Have you ever seen a mug or a t-shirt with a crown on it and the saying, “Keep Calm and Carry On?” That phrase captures the kind of understated courage that the people of Britain demonstrated during the aerial bombardment of London in World War II. But it also serves as a reminder to all of us who at various times find ourselves under tremendous stress. “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
I have been privileged to sit in this week on some of the meetings of the leading, biblically-faithful Archbishops and Primates of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) movement representing 50 million of the 70 million Anglicans throughout the Communion. They will have a public statement of their decisions in due course, and I will comment then. But it would be fair to say that “Keep Calm and Carry On” was the consistent tone of their leadership throughout their meetings last week in Sydney. And this, in the face of veiled and not-so-veiled accusations of ignorance and schism by the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion Office and even a misguided attempt to sow division between GAFCON and the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC).
One of the passages we looked at in our daily Bible studies was from Mark 4:35-41 when Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a violent storm. The storm threatened to destroy the boat and all on board. But Jesus somehow manages to remain “asleep on a cushion” until the disciples, in a panic, awakened him, and he immediately calmed the storm. It seemed a fitting picture of the storm of false teaching promoted by many leaders of Anglican churches today in the secularizing west—a storm which continues to spread and intensify. As I have written elsewhere, this “perfect storm” is the result of a “gospel deficit” (teaching that contradicts the Bible on both morals and essentials of the faith) and an “ecclesial deficit” or unwillingness to correct such teaching at the highest levels of the Anglican Communion.
You know the story. Jesus was awakened, he calmed the storm in a word, he rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith and fear, and the disciples were left in awe at the majesty of Christ’s power over everything. Our Bible teacher, Archbishop Greg Venables (S America), reminded us of what we too can learn in the “perfect storms” we find ourselves in—both in the Anglican Communion today and in whatever storms of life we may find ourselves:
- Great storms often lie in the path of obedience: Isn’t this the truth behind every persecution and every need for reformation of the Church? We are in such a time right now: a time of unprecedented persecution of Christians and another once-every-500-year reformation of the Church as it faces the threat of secularism and cultural Marxism, radical Islam and religious pluralism.
- Christ was already at work in the lives of the disciples when the storm threatened: The storm did not catch Jesus by surprise. Neither do the storms in which we find ourselves today. He has us as perfectly in his hands today as he had the disciples in that storm-tossed boat.
- The storm drove the disciples to Jesus: In 2005 at the “Hope and Future” Conference in Pittsburgh, Archbishop Henry Orombi (Uganda) surprised me and others when he said “I thank God for this crisis in the Anglican Communion because it has driven us to find each other!” The pastoral care we received from the Anglican Churches of Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya and South America was born out of those relationships forged through the storm of differentiating from, and ultimately leaving, the false teaching of The Episcopal Church (TEC). Let’s not waste this storm either! What an incredible redemptive blessing this storm could be if it drives us to a deeper understanding of Christ and his vision for human flourishing under the clarity and authority of His word and purposes!
- The real problem was fear and unbelief: So often the storms we face are not merely natural nor the result of flesh and blood. They are storms driven by principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). The storm we are in is no different. According to Jesus, the real problem was not the storm, but the disciples’ fearful and faith-less response. In our day, we face the same weakness. Do we have the eyes to see this reality and, in faith, seek Jesus and pray for our deliverance according to his will and timing?
- When you are with Jesus in the boat, you are in the safest place you could possibly be: Even and especially in the storm. Jesus brought them safely and immediately to the other side precisely because he was in charge of the boat. And so his mission continued. Are we prepared to let him do the same for us—personally and in our churches?
I will have much more to say when the GAFCON primates issue their statement. But in the meantime, our mission is to go into all the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ from all nations, teaching them all things that Jesus has taught us—in word and deed (Matthew 28:16-20). So, let’s keep calm and carry on!
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.