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ACNA primate gets top GAFCON post

ACNA primate gets top GAFCON post
Archbishop Foley Beach designated incoming GAFCON Chairman
Two other ACNA bishops assume supportive leadership roles

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
June 23, 2018

JERUSALEM --- In the waning minutes of GAFCON III, the new slate of the movement's top slot leadership was announced by soon-to-be-retiring Chairman, Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria). When the name Archbishop Foley Beach (ACNA) was announced as his replacement as GAFCON's new chairman, the remaining members of GAFCON -- the ranks were thinning as GAFCONers scrambled to catch airplanes back home -- exploded into applause.

Taking the General Secretary's slot is to be Archbishop Ben Kwashi (Nigeria). He is to be assisted in his task by five newly-created regional deputies, including two from ACNA. The assigned deputies and their areas of responsibility are: Bishop Bill Atwood (ACNA) for The Americas (North & South America); Archbishop Glenn Davies (Sydney) for the Antipodes and Asia; Andy Lines (ACNA) for Europe and the UK; Archbishop Laurent Mbdada (Rwanda) for East and South Africa; and Bishop Henry Okeke (Nigeria) for West Africa.

Archbishop Foley Beach is an American. He received his seminary training at The University of the South (Sewanee). He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1992 and served within the Diocese of Atlanta. He left The Episcopal Church following the 2003 General Convention and the consecration of Vicky Gene Robinson -- a partnered homosexual -- as the IX Bishop of New Hampshire.

"The actions of the 2003 General Convention in approving the consecration of a non-celibate homosexual person to be a bishop in the Church, and its approval of a method by which liturgies may be used for same-sex unions in the Church is the presenting issue of a much deeper theological and moral problem within the Church," he wrote in 2004, explaining his departure from TEC. "To remain in the Episcopal Church is to pretend that I am not a participant in this abomination before the Lord."

After leaving The Episcopal Church over deep theological differences, Foley Beach founded Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, Georgia. In 2009, the Anglican Church in North America was called into being by GAFCON. In 2010, Beach became the founding bishop of ACNA's Diocese of the South and his church was raised to the level of a pro-cathedral.

In 2014, he stepped into the shoes of retiring Archbishop Robert Duncan as ACNA's second primate and has been deeply involved with GAFCON, which recognized his primatial elevation and made him a part of the GAFCON Primates' Council.

During the next meeting of the GAFCON Primates' Council in April 2019, Archbishop Beach is to be stepping into the shoes of Archbishop Okoh as GAFCON Chairman and he will work hand-in-glove with Nigerian Archbishop Kwashi who is taking over the General Secretary's desk from Archbishop Peter Jensen, the retired Archbishop of Sydney.

The added burden of GAFCON leadership is going to put a strain on Archbishop Beach's commitment and responsibility to ACNA, an obligation he does not take lightly.

"The bottom line for me as well is that I don't want to hurt the Anglican Church in North America," he said in an Anglican Unscripted interview following the announcement of his new GAFCON leadership position. "I have got to make sure that what I do with GAFCON enhances the ministry of the Anglican Church in North America and enables us to what we are called to do which is reach North American with the transforming love of Jesus Christ and not hurt it."

Continuing, he said: "I have got to be able to provide the leadership and surround myself with appropriate leaders in ACNA to accomplish that vision."

While many GAFCON III participants returned home, Archbishop Beach remained in Israel to attend the previously scheduled ACNA Provincial Council meeting to coincide with the GAFCON gathering. The Provincial Council members decided to meet as a body in Jerusalem since they were already in town attending the GAFCON confab.

Archbishop Ben Kwashi is the Archbishop of Jos in northern Nigeria. However, he is not the primate of Nigeria, that task falls to Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, who is the Archbishop of Abuja Province and Primate of all Nigeria.

The Jos archbishop is to become GAFCON's Secretary General Coadjutor next month and will learn his duties from Archbishop Jensen, who is to retire on Dec. 31. Once he is the Secretary General, Archbishop Kwashi is to be assisted by five episcopal deputies: Bishop Bill Atwood, Archbishop Glenn Davies, Archbishop Laurent Mbdada, Bishop Andy Lines and Bishop Henry Okeke.

In 2007, Bill Atwood was consecrated the bishop suffragan of International Affairs for the Anglican Church of Kenya. Two years later, Bishop Atwood became the founding bishop of the International Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America. He is also the General Secretary for the Ekklesia Society, which is an international society under the authority of GAFCON, which is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ while conforming to the affirmations of the Lambeth Quadrilateral. The bishop will be tasked as GAFCON's General Secretary deputy for The Americas.

Australian Archbishop Glenn Davies is the Archbishop of Sydney and Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of the Province of New South Wales. However, he is not the primate of Australia. That falls to Archbishop Philip Freier, the Archbishop of Melbourne. Archbishop Davies will be responsible for the Antipodes and Asia.

Africa is to have two GAFCON deputies. Newly-enthroned Rwandan primate Archbishop Laurent Mbdada was initially Bishop of Shyira before he stepped into Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje's shoes as the Archbishop of Rwanda, as well being the metropolitan and primate for the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. Archbishop Mbdada will be responsible for East and South Africa while Nigerian Bishop Henry Okeke will be responsible for West Africa.

The Bishop of Mbamili, Henry Okeke, is very supportive of women in their roles as wives and mothers in the home, but would also like to see the ladies take on more positions of authority in the wider community because he sees them as a "special gift to the society" for they are "better managers of resources."

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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