Bishops represent and serve Christ and the Church as chief pastors, catechists, and missionaries in the tradition of the apostles. They are to confirm and ordain, and to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church.
(To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism)
This Sunday, January 24, Bishop John Guernsey and his wife Meg will be visiting Immanuel. Bishop John will greet us before and after the service, lead us in worship, preach to us regarding the sanctity of life, and receive two of our members into the Anglican Church of North America. He and Meg will also spend time with my family caring for us, and in the near future he will sit down for an extended time of listening and guidance with our Vestry. These are just a few of the ways in which our Bishop fulfills the role described above in our Anglican Catechism.
Let me briefly focus on two elements of Bishop John’s visit. The first is the “reception” of two of our Immanuel family. When we come to this point in our service on Sunday, you’ll notice two movements. The first involves a renewal of “the solemn promises and vows made” at Baptism—these two women will reaffirm their commitment to Jesus and his way. The second movement is the Bishop’s prayer for and receiving of these disciples “into the fellowship of this Communion.” In this simple yet significant liturgy the Bishop conveys and upholds our apostolic faith, is a conduit of the Holy Spirit’s empowering work, and communicates the deep unity of the global, historic Church.
Unity is the second element I want to highlight. One of the great gifts of the Anglican Way is what we call “the Episcopate.” Bishop John’s lineage of faithful authority reaches back to the original apostles, and outward to the global Anglican Communion, beginning in our Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, then on to the Anglican Church of North America, and then even farther on to our Anglican family across the globe. His physical presence is a tangible expression of that ancient, extensive, immediate unity accomplished through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (Ephesians 2:11-22).
I think it’s a quiet gift of the Lord to have this expression of unity come to us this Sunday, as we and our nation yearn for an end to division. Let’s receive Bishop John and Meg with joy, and pray together:
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Your Pastor in Christ,