A Message from Bishop Felix Orji
January 10, 2017
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
I give thanks to God for all of you. I am especially grateful as I think of you and your work of faith and your labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as in your work of his gospel. The Lord will not forget your sacrifice and labor for Him in the difficult places and circumstances where you find yourself. My prayer for you is that our Lord Jesus Christ will sustain you, encourage you, and inspire you to remain steadfast to him until the end. Amen.
Currently, I am in Melbourne, Florida attending the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) College of Bishops meeting. There are numerous important and pressing issues on the Agenda that Bishops of the Church must address. So I ask you to pray for divine wisdom for us and for faithfulness to God's Word written. Pray also that our deliberations and decisions will be honoring to God, glowing witness to the power of the gospel of Christ in our lives, and contribute to the blessing of God's Church and God's world.
Before I begin my official letter to you, let me remind you that our Diocesan SYNOD this year is scheduled for May 4-6th, 2017 in El Paso, Texas. The plenary speaker will be The Rev. Canon David Short, Rector of St. John's Anglican Church in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Canon Short, originally from the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, is an extraordinary bible expositor. So plan to be here with as many members of your congregation as possible. Clergy should plan to arrive on the evening of May 2nd for Clergy Retreat prior to the Synod. I expect all Knights of the Diocese to be in attendance at the SYNOD.
God in his mercy has once again given us an opportunity to serve him another year. To him be the glory! Our focus in the year 2017 will remain, as always, mission and ministry. We cannot and will not waver from God’s command:
GO and make DISCIPLES of ALL nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and TEACHING them to OBEY everything I have commanded you! Matthew 28:18-20
As a Diocese, this focus entails a number of things:
First, our vision, understanding, and passion for ministry must expand beyond our personal and ethnic cultural boundaries. We cannot fulfill our mission if we are stuck with our "tribes" --whatever nomenclature they may be. So I ask you to look at every facet of your parish life, especially the way your liturgy, ministry, music, preaching, decision-making, and finances are handled. Ensure that you align them with the expansive mandate of the gospel that Jesus gave us, which we uphold and is our duty as a missionary Diocese. We must constantly remind ourselves in this age of individualism and humanism (where the focus is always on ourselves, our feelings, our desires, and aspirations) that the basis on which the Lord will evaluate our ministry and mission is not our flashy programs or our ratiocination and rationalizations, but on his clear Word of command: "Go make disciples of ALL nations.” Note that this command is not singular – it includes ALL nations, all ethnicities!
Second, as a diocese we need to plant churches as part of our responsibility to fulfill this mission. For instance, we have a church planter who can help us plant a church in Dallas but we are handicapped financially. I ask for your prayers and your financial support to make it happen. We will be communicating more with you on this at a later time. Pray that the Lord will help your parish, your Archdeaconry and our Diocese to plant more sustainable churches. This not about expanding the diocese, rather it is about bringing lost people into the Kingdom of God and nurturing them as disciples of Christ.
Third, each parish and family needs to pay attention to our Youth and Children's ministries by ensuring that our young members hear the true gospel and are properly trained as Disciples of Christ. It is not enough to create fun for them. It is not a gospel imperative to build ministry around entertainment. Rather, this ministry is about God's Word faithfully taught in the power of the Spirit that draws youth to Christ, matures them as disciples, and gives them passion for mission and ministry. I ask fathers in the diocese to disciple (not discipline) and teach and mentor their children in the faith. It is our
Fourth, I want us to be people of the Word (Scripture) and Prayer. I am sure you are aware that faithfulness, integrity, holiness, perseverance, and passion in ministry require a prior, strong, and continuing commitment to Scripture. That commitment is dependent on God for power, purity and effectiveness, which we receive in prayer. Without commitment to the Word and prayer we will fall victim to what Charles Spurgeon noted during the "Downgrade Controversy" in England: "I learned, when I was a boy, that the chief end of man was to glorify God and enjoy him forever; but I hear now, according to the new theology, that the chief end of God is to glorify man and enjoy him forever. Yet this is the turning of things upside down." So this year, I encourage you to begin and attend Bible Study sessions and Prayer Meetings. Let the Word of Christ dwell richly in you as you read it, meditate on it, memorize it, and obey it. If you are able, I call you to fasting and prayer at least once a month. As a Diocese I ask you to join me to pray and fast for our Diocese, your parish, and your church family on the first Wednesday of the month. If you can't fast with us, at least join us in prayer. The Lord wants to do great things through you, and us. Hence, he calls us to prayer and to his Word. It has been said, "God does God's work with God's word through God's people." Will you volunteer and join us in this important endeavor?
Above all, I ask you to keep our Lord Jesus Christ at the center of your faith. And also in your preaching and teaching, your ministry, your mission activities, your prayers, your practice of spiritual disciplines, your Vestry decisions, and your relationships among others. The reason for this is obvious: He is the One the Father has sent and to whom the Holy Spirit bears witness to as the Savior, the Lord, and Hope of the world. In Him and in Him ALONE can we have access to the Father and his promises of life, holiness, and glory. All the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Him. Without Him we can do nothing! Without Him we cannot bear fruit. Without Him we cannot be saved from eternal wrath and Satan's bondage and the fear of death. But thanks to God, in Him and through faith in Him we can be redeemed, adopted into God's family as sons and daughters, and made heirs of God! And through Him we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill our ministry with passion and joy and hope. Cling to Jesus, my brothers and sisters. Seek his glory and his kingdom above everything and he will not disappoint you.
Do not lose hope and patience in the work of God. As Charles Spurgeon noted: "Rome was not built in a day, nor will a parish be saved in a week. Men do not always receive all the gospel the first time they hear it. To break hearts for Jesus is something like splitting wood: we need to work with wedges that are very small at one end, but increase in size as they are driven in."
The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!
The Rt. Rev'd Dr. Felix Orji, OSB
Bishop | Missionary Diocese of CANA West