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By David W. Virtue, DD
March 19, 2020

GLOBALLY, the Anglican Communion is shutting down.

For the first time since 1208, the Church in England ceased all public worship. Church doors have been closed for communion, and the gathering together of the faithful to worship God has been forbidden due to the coronavirus pestilence. During this time, the flock must be fed, and (unlike in 1208) may continue to be so via the internet, comes word from Archbishop Cranmer blog.

The Mother Church which can barely muster a million practitioners on any given Sunday out of a population of 67 million, might now find itself mortally wounded when the ban is lifted. Time will tell.

The BBC announced new plans for their programming in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus including virtual church services and exercise routines for older people, are set to cater to people spending more time at home.

Archbishops of Canterbury and York called for A National Day of Prayer and action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You can read their full statement here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-8118857/Archbishops-JUSTIN-WELBY-JOHN-SENTAMU-good-Samaritans.html

However, British writer and columnist Judi Sture excoriated the Welby/Sentamu approach as A Masterclass in Moral Relativism.

"Our great leaders, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, have indeed spoken. In the Daily Mail, no less. Have they told it like it is? Explained that if you are a Christian -- you have accepted Jesus as the Saviour and repented of your sins -- you don't need to fear death? Have they explained that God's peace and wisdom are for His children and for those who come to Him seeking redemption? That these blessings don't just automatically apply themselves to all people just because they are in a mess? Nope. You can read her full analysis here: https://virtueonline.org/welby-and-sentamu-masterclass-moral-relativism

The Church in Wales said all church services and gatherings for public worship should no longer take place. This includes regular Sunday services and weekday services, as well as occasional offices. Study groups and other parochial events that gather people together should also no longer take place.

The Bishop of Down and Dromore in Ireland called for s suspension of all services and said no Sunday services or mid--week services take place in the normal way. "These are to be replaced by a clergy person or licensed officiant along with 2 or maximum 3 others recording an act of worship that can be transmitted live or sent out later and made available as widely as possible to as many as local resources allow. Please make use of all the modern means of communication that you can access at this time."

Here in the U.S., Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry called for a halt to in-person worship, describing it as "the most prudent course." Holy Week and Easter Sunday, unlike any before, will have churches closed and pews empty, he said. "It is important to emphasize that suspension of in-person gatherings is not a suspension of worship. I very much encourage and support online worship."

Canadian Archbishop Linda Nicholls called on her bishops across Canada to put in place best practices to protect their communities and urged the following:
no contact versions of sharing the Peace;
reduced or no passing of the collection plates;
communion in one kind only;
increased availability of hand sanitizer;
increased attention to hygiene for all worshippers and worship leaders;
limitations on pastoral and community activities; and
some are preparing for the possibility that parishes may be closed to all public gatherings for a period of time, when required by health authorities.
We are committed to keeping our church communities safe for everyone.

However Anglican churches throughout Ontario have cancelled public services amid the coronavirus pandemic. "In consultation with the bishops of our province, I am recommending the temporary suspension of all public worship services," Archbishop Anne Germond said in a letter. Melissa Skilton, bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster, directed the suspension of all Sunday and weekday in-person worship in her parishes until May 3. Likewise, I am directing the suspension of all other in-person parish activities beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18 through Sunday, May 3.

A recent report said that with declining numbers (now under 100,000 ASA) the ACoC faces the real possibility that it will cease to exist by 2040. The presence of the coronavirus could push the ACoC over the edge even sooner.

Anglican Church in North America Archbishop Foley Beach said; "We considered the advice given by the President of the United States' Coronavirus Team, the Centers for Disease Control, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and by governmental authorities in Canada, Mexico, and the United States strongly advising that no public gatherings of 10 or more people be held. It is our desire to partner with our civic officials as they seek to exercise their duty to protect our communities. Therefore, the College of Bishops is asking our congregations not to hold in-person worship services or gatherings until further notice, but to offer, when possible, worship services on a virtual platform. We realize these are extreme measures that we had hoped to avoid, but for the health and welfare of everyone in our churches and communities, this is something we all must put into practice immediately."

One Anglican parish priest, Fr. Thomas McKenzie of the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, Tennessee is hosting drive-thru Communion.

Across the globe in Africa, the recently installed Uganda Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba said in a Pastoral Letter to the Churches that they must close for 32 days effective immediately. This decision will have a big impact on how we live and worship as Christians for the next few weeks. While it will be very difficult for us to not gather together...this decision will help save lives. As Christians and as the church, we value life and support all efforts to promote life. Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10.10).

The archbishop encouraged the church to develop new tools for ministry and outreach, including radio, television, and social media.

The Anglican Church of Kenya announced that they were suspending all physical church services and Holy Communion for 30 days. Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit said he would be conducting special Broadcast services on Sundays at 8:00am and Wednesdays at 6:00pm. This will be streamed live on the official Archbishop's Facebook Pages.

In Hong Kong a notice from the Episcopal House of Bishops said all group activities and public worship services will be suspended from Sunday, Feb 15 to Saturday, Feb. 29, in the dioceses of Hong Kong island, Eastern and Western Kowloon. Churches may be opened only during set hours for "private prayers and silent meditation." "Churches may make live broadcast of their services or message sharing through the internet," said the notice.

The three living Archbishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, issued an unprecedented joint statement appealing to people across Southern Africa to beat Covid-19 by working closely together.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said churches should remain open, but that services should be limited to 100 people. This will mean that many clergy will have to spend longer hours, presiding at more services, on Sundays and popular weekday services -- and especially on Good Friday and Easter. We rely on the ingenuity of clergy and Parish Councils as to how you work with regular worshippers on deciding who attends what service (whether by signing up to rosters or some other method).

In Nigeria lawmakers banned all forms of open worship in Nigeria as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The decision was reached after a two-hour debate by the lawmakers. The House of Representatives noted that it took a cue to ban public worship based on cues from Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Vatican that have banned open worship. The legislators noted that it is in the interest of everybody to ban such large gatherings in Nigeria for the meantime.

Earlier, The Anglican Church of Nigeria, the largest attended province in the Anglican Communion, stopped the use of one chalice for the sharing of wine during Holy Communion as one of the steps to stop the spread of the dreaded coronavirus. The church has suspended handshakes and hugs which were hitherto being used for the "exchange of peace" during the services.

The church's General Secretary, Gershinen Dajur, disclosed this in a letter addressed to all archbishops and bishops of the church on Friday on behalf of the church's Primate, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh.

Central African archbishop Albert Chama has asked his clergy to withhold wine from communicants until the Coronavirus passes. I would encourage you all to withdraw the Chalice. People may receive the consecrated bread only, until when we see that that the Coronavirus has eased or been completely eliminated.

The archbishop of the Anglican Church in Ghana the Most Rev. Professor Daniel Yinkah Sarfo, cautioned members of the Church on two key practices that included the greetings of peace and the mode of receiving Communion by members of the congregation in the Church.

The Archbishop said "as result of the outbreak of the coronavirus, we need to adhere to best caution from experts as we did during the outbreak of the dreadful Ebola disease. Members should not shake hands or embrace. Rather they should
bow to their brothers and sisters near them". According to the Archbishop, the mode of receiving communion should also differ slightly from the normal administration of communion in the Church and priest should practice intincture. This will prevent the habit of everyone drinking from one cup, he said.

Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies who heads the powerful and most thriving diocese in Australia has issued new recommendations for his diocese. Statistically, those over 70 are the most vulnerable to serious illness or death from this virus. People in this age group are often members of early morning services where the Lord's Supper is regularly administered," the Diocese circular said. "We advise that where you hold services that include Communion, it is best for the bread and wine to be served from the front only, rather than passed around on trays or in baskets in the pews. While many churches distribute bread and individual cups of wine in this way, the problem is not merely people touching the bread, but people also touching the trays. We recommend the bread be served to each individual by a designated person (or persons) who has washed their hands with soap and water and used hand sanitizer just prior to distributing the bread. We also recommend that churches do not use the common cup, because the same risks exist from multiple handling by communicants. Instead, individual cups of wine (or juice) should be provided."

The Archbishops and Bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have called for Anglican churches to suspend all in-person public services of worship following services on this Sunday 22 March. The Archbishops and Bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia have together made the decision to suspend all public services of worship until further notice.

The Bishop of the The Anglican Church in Tasmania has ordered his priests to stop meeting in large groups, including Sunday Services. "The best practice in limiting the spread of disease, and to protect our health system, is to adhere to social distancing. This means limiting the number of people with whom you come into contact," he said. We will be providing on-line worship through the live-stream of church services, or pre-recorded services. I will be leading morning prayer and preaching each week from the Cathedral and making that available on the Diocesan Website.

The Archbishop of the West Indies the Rev. Dr. Howard Gregory urged Barbados worshippers to limit physical contact and alter their communion practices as fears of COVID-19 intensified across the region. A memo from the Diocesan Synod of Barbados discouraged members from hugging, kissing and shaking hands based on information provided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the Caribbean Public Health Agency.

GAFCON chairman Foley Beach says that the Gafcon Primates Council has reviewed plans for our Bishops Conference in Kigali 2020 and with much regret have decided to postpone the conference until such time as it becomes possible to reconvene.

The deeper question that all Anglicans must face is what are we supposed to do? The answer is that we need to continue to live as sons and daughters of God, putting our trust and hope in Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We must seek to love our neighbors as ourselves, demonstrate stability, serenity and peacefulness in all that we live, say and do. And in doing so we will allow our light to shine in the darkness as we look forward to the Return of Christ in all His power and glory.

FOOTNOTE: We will add new information from Anglican provinces as we receive it.

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