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Anglican Archbishop Addresses Culture Wars, Church, Politics and Race in a Time of COVID

Anglican Archbishop Addresses Culture Wars, Church, Politics and Race in a Time of COVID

An exclusive interview with ACNA Archbishop and GAFCON Chairman, the Most Rev. Foley Beach

By David W. Virtue, DD
September 18, 2020

VOL: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to me. Archbishop, few apart from your fellow bishops know much about your early life in Atlanta, how you grew up and when you came to faith. Can you tell us?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: David, simply put, I experienced brokenness as a child from my parents divorcing when I was 8, my mother becoming a hippy, our family being very fractured, and then, my mother's arrest for selling drugs on my 12th birthday. Later that year, after going to live with my father, I attended a church camp and first heard about Jesus and his death on the cross and God's promise of forgiveness and eternal life. By the campfire at that camp, I asked Jesus into my life following the promise of John 3:16. Later in my last years of high school, I got involved in Young Life and realized that although I had asked Jesus into my life, and attended church on Sunday, Jesus was not Lord of my life (I was!). I eventually came to the place of surrendering to His Lordship in my life, and have tried since that day (not always successfully) to keep yielding my life to Him.

VOL: Who was critical in you coming to know Jesus Christ? A person? A book?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: Pastor Ron Irvin prayed with me to receive Christ at age 12. Rev. Mike Carreker and Rev. Bill Murray helped me to understand following him. Since those early days, God has used numerous people and books to help me know and understand Jesus better.

VOL: There are basically two types of conversion: a Damascus road experience like that of St. Paul or Timothy's, from his youth up he had known the Scriptures which had made him wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Which does your conversion come closest to?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: I definitely had a specific event which I knew I began to know Jesus, but it was in my early youth. There have been numerous times along the way in which the Lord got a hold of me in a deeper way.

VOL: You can claim a number of firsts. You were the first bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the South, now a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). You were the first rector of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, Georgia, since its founding, from 2004 to 2013. It became the diocese's pro-cathedral in 2010, and it is now the cathedral church of both the Anglican Diocese of the South and of ACNA's archbishop. You then went on to become the first bishop of the Diocese of the South in 2010 and the first western Primate of GAFCON. Heady stuff. Was this a trajectory you set out for yourself?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: I never thought of it like that. I have just tried to obey and follow the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. I'm not trying to be trite, but I have found that He leads one step at a time. "Follow me," He says. So often, to follow is an act of faith and trust in Him. Sometimes, it is easy to trust and other times it is more difficult. I remember when we planted Holy Cross, we sought to get a construction loan to build the church building. The banks would not lend us the money unless a number of us put our houses up as collateral. After praying and seeking the Lord, several of us did that, believing He was leading and we would eventually be able to establish enough credit to get a regular mortgage. That was difficult trust. But we obeyed and God honored that. Not only were we able to provide a regular mortgage, but now the congregation has paid off the mortgage. That's a long answer to your question, but I guess what I want to say is I didn't plan any of this. I followed, obeyed, and am trusting.

VOL: In recent months, since the advent of COVID-19 you have been very outspoken on a number of issues. You have said we are pushing the limits of the patience of God for our national sins. America is seeing an unprecedented removal of ethical, moral and spiritual foundations which in the past has allowed the country to be blessed by God; to be civil; to be protected; and to be successful as a nation. Those are harsh words. No other Anglican leader, with the possible exception of the Nigerian Anglican primate has been so outspoken about his nation's sins. What drove you to say this?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: If one studies the actual history of our nation, you will find that the founders of this nation intentionally did not establish a theocracy, but they established a form of government (a democratic republic) to use their words which had as its ethical basis in the Ten Commandments. There was an assumption that people would self-govern on these precepts. Of course, we have the example of Israel in the Bible and how God blessed them when they kept these precepts and how when they ignored them, they were turned over to their own devices losing God's protection, blessing, and help. We have taken these out of our schools, out of our courthouses, and many Christians could not even tell you what four of them are. On a practical basis, how can a civilization formed on an ethical basis survive when the people don't even know what it is so they can abide by it. From a spiritual basis, what is God supposed to do when we now have laws on the books which disobey each one of them? I am not promoting a Christian nationalism; it is just that these are the practical Biblical and historical results of turning away from what God considers righteousness and justice.

VOL: You said; "Since we have had a public covenant with God, do you thank that God will not take notice of our public divorce from Him through our actions and the turning of our backs on Him? In the current crisis we are pushing God's patience." This sounds very like an OT Prophet blast when he threatens that God will punish Israel for its rebellion.

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: I don't think I said that, but what I will say is this: After the swearing in ¬¬¬ceremony of the first Congress and the inauguration of our first president, George Washington, in 1789, all of them walked down the street to St. Paul's Church in New York and dedicated their country to God. In spite of all our mistakes and sinful policies, we have maintained the Judeo-Christian ethic as the social conscience of the culture. When I examine the impact people from this nation (especially in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century) on the advancement of the Christian Faith throughout the world, when I look at the advancement in liberties and freedoms of citizens throughout of the years of this nation, when I saw how the Great Recession in our nation affected missionary work around the world, it is absolutely amazing how the Lord has used the people of our country! And yet, we are in a culture which is now intent on removing all references to God from the public square and consciousness. Do we really want to do this?

VOL: You have wisely, it seems to me, not taken political sides in the current Political/Culture Wars. You are aware, no doubt, that the ACNA has strong Trump supporters and some never Trumpers. My question is regardless of who wins in November, can America be salvaged from its spiritual atrophy?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: I have hope in the mercy of God in fulfilling His promises. We have all heard 2 Chronicles 7:14 quoted about God healing our land. However, few of us realize that God was responding to King Solomon's prayer when Solomon asked the Lord to help His people when they were facing war, or famine, or pestilence, and turned to the Lord, admitted to the pestilence in their own hearts, and cried out to him for help (1 Kings 8:38f). If God's people get real with our own sin, our own rebellion against God, and call out to Him for forgiveness and healing, I do believe a spiritual awakening can occur. We need the people of God in humility praying and fasting; asking the Lord to intervene.

VOL: I'd like to quote from something Chuck Colson said: "Christians should never have a political party. It is a huge mistake to become married to an ideology, because the greatest enemy of the gospel is ideology. Ideology is a man-made format of how the world ought to work, and Christians instead believed in the revealing truth of Scripture." Would you agree with this?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: Amen and Amen! I do, however, believe we should be responsible citizens and participate in the electoral process, but not in ignorance. We should read and study the platforms and positions of the parties and make our decisions based on Biblical principles. The mistake our generation often makes is voting on the personality of the candidate, not on understanding the policies and positions of the candidate. Usually, it is a mix, and this is why sincere Biblical Christians can come to different conclusions. Positions and policy matter. They affect the lives of millions of people for good or for bad.

VOL: Nations come and go; civilizations come and go; and institutions come and go, but God and His Word abide forever. Therefore, we all should throw ourselves on the mercy of God because it is only by God's mercy that His hand will be stayed. Remember, justice is getting what we deserve, but mercy is not getting what we deserve. If we don't, what do you see God doing? How will he act?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: God will do what He has done in every civilization from the days of the Bible until now. We tell Him we don't want him around, and since He doesn't force His way on people, He grants us what we ask for. He withdraws. He withdraws his Presence. Without His Presence we lose His blessings, His wisdom, His Protection. To use the language of Romans 1, He turns us over to our own desires and passions. It's like God says: You want it your way; ok, have it your way. He lets us self-destruct. Good becomes evil. Evil becomes good. Read through 1&2 Kings and 1&2 Chronicles and you see the pattern over and over again. It doesn't have to be this way. We can repent, and return to Him, and pray for a true spiritual awakening for our nation. He did it in the early days of our nation twice; He can do it again.

VOL: Given these situations in Scripture as a comparative context, we cannot expect for things to continue to go well, he said. Could it be fire and brimstone? The Second Coming perhaps?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: I don't know. When I look at what's happening in some of our cities, it looks like we are bringing fire and brimstone on ourselves. Things are not going well. Is this the time when Jesus will return? If He didn't know when it would be, I can't say I do. But I do know that innocent blood is calling out from the ground for justice. Millions of unborn babies each year and this year already 54 children in the U.S. have been killed by the recent street violence!! Gen.4:10. God always fulfills His justice. That should put a chill up our spine. Praise Him for the justice He has given us in Jesus (Romans 3:23-25).

VOL: You recently wrote: FORWARD. ALWAYS FORWARD. EVERYWHERE FORWARD! You also signaled that this season is one of the most challenging times in our history with a Pandemic, civil unrest and a very controversial election season. What advice to you have to offer ACNA priests in dealing with their politically divided parishes?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: Political parties and candidates come and go. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Word abide forever. Preach the Gospel and His Word. Love both the democrats and republicans in your parish. Respect them. After the election you want to still be their priest. I know a lot of folks say there is no way to be a Christian and vote a certain way. Don't let the enemy use this to ruin your parish.

VOL: A recent report from Barna said that only about 30% of parishioners are expected to return to church after the Pandemic has receded. What are the implications of that for the ACNA that you see?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: I don't know if this will be true. I think if our clergy are doing good pastoral work and care of their parishioners, this will not be an issue. Koinonia (Fellowship) is such an important part of Body Life of a parish family. I realize that until the pandemic is solved, people have real fears for their health, and I realize we have political and culture conflict based on different paradigms, but love conquers all. As Daddy King (MLK, Jr.'s father) used to say: "Say anything about me you want, but if you can say I didn't love you, then I have failed as a Christian."

VOL: Race has emerged as a major social issue. The ACNA now has a Provincial Working Group on Race, Racism, and Racial Reconciliation which has begun meeting and which will present their results to the bishops in several months. What do you hope will come from this?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: I hope that within this cancel culture paradigm in which we all find ourselves, where if I don't agree with 100% of your perspective, you write me off, that we can listen and hear each other. The Anglican Church in North America is a very diverse Church with cultures from all around the world. Where we need to repent before the Lord, let us repent. Where we need to stand tall for the Gospel and Biblical Truth, let us stand tall. There is no true reconciliation apart from what God has done for us in Jesus Christ by reconciling the world to Himself. One problem we now all face with this issue around race have been hijacked by some folks with a Marxist agenda who are seeking to destroy and eradicate anything to do with the Church and God. Just ask our friends in the Russian Orthodox Church how that turned out. I hope we can come out of this stronger in Christ, correcting what needs to be corrected, and moving forward for Jesus Christ.

VOL: What can be practically done to excite mission in these COVID times? Can a foundation be laid for the future?

ARCHBISHOP BEACH: Absolutely!!! This is an incredible time to be reaching out to people in the name of Jesus. Caring sincerely about people. Sharing words of encouragement, compassion, and Gospel. And daring to get outside one's comfort zone and reach out with a note, a phone call, a text, or a video chat.

VOL: Thank you, Archbishop.

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