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Looking Ahead: Reflections on GAFCON IV and our Strategic Planning Process

June 9, 2023
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Dear people of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese:

It has been a very full two months since I last wrote you at Easter! Five visits to parishes in three states, two ordinations, an American Anglican Council Board meeting, our very first Strategic Planning Event, and a journey to the momentous GAFCON IV in Kigali, Rwanda. And yes, my family and I did make time to rest and to be with our risen Lord. I truly hope that you are all remembering to do the same when those busy times come.

While all of those ministry activities are significant in their own way, and God was working in all of them, I want to highlight specifically the last two that I mentioned: the Strategic Planning Event and GAFCON.

Work on developing our first strategic plan began many months ago as a team began to collect and analyze data about our diocese, and plan for an in-person gathering. That effort culminated in more than seventy clergy and lay leaders, representing every congregation and many different aspects of our ministry together, being invited last month to participate in the Strategic Planning Event. Now, some of you have participated in corporate or institutional strategic planning sessions before, but what we have experienced throughout our process has been very different. Devoted to prayer, the team has felt the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit throughout.

At the Event, we focused on a vision of being “a growing Anglican network of healthy congregations” and heard from presenters about where we stand in the different aspects of that. After each presentation, we brainstormed If-Then statements. Each statement represented something we might do or a goal we might set based on the data. We worshiped and prayed throughout the gathering. After a time of extended prayer, we took about an hour to consider all of those If-Then statements and prioritized them by voting. Then, small groups took those priorities and began to develop specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals.

We will continue collecting up the work of those subcommittees, refining it and developing it into a written long-term plan. I will present the Strategic Plan to the Diocesan Council in September, and there will be an opportunity for them to provide feedback. Then the first full version will be presented at Synod in November. Work on the plan will continue in an ongoing way for years to come as we meet goals, assess our needs, and set new goals. Thank you for your prayers and fasting over this event (and especially the intercessory team praying throughout). I hope that you will continue to pray (and fast, as the Lord may direct you) for this work as we complete the tasks necessary to finalize the initial document.

Regarding our time in Rwanda for GAFCON IV, I want to say just a few things. Anglicans around the world continue to be divided about issues about the primacy of the Bible for Christians, who Jesus is, and what the gospel is. While we are thankful for the witness of the Anglican Church in North America since its founding, it was eye-opening to hear from brothers and sisters in places like the UK and Australia who continue to face tremendous opposition. The Anglicans of the Global South have been incredibly supportive for over twenty years, and I was made thankful once again for the way they continue reaching out— even though they face many difficult obstacles of their own, like poverty, famine, war, and terrorism. It would be easy for them to focus on ministry in their own nations, but they continue to contend globally for “the faith once delivered to the saints.”

It was incredibly rewarding to visit with longtime friends, some of them ministering in difficult places like South Sudan. Zoom calls and emails are a great way to stay in touch, but nothing can replace being together in person to encourage and minister to and pray with one another. I was once again absolutely inspired by the witness and ministry of our Global South brothers and sisters. Thank you for supporting–directly or indirectly–our delegation’s travel and presence there. I believe this GAFCON was an important time of looking ahead as a global community of Anglicans, much as our SPE was an important time of looking ahead as a growing Anglican network of healthy congregations here in the southeastern USA.

If you have not yet, please do read the conference’s final statement (the Kigali Commitment). You can read the reflections by some of the staff in this edition of the Communiqué, and you can revisit the day-by-day account of what it was like to be there at this archive.