A dear friend forwarded me an article, “How the Coronavirus Might Change the Local Church, Forever. The author predicts that some (especially those whose age and health put them at risk) will not return to church for months or even years. How will we serve them? Prediction #2: “Virtual Church” will not sustain long-term spiritual health. What can we do to prevent people from becoming spiritually anemic? Prediction #3: People will extend their “church shopping” voyages for the best online worship services. How will our churches respond to Christians becoming less participatory and increasingly “consumers of religious excellence?” You can read the whole article here: https://www.faithwire.com/2020/04/17/how-the-coronavirus-might-change-the-local-church-forever/
I know some leaders who are embracing online ministries and online giving precisely because they are extending our reach far beyond average Sunday morning attendance. I know other leaders who are deeply frustrated and discouraged as they look into the future. What have we done in the past that will be of value in the new normal, post COVID19?
Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Mark 13:31). The author of Hebrews reminds us that Christians are those who have taken hold of the unchangeable hope we have in Christ Jesus and concludes by saying “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.” (Hebrews 6:18-19). The hope we have in Christ, who died for us and rose again, and who gives us a life that will NEVER end is the unshakeable reality of Easter– the anchor we hold onto during this pandemic. Our hope in Christ is categorically different and beyond our hope in hand washing, social distancing, economic recovery, and the discovery of a vaccine. Our hope is a unique gift we have to a culture that desperately needs hope.
Our challenge today is how to express the Christian hope that will never pass away–in words and ways that are fresh and relevant to our changing circumstances. Hasn’t this always been at the heart of our missional challenge? Paul faced this same challenge after unpacking the unchangeable hope we have in Christ in chapters 1-3 of his letter to the Ephesians. He addressed the same questions we face today: Who are we/our identity as human beings? Is there any purpose to the world in which we live? How do we deal with the pervasive alienation we experience between people and groups? What is our mission as followers of Jesus Christ in the midst of this alienation?
In the second half of Ephesians (chs. 4-6), Paul takes up the missional challenge: How are we to be God’s people, his church in the world? He urges us to live lives “worthy of the calling you have received,” with the character of Christ himself (Eph. 4:1-2). But then he lays down a further challenge, to do this mission in full communion with like-minded followers of Jesus:
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one LORD, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:3-6)
We have concluded our AAC Anglican Perspective video series on The Cairo Covenant (the first video in the series can be found on Youtube here; the full text of the Cairo Covenant can be found on the Global South website here). In this series we have unpacked the Cairo Covenant line-by-line to demonstrate how it provides a platform for global Anglicans to come together in full communion around “one faith” in Christ and his mission to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:16-20). As such, this Covenant is a manifestation of that very unity that Paul commends in Ephesians 4:3-6. The ratification of the Cairo Covenant by the Anglican Church in North America will almost certainly be on the agenda for ACNA Provincial Council 2020. It is part of the anchor we hold in the storm we are in right now, and for the uncertain future we face post COVID19.