One sign of an effective conference is that it challenges you to re-examine closely held assumptions. Moving Forward Together caused me to re-examine myself on several fronts. First, on the configuration of Anglicanism in North America. Bishop Julian Dobbs challenged the gathering not to duplicate the monolithic structures of the past, encouraging us to maintain our connections with Africa. He said in part:
Our risk, even at this very early stage of our development, is that as we establish this new expression of biblical missionary Anglicanism it becomes so much an expression of the former structures that it is very difficult to observe the difference between the past and the present. Hierarchical structures, infighting, power struggles, committees, attorneys, insecurities, leaders who say one thing and do another while some take care to secure their own positions at the expense of others.
I want to prayerfully and carefully caution our new Anglican movement, let us not be complacent and reinvent the less effective structures of the past. We must be constantly vigilant against an all-too-human temptation to feel that ‘the past was good enough;’ to live in the continual ‘afterglow’ of the great acts of God in past decades. The constant, forward movement of God the Holy Spirit is ever dynamic. Relationships are new and different and this is to be celebrated.
I am humbled as a native born New Zealander and now a new American to serve as a bishop in the Church of Nigeria, [Anglican Communion] while serving as a bishop of the Anglican Church in North America by right of my standing as a Bishop in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America; a Suffragan to our Missionary Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns. These are unusual relationships, but they are kinship that strengthen our shared mission as Anglican Christians in the world who believe that Jesus still says ‘go and recognize our necessary and shared dependence upon Almighty God and the global Anglican family.’
In the past I have felt that CANA and the AMiA should end and fold into ACNA. Having observed the catastrophe of the last few months however, I now see the value in Bishop Dobbs’ admonition. We have made a mess of things in a few short years. So while I believe we can and must become an integral part of ACNA, I now think we should maintain these African connections for another decade or so. Bishop Dobbs is right: we don’t need a linear and defined structure at this moment of chaos.
Second, I was directly challenged about evangelism. To quote Bishop Julian again:
A determined dedication to evangelism is not an occasional chat about Christ with your buddy in local golf club or the brief mention of church with the local walking group. We must be committed to a revolutionary dissemination and proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ across North America and, in fact across the globe. The Lausanne Covenant, a declaration agreed upon by more than 2300 evangelicals said evangelism is…“the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ, as savior and Lord with a view to persuading people to come to him personally, and so to be reconciled to God.”…It is indivisibly linked with Christian discipleship and it is one of the primary reasons why the church exists at all, and yet, and yet, the fact is the vast segments of the Church (perhaps even some of you here today) appear to be less than enthusiastic about regularly and faithfully declaring the Gospel which has been entrusted to us! [When do you last share the Gospel message with someone at the grocery store, or your non church relatives and friends?]
Someone else asked me why we want to be linked with Rwanda? In my mind it has been because we need a connection to the Communion and we need to learn about suffering from them. But, this individual asked me, what about the East African Revivial? What about a passion for evangelism and expanding the Kingdom? Combining the old time religion message of Bishop Dobbs with the questions from this brother, I was clearly convicted that my “passion” for evangelism has been weighed and found wanting. The call to die to self and proclaim Christ has been missing in my life for some time and I thank God that the Assembly revived the call to take up the cross and follow.
Thirdly, I was confronted with the need to again examine myself in regards to potential call to the ministry. Bishop Dobbs said, “Each one of us must ask: What gift have we received? Each one of us has received a gift, serve, serve like good stewards using those gifts and we must consider church planting as one of our highest priorities.”
He challenged us to ask ourselves if we are called to ministry and to church planting. I like to avoid this question and think about other things, but this short life is passing me by and will soon by over. Why not give yourself to something that will so clearly expand the Kingdom and fulfill the Great Commission? I along with all of us should reconsider the question of what God is calling us to do.