"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

++Venables in the Diocese of Fort Worth

Our diocese is pleased this weekend to have as our honored guest Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone.* On Friday he preached at a Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Iker at Holy Apostles, Fort Worth, following which the archbishop met for several hours with the clergy of the diocese and answered our questions. Today he addressed a special convocation of our diocesan convention in the gym of St. Vincent's Cathedral School, taking questions from the delegates following his talk for more than an hour.

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! :-)


Anonymous Jill C. said...

Yes, indeed. He is Archbishop Venables -- or maybe even Archbishop Greg! Met him this evening, (looked for you at St. Andrews, Father) and truly enjoyed the occasion. I wholeheartedly agree with what you said about the man!

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Keith Bramlett said...

Archbishop Greg's joy in the Lord was infectious last Wednesday at St. Anne's in Oceanside, CA. Two years ago I had the distinct pleasure of attending an Anglican Men's Weekend where he taught for 3 days. Talk about powerful!

2:05 PM  
Anonymous andy b said...

I'm sorry I missed it, but Laura and I will be down there in a couple of weeks (the 18th).

Archbishop Venables sounds like a breath of fresh air!

- Andy

5:17 PM  
Blogger Allen said...

Bishop Venables is awesome and combined with 1928 evensong, ther is nothing better. May orthodox theology and traditional liturgy live forever!

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got to see and hear Abp. Venables twice during the weekend - first on Saturday morning at the convocation for clergy and convention delegates and again at St. Andrew's on Sunday evening. My priest had never heard him speak before, nor had the other six parishioners that heard him at one of those two places. They were all of them very impressed, to say the least. (I'd watched the Archbishop on AnglicanTV so I'd had a taste of his Gospel-ly goodness.)

One of the parts of the weekend I enjoyed most was the ample time given for questions and answers on Saturday morning, and how ++Venables answered questions in a straight-forward and loving manner.

And, he gave me a BIG HUG, too, when I was talking with him and Bishop Iker about some upcoming decisions others will be making. I felt comforted as if by the Arms of Our Lord.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous WannabeAnglican said...

Off topic, I'm quite interested in your thesis on Athanasius' letters.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Gray Wolf said...

If the Diocese of Fort Worth is conveying honorary titles, could I be an Archbishop too. I have always wanted to call myself an archbishop. What would I have to do to get this?

1:08 PM  
Anonymous REC CHIP said...


I met ABP Venables in 2005 at the Combined General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church/Anglican Province of America. His two sermons to us were (and I mean this in all honesty, but I am not saying that his words rise to the level of Holy Scripture, so don't start attacking!) INSPIRED!! He was passing on the message of the Holy Spirit to us. That is something "new" for many of us who have known "Bishops in ECUSA/TEC" (of which I was a part for many, many years).

Archbishop Greg (and also Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia) shared the Word with us.

You folks in Ft. Worth and San Joaquin are very fortunate to have been able to hear from him. (And in the case of SJ and soon FW, to be under his "authority." It is safe to be under his authority since he submits himself to the Lord's authority.)


2:29 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Gray Wolf, I believe the honorary title has been conveyed by folks in Southern Cone first. We simply follow in their footsteps, recognizing the excellence of this man as a pastor and teacher. If you are striving to follow ++Venables' worthy example by service in South America you, too, may be so honored by the people of that province one day. Good luck, and God bless.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Gray Wolf said...

Hey Randy, why stop with Archbishop? Why not give him the title of Pope? In the true South American tradition we can also elect him dictator for life of the Southern Cone!

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Texanglican -- it's James1. My comment on the other site wasn't directed to you. i don't consider you to be one of the "t" words. Sorry I offended you.

6:22 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

I appreciate the sentiment, James1. Thanks. But I wasn't offended, at least not seriously. I have a sense of humor about these things. I was simply tired of following that line of discourse. God bless.

10:54 PM  

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