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Thursday
Dec182014

Foley Beach

 

Archbishop Foley Beach, the newly-invested Primate of ACNA, was recently in Ottawa for ANiC's synod and the installation of Bishop Charlie Masters. He took time to sit down with your editor to discuss his faith journey, the future of ACNA, the pro-life movement and our need to pray.

Photo: Sue Careless

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TAP: You spent 34 years in The Episcopal Church (TEC). Is that where you came to faith?

 

FB: Its a really complicated story. I had been in the ministry with Young Life and there was a search committee at the Cathedral of St. Phillip in Atlanta looking for a new Youth Minister. Long story short, I ended up getting hired. I was 21, and then three years into that I was confirmed as an Episcopalian with the confirmation class that I taught. We had been asking the teenagers about their godparents, so that they could be a part of [the service], and all of a sudden it clicked that I had godparents. But because I had had a very different kind of childhood my mother was a hippie, back during those days, and was eventually arrested for selling drugs and narcotics I didnt know my godparents. As it turned out I had been baptized as a baby in TEC and never knew that, so it was like a coming home. Then I remembered that during my childhood as an eight-year-old I sang in the boys choir at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Atlanta for a period of time. We moved around a lot but I spent all my adult life in TEC.

 

TAP: With such a varied background, how did you come to the Christian faith?

FB: When my mother was arrested I went to live with my father who was involved in the Baptist Church in North Atlanta. So we started going and at summer camp that year I remember sitting around the campfire and the pastor talking about salvation and hell and I did not want to go to hell so I received Jesus. That was a very important piece of my life, but no one ever explained that your relationship with God was supposed to grow. So as I continued to grow as a teenager, academically and socially and intellectually and physically, my spiritual life didnt grow. A friend invited me to Young Life and through that ministry I came to see that Jesus wanted to be my Lord, as well as my Saviour, which meant he was to be in charge of my life, and once I yielded, wow! It has been an adventure ever since.

 

TAP: About ten years ago when you made the decision to leave TEC, that would have been a year after the consecration of Gene Robinson. How would you summarize that decision?

 

FB: Well in August of 2003 when TEC made this decision [to consecrate a practicing homosexual], our parish was really distraught. So I took them through a process that whole Fall of praying, seeking the Lord. On a personal level my calendar was so booked up with weddings and speaking engagements I knew that if I left TEC at that moment, Id let people down. Additionally, I did not have the time for prayer and reflection. So I waited until after Christmas of 2003. I usually take a prayer retreat, so that would be one of the topics. As soon as I got alone with the Lord and began to pray about this, it became clear to me that I could not remain in TEC and keep my soul. It would just destroy me. So at that point I knew I needed to leave but I did not know where [to go]. Through a quick process that the Lord set up I ended up in the Diocese of Bolivia in the Province of the Southern Cone under the oversight of Bishop Frank Lyons and Archbishop Gregory Venables. We were kind of guinea pigs at that point in history. The primates had had an emergency session that Fall and authorized overseas Bishops to give temporary pastoral oversight to American congregations and so we took them up on it. It started this movement towards overseas jurisdictions.

 

TAP: It has been ten years now since you left and five years since the formation of ACNA [Anglican Church in North America], how would you say things are?

 

FB: Incredible. Absolutely incredible. We have been able to focus on the gospel, teaching the Scriptures, planting churches, leading people to the Lord. It will not be too long before the majority of the members of ACNA are people who were never in TEC and that is very exciting. God is doing incredible work, especially with young people.

 

TAP: ACNA has 30 dioceses, many of which overlap based upon who gave primatial oversight to whom in the early days. Will that overlapping continue or will ACNA be organised more systematically?

FB: Yes and no. Some will eventually evolve into local geographical dioceses. There will remain some cross-jurisdictional ministry, because of affinity issues. We are quite divided on the ordination of women, for example. As well, multicultural ministry may be best done that way. We do not know yet. I am open. Although I am the bishop of a geographical diocese, we have other dioceses that have parishes in our boundaries. We created partnerships with them so we are all working together on the ground, but they are under a different bishop. Maybe a paradigm to try to understand this is that at one point the parish was the geographical location but now people drive past churches to go to the church they want to go to and it is no longer [within] the geographical [boundary]. So in a sense that is what is happening with dioceses at this point. My hope is that as time goes by we will consolidate and it will naturally happen. Another way to view this is that all these streams come together to form a river. It takes a while before those currents, these smaller streams, become one with the river, and that is what is happening now. The key is that on the ground the folks are collaborating and communicating and working together for the sake of the gospel and we don't want to be hurting each other in that process.

 

 

TAP: Speaking of streams coming into a larger river, what role can ANiC [Anglican Network in Canada] have in such a large

ecclesial province?   

FB: They already have had a significant contribution. Bishop Don was the Dean of the Province and was constantly helping and contributing in the leadership of it and I foresee that to continue. I think that Canada is going to continue to grow and will be teaching us on how to do ministry. I think some of the leaders [in ANiC] are some of the most godly men and women that I have ever been around. They are influencing the rest of the province: they are not just touching Canada, they are touching all of North America.

TAP: This September Justin Welby, in a Church of Ireland Newspaper interview, characterised the relationship between the Anglican Communion and ACNA as being one of 'ecumenical partners.' How do you perceive the relationship between ACNA and the Anglican Communion?

 

FB: Well first of all, let me say that I was grateful that he called us ecumenical partners. The next week was my investiture as the Archbishop of ACNA. The primates that attended were quite offended by [his remarks], because the Archbishop of Canterbury does determine who is in the Anglican Communion or not. So in my investiture service they actually changed the liturgy and welcomed me as an 'Archbishop and Primate in the Anglican Communion.' So I view us as fully in the Anglican Communion, in communion with 50 million of 70 million Anglicans around the world. We are obviously not in communion with TEC, the ACC [Anglican Church of Canada], and at this point it doesn't look like we are in communion with Canterbury. He can be in communion with whom he chooses to be. I would just say that if Canterbury is interested in leading people to Jesus Christ and planting new churches and seeing people discipled in the Anglican way, we would welcome his participation.

 

TAP: Looking back to his appointment of Tory Baucum to the College of Six Preachers of Canterbury, Archbishop Welby would seem quite welcoming towards ACNA. Do you foresee reaching out to him to foster a relationship?

 

FB: Well, first, I think Tory's invitation was based on his personal relationship with him; I do not think he was endorsing us as a church. He seemed to make that clear. At the same time, the whole way I do ministry, I will be reaching out to him. Yes.

 

TAP: With any new movement there are wonderful opportunities, but there are also inherent dangers. What would you see as some of the dangers ACNA or ANIC might face?

 

FB: I think that it is so easy to get caught up with issues, whatever those presenting issues are at the moment, and allow them to sidetrack you from mission. Our mission, both in Canada and in the United States, is to reach people with the transforming power of Jesus Christ. They are two countries where the cultures were based upon Christian principles [but] have deeply strayed to the point where the culture is antagonistic to Christianity. So our heart is to reach North America and help bring about a spiritual awakening. We're just one little drop in the bucket but if we can be a spark or join with others who are seeking to do the same thing, perhaps we can see a true spiritual awakening to save both of our countries.

 

TAP: You have been quite involved in the pro-life movement. Can you tell us why this has been a priority in your ministry and do you have any idea why this issue has largely been ignored by Protestants?

 

FB: I think it is the greatest moral issue of the day. When I look at the Old Testament and how God condemns the sacrifice of children, to me it is a very serious issue. I cant understand why it has been ignored, only to say that other Protestants are starting to jump on the bandwagon now. Maybe it was just something that they couldnt deal with, or [they thought] to be involved with anything political was negative. I don't know what their motives may have been. But the taking of life is wrong and we have to do what we can to stop it. If we cant legislatively, then perhaps we can change the tone in the culture where women know they have other alternatives and are not trapped if they get pregnant.

 

TAP: We have readers both in ANiC and in the ACC. Do you have any message that you would like to leave them?

 

FB: Pray. Prayer changes things. Whatever the issues are, bring them before the Lord and ask his help, his wisdom and his counsel. He can do amazingly abundantly beyond all that we can ask or imagine. But we have got to pray.

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