We are standing with you - Abp Greg Venables speech to the Diocese of San Joaquin (video transcript)

The video can be viewed here.

These are difficult days in the Anglican communion. And its primates are only too aware of the problems orthodox believers are facing in the Episcopal church in the United States. The division which we face and to which we referred as the “tearing of the very fabric of the Anglican communion” has already happened, and has been recognized as having happened. At the Lambeth Conference in 1998, over 90% of the bishops present voted to make it clear that the overwhelming mind of the Anglican communion is that in the area of human sexuality, there are two options for the Christian; marriage, between two people and intended for life, or abstinence. We thought that that was clear enough. But it soon became clear from actions and words and decisions made that not everybody wanted to follow the line of the Communion. And we all knew at that moment that this present separation was going to happen. And basically it happened because there are two ways at the present moment of defining Christianity. One is to accept the way the Church catholic over the last 2000 years has defined it, in terms of God and the revelation He has given us in Scripture and in our Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Saviour; or at the present moment, in postmodern terms, where it’s whatever you want it to be, because truth can no longer be defined. In our primates’ meeting in Brazil in 2003, we said very clearly as primates “Please, don’t do it.” And then the decision was made in the United States, in spite of us pleading with the leadership here not to do it. We met together in an emergency meeting in Lambeth in October 2003 and we said, “Don’t go ahead with the consecration.” And a few weeks later, the consecration took place. We then worked towards the completion of the Windsor meeting at our meeting in Northern Ireland in February 2005. We said, “Here is the Windsor report, take it outside, read it, consider it, and then let us know whether you are prepared to come back into the Anglican communion with an expression of repentance and putting things right, and then we’d be able to move forward once again in terms of what we would call communion.” At the general convention in the United States in 2006, the decisions made and the actions taken have made it perfectly clear that ECUSA is not willing to comply with the minimal request of the Windsor report. On the basis of that, the Global South primates met in Kigali, Rwanda, in September 2006 and we decided to move ahead with the preparation of a model of alternative primatial oversight. We discussed this with the Archbishop of Canterbury and we are clear that we want to do everything in collaboration and consultation with the four instruments of unity. We met together in Washington D.C. in November 2006 and we listened to the experiences and the voices of Windsor report diocese, of the network, and of other people, and it became clear that God is calling us to form a united group which will move together with this plan for there to be alternative primatial oversight within the United States, worked through and authorized by the primates of the Anglican communion. That suggestion will go to the primates in February at our meeting in Tanzania, which is a unified, consistent, and fully supported message from the leadership of the Global South. It’s “Although you might need to separate from an agenda which has left long ago, the plan of God for the Christian church, at no time will you have to separate from the Anglican communion.” So our word for you, with great respect, and with great love, and with our prayers, is “Don’t despair, don’t fret.” As James in his epistle said, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” And there’s a very good reason for that. When Jesus Christ calls you to be a member of the Christian church, it is an offer He makes as a result of the enormous sacrifice which He made. As a result of His great sacrifice, you and I will never have to face what He faced. We will never face that awful moment when He cried out from His very heart as His body was racked with physical and mental and emotional and spiritual pain, “Why have You abandoned me?” We are in communion with Our Creator God through Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for eternity. But standing for that here in this world does require sacrifice. And that sacrifice means we have to move out of our comfort zone. When the apostle Paul was freed from a religion which had abandoned God’s agenda, and freed into the true Christian faith, God sent a message to him through Ananias: “Tell him how much he had to suffer for My sake.” My dear friends, I do not say this lightly; suffering is not an easy thing. But if you are serious about the Lord Jesus Christ, then you will have to pay a price. There are no two ways about it. And the major price you and I will have to pay is standing up in the face of criticism, in the face of opposition, and the face of rejection. There has never been a moment in the history of the Christian church where that has not been true. And our wonderful and our beloved Anglican church is founded on the blood of martyrs like Latimer, and Ridley, and Cranmer, who gave their lives at the stake because they knew they had no other option. When I’m preparing people for service, ordained ministry or lay ministry, I often like to remind them of what the apostle Paul had to face when he became a minister. Let me read you those words, just to remind you: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one. I am talking like a man, with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings and often near-death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, and night and day I was adrift at sea, on frequent journeys in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers, in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure, and apart from other things there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. My dear brothers and sisters, to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to serve Him is not a comfortable or an easy option. And if we expect it to be, we are going to be disappointed. If we are not facing great difficulties in our Christian lives and our Christian ministry, then I seriously believe we need to question whether we really are at all Christians. If you stand up for the Lord Jesus Christ, if you offer yourself to serve Him, then you are going to face difficulties. But we have no option. So please do not be over-distressed at what is happening. When the apostle Paul finished, he wrote from imprisonment to a very worried Timothy, and was able to say that he’d completed his ministry. But consider the terms he used to describe it: “I have fought the good fight. I have run the race. I have kept the faith.” And you and I are called to do exactly the same. It is a fight. It is a race that requires discipline and exertion and effort. And we have to keep the faith, both in terms of keeping the faith pure and in terms of being obedient to the faith. The coming days might well be difficult, but listen to what the apostle Paul said about his experience of keeping the faith: “We do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia, for we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed we felt that we’d received the sentence of death.” There is always going to be that sort of tension in true Christian service. We are always going to find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. But he goes on to say, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God, who raises the dead.” I do hope that speaks to your heart, my dear brother and my dear sister. The difficult place you and I find ourselves in all too often as a result of wanting to follow Jesus is the very thing that causes us to remain faithful. And listen to what Paul goes on to say: “He delivered us from such a deadly peril.” We can all look back and say, “Yes, He delivered me.” Yes, He delivered me, and I’m so grateful, that when I was so up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn – as an Argentine friend of mine once said in preaching, “I was so low, I had to raise my hand to touch the floor.” But He delivered me because that’s the sort of God we serve. We might find ourselves in the fiery furnace, but at the very moment when the worst thing happens, we suddenly find that the Son of God is walking with us there, in the flames. And in the fiery furnace, the only things that God burnt up were the ropes that bound them. Maybe God is going to free us up a whole lot in this trial that we’re going through. But he goes on to say “On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again.” And there is the moment of faith. We look back and we say He’s delivered us; and we know He’s going to deliver us again. Nobody enjoys a bad moment, nobody who is a true Christian will say “I enjoy suffering, I enjoy the trial, I think this is great”; of course we don’t. But we can count it all joy, because even in the midst of trials, there is glory. And that’s where we meet God. And please don’t think I’m talking to you from a great distance and sitting comfortably. If you weep, I weep too. If your heart is broken, my heart is broken. If you struggle, I struggle. And that’s why we’re doing this together. Because we are all out of the same fragile, sinful mold, and we are all walking our way towards the wonderful future that God has for us. So please be assured not only of our prayers but of the fact that we are standing with you and we are working this through with you. I cannot tell you how much I respect your wonderful bishop, John David. He’s a man that I learned to listen to and to draw near to and I am so thrilled that God has given you a courageous and brave man to lead your church at this time. I urge you to give him your full support and to work with Him and be assured, I and my other colleagues in the Global South are walking with you too. May God bless you and be with you.