November 18, 2016
Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? The Book of Common Prayer, Baptismal Service
Beloved Resurrection and Upper Midwest Diocese,
Praise the Lord who is our coming king!
I am full of joy and gratitude as I write to you. I am picturing so many of your faces and am reflecting on so many Kingdom of God moments that we have shared together over this liturgical year. I am thinking of the beautiful worship services in all the deaneries, confirmations, ordinations, Holy Week at the Cathedral, and the stunning experience of the God of love at Revive 2016.
As some of you may have heard, I have just returned from a week of reciprocal mission in Jos, Nigeria. I had the honor of co-dedicating with His Grace Benjamin Kwashi two facilities—Resurrection Clinic, a training center and holistic health care center outside of Jos, and Resurrection Hall, a large classroom to teach the former orphans and community children at Zambiri School. Both buildings were named to honor the generosity of the people of God at Church of the Resurrection.
I also had the profound honor of visiting four villages outside the city of Jos that have been literally burned and destroyed by Islamist cattle herdsmen. Pastor Matt Woodley and I had joined a team of British Anglicans led by the Baroness Caroline Cox. Apparently, these same herdsmen were provoked by our visit and sought to ambush our mission party. You can read the article here.
Many of you have reached out to assure Katherine and me of your prayers. That means so much. I honestly was not aware of the level of danger that surrounded us.
Instead I was shaken to my core by the stories of surviving villagers. I was especially moved by a conversation with Pastor Paul whose own home was destroyed. He also witnessed the execution death of a fellow pastor. I was shocked on hearing this. This was not a documentary that I was watching in my living room in West Chicago. This was a living testimony of the persecuted church in Northern Nigeria. And this is our family—yours and mine.
Pastor Paul standing in front of his demolished house.
Archbishop Kwashi has regularly taught us in the West that a faith worth living for is a faith worth dying for. He and Mama Gloria have deeply suffered persecution as well.
Against this backdrop, I would also like to comment on matters closer to home—our recent presidential election. Before I departed for Nigeria, I considered writing to you about the election’s results. I refrained because emotions among all of us were intensified and, honestly, I was not sure what to say. Never before have I seen an American moment where Kingdom-committed Christians are either so encouraged or so devastated.
Our experience in Nigeria and conversations with Christian leaders in the Diocese of Jos helped to put some things in perspective. First, as Archbishop Kwashi so eloquently reminded us, Christ is our one king and we are subjects of our first country, which is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Two, we as brothers and sisters in this diocese must pass the test before us of “doing everything in love.” We must eschew a spirit of individualism and competiveness that sees a certain political party or political leader as an affinity greater than fellow Christians. Furthermore, we must respect the dignity of every human being, which certainly includes women, Latinos, and other racial minorities who are feeling especially vulnerable in these days. And, I hasten to add, we must lay down our lives for the dignity of the unborn that are the most vulnerable segment of our American society. This will take a filling of the Holy Spirit to do so.
Let us run to our Advent disciplines of prayer and Bible reading. Please practice hospitality in this season to those who think and live differently than you. Please be intentional about having unbelievers and those of different ethnic or racial background than your family heritage in your home. Prepare for the coming of Jesus by building relationships with all those he came to save. I encourage you to read the Call to Prayer After the Election written by our Archbishop Foley Beach.
Brothers and sisters, let us pass this current test by doing everything in love.
With all my love,
Bishop Stewart and Archbishop Ben Kwashi dedicating the Resurrection clinic in Jos
March 23, 2016
Church of the Resurrection has chosen Good Friday as the day to present a special Global Mission offering to God as a response to Christ's sacrificial love for us. This year, our Good Friday Gift will support two ministries in Cambodia. Learn more about those ministries and how to give.
In May of last year, Bishop Stewart, Madeleine Ruch, and I visited one of our key global partners—the Diocese of Singapore. This spiritually vibrant movement also oversees the Deanery of Cambodia, so we spent most of our time in Phnom Penh. I immediately fell in love with this city. It's chaotic, noisy, dusty, busy, poor, but it's also bustling with life and energy. I was deeply moved as we traveled around the city and the surrounding countryside, taking in the sights of rice paddies, massive clothing factories (where thousands of women work incredibly long hours for low pay), lines of young women waiting to sell their bodies for $5 a night, and the Tuol Sleng Prison where thousands of people were murdered in the name of the Marxist Khmer Rogue. On a much brighter note, we also spent a day at Project Khmer Hope (PKH), listening to stories of how PKH is providing food, literacy, vocational training, and evangelism and discipleship in such an effective way.
I also met with a group of young adults who have grown up with a Buddhist worldview but seem to be searching for something to stake their lives on. Spiritually speaking, Cambodia seems like dry, but open thirsty ground—
perhaps even ready for revival. The Diocese of Singapore has some wonderful dreams for Cambodia, dreams about building up the church and raising up new church leaders across the land. By the end of the trip, our team had forged a much deeper gospel partnership with our friends in Cambodia and Singapore. (And the team also got to taste a Southeast Asian delicacy—durian, the "King of the Fruits.")
So this year I'm honored and excited to partner with our brothers and sisters by supporting Project Khmer Hope and the raising up of new church leaders across Cambodia. I hope you can join us in this year's Good Friday offering.