The Rt. Rev’d John Guernsey was elected this morning by lay and clergy delegates representing the congregations of the new Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic to be their diocesan bishop. Meeting in a special Constitutional Convention by the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) at Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, VA. Bishop Guernsey was elected on the first ballot.
Bishop Guernsey, who was the long-time rector of All Saints Dale City and a leader in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia serving as Deputy to General Convention for many years until his parish voted to separate from the Episcopal Church in 2006, outlined his vision for the new diocese:
Having served in Northern Virginia for all of my ordained ministry, I have a deep commitment to the work of the Kingdom in this region. I have long prayed for the Lord to move in power to renew and heal His Church, that we might reach the lost with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. The formation of this new diocese is the Lord’s doing and I believe that I am called to be a part of it.
I envision a diocese that is prayer-based and mission-focused; a diocese of congregations that are growing and multiplying, served by clergy who are walking in faith and holiness; a diocese that is passionate to reach the lost and the next generations, discipling new believers to maturity in the Word; a diocese that joyfully worships the living Lord and is transformed by His power.
Support of Clergy and Congregations
I am committed to the pastoral support of clergy and their families. I presently serve a non-geographical diocese spread across the country and it is a challenge to stay in touch. I regularly phone the clergy, I pray each day for them, I connect by email. My wife always travels with me, and we love to spend time with the clergy and their spouses and children.
In this diocese, I would continue those important links, but I would also make it a priority to meet monthly with the clergy for worship, to study the Scriptures, to share our concerns and pray for one another. I would expect to meet with several groupings across the large area of the diocese. I would help create ways for our clergy and their families to support and care and pray for one another.
My parish visitations are usually over a full weekend, which creates opportunities for teaching and discipleship, fellowship and encouragement. I come to a congregation to serve and I ask the clergy to offer a plan for how best to use the visitation to support them in the Lord’s work in that place. I love opportunities to teach the Scriptures, to talk with and counsel the leadership team, to get to know the congregation and to pray for them.
The Church’s Mission
The Anglican Church in North America is clear in its Constitution that “the fundamental agency of mission in the Province is the local congregation.” That means that the diocese exists to serve the churches, not the reverse. The work of mission is the responsibility of the clergy and people of our congregations. The role of this new diocese is to support and encourage and to do those things the congregations cannot.
Together, as the congregations and clergy, we will reach the lost, and we will do that, first, through personal evangelistic witness. It is not enough to be part of a mission-minded Province or diocese or congregation if we are not ourselves sharing the Gospel with those we know.
We will plant churches of all sorts and descriptions, using new models and methods, as well as tried and true ones. We will grow and give birth to new dioceses.
We will reach the nations. Our links with the Global South have given us a new vision for Kingdom partnerships around the world. We must engage in the task of presenting Christ to unreached peoples across the globe and here at home. The proximity of our nation’s capital is also part of God’s calling to us—how does He want us to use that opportunity for Gospel witness?
We will be people of the Word. We proclaim biblical authority, but each of us must be deeply rooted in the Scriptures through personal reading and meditating on the Word and through disciplined study.
We will be faithful disciples, who will demonstrate to the world what it looks like to be the people of God. We will disciple others, raising up the next generations in Christ.
We will seek the healing of the Lord for our own lives, walking in greater holiness and purity. We will be quick to give testimony to His grace and mercy and transforming power.
We will worship the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength. We will offer ourselves before Him in the beauty of holiness. Worship through the richness of our Anglican heritage will glorify the Lord and it will invite others to come to know Him.
We will be faithful stewards in our finances. We will proclaim the joy and freedom that is found in trusting the Lord through tithing.
Seeking God’s Vision
I take very seriously the warning in Jeremiah 23 about the false shepherds and prophets, who “speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord…But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?” (verses 16, 18). God judges those who claim to speak for Him without first having come before Him in prayer.
Yet the Lord promises to reveal Himself to those who seek His face. “But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people” (verse 22).
If I am called to this new diocese, I know the Lord would have much more to say to me and to all of us about His will and plan. It would be my responsibility and my joy to lead us in seeking Him and His vision for our life together.
My life verse is 2 Corinthians 4:5: “We seek not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” May the Lord give me and all of us the grace to walk humbly before Him, doing all for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ our Lord.
In addition, he answered questions posed to him by the ADV:
Bishop, Diocese of the Holy Spirit of the Anglican Church in North America
Yale University (New Haven, CT) B.A. (Magna Cum Laude), History, with Honors Episcopal Divinity School (Cambridge, MA) M.Div., Biblical Studies
I grew up in a Christian home and, through the witness of my parents, gave my life to Christ as a very young boy. My father modeled putting one’s faith into practice in the world; he was deeply committed to racial reconciliation and the church’s ministry among those in need. My mother taught me about prayer; I remember a time when I was upset over something in my homework I couldn’t seem to grasp, and she showed me how to pray it through. I knew that I belonged to Christ and I readily told people that when I grew up I was going to be what Jesus wanted me to be—though I didn’t yet know what that was.
As a teenager active in the church, I was hungry for more of the Lord. But I was aware that I didn’t see lives being changed in our parish or its youth group in which I was actively involved. I hadn’t been taught the Scriptures and so my longing for the supernatural reality of God led me to explore a number of inappropriate spiritual practices we’d now term “New Age.” I wasn’t rejecting Jesus, but I lacked guidance and discernment to seek Him rightly through the Holy Spirit.
During high school, I volunteered in many different ministries, particularly in the inner city. In college, I chose an urban studies major as a way of pursuing my desire to work with the poor, perhaps through a career in government service. After my sophomore year, however, I won a competitive internship, working for a summer as the aide to the administrator of the entire welfare and social service department of the City of New York. It was a terribly disillusioning experience. I came away knowing that God needed people in that environment, but I was not called to be one of them.
With my career goal now unclear, I decided to take time off from college; I had extra credits and could have graduated in three years, but I felt I needed clarity of direction first. I accepted an invitation from an Episcopal layman from Liberia, West Africa to come to his country and do economic planning for the Liberian government. My letter to my contact confirming my plans was lost in the mail, so the government job wasn’t arranged and I ended up being put to work for one of his companies, the Carrier Air Conditioner distributorship. I had a tremendous amount of the time alone to think and pray and reflect, and through it the Lord finally got through to me that He was calling me to ordained ministry. When I finally said “yes” to Him, I had an amazing certainty and a peace that this was His will. He then made it clear that my time in Liberia was at an end and that I should return home to finish college and go through the ordination process.
At the conclusion of my final interview before seminary, I was asked by the committee if I had any questions to ask them. I said that I did and asked this: “Why is it that we pray to God the Father through God the Son and seem to leave God the Holy Spirit out of it completely?” It was the question of a naïve 20-year old, but it made the committee very uncomfortable. Finally, one member said, “Well, it sounds like you’ve asked a good question. Maybe when you go to seminary you’ll learn the answer and come back and tell us.”
I went off to the seminary my bishop had attended and wanted me to attend, but by this time it had become a very, very liberal place. By God’s grace, I went in believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and came out believing it. But I didn’t learn the answer to my question about the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t, of course, simply asking an abstract question about liturgy, but about the supernatural reality of God the Holy Spirit. What I learned instead was that the Holy Spirit was controversial. I was told very clearly that there were people out there who were “into” the Holy Spirit but we were not among them and that I should not expect God to do today what I saw Him doing in the pages of Scripture.
I did, however, meet my wife, Meg, in seminary, without a doubt the best thing that came out of the experience for me! She was from Virginia and so it was that we came here after seminary, she to serve a parish in Culpeper, while I worked at Christ Church in Alexandria.
One of my duties was to assist the lay stewardship chairman, which the Lord used to begin a process of transformation of my use of money. A wise priest I met challenged me to tithe and Meg and I, after much discussion and prayer, began to do so. We discovered a new joy in trusting the Lord and a freedom from anxiety about money and possessions that we’d never known before. It turned out that money had been a logjam in my spiritual life—breaking free in the area of finances resulted in a greater openness to God’s work in my life in other ways, as well.
In December, 1981, I was called to serve as Vicar of All Saints’, then a mission of 36 families worshiping in Triangle, near the Quantico Marine base. The guidance I’d received in seminary to put the Holy Spirit aside did not, to say the least, satisfy the longing that I had for more of the Lord. I began to hear testimonies from clergy and mature lay leaders about the working of the Spirit in their lives. I had much to learn and many theological questions to ask. But finally, the Lord in His goodness led me to the place of a deeper surrender to Him than ever before. I asked one of the godly lay leaders to lay hands on me and pray for the fullness and power of God’s Holy Spirit to fill me.
While the prayer time itself was quite unemotional, the Lord who is ever faithful began from that moment to work in me and through me in ways I’d only yearned for. I developed a passion for the Scriptures. I found a new fervency in prayer and a new intimacy in worship. In my ministry, I saw new power as I shared Jesus. As much as I wanted people to come to know Christ, I had not led anyone to faith in Him in four years of ordained ministry. After I received that empowering of the Holy Spirit, people began to respond to sermons and teaching by coming into my office, falling on their knees and asking to give their lives to Christ. Nothing in seminary had prepared me for that!
The Lord began to give me a greater love for prayer, for evangelism and for the healing ministry, three priorities which have been central to my ministry for the past 28 years. In these areas I again had much to learn and He blessed me with colleagues on staff at All Saints’ who could teach me many things. What a joy to be a part of God’s transforming work in people’s lives. How exciting to be in a parish where that transformation is the norm rather than the exception. And I’ve been privileged to be sent out on many short-term missions with SOMA, training leaders in the power of the Spirit in a number of countries around the world. God has also done His gracious healing work in my own life, freeing me from the hurts of the past to be more the pastor and husband and father He made me to be.
In our family, the Lord gave us many blessings of His love. He gave us two fine sons, who attended St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, where Meg had gone in 1979 to serve as Chaplain. Meg’s mother, physically disabled all her life but a spiritual powerhouse, came to live with us for the last 20 years of her life. Both our sons are now married, and they and their wives are all walking with the Lord. Our elder son, Nathaniel, is a computer science engineer and he and his wife, Mandy, are youth ministry volunteers. Our younger son, Michael, is in seminary preparing for ordination and he and his wife, Tracy, are praying about a long-term missionary call to Uganda.
The call to serve as bishop has been a surprising journey. Twenty years ago I was nominated to be Bishop of Colorado (along with two priests named Bob Duncan and Martyn Minns!). When I wasn’t elected, the Lord spoke clearly to me that I was to stay at All Saints’ and so I declined to be considered in dozens of episcopal elections after that. In December, 2006, the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda elected me to be their Bishop for Congregations in America—without consulting me, I might add—though they delayed notifying me or announcing it publicly until the following June. I was consecrated in September, 2007 and given the responsibility to look after the then 26 U.S.
congregations of the Church of Uganda, while continuing to serve as rector of All Saints’. (The number of churches grew to 53 in June, 2009 when, at the launch of the Anglican Church in North America, the Ugandan House of Bishops transferred me and all their U.S. clergy and congregations into the ACNA.)
Meanwhile, Meg had been told by the Lord in August, 2006 that the coming academic year was to be her last at the School. The Lord didn’t tell her any more than that, but in obedience she went to the headmistress and said, “This is my last year.” Her last faculty meeting was just days before I was informed I’d been elected bishop, and so she has been free to travel with me. We’ve followed a more African model of the bishop and his wife together as we’ve visited churches across the country. Serving in this way has been a gift from the Lord to us. Meg has such a heart for clergy spouses and children and it has been so very important to us to spend time with our clergy and their families.
Early in my ministry, the Lord gave me a verse to guide my life and service of him: “We preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). I constantly pray that the ministry I offer will always be a ministry of servanthood, seeking only to glorify Jesus Christ.
Here he answers questions:
Why would God be calling you to be Bishop of this new diocese?
I don’t presume to know God’s will and God’s reasons! But I do feel increasingly called to serve the Lord and His Church in this new diocese. I would hope that I could help establish the diocese as prayer-based and mission- focused. I would also hope to contribute to the continuing healing from all that we experienced in our former context.
Describe your leadership style as Bishop: how you relate to clergy and laity; what you think and have done about missions; how you feel about raising money?
I have developed a pattern of multi-day visitations to churches (usually a full weekend), with opportunities for teaching, fellowship, meeting with the leadership and spending time with the clergy and their families. Meg and I always prefer to stay in homes, often with the clergy. I go to serve the church, to teach, listen and encourage.
I have a high priority of ministering to clergy and their families. I telephone the clergy regularly to check in and to pray for them. I am always looking for emerging leaders, particularly those of the next generation, to encourage and disciple.
I am committed to continuing to engage in front-line mission work personally. In 2010, Meg and I spent a week in a remote, desert area of Kenya, working with a large team of mostly young evangelists who were on mission planting churches among unreached peoples. This sort of experience always stretches me and encourages me to keep the proclamation of the Gospel at the forefront of everything I do. In my preaching I seek to spur the church to engage in mission and evangelism and I often invite those who do not yet know the Lord to surrender their lives to Him.
Dealing with stewardship has been a priority in ministry and a significant part of my own journey in Christ. I teach biblical stewardship and readily witness to the blessing of tithing in our own family. I taught financial stewardship at Virginia Seminary for 12 years, as a consultant in dozens of dioceses and congregations, and most especially at All Saints’ Church in Dale City.
To what degree are you committed to the Anglican 1000 church planting initiative? Describe your church planting experience.
I am tremendously excited by the vision of planting 1000 churches in the first five years of the Anglican Church in North America. I assisted in the planning for the first Anglican1000 summit and was greatly encouraged by it. I scheduled the Diocese of the Holy Spirit’s 2011 Annual Synod immediately prior to the second Anglican1000 Summit and at the same venue in order to encourage our diocesan leaders to participate in the Summit. I will also be attending the Exponential Church Planting Conference in Orlando this April.
My former parish, All Saints’ Church in Dale City, planted Christ Our Lord Church in Lake Ridge, one of the most important mission experiences we ever had. I have promoted church planting in our diocese and visited and encouraged those new starts already underway. We have new lay-led fellowships, church plants served by ordained church planters (both tent-makers and those sent out by a sponsoring church) and new congregations begun as second worship sites of existing parishes. It is so heartening to see how the vision for church planting is taking hold, as even some of our smallest churches are launching new congregations.
Please describe your discipline of prayer, study and worship.
I’m an early riser and I am nurtured and strengthened by my morning time in Scripture and prayer. I’ve been reading through the Bible each year for decades, following a number of different patterns. As part of my intercessions, I pray every week through a cycle for all of my diocese’s churches and all of the clergy, their spouses and children. My wife, Meg, and I usually read the Daily Office together and we’re presently doing a study of 1 John. I’m also reading a number of books on Islam to learn more about this critical challenge facing the Church in our day.
Please describe how you spend quality time with your wife and family. Describe what rests and rejuvenates you.
Meg travels with me to all our parish visitations, so I am blessed that we get to spend so much of our time together in ministry. I also enjoy just relaxing with her. We travel so much that we have discovered the importance of having regular days off on the road. We’ve been privileged to see fascinating and beautiful places as we visit churches across the country. I’m an extrovert, but I know that I need to be freed from being “on” and around people all the time. We’ve gone to museums and lots of botanical gardens (a particular love of Meg’s), we’ve taken long walks and we’ve just sat and enjoyed spectacular scenery.
We also used our frequent flier miles to great advantage. This past spring, we took our sons and their wives on a week’s holiday to our namesake island, the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel. It was such a wonderful experience for us—from hiking the cliff walks to laughing over board games. And we’ll be going back in 2011.
Read it all here.
UPDATE: Here is the press release from the Anglican District of Virginia:
The Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) held a Constitutional Convention on May 20-21, 2011 at Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, Va. At this event, ADV delegates voted to petition the Anglican Church in North America to become a diocese and adopted new governing documents (Constitutions and Canons). Pending approval of the diocesan petition, the Anglican District of Virginia elected The Rt. Rev. John Guernsey to serve as bishop of the diocese, to be named the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.
Bishop John Guernsey has served in various clergy roles during his years of ordained ministry in Virginia. He served as rector of All Saints’ Church in Dale City, Va., for 29 years before serving as the head of the Diocese of the Holy Spirit in the Anglican Church in North America. For more background on Bishop Guernsey and to read his vision statement for the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, click here.
“Our hope is that the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, under the courageous and blessed leadership of Bishop John Guernsey, will continue to follow the path Christ is setting for us as we strive to grow and share our faith,” said Anglican District of Virginia Chairman Jim Oakes.
“In just a few years, we have grown to over 40 worshipping congregations, are planting churches, and have almost 7,000 people worshipping in our churches each Sunday. My prayer is that this new diocese within the Anglican Church in North America will make the trumpet sound even louder and bring more worshippers together in mission and ministry, continued Oakes.”
ADV is hopeful that the Anglican Church in North America will accept the Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic as one of its member dioceses later this year. While the new diocese will be connected directly to the Anglican Church in North America, many of its congregations will continue to be in partnership with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). CANA is a missionary branch of the Church of Nigeria and a founding member of the Anglican Church in North America.