At a time when churches are scrambling online to serve the faithful, we are grateful for technological advancements that allow us to come together despite our isolation. Many churches are pushing back the darkness of anxiety and despair through innovative ways to care for their members. Hopeful stories of encouragement, outreach, and service are rising to the surface of an atmosphere otherwise permeated by fear. The online community and our household technologies are a part of those stories. Our ability to hear and absorb the Word of God through these times is what keeps us grounded; without it, we cannot find the hope we need through uncertainty. The clarity, authority, and integrity of the Scriptures are what we must have to be a light in the darkness, and the tools provided by technology can help us maintain our connection to Truth as we continue to be in quarantine.
As good as online resources are, however, we must remember that relating as human beings holistically, physically and spiritually, is what we were created to do. This is a temporary and helpful measure we share as we look forward to the days we can embrace one another and learn in one another’s presence again. During this pandemic, remaining physically separated makes it easier to lose touch with our brothers and sisters who have encouraged us in the past and with our clergy who shepherd our souls and help maintain the unity of the faith. We are at a point where biblical orthodoxy becomes even more difficult to guard. In a state of crisis, humans turn to fulfilling basic needs and then, after those needs are met, to relational needs. Arguably, theological needs fall far below these other priorities. Isolation can keep us from hearing the Word of God, from talking with our spiritual advisors, from celebrating the Christian feast days together, and from hearing the Truth about who God is and what He has done. Unless individuals take the initiative to engage online, at least to listen to liturgy and participate in some degree of worship, the faith of many may grow weaker over time. In addition, many sources of false teaching are now more readily accessible online as internet traffic increases and new ways of thinking theologically begin to take root.
Leaders who seek to maintain the faith once delivered to the saints must fight now more than ever to teach, counsel, and direct their flock as much as they are able. Personal engagement through phone or video calls, spiritual direction, teaching tools, and theological discussion groups take on an even greater importance than before. Clergy, including bishops, must also connect with each other, not only for the sake of their own individual spiritual health but also for the health of the entire province. Rather than allowing time to deteriorate lines of communication, connections must be purposely strengthened and biblical truth taught and discussed.
This kind of persistence puts a strain on parish clergy who are already maxed out balancing life in the new normal. Here is where assisting priests, deacons, and lay leaders are more important than ever. Their much-needed work in the service of isolated sheep around the world shines now more than any church building ever could. While resources grow thin, we must remember this ongoing task of strengthening theological orthodoxy and unity among our churches, and we must remember those who are trained and gifted to do so. These leaders are some of our most important resources to invest in during this pandemic. Church buildings may be lost, but if anything, this trial is showing the Church the power of gifted leaders and faithful followers in a time of intense upheaval rather than the necessity of buildings to keep people together, encouraged, and faithful.
This kind of trial is not limited to local parishes or dioceses. As COVID-19 spreads across the world, threats to biblical orthodoxy are affecting the Global Anglican Communion. For example, GAFCON’s Kigali 2020 Conference of Bishops, called together for the express purpose of defending the faith and building the Church, has understandably been postponed. And while we can be hopeful that this gathering will happen in the near future, the discussions it seeks to engage need not be postponed. In addition, during this extra time more preparation can be made for those bishops gathering in Rwanda to lay a more secure groundwork for the needed conversations and the new structures that must be built for the strengthening of a biblically-faithful Global Anglicanism.
In the face of this COVID-19 pandemic, the American Anglican Council commits to continue its fight for biblical orthodoxy. Over almost thirty years, we have seen first-hand the insidious nature of heretical teaching creeping in to infect Global Anglicanism and Christians in many other denominations. False teaching is a worldwide pandemic of our Christian souls, even while COVID-19 threatens our bodies. The AAC remains engaged in conversation with the bishops and leaders of the Anglican Church in North America and the Global Anglican Communion, facilitating continued theological dialogue, sharing resources, and praying for those in need of support. May the Lord bring us safely through this trial, even as he has delivered us through many others up to this very time.