Look Back – But Don’t Look Back

Professor Robert Davidson of Glasgow uttered these words in our presence some fifteen years ago with regard to dealing with the troubles in Ireland. His counsel was to learn from the past – but not to be stuck in it! Archbishop Eames, the Anglican Primate of All Ireland, was present when the words were uttered.

The words kept popping into mind while attending the 16th Annual Assembly of Forward in Faith – North America at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas at the end of June.

The worship was beautiful and the fellowship with old comrades in the defense of orthodox doctrine within Anglicanism in America was joyful. Sadly, we kept hearing one way or another that the fate of our beloved Communion depends somehow on the outcome of a Lambeth Commission set up to assess the effects of apostasy on these shores, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Eames.

The irony in all this was profound – another supposed line in the sand, with His Grace in the Chair. I will let this pass for now, except to say that such lines just never seem to get crossed, only drawn further ahead. You can see the connection.

What most occupied my thoughts was the challenge implicit in Professor Davidson’s words. Many congregations, such as Saint Paul’s, have in the past looked to movements such as Forward in Faith and the Anglican Mission in America to take the lead in restoring traditional faithfulness to American Anglicanism, and their efforts cannot be gainsaid.

Who could minimize the significance for Saint Paul’s and the like of Father Edwards, the Rosemont Declaration, Bishop MacBurney, Singapore, Bishops Allison and Rodgers? But therein is the rub! The FIFNA Assembly in Texas made it abundantly clear that the cutting edge of effective faithfulness to the Gospel is not to be found in that body, or in AMiA, or in yet another Lambeth (Eames) Commission. It is rather parishes such as Saint Paul’s that should have show and, indeed, have shown the way.

Now that that we have looked back – it’s time to stop looking back – it’s time to be freed from what was before. This came over me powerfully sitting in the cathedral in Bedford. Very soon we will be occupying a new mission station – undertaking a new ministry in the Lord’s Name – entering a new era in God’s plan. As we do so, we will, willy-nilly, manifest to ourselves and others (as all eyes are upon us) that

  • Identity in Christ Jesus is not a matter of stones, bricks, and mortal, but rather a right spiritual relationship with him, even in, especially in, Anglicanism (this we’ve learned from our brothers and sisters who have come to us from the Global South);
  • The faithful in Our Lord, particularly those who have been martyred like himself, are richly rewarded / glorified (this we’ve realized through God’s angels who have hovered amongst us);
  • The Church of Christ is always and everywhere essentially a Mission[al] Church, proclaiming the uncompromising message of salvation, Repent and be baptized…in the Name of Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, thus recovering whatever the Evil One has snatched away and planting new congregations wherever and whenever possible (this we’ve understood from the Apostle Peter’s first Christian sermon).

– JR Hiles