Epiphany Greetings in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!
Our annual January Winter Conference was held at and hosted by the parish Church of Christ the Redeemer, Fort Valley (Warner Robins), Georgia. There were a multitude of activities and board meetings during the course of the week of January 16-20. Along with the meetings and sessions there were times to socialize around the meal times and worship in their beautiful new church building. We are most grateful to the Rector, Father Matthew Harlow and his wife Sarah who, with the folks at the Church of Christ the Redeemer, did a superb job of organizing and assisting in so many ways to make our Conference for our clergy, their wives, the deaconesses, and the Standing Committee members such a success.
The Clergy Conference began with an interactive time with reference to a recent clergy survey conducted in the later part of 2016. The clergy who responded to the survey on how to make meetings more productive, mentioned a number of areas of interest. This was a change of pace from more recent conferences which have been focused on teaching and theological issues. Without getting into detail, which will be shared with the clergy in a Pastoral Letter, the subjects raised covered a wide range of contemporary concerns from expectations of the parish priest to standardizing who may receive Holy Communion to dividing ashes for those cremated, etc.
The second part of the Conference covered an oral history of the very early days of the ‘continuing Anglican Church’ through my eyes and memory. This was done by way of an interview with Fr. Glenn Spencer, who gave a brief introduction and asked questions pertaining to those earlier years “fireside chat style.” What was covered goes back some 50 years, when as your Bishop, I was just out of school and newly ordained as a deacon and priest. What made this historical review seem to capture the interest of the clergy and others attending was that none of it was scripted and was all done conversationally with plenty of anecdotal material. What was interesting to me when thinking about this in advance of the Conference, is so many of those who were around in the early days are no longer with us. I know there are those who have written their version of the ‘Continuing Church’ Story. But having been around from the earliest of days, I was there for most of it. Much of the early history of what was our predecessor jurisdiction (the American Episcopal Church) predated the 1977 Congress of St. Louis, back to the mid and late 1960s. What came across to me personally upon reflection and to those of our Clergy, was the turmoil that was happening in the 1960s in the world, our country and the church. In the world of the 60s, there was the bloody Vietnam War and the ineffective leadership that did not have the will to win the war. In our country, there were violent protests in the streets over the war, race riots in most major cities, and the Episcopal Church abandoning the foundations of its beliefs personified by the Bishop of California, James Pike. This, along with the desire to change the one stable part of the Episcopal Church, the Book of Common Prayer 1928, replacing it with ‘trial liturgies,’ caused increasing dissatisfaction. All of this and other elements created a decade of instability out of which came the early iteration of the ‘Continuing Anglican Church’ movement. Other events in the Episcopal Church in the next decade brought a new wave of ‘Traditional Anglicans’ parting ways with the Episcopal Church. (Note: The oral memoirs were recorded for historical purposes and will be completed at future Conferences. It is important that we record our own history rather than others doing it for us.) The next Clergy Conference will include a completion of our history and a vision for the future of the Continuing Church and the APA.
At the Conference Eucharist, we had the Ordination to the Diaconate of Peter Joslyn. Plans are that he, and his wife Erin and children, will be moving to Greensboro, N.C. where he will serve as curate at St. John’s Church to the Rev. Mark Menees.
The Conference concluded on the morning of January 20 with the DEUS Standing Committee (SC) Meeting. As part of the business there were interviews with those who completed and passed their Canonical Examination earlier in the week with the Board of Examining Chaplains and interviews with the Bishop’s Advisory Committee. This interview, with those completing their exam, is the opportunity for the SC to ask questions of each candidate prior to recommending them for ordination to the Bishop. Those recommended for ordination by the Bishop were: Deacon Brian Oldfield, Holy Trinity Church, Fernandina Beach, FL; Deacon Bartol Stone, St. Alban’s Cathedral, Oviedo, FL; Mr. Tyler Phass, Diaconate, Reformed Episcopal Seminary; and transfers from other jurisdictions: the Rev. James Johnson, from ACA and the Rev. James Danford, from ACC. In addition, Sean McDermott, who met with the BEC and passed his exams during the Conference, was interviewed by the SC members shortly after the Conference, and was recommended for ordination to the diaconate.
Trip to India—February 14-26, 2017
Our longest standing Global Partner is the Anglican Church of India Diocese of Andhra Pradesh. The Mission Team for this trip will be Vicar General David Haines, Dr. Mary Grundorf, representing the Foreign Mission Board, and me, as the Metropolitan Bishop for India. Our Presiding Bishop is the Rt. Rev. Lawrence Jaya Rao. His Cathedral Church of the Holy Nativity is in Jammalamadugu in the Kadapa District. Bishop Jaya Rao now has 27 village churches and 26 clergymen along with a number of Bible women (Deaconesses) serving with him. We have two purposes for this trip. One is to visit the Good Shepherd School in Kullar, Mahubnagar District in the new State of Telengana. This is the school which the APA raised funds to build in 2011 and it is now complete and I plan to be there to preform the dedication. This school will serve the Dalit children in that area and particularly those children of the Hindu Temple prostitutes. This is a way that OM and their supporting partners such as the APA are able to help interrupt the cycle of poverty and abuse that is experienced by the Dalit people. Their only hope is through our Lord Jesus Christ and providing them with an education.
Our other purpose for the trip is to visit village churches to make contact with the people and to witness first-hand the growth and the needs of the people. This personal contact is so important for these people who are in most cases isolated and need to know they are loved and that other Christians care about them.
Our number of churches in India has more than doubled since my last visit in 2011 and we are so thankful to Bishop Jaya Rao for his faithful witness and guiding hand in his Diocese and beyond. Please pray for Bishop Jaya Rao that the Lord will continue to give him health and energy for the wonderful work he is doing. We pray also that the Lord will raise up other men to serve in his ministry. I am so grateful to our gifted Vicar General David Haines, who manages to keep up with all our Global Partners in the world along with their needs and concerns. He manages to know so many of the clergy by name and church. He is truly a blessing to us all.
Generosity in our midst
I am always amazed and eternally grateful for the generosity of our people. We have received a gift of $25,000 as a seed gift for The Pregnancy Center of Sanford and Oviedo for a new “mobile unit” to go into under-served areas to offer free pregnancy testing, sonograms, and counseling. The benefactor from Holy Trinity Church in Fernandina Beach has provided this gift on behalf of the APA and our strong Pro-Life position and firm belief in the sanctity of life from inception to natural death. Bless you, Lois!
In closing, I want to mention a website that I think all of us could profit by reading; AmazingParish.org. At times, I talk with clergy who seem to have lost their energy and vision and need to find inspiration. This website has many good thoughts and ideas. It is tempting to get into the habit of sitting at a computer for hours on end without a focus. I suggest you go on this website and use the ideas and experience of others who have successfully developed plans and then take the next step of implementation. Don’t let being a “small church” be an excuse for not taking bold action. You will need to find others in your congregation who will share the vision and be willing to work with you to move forward. This relates to the model which we have discussed so often, are we going to be a ‘mission-minded’ parish or ‘maintenance-minded’ parish. If your parish is content to be maintenance-minded they need to be reminded that they will only be a generational church. Most do not want that. Take action! It is up to you to inspire the people with your actions and leadership. Being a parish priest is more than showing up on Sunday to preach and celebrate the Eucharist. We are instructed by St. Paul to ‘equip the saints for the work of the ministry…’ (Eph. 4:12) and it is up to the clergy to lead the way.
We have entered into the unknown once again as we recently celebrated the beginning of a new calendar year. We have never come this way before. Many no doubt made resolutions for this year. Let us all resolve to be more faithful in our work for the Lord and his Kingdom. Where we have failed, let us ask for forgiveness and pray that we may be more diligent as we move forward. God has blessed us all in many ways. May we be thankful in spite of any setbacks in the life we may have, recognizing we have new opportunities each day.
Just to let you know, I will be sending out the 2017 Lenten Appeal notice later this month. Please watch your email and our website for this important effort in our Province. Start now preparing your parishioners to commit $1 to each of the 40 days of Lent.
Blessings to all,
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them. By now most of you are aware of the loss of those who were Clergymen in the APA and also others who were associated friends. We lost a dear friend in Bishop Royal Grote of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) on Thanksgiving Day 2016, who passed away in his sleep. About ten days later, we lost Bishop George Fincke, who came to us from the REC a year and a half ago, and I had just Instituted him as Rector of All Saints’ Church, Prescott, Arizona in October 2016. Then, we lost Father Charles “Gene” Mallard on December 18, 2016, after arriving home following his Eucharist at St. Thomas’ Church, Alto, Georgia. On January 2, 2017, Deacon Eric Dawson from St. Paul’s Church in Melbourne, Florida died. Also, many of you know Bishop Ken Myers, author and conference speaker, who provided the developmental session at the DEUS Synod in July 2016. Bishop Myer’s wife Shirley died after a severe bout with double pneumonia in January 2017. The loss of these faithful servants of our Lord is sincerely felt among all of us and especially by their families. Please pray for the peaceful and sweet repose of each of them and for their families.