Big Shoes to Fill
  • Saturday, June 28, 2014

By Jeff Walton

Early this week Bishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America’s Diocese of the South was elected in a bishops’ conclave to succeed Archbishop Robert Duncan, who has completed a five-year term. On the day before a Holy Eucharist marking the transfer of authority from Duncan to Beach, the archbishop-elect paused for an interview with The Living Church.

You are the first successor to a founding primate. What are some of the challenges that you foresee?

Number one is just filling Duncan’s shoes. He has some really big feet. All of the responsibilities that are currently with the office of the archbishop are broad, and there is a lot to it. That’s going to be a challenge — discerning what to delegate and when to delegate.

There is no way, especially as we continue to grow, that the archbishop can do all of this by himself. He’s got to have other bishops helping him, and that’s my plan. You’ve got the whole international piece, the ecumenical piece, both of which are continuing to grow, and good things are happening.

Then you have the domestic piece, which is how we grow and multiply our congregations and are effective doing mission in this country. What Os Guinness said today about “taking back the West,” that’s what we need to be about here, and how to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ, and be a small part of a true spiritual awakening in our countries.

The ACNA has been involved with some ecumenical partners such as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Roman Catholic Church in critiquing the Health and Human Services Preventive Care Mandate for coverage of abortifacients and contraceptives. Where do you think that this fight is headed, and what are some of the religious freedom concerns that you have?

We are very passionate about this issue. That our legislators who call themselves Christians could turn a blind eye to all of our voices is very disconcerting. If we don’t stop encroachment — and it seems things have already gone too far — it seems like we Christians are now an easy target. We have got to stand up. Anything that mentions God or Christianity, you can’t talk about that. What we are seeing on high school and college campuses, in the public arena and with the military, is absolutely wrong. Christians have got to speak up and stand up. Our religious liberties are being taken. Tomorrow in my sermon I will mention two examples of people who have stood up.

In May you were one of a group of 41 Anglican bishops who signed on to “A Pledge of Solidarity and a Call to Action on Behalf of Christians and Other Small Religious Communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.” What is it that U.S. and Canadian Anglicans can do to support their partner churches that are vulnerable to pressures or attacks?

Obviously prayer, but where we can influence public policy in the U.S. and Canada, we should be trying to do so. Sadly, our public policy overseas has undermined our friends and allowed a lot of this to happen. I would hope that those in positions of influence would use those to make a difference, particularly with refugees in those parts of the world. We should be trying to raise money to take care of our brothers and sisters.

The ACNA just released its 2013 statistics and they reveal that the church is growing nationally, but that it is made up largely of small parishes and church plants with a median membership of about 60 people. You planted Holy Cross Anglican Church in 2004. What makes for good church planting, and how do we renew those Anglican congregations that are quite small?

The key to growing a parish, whether it is a church plant or one that is already in existence, is to model what Jesus did. Jesus says, “The Father sent me so I send you.” Jesus left his power and glory and all the benefits thereof and became human. We need to leave the comfortableness of our church environments and cliques and get involved in the communities around our churches, build relationships with people, and be the living presence of Christ in those communities. If that is happening, the kingdom is going to grow and the church is going to grow.

At the ACNA Provincial Assembly, many of the plenary talks could be joined together by a common theme of “don’t be safe.” Where are the areas where Anglicans are being comfortable right now, where we need to be challenged to push out into an area of discomfort or vulnerability?

Typically in most parishes, people come together on Sundays; they’ve been busy all week in their jobs and raising families. They’ve developed these Christian relationships that are wonderful, but there is no intentionality of going outside those relationships and serving, ministering, caring, giving, sacrificing for the Lord outside of church walls. It’s like we get people comfortable in the church there and they don’t take the next step of empowering and freeing people to get into the communities where people are living. That’s a whole different paradigm and mindset about how you do church. You want to see people at church and catch up with how they are doing, but at the same time there is so-and-so standing in the corner who just happens to be visiting in the church and nobody is really talking to them because they are engaged with catching up with their friends.

You have a long-running relationship with Young Life. What could an Anglican parish relationship with Young Life or similar parachurch ministries look like?

Young Life has church partnerships with congregations where they work together trying to reach high school kids in that area. The bottom line is that we can learn a lot from these people about how to reach people in that demographic. Young Life and some of these other organizations are just so skilled in how to reach the youth culture, and we’re oblivious to it.

People will tell me, “We don’t have any teenagers in our church” and don’t know how to get any. Yet there is a high school down the street with 2,000 teenagers in it and it’s like come on now, wake up, they are right there. But they don’t know how to go there and get involved in youth culture. The same could be said with children’s ministry. I think we have a lot of work to do there, and part of the role of the province is to help the dioceses be good at equipping their churches.

We have a lot to learn from parachurch ministries, and many of them theologically are right where we are and are opening to sharing ministry and doing things together.

What do you do in your spare time that is not church-related?

I run, ride a Harley, work in the yard. My son and I have taken up kiteboarding, we actually went to kiteboarding school in Honduras. There is a kite, you’re on a wakeboard, and the kite drives the power. I’ve waterskiied and wakeboarded for over 30 years. The handle that controls the kite is just like a ski rope, when you are skiing you turn it to shift your balance, but if you do that with a kite it turns the kite. So you have to totally keep your balance on the board. Teaching this old dog new tricks is just terrible. Also, in waterskiing if you fall you drop the rope, but with kiteboarding if you do that the kite just keeps going up.

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