Keeping the Unity of the Spirit…Ephesians 4:3

Unity in Community

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To all our Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Deaconesses, Lay Deputies and observers, welcome to the 11th Synod of the Anglican Province of America.  This Province was organized and held its first Synod July 22, 1998, making this our 19th year since founding.  We thank God for the blessings he has given us over those years and we pray for his guidance as we move forward into new and challenging territory.  I want to welcome the special invited guests with us:  Bishop Ray Sutton, from the Reformed Episcopal Church, Bishop Jack Iker, from the Diocese of Fort Worth, and Bishop William Millsaps, from the Episcopal Missionary Church.

Special Thanks

Before moving on to the State of the Province, I want to acknowledge and thank Jack Wyatt, who has served as the co-chair for this Anglican Joint Synods 2017.  He along with Debbie Weaver of the Anglican Catholic Church have done a masterful job in pulling this week long event together.  Other vital work has been done by Bishop Chad Jones and the parish of St. Barnabas’ Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, as our people on the scene locally.  Special thanks to some other critical people in the coordination process.  Archdeacon Erich Zwingert manages our website and worked with online registration for our Synods.  Executive Secretary Lisa Ulrich manages to keep all the various parts of the process and information flowing between the functions critical to the APA and our Diocesan Synods.  Debra Middleton, our Synod Coordinator, along with help from the many volunteers of St. Barnabas’ Church has organized and assembled packets and provided registration teams for our Synods.

State of the Province

It is my privilege and honor as your Presiding Bishop to address you concerning the State of the Province and to issue a charge and challenge on this occasion.  We are now positioned to move into a new world of challenges as we face the next triennium.  With the signing of the Full Communion Document, we will be committed to working with other like-minded Anglicans in building the Church.  While in the past there has been a level of competition, we now look forward to a greater level of cooperation.

Much the past ill-will occurred following the Deerfield Beach Unity Synod in 1991, when about 40-50% of the ACC left merging with the American Episcopal Church to form the Anglican Church in America.  Much of the leadership at the time of the formation of the ACA also came from the ACC.  Bad feelings were inevitable. However, looking back on the past three years, there are a number of positive signs that we, as Traditional Anglicans, have experienced.  The first has to do with the warming of the relationship of the Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Church in America, and the Anglican Province of America.  I feel we have always left the door open to this possibility, but in the last few years a real change in attitude on the part of the ACC has taken place.  I pray and believe that those dark days are over and lessons were learned by all.

Our three Dioceses of the APA

We will have reports at this Synod from each of our Dioceses, but I do want to mention a few positive highlights that have happened in the Diocese of the West (DOW), the Diocese of Mid-America (DMA) as well as the Diocese of the Eastern United States (DEUS).

The DMA has a new Bishop Ordinary, the Rt. Rev. Robert T. Giffin, since our last Provincial Synod.  Since that time, Bishop Giffin and his wife Norma Jean and family have relocated to the southern part of the DMA to San Antonio, Texas.  Bishop Larry Shaver has retired as Ordinary and is now Bishop-in-residence at St. Andrew the Evangelist Church, Merrillville, Indiana, which he founded many years ago.  He has been dealing with health issues but seems to be doing better and we continue to remember him and his wife Carol in our prayers.  He sends his love and blessings for a successful Synod. The DMA welcomed the new congregations of St. Mary Queen of Heaven and St. Chad’s Anglican Church, both in San Antonio, Texas, and Living Grace Anglican Church in Conroe, Texas, near Houston.

The DOW has experienced a leadership change since the last Provincial Synod as well.  Canon Walt Crites has retired as the Vicar General of the DOW as of the October 2016 Synod.  The Rev. Canon Robert Hawkins, who was serving as Assistant Vicar General to Canon Crites, was nominated by me, while I was acting as the Episcopal Visitor to the DOW.  The Standing Committee unanimously ratified the appointment.  The Rt. Rev. Robert Giffin was elected by the DOW to serve as their new Episcopal Visitor.  Also, the DOW welcomed the Pre-Mission of Holy Angels Church in Aloha, Oregon.  And, thanks be to God, we are pleased to announce there will be two ordinations to the Sacred Priesthood in the DOW later this month.

The DEUS celebrated its 49th anniversary at their Synod in July 2016 hosted by St. Matthew’s Church, Riverview, Florida.  The Synod was held in downtown Tampa, Florida, on the riverfront at the Sheraton Hotel.  Fr. Kenneth Bailey is the Rector and his Synod organizers were Tom and Debra Middleton.  They were assisted by a host of volunteers from the parish.  It was a truly memorable time with many activities for our people to enjoy fellowship together.  Our Developmental speaker was Bishop Kenneth Myers of Sherman, Texas.  Bishop Myers sessions were well-received and his books which he brought with him sold out quickly.  We welcomed a number of new congregations in the past three year: St. Mathias, Dothan, Alabama; St. James the Great, Smiths Station (Auburn), Alabama, and All Saints’ Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  There are presently two mission churches that are assisted through our Domestic Mission Board.  They are St. Philip’s Church, Blacksburg, Virginia, the Rev. Wade Miller, Vicar, and most recently St. Peter the Apostle Church, Kingsport, Tennessee, the Rev. Robert Placer, Vicar.

Parochial Schools: the future

Within the DEUS we now have several parochial schools that have been started.  In North Carolina, All Saints’ Church, Mills River, North Carolina has a Christian Day School, St. Matthew’s Church, Weaverville, North Carolina is in a cooperative effort with a Christian School in the Asheville, North Carolina area and Holy Trinity Church, Fernandina Beach, Florida, has started a Christian Day school at the Church with expansion plans ready to go.  I believe this is critical to the future of Christianity.

 

Welcome New Clergy since 2014

I am happy to welcome to this Synod all our new clergy who have been ordained or who have been received into the Province since our last Provincial Synod in 2014.  I would ask that all new clergy since 2014 who have been received or who have been ordained to stand and be recognized at this time.  I would like to ask if there are any lay people here who are new to the APA since Synod 2014 to stand and be recognized

Seminarians and Deaconess Candidates

We have a number of men in Seminary.  We have two men, Deacon Tyler Phass and Kevin Fife, at Reformed Episcopal Seminary and two at Trinity School of Ministry, Deacon Sean McDermott and Mark Perkins.  Attending Faith Seminary is Erik Wilson.  One Deaconess Candidate, Lisa Brenneman, is attending Asbury Seminary.  We have a number of men and women at Logos House of Theological Studies:  Postulants: Dennis Ryan, Thomas Houghton, Walter Jay Gould, and Bill Wall and Deaconess Candidates: Cynthia Hensley and Mary Kay Young.  From the DMA, Deacon Christopher Perez is also attending Logos House.

Retiring Clergy

We had a couple of clergymen retiring from active ministry since last Provincial Synod:  Canon Walt Crites, as Vicar General of the DOW and the Rev. Alton Witham, Deacon at St. Alban’s Cathedral, DEUS.  God bless them both for their many years of faithful service to our Lord and His Church.

Our Statistics for the Province since the fall of 2014

Parishes and Missions:      57 (Current 2017)  (Domestic only)

Bishops:       10 (current 2017)

Priests:         92 (current 2017)

Deacons:      19 (current 2017)

Total Clergy: 121 (current 2017)

Deaconess:   6 (current 2017)

 

Change in the Constitution of the APA

Briefly, for those who were not around during our early history, before the Province was established, the DEUS was independent following its departure from the ACA.  Leadership from the Missionary Convocation of the West (now the DOW) wanted to join us, and as a result a Province was organized.  The Constitution and Canons (C&C) of the APA were developed by the C&C Committee, under Chairman, Archdeacon Erich Zwingert, and were adopted at the first Provincial Synod in July 1998, in Melbourne, Florida.  The Constitutional Article 1 ‘Of the Provincial Synod’ Article 3 codified at that time of the Church’s history that as the only Diocesan Bishop (DEUS), that Bishop would also serve as the Presiding Bishop.  Since the Province has developed with the addition of the DMA and the merging of the Anglican Independent Communion (AIC) into the APA, I have requested that the Constitution be altered for the future in order that the Presiding Bishop be an elected position.

To amend an Article to the Constitution, we must have the approval of two consecutive Provincial Synods, in order for the change to be final.  The amendment was approved at the 2014 Synod, and will need to be approved a second time at this 2017 Synod to affect the change.  This will be a part of our agenda today.

Our Global Partnerships

Canon David Haines has been serving as Vicar General of our Global Partnerships over the past 6 years.  He is also Rector of a busy parish, All Saints’ Church, Wilmington, North Carolina.  Canon Haines has brought consistency and focus to our work abroad.  He is well-respected by the foreign leadership as well as our partners in mission work, Operation Mobilization (OM), Samaritan’s Purse and Worth Endeavors Ministries.  Canon Haines will give a full report with a PowerPoint presentation of the exciting things that are going on in our Partnerships.

Ecumenism

It has been 40 years since the Congress of St. Louis, September 1977. One of the desires that most of us have shared over the years is bringing the dispersed ‘Continuing Anglican Churches’ into a functioning Communion relationship with each other.  We should all pray that this will signal the beginning of a new day for the Continuing Anglican Churches.  Now that we are here at this Joint Meeting of Synods, I encourage each of you to make the effort to meet and talk with those who are from the other jurisdictions.  It is time to move out of our comfort zones and engage others in conversation.  Keep in mind that unity in the Body of Christ often begins with friendship on the personal level.  It is all very similar to welcoming new people that visit your parish church on Sunday.  If you have any hope that a visitor will return, there must be an effort on your part to reach out in friendship to the stranger.  The same goes for our time here with our brothers and sisters from different jurisdictions.  This evening we will be having a ‘social hour’ following Evensong prior to the banquet.  This informal time is always an ideal opportunity to make the rounds and not just to talk with familiar friends or parishioners.  If you see other folks you know huddling among themselves encourage them to mingle.

The Charge

I believe the Continuing Anglicans are now serious about laying aside our divisions.  We are beginning to work with each other more and more; old animosities are being replaced by a new charity.  There is hope for a unified church.  As traditional Anglicans in a changing world, we cannot do business as usual as was the case in the Episcopal Church of the past.  If you look around, you will discover that many of your fellow parishioners here today did not come from the Episcopal Church.  It means those who came from other traditions or no tradition at all were converted to being Anglican Christians.  More and more this is the case, and if we are going to be a growing church, it is often the evangelical Christians who, in their search for the right church, desire the beauty of the liturgy, Apostolic Order, along with good Biblical preaching.  These are the ones who are coming to a number of our churches where we are experiencing growth.

I mentioned that we are living in a changing world.  A number of you are aware of this by observation of what we are bombarded with on television and the internet.  The Church is caught in the midst of the gender identity battle and deviant sexual behavior which seems to dominate the conversation in many mainline churches and is now accepted and welcomed as our new world order.  The racial divide has grown much wider over the past decade in this country and it seems more and more divided politically.  Others who have read The Benedict Option or Strangers in a Strange Land realize the progression of how our Country and the Western world has been turned upside down by the forces of Satan with its anti-Christian rhetoric.  We all know young people, even in our own families, who rarely go inside a church except for a funeral or a wedding.  There are contributing factors to this, including lack of concern or interest on the part of parents and often because of the preponderance of single parent homes.  The public school system in many places has contributed greatly to this decline.  How will the Church affect the downward spiral of the Western World?  Will we do nothing and pretend what is happening around us will go away, or dismiss this as just a cycle and it will change, or we will hide like the ancient Montanists sect and wait for the Second Coming.?

Our Lord gave an activist charge to his Disciples prior to his Ascension.  It was a directive on conversion and growth.  “All authority has been given to me in heaven and earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”  Matt. 28:18-19

Jesus is telling them and us to, ‘cast the net.’  We must begin where we are and first work at making disciples of our own people.  This is the part where our Lord says in his charge, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”  A successful parish needs a core group of committed Christians who are willing to live by the Church’s three-fold rule of prayer that is: (MOP) Mass, Offices (daily) and Prayer (personal).  These are the people who need to be encouraged in ministry and evangelism.  These are the ones who can help ‘cast the net’ to gather others into the fold.  These are the ones who can assist in welcoming others onto the front porch of the church.  This is not a matter of taking them to Sunday Mass, in every case.  We need to acclimate them to the fellowship first in gradual steps through informal gatherings in the parish hall or the pub.  Developing friendships through parish related activities is a non-threatening way to have newcomers find their way into the parish.  Planning events in an informal setting (Parish Hall or in the home of a parishioner), such as sharing a meal or a parish fun night, Theology on Tap or Bunco night, etc., are ways to make people feel a part of the Community.  Meals and hospitality according to St. Luke’s Gospel are primary means for the people of God to reach unbelievers.  In Luke’s Gospel there are 19 meals mentioned.  Ask yourself the question, “Does our Parish have events or meals where unbelievers can and do come?  Or are they always and only for those who already believe?”

Inviting an interested person to Mass first, if they are not familiar with church, or our church in particular might scare them away.  What I have mentioned is a not a new paradigm for introducing people to church, but in a world where so few go to church, or have not even been exposed to the Christian Community, we need to be wise in our approach.

The answer to attracting the unbelievers is not the ‘Mega-church’ concept.  As I mentioned yesterday from Rod Dreher’s book, The Benedict Option “…too many churches function as secular entertainment centers with religious morals slapped on top.  Too many churches have succumbed to modernity, rejecting the wisdom of past ages, treating worship as a consumer activity, and allowing parishioners to function as unaccountable atomized members.  Christians often talk about ‘reaching the culture’ without realizing that, having no distinct culture of their own, they have been co-opted by the secular culture they wish to evangelize.  Without substantial Christian culture, it’s no wonder that our children are forgetting what it means to be Christian and it’s no surprise that we are not bringing in new converts.  By rediscovering the past, recovering liturgical worship and asceticism, centering our lives on the church community, and tightening church discipline, we will by God’s grace, again become the peculiar people we should always have been.”  We live in a new world where assumptions of the past, as far as our Christian Faith goes, no longer exist.  We must become evangelists and cast the net and pray that God will help us through intentional efforts bring others to his Kingdom.

In closing

We are here today to do something of great importance for Traditional Anglicanism in the signing the Agreement of Full Communion with the other major jurisdictions.  It is the highlight of the week.  But remember, unity alone does not make us a missionary church.  We pray we are putting mission-minded churches together to have one larger missionary church.  In order for this to be true, there must be a change within our culture as the Continuing Church and that change must begin in the heart of each individual before we can fulfill our evangelical vocation.  This change is dependent upon each one of us willingly opening up to develop sincere ‘relationships’ with each other, our neighbor and those who come through the doors of our church, welcoming them into our Community.  I don’t need to remind you we live in a world which is increasingly desperate and in need of the Love of Christ.  The drug epidemic is in every culture and corner of this country as people of all ages are looking for what they think will satisfy their loneliness and emptiness.  May we vow in our own hearts, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to be a channel of God’s grace to some lost soul we know in our own life and bring them into our Community.

I want to thank all of you for taking the time and making the effort to be here for this historic Synod in the life of our Province.  The Lord has blessed us over the last three years with a number of new people and new clergy, and seminarians.  We have much to do in our time together.  We look forward to a blessed and productive time together to the glory of God’s Kingdom.

Faithfully submitted,

+Walter

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