Beloved in Christ Jesus: Advent Greetings in the name of our Risen and Returning King, our Lord Jesus Christ!
I am delighted that in this Advent season, Gafcon is launching a weekday devotional project called ‘Lift Up Your Hearts’. These words are profoundly Scriptural. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3:14,
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” and in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above.”
Advent is a time to “lift up your hearts” toward heaven, to bring our lives into alignment with God’s plan and purpose through repentance, and to prepare ourselves by living in readiness for Christ’s return in majesty and glory.
“Lift up your Hearts” is also an ancient liturgical phrase which reaches back into the earliest centuries of the undivided Church. As we gather at God’s Table, we lift up our hearts in the company of the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who have gone before us (Hebrews 12:1), and our hearts delight with them in sharing the same unchanging truth of God’s grace in the gospel of Jesus.
It is my prayer that during this Advent season, faithful Anglicans around the world will be united in lifting up their hearts as we share in the glorious Advent hope. This hope is what has always sustained followers of Jesus through hardship, challenges, and suffering. I have seen its power firsthand during my recent visit to the Church of Pakistan. This is a church which knows only too painfully the cost of discipleship, and yet is building a vibrant Christian community and reaching out in respectful dialogue. I was privileged to have many opportunities to speak and preach, to help confirm over 50 confirmands, and to meet with Islamic scholars and governmental leaders. Pray for these faithful followers of Jesus.
Through our Suffering Church Network, Gafcon is raising awareness of Anglicans around the world who pay a heavy price for their faithfulness, often unknown and in isolation from other Christians. As we stand in solidarity with them, pray for them, and walk with them (there will be a special emphasis on the Suffering Church in our Gafcon daily prayer diary during Advent), we are drawn back to the heart of the gospel and discover that by God’s amazing grace, the way of the cross is indeed none other than the way of life and peace.
Sadly, suffering also comes from within the organised church itself as many of us in the Anglican Church in North America, the Anglican Church of Brazil, the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa, New Zealand, and the Scottish Anglican Network know very well, and we are now seeing growing hostility to orthodox faith in many other places as well. Bishops, clergy, and lay persons in various provinces are being ostracized, condemned, and alienated because they cannot and will not go along with attempts to change basic Christian teaching and morality which contradicts the Bible.
It was a great joy to learn that the Venerable David McCLay, a leading member of Gafcon Ireland, has been elected as the next Bishop of Down and Dromore. Please pray for him that he may know great grace and courage in this new stage of life and ministry. Sadly, there was an attempt to block his election by a group of clergy who claimed in a letter to the Irish Times that ‘the policies of Gafcon are antithetical’ to the principles of the Rite of Consecration, which according to them includes the need to recognise ‘sexual diversity’. Surely, it is a sign of the deep-seated spiritual crisis and need for repentance in the Anglican Communion when even the rite of Consecration of a Bishop can be made to mean things that were never intended (just as the English House of Bishops repurposed the rite of Affirmation of Baptismal Faith for those who self-identify as transgender).
In June 2020 hundreds of bishops from around the Anglican Communion will be gathering at the Gafcon Bishops Conference, Kigali 2020, to study the great Biblical truths embedded in the Rite of Consecration and to rededicate themselves to serve as godly, Christ-like shepherds to the people of God. While Lambeth conferences are now increasingly preoccupied with the politics of institutional unity and endorsing Biblical immorality, Kigali 2020 will be outward looking, a time of unprecedented renewal, vision building and equipping, as we press forward to making Christ known faithfully to the nations. Please do pray for organizers with all the financial and logistical challenges this event brings!
Another Advent is upon us. Let us lift up our hearts to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus the Messiah!!
“Lift up your hearts!” We lift them, Lord, to Thee; Here at Thy feet none other may we see; ‘Lift up your hearts!’ E’en so, with one accord, We lift them up, we lift them to the Lord” (Hymn by Butler, 1881).
Your brother in the Coming King,
The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church in North America
Chairman, Gafcon Primates Council