What brings our groups together? In short, the gospel!
I first visited Penuel Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California, in 2011. Bishop Gregory Bowers pastors the church and also leads a network of 12 African American congregations across the United States. They have affiliated with Greenhouse in a covenanted association, with hopes that they will achieve a full union within the Anglican Church in North America in the future.
As a branch of Greenhouse, they have named themselves Jubilee. They practice both adult and infant baptisms and incorporate the fire of evangelical preaching and gospel music while using sections of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for communion. For the past two years, this network of congregations has embraced the Constitutions and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America and the Daily Office of Prayer as a way forward for unified, prophetic and apostolic ministry.
We are not just trying to figure out how to adapt Baptist and Anglican structures into something new. There is something much more profound afoot.
Could it be something is beginning that hearkens back to a movement of the Holy Spirit over 100 years ago? Let's take a quick look at an influential movement of the Holy Spirit that started in the African American community.
The Pentecostal Movement traces its roots back to 1906 in the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. Its leader was an African American preacher named William Seymour. One consequence of the revival was inter-racial mingling, unusual at the time. Pentecostalism has had a profound impact on indigenous African American churches throughout North America, affecting everything from preaching to church practices across all denominations.
The only place where every tribe and nation can truly become one is at the foot of the cross. At the foot of the cross we all share a common identity of coming together in Jesus—no matter what our cultural background, language or history is. The Jubilee congregations want to learn and more fully recover the connection with the apostolic church throughout the world and throughout time. They also desire to have a more full connection with the peoples of the whole city in which they live without losing their own identity.
The ACNA and these African American Jubilee congregations share another common goal. We are both seeking to renew the apostolic office and ministry for the evangelization of North America. Much work is needed to understand of the role and office of bishop within both communities. Some of the African American leaders have expressed concern over the proliferation of bishops within their community, functioning as senior pastors yet lacking the regional oversight that emerged in the New Testament and flowed into the early church for a region of congregations.
With its use of the term bishop, the King James Version of the Holy Bible is still widespread in many African American congregations. For their part, Jubilee wishes to recover the right apostolic ordering within their movement. The Constitution and Canons of the ACNA is restoring clarity about the role and office of bishop, but we must remember that in relationship to church multiplication and to guarding right doctrine and discipline—something that had been lost in the past decades—the ACNA is recovering, restoring and renewing the apostolic office and role of bishop.
The confluence of Jubilee and ACNA is not principally about Baptist and Anglican polities trying to find common ground. This is principally a move of the Holy Spirit in our day to recover apostolic faith and teaching, apostolic order and the scope of apostolic witness. We need to receive Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and become one in Him that the world might know that the Father has sent Jesus for the salvation of the world.
The ACNA is on a journey to rediscover the apostolic charism in relationship to the multiplication of congregations in a region, understanding that the office of bishop is a catalyst and living witness of the unity of the church. We have much to receive from our African American brothers and sisters in regard to the apostolic and prophetic charism. We have the potential to do something vibrant together that will not be achieved separately. In doing so, we will become a church that looks more and more like the diverse picture painted in Revelation—something that can more fully reach our cities and towns—and indeed the world in all of North America.
I just finished rereading the following insightful interview with Matt Woodley (member of Church of the Resurrection who works at Christianity Today) with Bishop Bowers and would commend it to you. I once again came away with the question and response in prayer: "Lord, what is it that you have in mind? Help us to be obedient."
“Before my eyes appeared a vast crowd beyond man’s power to number. They came from every nation and tribe and people and language, and they stood before the throne of the Lamb, dressed in white robes with palm-branches in their hands. With a great voice they shouted these words: ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!’ Then all the angels stood encircling the throne, the elders and the four living creatures, and prostrated themselves with heads bowed before the throne and worshipped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength be given to our God for timeless ages!’” –Revelation 7:9-12 (J.B. Phillips New Testament)
Canon William Beasley serves as Director of the Greenhouse Movement, working directly with Archbishop Bob Duncan in the Anglican Church in North America to help establish new congregations in the Upper Midwest and throughout North America. Canon William is both a regional leader and a rector of multiplying congregations.
Interview with Matt Woodley for Greenhouse
Greenhouse/Matt Woodley: Tell me about the journey of the Jubilee congregations. How have you moved to a more liturgical/sacramental form of worship?
Bishop Gregory L. Bowers: There has always been a liturgical expression, whether formal or informal, within the African American community of Churches, particularly within the Baptist Church. Throughout history, a lot of the liturgy that is expressed within the Church is derived from Egypt and Africa, and so I believe that liturgy had an influence even on people who were brought over to the Americas. Jubilee started a journey in that direction when we established a more Biblical accountability towards all sacraments and observance of the Episcopal ethos. And it was my desire to bring more weight, not only to the Eucharistic ceremony, but to all the sacraments. As a group we also decided that we would abide by the Canons of the ACNA and the Book of Common Prayer as well as the Daily Office of Prayer, which we have been doing for the last two years. That has worked very well. It has brought a sense of unity for us, because our fellowship is not only built on relationship, but on common practice.
MW: Was there any “fall out” or resistance to this movement? Did some people think that you were going too far in the liturgical/sacramental direction?
GLB: Well, no there was not a fall out. In fact, our departure from other fellowships was due to the blatant lack of Episcopal ethos regarding sacramental theology and practice. But based on our relationships within Jubilee, churches came to embrace this journey. I’m known as the “Beloved Bishop” among the churches and we’ve had trust that we were being led of God.
MW: What has attracted the Jubilee congregations to the ACNA?
Bishop Bowers: Our relationship is based upon mutual affection towards one another. Our initial invitation to be a part of Greenhouse Movement started with a meeting between Jubilee leaders and the Greenhouse/ACNA. On one level, the Canons and the liturgy of the ACNA solved a number of differences that we had towards other fellowships we were a part of. The blatant lack of Episcopal ethos and the lack of sacramental theology produced a feeling of emptiness and even grief in our hearts. So we were attracted by formal practices, but our interest was primarily based on our relationship of mutual affection and interest.
MW: What would you say are some of the unique aspects of the African American Church experience that could bless the ACNA?
GLB: I believe the diversity and rich Pentecostal history of the African American Church is indeed a blessing to the ACNA. But once again, this relationship is mutually beneficial. There is a genuine appreciation and embrace on both sides of the table. This was not Jubilee seeking out the ACNA or the ACNA seeking out Jubilee. The leading of God by the Spirit brought this about. Though we come from a myriad of backgrounds, there is a common goal to build the Kingdom of God. There is also a profound love for the brethren, which indeed confirms that we have passed from death to life because we possess deep love and passion for the things of God.
This is not a pushy relationship, where one side is demanding conformity from the other side. We are not taking away from each other; we’re adding to one another. I believe that this is a reflection of what Paul says in the book of Ephesians regarding the unity of the faith (see Ephesians 4:11-16). Our mutual embrace has become profound. For Jubilee it has added priestly order. For the ACNA it has added prophetic anointing. And whenever priest and prophet come together you have the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. I believe this relationship is having such a profound impact because the Church has been one of the most segregated institutions in America. I’m proud that the ACNA endeavors to have relationships, not only abroad but also with our African American brothers and sisters here in the United States.
When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.
He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.
Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.
This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.
If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.
Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies (c. 185)
Barbara Gauthier is a mother to her three grown boys and to the Anglican community as a whole. For many years, Barbara has been sending out regular e-mails containing carefully-selected summaries of the key issues facing Anglicans worldwide. Her ministry also includes sending frequent devotionals. Barbara holds a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University and lives in Wheaton, IL with her husband of 30 years.
Canon William Beasley Barbara Gauthier Beth Thompson Jens Notstad Nate Beasley Rev Jonathan Kindberg Guest Blogger
Last 10 Posts
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Interview with Bishop Gregory L. Bowers, part 1
Guest Blogger on 05/16/2013
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Birthing a Diocese with a Vision for Multiplying Congregations
Canon William Beasley on 05/10/2013
He Ascended into Heaven
Barbara Gauthier on 05/08/2013
Convening Conventions and Other Such Meetings
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Marching Together for our Great God!
Canon William Beasley on 04/26/2013
Christ the Good Shepherd
Barbara Gauthier on 04/22/2013
This is the Day—Now is the Time for Genuine Christian Unity
Canon William Beasley on 04/18/2013