Last week, IRD’s Barton Gingerich had the opportunity to sit down with the Rt. Rev. David Hicks, bishop of the Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC). This is Part 1 of a two-part series.
IRD: In your own words, could you describe the significance of GAFCON, both for Anglicanism globally and for the Reformed Episcopal Church, in which you are a bishop?
Bishop David Hicks: GAFCON is important because it is an opportunity for mutual support and encouragement in the Anglican Communion among those who are faithful to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and who are concerned about several things that are at work in the world and in the Anglican Communion that threaten to inhibit the Gospel message from being clearly proclaimed. We had the opportunity for fellowship, for learning from one another.
For the Reformed Episcopal Church it’s significant because it demonstrates that we are serious about participating in the larger Anglican context and to be a contributor to what is developing on the worldwide scene. Of course that all comes about because we are a jurisdiction within the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
IRD: Why were you in particular invited to GAFCON? What were your duties and tasks during the conference?
BDH: The College of Bishops of the ACNA, by virtue of being bishops of the Church, are invited to GAFCON, so I was there in that capacity. The responsibilities were to participate in the discussions and the gatherings that were there. As bishop, I was part of the meeting of the entire group of bishops who met in the cathedral on one day. But the rest of the time, I did what the other delegates did and participated in the mini-conferences and the work that was done on the statement at the end of GAFCON as well.
IRD: I noticed that GAFCON focused on a re-evangelization of the West. What can you tell us about that? What are some of your hopes and plans on this front?
BDH: As you know, the reason for the first GAFCON in 2008 was in response to certain actions and movements going on the western church that were deemed again to be something as an impediment to the clear proclamation of the Gospel. So it’s been recognized that there are certain issues facings the western church that, in some circles, have undermined the credibility of the Church and the Gospel being preached in those areas—that something needs to be done in terms of addressing these issues.
It’s also been recognized that the western church, as far as church attendance goes (we could say on some level fervency and evangelism and things related to that) are waning, whereas in the Global South being planted at a dramatic rated, church attendance is dramatically higher there than it is in the West. So there’s something going on there in the Global South that is to be emulated and learned from by the western church. And so, I think everyone at GAFCON has recognized there are things that the Global South can do to help us as we try to wrestle with our culture and doing evangelism and the work of the church.
IRD: Is there something in particular in the Global South that you noticed visiting—I don’t know how much of a chance you had to see kind of what goes on over there—that struck you as very different from the West that we could possibly learn from, glean from, or practice?
BDH: Yeah, I attended the conference on re-evangelization of the West, so that was really informative on this topic. It seems to me that the Global South is much more adept at giving its testimony to witness for the Gospel and to stand for Christ in a way that is not afraid of being marginalized or disliked or even for hostility directed back at it. I think in the West our culture has put us in a place where we are often afraid to speak boldly, to make the exclusive claims of the Gospel, and to present Jesus Christ in a very straightforward way because we want to be accepted. We don’t want to be considered off the wall or somehow intolerant or any of the other adjectives which go along with that. And so I’m convinced that the Global South has something to teach us: to be unashamed in standing for Christ and the Gospel, and not being concerned about the reception that will be received from our culture.