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Is it foolish to despise the 'day of small things'?

Collected comments on the Anglican Network in Europe consecrations

The consecration of three bishops for the Anglican Network in Europe has, rightly received wide coverage. So wide that it is doubtful that many can take it all in, so here are some “edited highlights”.

Dr Andrew Atherstone writing on the Psephizo blog, said,

“There was a buzz of excitement in the air at the inauguration of their new ministries, and exhilaration at the gospel bonds which draw together the global Anglican family. In a variation to the usual liturgy, the new bishops were doffed on the head with a Bible and exhorted, ‘Remember that you are always under the Word of God”.

He goes on to describe the functioning of that “global Anglican family”,

“Global leaders in the Anglican Communion, associated with Gafcon, gave the consecration their full backing. Archbishop Laurent Mbanda (primate of Rwanda) preached the consecration sermon, on the Great Commission in Matthew 28, while Archbishop Henry Ndukuba (primate of Nigeria) presided at Holy Communion. They both declined invitations to the Lambeth Conference in summer 2022, but believed this event sufficiently important to make the long trek to Hull. There were also video greetings from Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba (primate of Uganda), Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit (primate of Kenya), and Archbishop James Wong (primate of the Indian Ocean), among others. The chief consecratior was Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), chair of the Gafcon primates’ council. Other bishops joining the consecration were Jay Behan (New Zealand), Julian Dobbs (USA), Charlie Masters (Canada), and Owen Nwokolo (Nigeria). These are impressive Anglican leaders, people of wisdom and stature. The platform was a wonderful global array”.

Dr Atherstone is a noted church historian, who has sought to understand the complexity of ANiE being, " an experimental laboratory, where ecclesiological innovation is encouraged. These pioneers might make many mistakes along the way, a process of trial and error, but are attempting to create a functioning ecclesial operation from scratch."

It is highly significant, therefore, for him to write,

“The Anglican Network in Europe is quickly gathering momentum and maturity. The Hull consecrations are a watershed moment for the development of Anglican ecclesiology in the 21st century, in the very country where Anglicanism was born. The initiative is small and fragile but as the prophet Zechariah exhorts, it is foolish to despise ‘the day of small things’ (Zech 4.10)”.

Writing on behalf of the network, Revd Philip de Grey-Warter, Rector of an ANiE church, also identified the consecrations as a “watershed” moment,

“Coming directly from the Gafcon Primates’ meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, the presence of these Archbishops (along with other bishops from New Zealand, the USA and Canada) sends a strong and clear message that the global church stands shoulder to shoulder with their authorised home for historic, orthodox, faithful, Biblical, confessional Anglicans across Europe. Archbishop Foley Beach said, “We are here to say ‘you are not alone’, and as representatives of the majority of Anglicans in the Anglican Communion, we recognise what the Lord is doing in this emerging province.”

“In the light of unsettling pluralism within Canterbury-aligned Anglican structures, those seeking a safe home will be reassured that there is a genuine and authentic Anglican alternative to compromise and cultural capitulation."

Revd Andrew Symes is a man who knows that of which he speaks - he left the Church of England for reasons of conscience and is now an ANiE clergyman. In an article for Anglican Mainstream and reposted on Anglican Ink, he too could see the consecrations as pointing beyond themselves and prompting a fresh examination of the culture in both church and society,

“… ANiE as a new mission movement is another positive vehicle for gospel ministry alongside those going on in the Church of England and other denominations. But it is more than this. It has emerged out of conflict between truth and error within the church; it has been formed out of a recognition that witness within a cultural environment that is not benign and fertile requires costly distinctiveness. The existence of this fellowship of mostly small churches is in itself a prophetic statement against the “hollow and deceptive philosophies” (Colossians 2:8) of the world and the principalities and powers behind them; a warning against compromise; a lifeboat when it’s clear the big ship is sinking”.

That tension for ANiE of being presently small and fragile as described by both Atherstone and Symes, but also growing and part of something far, far bigger was also a theme of interviews after the consecrations. Archbishops Beach and Wong and Bishop Lines were interviewed by Revd Dominic Steele for his Sydney based “The Pastor’s Heart” broadcast. Lines, the Presiding Bishop of the two proto-dioceses of ANiE, described Friday’s events as, “An indication and an indicator of future growth that we are actually going to need more not fewer bishops”.

But while agreeing about how exciting these developments are, he added,

“… but don’t be misled into thinking that we are big or impressive or numerous, we are under God, growing, so we are greatly encouraged. Both Convocations are receiving new congregations and we are in discussions with a good number more. We are building for the future and partly because of the huge geographical spread of a continent that has 750 million people in it [there is] the recognition that I can ill-afford to be on my own doing that, so it is an encouraging sign, but we shouldn’t get carried away that we are somehow more impressive than we are”.

The tension between the little and the large was also found in what Archbishop Beach had experienced,

“Part of it is, currently until the Network is large enough to be a Province, they are technically under the Primates’ Council of the Global Anglican Futures Conference. But secondly, it shows that this isn’t just an offshoot, some one-off group, but it is supported by the worldwide Anglican Communion. You have the Primate of All Nigeria, I think they have about 22 million in Church on Sunday, the Primate of Rwanda who is Vice-Chair of the Gafcon Primates Council. We had a bishop from New Zealand, we had a bishop from Canada, we had another bishop from Nigeria, we had another bishop from North America and plus we had Andy. So, it’s a broad group laying hands upon him… But I think it demonstrates that what’s happening here is not just a small group of people but that it represents the Anglican Communion”.

The interviews also touched on another recurring theme- that episcopacy in ANiE would have particular character different to what many might be used to. Bishop Lines spoke of the “special flavour” of a more relational episcopacy, with Right Reverend Foley Beach, expanding on that,

“It ought to be noted that [the Bishops] were selected, they weren’t just appointed. They went through the Synodical process that the Anglican Network has. And the other thing I thought I would share is that when we are not talking about bishops we are not talking about administrators, although that’s part of their role. We are talking about overseers of the flock who pastor the pastors. What I like to term as an “incarnational episcopate. That the bishops aren’t just sitting in their office somewhere they’re actually out ministering, caring for the flock, whether that is the local pastors or the local congregations. So, it’s a kind of different approach taking us back to the original approach that Jesus modelled for us when he left heaven, entered our world and came and served us and loved us and cared for us, ultimately gave his life for us. So that’s what these bishops are called to do as well”.

Other comment about the consecrations can be found at Anglican Futures and Christian Today

More to follow, particularly when it is known what the response of the Archbishop of Canterbury is to Primates coming to England having declined to come to the Lambeth Conference and what the Archbishop of York will say about such a service taking place in his Province with many of his clergy in attendance.

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