Planting Congregations
Strengthening
Churches
Raising Up
Leaders
Editor's Note
The Gulf Atlantic Diocese has a new website! Liz Cohn, our Communications Coordinator has been working tirelessly to update our website. We are grateful for her leadership and service. Take a look!
We are praying for you and for your congregations. This Communique continues our conversation regarding our fears and tensions during so much uncertainty, but it also brings some stories of hope and encouragement. You are not alone as we, together, turn to God during this season.

We also come together to observe the gift we were given in the Rev. Dr. J.I. Packer, as he went to be with the Lord last week. Bishop Neil reflects on his legacy:

A giant has fallen asleep in Christ. This last Friday the Rev. Dr. J.I. Packer went to be with the Lord. His ministry was a huge gift to the Church. His books, most especially Knowing God, have influenced millions. He was the foundational theologian for the ACNA. He was largely responsible for our prayer book, our catechism and the ESV Bible. I encourage you to read these tributes .
 
It seems appropriate to close with this section from Knowing God which applies to this and all hard seasons:
 
OUR PERPLEXING TRIALS 
These things are written for our learning, for the same wisdom that ordered the paths which God’s saints trod in Bible times orders the Christian’s life today. We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and he is dealing with us accordingly. 
Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, good humor, compassion, humility or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under especially difficult conditions. Perhaps he has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us. Perhaps he wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit. Perhaps his purpose is simply to draw us closer to himself in conscious communion with him; for it is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest . . . Or perhaps God is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling.
 
We thank the Lord for our strong leaders who passed on the faith to us. May we do the same for the next generation. 
From the Bishop
Dear brothers and sisters in the Diocese,
One of the first choruses I learned when I was a new Christian had these words: “God is our refuge, our refuge and our strength, in trouble … a very present help. Therefore, will we not fear…” The words come from Psalm 46, which goes on to speak of God’s faithfulness in the midst of earthquake and flood.
 
I share these words because we are tempted to find refuge or an easy means of escape in other places, including endless online news and social media. As Beth Kirby points out in her personal reflection below, we can easily forget to rely on the Holy Spirit.
 
It is also easy online to get too drawn into the debates of our time, be they political, cultural or medical, while losing sight of our hope and identity in Christ. One of our deans recently shared this significant observation with me:
 
I’m often saddened by the ignorant or inflammatory things fellow Anglicans post on social media. I think all of us should be cautious of all public platforms. We are never speaking merely for ourselves. Our so-called “personal” Facebook account is still a statement on behalf of the Church, for we are the body of Christ. As ambassadors of Christ, bearing the name “Christians,” we also represent him.
 
Along these lines, let me commend Archbishop Beach’s Code of Ethics . Please remember that non-Christians, as well as Christians, are observing not only our opinions but also our attitudes. Jesus cautions us never to call people fools, and this applies even when we disagree with them (Matthew 5:22). We may only take part in debates about issues if we respect the humanity of those with different positions. If they disrespect us, we must patiently turn the other cheek and forgive.
 
Ask the Lord to give you greater faith and wisdom during the floods and earthquakes we are facing in our nation. Please pray for our country. May we all find the Lord to be our present help in time of trouble.
 
In Jesus the Messiah,

+Neil

The Rt. Rev. Neil G. Lebhar
Planting Congregations
( Evangelism )
How does it feel to be a deaf in a hearing world? Helen Keller, both blind and deaf, compares her experience of each, “Blindness separates me from things; but deafness separates me from people.” Deafness is not the actual problem; deaf people can do anything hearing people can do, except hear. Communication barriers create the primary issues, with relational isolation being a common (and painful) experience for many Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals (Deaf/HH).

Deaf children, born to Deaf parents, develop socially and cognitively at similar rates as hearing children born to hearing parents; both enjoy the benefits of language-rich environments from birth. The capital “D” is intentional as an expression of the linguistic/cultural identity of this people group. The lower case is used to describe physical deafness. However, 8 of 10 children born deaf grow up in hearing families who never develop conversational fluency in sign language.

As you might imagine, even Christian families with deaf children face tremendous challenges with faith formation. In the United States, during the final decades of the twentieth century, the Christian faith was almost completely extinguished from the Deaf Community. There are several reasons for this spiritual crisis, but the good news is God is stirring up a spiritual revival in the hearts of many Deaf/HH youth and young adults.

One such example, DEAFCHURCH TOGETHER led by Fr. Bob Ayres, began in early 2020 with weekly online worship services— “Gospel, Message, and Creed”—completely in American Sign Language. The online presence is intended to prepare the soil for future church planting following the Greenhouse Movement model of the Anglican Church.

Strengthening Churches
(Discipleship)
“I can’t breathe.” This phrase has reverberated through our collective national consciousness in the last few months. The brutal death of George Floyd has led to numerous protests, as well as many participants wearing masks emblazoned with the words, “I can’t breathe.” I was struck by the confluence of three things: Covid-19, a disease which robs people of breath; mask-wearing due to the pandemic, which makes it difficult to breathe for many; and finally, Floyd’s dying plea as he was robbed of his breath. All three of these things come together to bring an awareness of the importance of breath.

Have you felt suffocated in the past months? Besides the physical suffocation of Covid-19 and masks, we have been mentally and emotionally suffocated by stay-at-home orders, economic loss and uncertainty, and close quarters with no place to go. The sense of suffocation of rights felt by many people of color weighs heavily on many of us, and exponentially more on those who have experienced injustice personally. Contemplating the unknowns of the near future can feel like losing one’s breath. Will we ever return to “normal”? Should we?

Our household spans three generations and includes two young adults who are just beginning to find their way into their futures. Trying to find routines for work, meals, housekeeping and leisure activities when we have been removed from all of our work and school and community settings, and put on top of each other, has been an uneven path at best! We’ve had many spiritual conversations during the pandemic. While it is tempting to feel doubt, fear, and even despair over the stagnation and uncertainty we currently face, may I suggest that this is really a time to lean even more fully into trust in the Lord who holds the future in his hands!

Raising Up Leaders
Part 2 - (The Prayer Lab)

The picture of Jesus surrounded by children is in all our Sunday school books.
It's a tableau so familiar and so tame. Yet somehow in its tenderness, we have lost the sense of what a radical point Jesus was making by welcoming such young ones. Why were the disciples so disturbed by the presence of children? The Gospels record that they rebuked people for giving children access to Jesus. Was it just that they considered children insignificant, or could it be that, like us, the disciples also feared children's unsettling requests?

But it turns out that's just what Jesus is looking for.
 
I shared in May ( click here to read Part 1 ) that in the early days of our family our children frequently spooked us with their bold prayers. We were always left with the question of why we were inclined to restrain their candid and conversational requests of God. Did we think he needed us to protect his reputation in case of failure or disappointment?

How were we to understand our reluctance to let our children be bold and direct? Intrigued by the dynamics of this encounter with Jesus and the children, we eventually strove to be more like the children in the story seemed to be. The principle is as powerful now as it was when we were first seeing it at work in our home. Praying scary childlike prayers has application for our own life as disciples, as well as for the way we encourage others.

Casting Ourselves, and Others, on the Father


Looking Ahead
Perspectives Begins July 27th
Perspectives is a 15-week course designed to help believers from all walks of life see how they can join God in His story of redeeming people from every tribe, tongue and nation to Himself. From Genesis to the prophets, Jesus Christ to the early church and Constantine to today, you will see how God has been moving, how the global Church has responded and what greatest needs in world evangelization remain today. This isn’t a class about missions, but a course on how every believer is sent to be used by God to take His message to all the peoples of the earth.

For more information and to register, visit here .
Synod 2020 Is Now Virtual
The Gulf Atlantic Diocese’s 12 th Annual Synod will be held virtually, Nov. 6-7, 2020. More information coming soon!
We hope you have found this issue of the diocesan newsletter helpful. If you have received it directly from us, you are already on our mailing list and you will continue to receive future issues unless you choose to unsubscribe by using the link at the bottom of this page.
 
If you have received it as a forward from a friend and would like to be added to our subscription list, please click the "Join our Mailing List" button on this page. 
 
Rev. Dr. Jessica H. Jones Editor-in-Chief, Communique
Canon for Next Generation Discipleship
Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the ACNA
-Follow us on Facebook-