January 24, 2017
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I returned last week from the first ACNA College of Bishops meeting of the year; it was a joy to be reunited with my fellow bishops. New members in full participation like Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina brought fresh perspective and enthusiasm. There are many initiatives that the ACNA is participating in, and most of them can be read about in the province’s latest College of Bishops Report, but I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts on what stood out to me while I was there.
The preparation of the College of Bishops for Provincial Assembly 2017 is very exciting. It will be a wonderful gathering for the whole church to hear about what God is doing throughout North America and will take place at Wheaton College, a respected and historic Christian university. One of the works that God is doing in our province is the continuing initiative of Matthew 25, which has produced the opportunity for doubling a million dollar gift to impact people’s lives in significant ways. One of the beneficiaries of this ministry is our own All Nations Christian Academy in New Haven, CT, run by The Rev. Geoff Little and Blanca Little. They have been the recipients of two such gifts from Matthew 25. The Rev. Bryan Bywater also received support for his Connecticut ministry through Church Army USA. I’m thankful that the ministry of the province so generously and effectively strengthens our own ministries right here in New England. Please watch for ways to contribute and add to the doubling of this fund.
I was also impressed by the scope and depth of the historic work that continues for the new ACNA prayer book, set for release in 2019. Reviewing and editing significant texts is a challenging task. As a bishop who gets to witness this work unfold, I got the sense that I was walking through a weighty moment in Church history as the Church prepares to equip generations to come with this new prayer book. Former Archbishop Robert Duncan’s leadership continues to be extraordinary in both the scope of theological reflection and the practical implementation of the book’s production. The introduction to the ACNA Catechism was also reviewed and new edits were made; a new edition will be released soon.
The Holy Orders task force completed its phase 4 document regarding ordination and received feedback from all members of the College during our time together. We will continue to pray and work together through this report and its implications for our province and the wider communion with meetings in June and September of this year. Our Archbishop reminded us of how important it is to maintain mutual respect and patience as we work out our responses to this important matter in the history of the Church.
2017 continues to be an important year for youth ministry throughout the province. We look forward to meeting and greeting hundreds of young people at Provincial Assembly this coming June. The college also had guest speaker, Canon Stephen Tighe, the provincial canon for youth ministry, give a report on the various ministries geared to youth around North America and the province’s future endeavors in that area; we hope to have him join us for our ADNE clergy conference this coming May as we explore new ways to pursue youth ministry in our diocese.
The Teleos Initiative is another ministry that has just begun, implemented by Bishop Todd Hunter of the Diocese of Church for the Sake of Others. In May, we hope to send leaders to this conference of church planters engaged in a collaborative conversation pertaining to the question of North American culture and the Gospel (If you would like to attend, please be in touch with our offices via email for more information.). I’m very excited to have Bishop Todd with us this coming June, from the 9th to the 11th, for another conference on the engagement of culture with the Gospel in the 21st century. Bishop Todd will be our preacher at the consecration of our new cathedral, All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral. Please mark your calendars and be sure to join us for those three days of fellowship, encouragement, and ministry.
In addition, we heard about the next year, 2018, and the extremely significant GAFCON conference in Jerusalem, ten years after its first conference in the same location. The ACNA Provincial Council will also be taking place in Jerusalem, right after the GAFCON conference and will provide opportunities for members of our churches to go on Holy Pilgrimage that I am looking forward to leading. (If you would like to attend either a pilgrimage event to the holy land before GAFCON and Provincial Council or stay on as a worker for these two events, the province is looking for volunteers. Please contact the diocesan office; details will follow for travel arrangements and pilgrimage costs).
One of the most important themes that have surfaced recently among our bishops and churches is the power of the Holy Spirit for mission and ministry. As an example of this, one of our days together was devoted to a teaching and training event regarding the ministry of deliverance and exorcism. The Rev. Mark Quay and The Rev. Craig Isaac led us in an exciting lecture series and discussion on this powerful ministry, which helps set people free from the Devil’s grip through the Spirit’s power, touching on the relationship between psychology, mental illness, and the reality of demonization. Archbishop Foley reminded bishops that they are the chief exorcists in their dioceses and should be encouraging and training ministers to help in responsible ways those who are demonized, in addition to continuing the ministries of physical and emotional healing for those who are mentally ill.
As we begin the new year together, we look forward to this theme continuing to surface here in New England, and I am excited to see our churches empowered by the Spirit to bring freedom and healing to people both within church walls and without. The upcoming SOMA New England Conference is a part of this as we welcome Archbishop Ben Kwashi to All Saints Cathedral in February to speak on the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. I hope that you will make every effort to attend this significant event on Saturday, February 4th. We look for God’s continuing action in and through all of these endeavors, but most of all we look for the transforming love of Jesus Christ to be manifest here in New England and across all of North America.
May the Lord Himself bless you and prosper you as we move forward in faith together.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Bill Murdoch