I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord


By Eric Menees

What an honor and privilege it is to be with you all this evening for this celebration of Solemn Evensong. Bishop Sutton, thank you for sharing your beautiful cathedral with us. Ms. Bawcombe thank you for playing such beautiful music. My fellow bishops, brothers and sisters in Christ I need to confess something… In the Diocese of San Joaquin having had nearly all of our properties confiscated by TEC I stand before you guilty of breaking the 10th commandment, “Thou shalt not covet your brother’s cathedral, nor his cathedral grounds, nor his cathedral staff, nor his cathedral organist.” Forgive me.

The scriptures for this evening are beautiful and profound. They speak to a beauty and a unity that is found in heaven but reflected here on earth. When the psalmist wrote, or more properly sang, “I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.” He was speaking of a future hope but also, for us, a present reality. 

After a long and difficult season, it has been so wonderful to gather again with old friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord, leaders in Christ’s One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Allow me to ask… Who was the person who shared the faith with you? Who was the person who taught you the catholic faith? Were they one and the same? Thanks be to God for that person or persons. 

While I came to faith as a 13-year-old when a friend, Bob Lamar, invited me to church and then to a youth group service project with orphans in Tijuana, Mexico,  it was Fr. Larry Bausch who taught me the catholic faith. I am so grateful for Fr. Bausch and his humble ministry to me and countless others. I am aware, of course, in some ways, what a sad statement that is. You see, when I met Fr. Bausch I had already taken my MDiv from the General Theological Seminary and been priested five years in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. It was Fr. Larry who taught me that while beautiful liturgy and vestments are important, it is what they point to that is the true gem. It was Fr. Larry who taught me the importance of orthodox doctrine; a lesson that would keep me on the right course, even though it led me through troubled waters for a season. It was Fr. Larry who taught me the importance of thinking as a catholic, that is universally, as opposed to denominationally or simply pastorally. 

This lesson has borne great fruit, helping me to recognize that while we need to be present in the moment, it is the greater destination of the Kingdom of God which has kept me on course; and when I’ve strayed, it allowed for course corrections. It was Fr. Larry Bausch who supported and encouraged me over these past thirty years to be outspoken for the cause of Christ—His bride, the Church. That said, let’s look at our epistle reading this afternoon and see what Scripture and Tradition might teach us. 

This afternoon’s Evensong lessons speak to the unity of God’s Church. St. Paul’s exhortation to the Church in Ephesus that we just heard is as poignant today as it was in the first century. Friends, if we think we are living in more enlightened times we are deluding ourselves. We are living in an increasingly pagan culture similar to that of the first century. St. Paul said it so well in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans: “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 1:24-25)

In the first century, the church was divided on how to reach the culture. There were those who opted for a strict following of the law, like the Galatians, those who opted for a complete dissociation from the culture, and those who opted for a secret knowledge given to the elect. Any way you look at it, those divisions hurt the cause of the Gospel rather than helped it. 

St. Paul addressed these divisions in his epistles and this evening’s epistle lesson to the Ephesians speaks to the heart of the Lord’s desire for His bride in the first century and the twenty-first century. Let’s do a little Bible study.

Ephesians 4:1-7: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,…” 

Of course, Acts 28 tells us that St. Paul, while writing this epistle, was a literal prisoner writing while under “house arrest” in Rome. St. Paul’s willingness to sacrifice for the Lord is a powerful witness to the people of Ephesus, who were fraying a bit at the edges as pressures mounted upon them. 

“… beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” Amen! Can you imagine if we lived out this simple exhortation alone - what would the church catholic would look like? I can guarantee it would be a thousand-fold more numerous and much more reflective of the Kingdom of God. Sadly, we, and I’m including myself as an individual and all of us collectively as Forward in Faith North America, have been guilty of not living into our vocation. We have been passive, cynical, and prideful. 

Passive – by hunkering down in our Anglo-Catholic shelters. While it is true there have been church planting efforts, with varying amounts of success, we, for the most part have retreated to our altars content to say Mass and shepherd the flock. 

Cynical – We’ve been guilty of looking at the ACNA, and especially those dioceses that mistakenly ordain women to the presbyterate with disdain, telling ourselves that they are the cause of many of our woes. 

Prideful – generally the other side of the coin of cynicism – we have told ourselves that we are the true Anglicans. That the evangelical and charismatic strands of this cord are somehow less than.

St. Paul continues… “2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The humility that St. Paul speaks of here is the very heart of catholic spirituality. Rather than retreating to passivity, cynicism and pride we should seek to model the virtues of meekness, longsuffering and forbearance. 

And all for the cause of the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!” At the heart of the catholic faith is that call to unity. The unity of the undivided church. Here St. Paul drives the point home:” “4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Amen and Alleluia! 

There is one body – The Bride of Christ – His holy Church.

There is one Spirit – who animates the Church and the lives of the individual members of that body.

There is one Hope – Our hope is in Christ alone – we do not have separate hopes for evangelicals and charismatics and catholics. Our collective hope of eternal life with Christ and an abundant life as we await His return. 

There is one Lord – Jesus Christ and Him crucified, died and risen. Ascended to the right hand of the Father who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. 

There is one Faith – that which originates in Christ and passed to the apostles to His Church and continues to be preached and embraced to this day! 

There is one Baptism – in the name of our one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit - that outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual Grace that binds us inextricably to God and one another throughout the church catholic by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

And all because there is ONE God – who spoke the universe into existence and all that there is. One God who is the potter, and we the clay. It is in remembering who we are and who He is that gives us life, love and identity as beloved children of God, “born not of the flesh or of blood but by the Spirit,” as St. John tells us in the first chapter of the Gospel that bears his name. (John 1:12) 

St. Paul closes this passage and brings it all home when he says: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” This may be obvious to most, but is often overlooked by the individual. This unity cannot be achieved on our own. Not through planning or organizing alone. Not through desire alone. Not through hard work alone. We have learned this lesson the hard way, haven’t we? We plan, we put together conferences and meetings and just as it seems all is about to come together – something happens or someone throws a wrench into the mix. Why? Because the Evil One hates unity! The Evil One seeks to separate and divide. We’ve all experienced the disappointment and frustration, haven’t we. However, St. Paul would not have had this desire of Christ, as expressed in Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, and this desire of God Himself if it were impossible. What is needed? GRACE! And grace comes when we put ourselves, our fears, our doubts, our needs and our desires aside and admit that without God’s grace, unity will always be elusive, within sight but just outside of our grasp. 

I began this homily with two questions – do you remember what they were? Who was the person who led you to Christ? And, who was the person who taught you the catholic faith? I shared that it was my friend Bob Lamar who issued that lifesaving invitation to me to come to church, which led to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ! 

And it was Fr. Larry Bausch who discipled me and taught me the catholic faith. 

Friends, as I step into the presidency of Forward in Faith North America I recognize that I am walking in the footsteps of giants. Giants like Father Bausch, Bishop Ackerman and Bishop Pope. I recognize that in comparison to these godly men I have lot to learn. 

That being said, I would like to issue us a challenge today. 

I believe that our calling in this season is to be the one who teaches the catholic faith to the ACNA. Clearly, our brothers and sisters in the ACNA know and love the Lord. 

We are a growing Anglican province and our influence within global Anglicanism is truly remarkable given our youth and size. 

Friends, because of men like Bishops Ackerman, Iker and Wantland - Forward in Faith has a voice and a seat at the table - we need to speak up and speak out!  We represent a fullness of the faith not necessarily captured as beautifully in the evangelical or charismatic streams that make up the ACNA – Though I prefer the image of “a strand of three cords which is not easily broken” from Ecclesiastes 4:12 - as the image for Anglicanism. 

We know that Anglicanism did not start with the Reformation and that we have a line of unbroken teaching in the church that goes directly back to the church fathers—to Alexander & Justin Martyr, Tertullian & Origen, Augustine & Chrysostom; the list goes on and on. We understand the beauty and evangelical power of the liturgy well done – this evening being just one example. We understand the importance of taking our place within the wider church – Christ’s One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church – depends on people like us to speak up and more importantly to demonstrate the fruit of the Catholic vision for the church. We understand the importance of supporting and encouraging the ACNA to embrace the unity of our catholic heritage. And friends, lest we think that this type of ministry within, and to the church catholic, is new, allow me to remind you of great men who trod this road before us. Men like John Henry Newman, John Keble & Edward Pusey.

You may be wondering to yourself if I am suggesting that we start a New Oxford Movement. If so, you are absolutely correct. Perhaps history will say that this is the Dallas Movement; whatever name people give it, let it be known that Forward in Faith is all about bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and broken world. Let it be known that Forward in Faith is all about presenting Christ in word and sacrament. 

Let it be known that Forward in Faith seeks to walk with the least and the lost, the immigrant and the disposed, the sinner and saint alike. Let us take the grace and peace of Christ into the back alleys and byways of Atlanta and Chicago, New York and Boston, Seattle and San Francisco.

And let us do this following the words and example of St. Paul – “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Let us pray.

O GOD our Father, bless Forward in Faith. Inspire us and strengthen our fellowship. Help us to witness to the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that with love, patience, and evangelical zeal we may win many hearts to catholic truth, in apostolic order, for godly life within the fellowship of thy Holy Church. We ask this through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN.

The Rt. Rev. Eric Menees is President of FIFNA and Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, California. This sermon was given at FIFNA’s 2021 Assembly.

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