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Making Christ Jesus Known

January 30, 2024
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All the ends of the earth shall remember

   and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations

   shall worship before you.

For kingship belongs to the LORD,

   and he rules over the nations.

Psalm 22:27-28 (ESV)

Editor’s note: this letter was submitted for publishing on January 25, 2024, and scheduled to automatically post in conjunction with the January newsletter.

Dear brothers and sisters of the Gulf Atlantic, 

Happy New Year to all of you. I pray your 2024 has started well and also that you are thriving in the Season of Epiphany. I love the season of Epiphany’s emphasis on Making Christ Jesus known, that he might be worshiped and obeyed from our neighborhoods to the ends of the Earth. It was recently pointed out to me that when Old Testament writers, like the David in the Psalm above, talked of the “ends of the Earth” they were speaking, in part, about us here in North America. As we face the difficult days, let us remember God’s faithfulness to bring the nations under His rule. 

Now in my second year as your bishop, I am very grateful for your partnership in the Gospel and the ways the Lord is moving in our midst. Church Plants, revitalizations, laity networks, partnerships of generosity are happening all over the Diocese as a result of our obedience to the Lord’s Word and Spirit.

Last weekend, I was blessed to travel to the Mere Anglicanism conference in Charleston, South Carolina. Like much in our world these days, it was not without drama, but despite that distraction I, and all present, received rich teachings on the topic: Speaking the Truth in Love: The Church and the Challenge of the New Morality.

[Editor’s note: Regarding his sermon on the 28th of January, which included further commentary on the events at the Mere Anglicanism Conference, please see this post.]

On Thursday evening, our preacher at historic St. Phillips Church, the Rev. Vaughn Roberts, spoke from Daniel chapter 1. Fr. Roberts shared a simple outline from this familiar Sunday school passage:

  1. Don’t disengage.
  2. Don’t compromise.
  3. Don’t be afraid.

Easier said than done, I would say! Let me try to expand on his three points in light of this Epiphany season, as the Lord has been leading me this week.

Don’t Disengage

Remaining engaged will require in-depth prayer time. Increasingly, the cultural flow seems bent on burning down what has gone before. Yet, despite the national headlines, we as gospel-bearers must stay engaged with the people around us to hear their stories, discuss their pain, and seek opportunities to speak the Gospel in word and, equally important, in how we live the Gospel through the hospitality of our lives and Church community. Over and over in the conference we were reminded that the witness of how we love in community is a powerful witness to the truth of the Gospel. But this is true only if we invite people (some who we will naturally disagree) into it from our everyday life.

Don’t Compromise

Now, the difficulty here is that some will find not disengaging easier and some will find not compromising easier. Which are you? Who in your Christian community challenges you in the other direction? The Gulf Atlantic Diocese was founded on a conviction that we could not compromise the clear teaching of Scripture. We stand for a biblical understanding of human sexuality and sanctity of life. Furthermore, we believe the body is a gift from God, who created us each male and female. Like Daniel, we must know where to draw the line, when to lay our life down for those convictions. Yet, we must also guard our hearts against callous, unloving words and actions. 

Even though we adamantly disagree with the ‘new morality’ and those who espouse it, our Lord reminds us that they are made in God’s image and have dignity. In 1 Corinthians chapter six, St. Paul lists “the unrighteous” who, “will not inherit the Kingdom of God” yet Paul continues in verse 11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. In our unwillingness to compromise, let us be committed to speaking the truth in Love (Eph.4:15), that many may come out of darkness into His glorious light (1 Peter 2:9).

Don’t Be Afraid

One passage that came up at Mere Anglicanism was 2 Chronicles 20:15:

And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

Often, I have to remind myself of this truth. The battle is the Lord’s. My calling is to be obedient to the what the Lord asks of me in advancing his Kingdom. Daniel and his friends did not eat the King’s food, and yet God granted them health and favor with those over them. So, too, we must through prayer and discernment obey the Lord and trust him for the results. Radical obedience, not success, should be our aim. Fear will close our mouths when we have opportunity to share Jesus, fear will cause us to shrink back when our gifts are needed in the Body. Perhaps most relevant to this year, fear of the future economically or politically will preoccupy us or paralyze us from the work at hand. Fear not, the Lord is with you.

Brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in your place and circumstance. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain! United in the love of our Lord Jesus, let us not disengage, not compromise, and not be afraid. Cling to your Church family for the spiritual health of both you and your fellow believers. Happy Epiphany!

Your fellow servant,