++Venables in the Diocese of Fort Worth
Both meetings went marvelously. The archbishop was inspiring, convicting his listeners of the seriousness of the battle for the Truth of the Gospel that is presently underway around the Anglican Communion. The present strife is not merely a battle about human sexuality, he stressed, but about the the absolute truth of God's Word written and the reality of the Word of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. This is ultimately not about the consecration of an active homosexual as a bishop or the performance of same sex blessings. Rather it is about whether Jesus of Nazareth is the Way, the Truth and the Life or not, about whether God has revealed His sovereign will for our lives in Holy Scripture or not. The Truth is not relative, no matter how much some leaders in TEC and the rest of the Communion might wish it to be so.
We were also reminded that the present debate over SSB's is about far more than the proper way to order society according to Biblical principles (which it is), but even more importantly it is about preserving the sacrament of Holy Matrimony as a type of the relationship between Jesus and His Church. If we tamper with the sacramental union of man and woman, we jeopardize a God-given revelation of Christ's complete giving of Himself for and to His bride, the Church, and the total self-offering required of us in return.
During both question-and-answer sessions the archbishop reminded us of the overwhelming approval given by the leadership of the Southern Cone to that province's offer to receive dioceses departing TEC into its structure. And although these new relationships would be on a "temporary and pastoral basis," the Southern Cone will soon take steps to adapt their provincial constitution and canons so as to better incorporate the received North American dioceses into an orderly and stable framework. We were warned not to "hold our breath" while waiting for a long-term resolution to the present crisis. Clearly Archbishop Venables recognizes that we could be within his fold in the Southern Cone for several years to come. But while he doesn't foresee a rapid resolution of the Communion's difficulties, he does view the upcoming GAFCON in Jerusalem as a crucial step in building a viable future for orthodox Anglicanism in the world today.
We were repeatedly reminded that in the Southern Cone dioceses are almost entirely "autonomous." We will order our own affairs here without interference. And no one from the provincial "headquarters" (I don't believe they actually have one!) will ever show up and try to dictate how a parish worships if we should vote to join their province in November!
I, for one, was extremely impressed. Archbishop Venables is a dedicated man of God and a gifted preacher. He is steadfast in his defense of "the faith once delivered to the saints," yet there is nothing dour about him. His personal faith is lively and joy-filled. He speaks of Satan, sin and death in somber tones, as one who understands our desperate need for salvation. But he practically glows when he talks of Christ's love for us displayed in His cross and empty tomb.
And the good archbishop is also incredibly funny! Everyone I talked to afterward mentioned his great sense of humor. (Ever notice how often people on the Left come across as humorless?) The archbishop has deepened both my joy in Christ and my zeal for the Gospel. His enthusiasm and dedication are positively infectious! And the sight of Archbishop Venables with his arm around the shoulders of my own worthy shepherd, Bishop Iker, warmed my heart. May God grant them both many more years.
I know how I am going to vote at the next diocesan convention. And I suspect many others may have made up their minds today as well. I rejoice and thank God that Archbishop Venables may soon be my primate.
The archbishop will preach at St. Vincent's Cathedral, Bedford, at our 9AM and 11:15AM Eucharists on Sunday. He will also preach downtown at St. Andrew's, Fort Worth, at Evensong at 5PM on Sunday evening.
UPDATE: The good archbishop continued to minister to us at St. Vincent's Cathedral Sunday morning. His homily and his talk at Adult Forum were more of the same--a straightforward, no-nonsense proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, confronting error head-on and building up the Body of Christ in truth, joy, and love.
One moment from this morning struck me as telling about this godly man's character. Today was the last morning one of our long-time acolytes would be serving in the sanctuary, as she is soon leaving town for college. When the archbishop heard this news, he gave her a big hug, kissed her on the forehead, and thanked her for her service to the Lord--and he had never met her before that instant! ("Right Reverend Father in God," indeed. What a striking contrast ++Venables makes to the present leadership of the national Episcopal church. All we get from 815 is the back of the hand!) As you can tell, I am now a big fan of "Bishop Greg"!
May God grant ++Greg and his wife, Silvia, safe travels home and may He give the convention of our diocese wisdom in making our upcoming decision.
PS--Anglicans United has a thorough recap of the archbishop's remarks to our convocation on Saturday. Do be warned, however: the posted remarks appear to be fairly complete (though of necessity, choppy) notes taken by a listener, not the actual text of the archbishop. He had no text. It was an extemporaneous address. I'm not even sure he had many notes--just a floppy Bible!
*While the constitution of the Province of the Southern Cone refers to his position as "Presiding Bishop," we were informed of a range of titles that are acceptable to this worthy man of God--Archbishop, "Bishop Greg," Presiding Bishop, or simply "Greg. " So please don't remind me that he is a "PeeBee," rather than an "archbishop." In the first place, the title "presiding bishop" has been so compromised in my mind as to seem unworthy of such a fine Christian leader. And secondly, I have been told that I have "an innate sense of hierarchy." So "Archbishop Venables" it is! :-)