I am writing from Recife, Brazil at the launching of the new Anglican Church in Brazil and the installation of its first Archbishop, The Most Rev. Miguel Uchoa. At the invitation of Archbishop Uchoa, I presented a workshop on the Anglican Communion to more than 100 leaders from this new province. Let me share three encouraging observations from my time with these brothers and sisters in Christ.
- The Anglican Church in Brazil is FULL of young leaders. The majority of those in the audience were leaders between the ages of 20 and 40. The ones I spoke with were not yet married, but were fully engaged in ministries to young adults, young families, youth and mission to their communities. One young leader shared freely with me how the love of Jesus Christ has sustained him through an extraordinary time of sickness and suffering in his extended family. During the workshop, these leaders shared their commitment to Christ with loud “Amen’s” whenever we spoke about Biblical faithfulness as the key to fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission and making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:16-20) This bodes well for the future of the Anglican Church in Brazil.
- The leaders were informed and engaged with the Global Anglican Communion. I sometimes hear in North America that younger leaders are not interested in what is happening in the rest of the Anglican Communion—that such news is irrelevant to church planting and the focus on mission to the local community. That was clearly NOT the case for these younger leaders in the Anglican Church in Brazil. They are educated, well informed and obviously follow the details of what is happening in the Global Anglican Communion. Their questions to me indicated how connected they feel to others in the Anglican Communion. Here are some questions I fielded:
- “How is GAFCON structuring itself to reach Biblically faithful Anglicans in provinces and diocese that are not part of GAFCON?”
- “How many Provinces are part of GAFCON globally?”
- “How is the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) holding together?”
- “How many congregations in ACNA are part of GAFCON?” [answer: all 1000+ congregations because ACNA fully subscribes to the Jerusalem Declaration in Art. I of its Constitution].
But in addition to that, there leaders were clearly looking to the future of the Anglican Communion as they asked specifically, “What is the trajectory of the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury? What is the significance of the launching of our new Anglican Church in Brazil?” It seemed to me from their questions that these leaders feel the importance of being part of a Global Communion of Biblically faithful Anglicans with whom they share the same values as the very foundation for shared mission. It was encouraging to meet those who are going to Jerusalem in June for GAFCON 2018.
- These leaders are committed to the whole Gospel for the whole person. During the workshop, they clearly affirmed that while issues of sexuality may be the presenting issues, the crisis of false teaching in the Anglican Communion in the last 50 years is ultimately about the very nature of the Gospel itself. Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ “Come as you are and stay as you are”? Or is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as he said, “Come as you are—no matter how broken and messed up your life, no matter how weary and heavy laden you may be—but don’t stay as you are! Find you identity in ME (Jesus… see Ephesians 1) and let me change you from the inside out.” Clearly, these leaders believe the latter, and at great cost (they too faced litigation and the loss of property in their journey)—but they are not looking back. They understand the choice they have made in the same spirit as Joshua 24:15: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!”
After the workshop, I spoke with Archbishop-elect ++Miguel. He shared with me that in this more affluent part of the city of Recife where the cathedral is located, he and his wife Valeria were convicted by the LORD to reach out to the poor and marginalized. All you have to do to encounter the poor and the marginalized is to walk due west away from the coast and into the heart of the city. So that’s what he did! He stopped people along the way and asked them what their greatest need was. He found that many working parents were limited in their ability to earn income because they had no childcare. So the very first thing he did was build “The House of Hope,” a childcare center for working families. They started with 10 children and now have over 100! The Cathedral has helped raise funding for the full-time staff and for each child. With help from the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF) they have expanded this outreach, building a gymnasium that has become a center for children and families to gather on the weekends around sports for children and youth—and a wonderful place where they share both the Gospel and “snacks” for hungry kids.
Archbishop ++Miguel shared with me that, yes, the neighborhoods are still full of “dangerous people,” including drug dealers. But he still walks those streets and talks with people. And he finds that because they share the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole person, Anglicans in Recife are enjoying the favor of all the people (See Acts 2:42-47). May we celebrate the launching of this new Anglican province together with the installation of their godly archbishop, and may we also learn from their example!
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.