends in the Anglican Communion Network and the Common Cause Roundtable. I expect to share more with you about CANA in the coming weeks.
I immediately shared the news of my election as Missionary Bishop with the Truro Vestry and, after an intense time of prayer, received their enthusiastic and unanimous support for this next step in ministry. I advised Bishop Lee of this development and agreed that we must work together to find way through this rather unusual situation that will glorify God and honor his church.
All of this was the backdrop for a long anticipated visit to our family in England where we had planned a special birthday celebration with my sister, Susan. We arrived to discover her critically ill and instead of celebrating her birthday this side of heaven we were given the privilege of celebrating her new life in the closer presence of God. Her funeral was a powerful reminder of the promise of 1 Corinthians 2:9 as we heard numerous testimonies to Susan’s faith and witness.
The next event in our roller coaster summer was a visit to Abuja, Nigeria for a pre-consecration retreat followed by the Service of Consecration. The trip itself was quite a challenge since airline security was very tight. Our retreat week was held at the Cathedral of the Advent in Abuja and was a very focused time of prayer, Bible study and practical instruction. Angela and Rachel took an active part along with the other three bishops-elect and their wives. Angela was even given a job description for her new responsibilities as the bishop’s wife!
The service itself was held in the National Christian Center—a magnificent new building in the center of the nation’s capital seating more than 8,000 worshippers. It is fully air-conditioned and even has a revolving altar so that everyone can see and be seen. There was standing room only for the ceremony that lasted more than four hours and was full of traditional Anglican hymns and liturgy as well as a thanksgiving celebration when everyone danced up to the altar. I was consecrated bishop along with three other men who will serve in various dioceses in Nigeria. We all received the laying on of hands from the other 75 bishops who were present. You can read more about it on the AAC website http://www.americananglican.org or the Church of Nigeria website http://www.anglican-nig.org.
We arrived home late last Monday evening and are now catching up with all of the preparations in place for what plans to be an exciting and challenging fall program at Truro. We will not be following our usual pattern of showcasing each of the Areas of Ministry (AOM); instead we will be devoting ourselves to 40 Days of DiscernmentTM. A hardworking team with representatives from The Falls Church, Truro, and other congregations has put together an amazing amount of material to help us discern God’s call on our respective communities as we seek to answer the question, “How can our congregation best continue with our ministry locally and our mission globally?”
I am also involved in ongoing discussions with Bishop Lee and his chancellor to find a way forward that responds to the various jurisdictional and pastoral challenges that are presented by my consecration. I remain confident that we will be able to do so. Angela, Rachel and I are profoundly grateful for all your prayers and encouragement.
It has truly been an amazing summer! Through it all we have seen God’s hand at work in wonderful and surprising ways. I expect nothing less for this coming season for all of Truro Church! We are confident that God will continue to guide and provide for us as we seek to remain faithful to his call. We are excited about the future because we really do know that, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Your brother in Christ,