Archbishop Foley Beach has not been in office for a year, but he has been very active in his short time. What has he been up to so far and what can we glean from his actions?
On November 10th 2014, Archbishop Beach met with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. He was accompanied by Bishop Ray Sutton who has a great passion for ecumenical coming together with Catholic and Orthodox churches.1 This meeting was to further cooperation between the two churches.
Metropolitan Hilarion came under heavy fire during this time from writers who called him a liar. Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille wrote:
Hilarion is rather like the Energizer Bunny: he goes on and on and on repeating tirelessly whatever pernicious propaganda the Russians want to spread. He has three channels to choose from: tired and outright lies about Ukrainian Catholics, repeated ad nauseam for over a decade now; useful if rather vague calls for Christians to co-operate in addressing the social ills of our time (same-sex marriage, divorce, abortion); and tendentious distortions of his own Orthodox tradition, particularly her ecclesiology.
DeVille concluded: “If he repeatedly tells lies about Catholics in Ukraine, and is now caught out uttering distortions about his own Orthodox tradition, how can this man be called upon to reliably discuss anything?”
DeVille was echoed by George Weigel, writing in First Things, who bluntly said:
For the past year, Metropolitan Hilarion and his master, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, have functioned as agents of Russian state power in matters having to do with Ukraine. Which is to say, they have functioned as agents of Vladimir Putin. I take it as axiomatic that serious ecumenical dialogue is impossible when the dialogue-partner operates under ambiguous or false pretenses and uses the dialogue to advance political interests. Yet that is the charade that is allowed to continue when Hilarion is welcomed in Rome. Indeed, the charade is reinforced.
Hopefully, ACNA and Archbishop Beach will think carefully before going too far down the road of cooperation with Hilarion and the Moscow Patriarchate.
Archbishop Beach made several key appointments to help him with leading the Province, as I noted here. Later, he appointed the Rev. Dan Alger as his Provincial Canon for Church Planting. Rev. Alger is a veteran of AMiA and PEARUSA, with a background in Bishop Terrell Glenn’s church.
One thing Archbishop Beach seems to be emphasizing is increasing a church planting presence in minority communities. Perhaps as part of this outreach, the Archbishop delivered an address to an ecumenical gathering at the Mt. Enon Baptist Church in Monroe, Georgia on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Archbishop Beach had high praise for Dr. King, concluding: “As we give thanks for Martin Luther King, Jr. this day, let us also seek to emulate his teaching and the example of how that teaching was to be lived.”
In February, Archbishop Beach responded to a ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court regarding physician assisted suicide. He wrote: “The Anglican Church in North America is committed to defending life from conception to natural death. Last week the Canadian judiciary opened the doors to physician assisted suicide, and we are deeply concerned about the threat that this poses to our weakest and most vulnerable members.”
Also in February, the Archbishop addressed the Georgia State Senate and admonished them to uphold God’s Law:
And so as our elected representatives, I would like to ask: Are the laws which you pass driving us further from the Law of God or are they bringing us closer to the Law of God? The eternal standards of right and wrong do not change – even though the culture and public opinion polls do.
The Archbishop asked for prayer for the persecuted church after ISIS executed Copts working in Libya. In an encouraging sign to me, he cited the example of Janani Luwum:
As we pray for the persecuted today, we do not need to go far to find a contemporary example of how God has built his Church through suffering. It is 38 years to the day that Archbishop Janani Luwum of Uganda was killed for his faith. His death was not broadcast to the world, and yet today he is being celebrated in Uganda as a model of faithfulness in the face of tyranny.
In March, the Archbishop traveled to Rwanda where he was with Bishop Guernsey, PEARUSA bishops Quigg Lawrence, Steve Breedlove, Ken Ross and David Bryan. The bishops went on retreat in Musanze and discussed renewing PEARUSA’s charters and protocols with the Rwandans. Expect PEARUSA to not remain as a standalone entity for much longer, but don’t expect them to acknowledge what is going on in Rwanda during this transition, but rather to shower the Anglican Church in Rwanda with praise.
To summarize, it seems like the new Archbishop is raising ACNA’s political profile a bit, and trying to broaden the scope of its outreach. Most of the Provincial initiatives were in place prior to his consecration, and continue to run on their own. I think his heart is in the right place, but I hope he applies the lessons of Janani Luwum to his relationships with the Russian Orthodox and his African partners, particularly Uganda and Rwanda which are nations run by dictators.