On February 17-19 at Christ Church, Austin, TX, the Anglican Church in North America convened the Matthew 25 Gathering: Justice and Mercy Contending for Shalom. The gathering brought together representatives of more than 20 Anglican ministries from around the Province and focused on service to the “last, the least, and the left-out.” These included churches, service agencies, and lone individuals active in reaching out to the homeless, struggling immigrants, at-risk families and many others who are marginalized in our society but loved by Christ and his Church. Among the invitation-only participants were two ministries out of the ADNE: Church Army USA, represented by The Rev. Bryan Bywater and All Nations Christian Church and Academy, New Haven, CT, represented by The Rev. Geoff and Blanca Little.
The Matthew 25 Initiative was born out of the heart of Archbishop Foley Beach and the desire of a donor who has been deeply moved and touched by God to make some of his wealth available to help the poor and needy. The donor desires to remain anonymous. The ACNA has voiced this as a present opportunity to think long-term and grow into a voice on behalf of the weak, the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed (as is seen in passages like Isaiah 58, and Matthew 25). Developing strong, healthy, long- term initiatives and ministries are a key for launching an initiative that will last for decades, bringing about real kingdom transformation. The ACNA seeks to develop a community of ministries among the poor and marginalized to encourage, support, resource, and equip each of them for engagement in the most broken places of North America. This long-term system of values and collaboration will help make it so that ten years down the road, work among the poor and marginalized in North American Anglicanism will be healthy and lasting.
The teachings at the gathering focused on “contending for Shalom,” the peace of God, as the workers in various places toil to bring Heaven’s Kingdom to earth among the poor and disenfranchised. The Rev. Bill Haley, executive director of Coracle and Associate Rector at The Falls Church, taught that “all spiritual formation is for Kingdom action,” demonstrating the connection between spiritual discipline and external mission. The Rev. David Hanke, Rector of Restoration Anglican Church, Arlington, VA, stirred up the attendees with teachings from scripture and history, calling them to holiness and tapping into the great weapons of the Anglican Tradition that transformed the landscape of England while it was at its worst.
In addition to these speakers, there were field reports from those running homeless shelters, refugee services, and border ministries, including a video shown on Fr. Bryan’s work with Church Army USA.
Fr. Bryan had this to share about his experience:
“A massive team of 25 had been praying for us for months, unknown by us. You could feel it. A room was open for soaking prayer and individual prayer, and the grounds were prayed for. We all had space to lament and weep over the addicted, sick, incarcerated, homeless, hungry and poor which make up our work. Often our pace is so hurried we don’t have time to process, and we were given the gift to do so. These laments were all offered up to God as a Holy Offering.”
The Rev. Geoff also expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to connect with the deep emotional burdens many experience working in inner cities, dealing with racial relations, and supporting those with severe brokenness. The ability to lament with others and cry out to God together was not only cathartic but eye-opening, bringing to light the struggles that others were going through across North America, showing that, indeed, “the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:9)
Archbishop Foley Beach addressed the fellowship on the last day, declaring, “Our outreach to the lost and vulnerable shall not be on the outskirts of ACNA–it will be our center, the spirit which drives us to the goal of reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus.”
“He called us his heroes,” Fr. Bryan stated. “I will never forget that. He encouraged us to press on and infect the entire ACNA with our spirit and fire. He has called the Province to fight against becoming insular again, and to run to the edges with the Gospel.
It was brilliant.”
Below is the Church Army USA video presented at the Matthew 25 Gathering, including Fr. Bryan’s work in Connecticut!
*Special thanks to The Rev. Geoff Little and The Rev. Bryan Bywater for helping to write this post by providing their experiences, insights, and photos, and sharing this important event with the ADNE!