September 12, 2017

"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:14-16

Summer holidays are over and many of us are back to work, back to school, and ready to move forward with our Fall/Winter ministry programs. This new season is an appropriate time to remind you of what we are about as a diocese. Our diocese, the Diocese of CANA West, is a Christ-exalting missionary diocese that is biblically-centered. This means that we are committed to honoring Christ and spreading the good news about Christ through believing the Bible, preaching and teaching the Bible, and most importantly obeying the Bible because it is the Word of God. It is simply not enough to claim to believe and preach the Bible. It is extremely important that we pay attention to it and obey it from the heart. There are several applications to us but let me mention just three:

First, the Bible consistently tells us that our vocation is to make disciples of Christ through preaching the gospel of Christ to sinners. To this end it is necessary to ask ourselves the following questions: how am I and my parish engaged in making disciples for Christ through the events, programs, and preaching at our church? What plans do we have to grow in the faith and to enable other believers to mature in the faith once delivered to the Saints? Are we living in ways that belie and undermine the ministry of the gospel in our lives, in our community, and in our church? Let us preach the gospel by word and example.  

Second, the Bible consistently tells us that we must commit to the fact that the Bible must control what we believe and do as individuals and as a Church in matters of doctrine and practice. If we don't make this commitment we will make compromising, incoherent and inconsistent decisions that undermine our integrity and witness for Christ. As Anglicans it is sad to note that the unfortunate reality in many Anglican Provinces around the world is that many Anglicans insist on doing things that are contrary to Scripture and 2000 years of Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order because they believe that they can due to differing ecclesiologies in the Church and because it feels good or right. This is why I continue to say over and over again - we must stand and commit ourselves to the teaching of the Bible and refuse to be moved. If we don't, we will be swept away by specious arguments that ignore the teaching of Holy Scripture for the sake of unity, "mission", friendship and fellowship at the expense of coherence, consistency, integrity and obedience to God. The net result is personal and institutional spiritual rebellion in a matter of time. Consequently, I implore you to remember and imbibe the words of the Reformer, Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521: "Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen."

Third, the Bible consistently tells us to live a life of holy obedience to God.
I ask, and I will be asking you- clergy and lay people - as matters arise in your life and in your parish to OBEY the Bible without exception. This is a necessary spiritual foundation needed for you and your church to experience the Lord's presence, power, growth, and blessing. This is the Christian faith we want to teach and maintain in the Diocese of CANA West.

Danish Philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard in his book 'Articles in the Fatherland' complained bitterly about the rapidly growing worldly version of Christianity that had become popular and quite acceptable in his time. He said, "Verily there is that which is more contrary to Christianity, and to the very nature of Christianity, than any heresy, any schism, more contrary than all heresies and schisms combined, and that is to play Christianity". What did he mean by the expression "to play Christianity"? Here is Kierkegaard's answer, "In 'Christendom' we are all Christians. In this meaningless sense they have got all men made into Christians, and got everything Christian—and then (under the name of Christianity) we live a life of paganism. They have not ventured defiantly, openly, to revolt against Christianity; no, hypocritically and knavishly they have done away with it by falsifying the definition of what it is to be a Christian. It is of this I say that it is playing Christianity, taking God for a fool."

So, according to Kierkegaard, "to play Christianity" is to claim to be Christian and yet live like a pagan and a worldling.  I wonder what he would say if he saw the flagrant and outrageous display of sin in the 21st century church.

The Lord does not want us to play Christianity. Rather he wants us to live holy lives and to do good works. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do".
He created us, redeemed us, sanctified us, and is at work us through the Holy Spirit so that we may glorify him through the good works of holy living. Many people are confused about God's will for them. Here it is: "Be ye holy for I'm holy says the Lord." (1Peter 2:14-16; 1Thess. 4:3). He wants and commands us to do good works, to be holy before Him in the world.

How about examining your life and asking the Holy Spirit to help you to get rid of pride, arrogance, conceit, disrespect for spiritual authority; lying, malice, slander, hypocrisy, deceit; gossip, back-stabbing, back-biting, unwillingness to forgive those who offend you, vengeful spirit; not following through with your vows and promises you made to God in Church, etc. If you repent, he will forgive you and enable you to live for him in "holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives" as the Book of Common Prayer notes. Let us be holy, my brothers and sisters!

"The Lord knows those who are his", and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness" (2 Timothy 2:18-19).

June 7-9 : DIOCESE OF CANA WEST SYNOD, El Paso, Texas
June 17- 23, 2018: GAFCON IN JERUSALEM

May the Lord richly bless us and keep us on the path of Life. Amen.
Warm regards,
The Rt. Rev'd Dr. Felix Orji, OSB  
Bishop | Anglican Diocese of CANA West