Anglican Frontier Missions Going where the need is greatest Wed, 17 Jun 2015 20:35:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hear My People’s Cry: “Islam Needs Gospel of Peace” Fri, 05 Sep 2014 04:38:19 +0000 By The Very Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine, D.Min, DD., AFM Board Member
Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, WI

Today’s mail brought me a passionate plea from the Vicar of Baghdad, Rev. Andrew White. He wrote, “I’m almost in tears because I’ve just had somebody in my room whose little child was cut in half. I baptized his child in my church in Baghdad. This little boy, they named him after me – he was called Andrew.” We mourn for the persecuted Christians in Iraq and elsewhere.

Christians and Muslims have been neighbors in the Middle East for many centuries.  History is filled with incidents that have challenged Christians to fulfill their vocation of “loving thy neighbor.”  To live in harmony and respect for the dignity of our fellow human beings is taught us as followers of Jesus Christ.  Yet the world around us is full of the news of war, hatred and persecution.  We wonder at times how this madness comes into play in the global village of the twenty-first century.  We are meant to live in harmony and peace and to respect the rights of those with whom we may differ.

ISIS the Islamic State is butchering in the name of Islam thousands of children, raping Christian and Yazdi women, beheading thousands of men, looting their properties, bombing, and desecrating their holy shrines and worship places.  It is all supposedly done in the name of religion quoting from Qur’an: “There is no God but Allah, and his prophet is Muhammad.”  I find nothing wrong with this statement itself, as part of the profession of faith for each Muslim.  It is a continuation of the tradition of the Abrahamic faith communities.

At least 27 Biblical passages explicitly teach and clearly declare this cardinal truth that there is one and only one true living God. Here are two examples:

To you it was shown so that you would acknowledge that the Lord is God; there no other beside him” (Deuteronomy 4:35).

“I am the first and I am the last: beside me there is no god” (Isaiah 44:6).

The Christian profession of faith in the Nicene Creed is: “I believe in one God…”  Jews, Christians and Muslims come from a common tradition of believing in one God.  According to the Qur’an, God has spoken to humankind through many prophets and messengers, including Biblical figures like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and John the Baptist.  Jesus is one of the most important and prominent figures in the Qur’an; he is mentioned 93 times by name in the sacred scripture of Islam.  There is no ambiguity there.  Jews, Christians, and Muslims are talking about the same deity.[1]

Yet Pakistan designates itself the “Fort of Islam” and has passed blasphemy law to persecute, massacre, jail and harass religious minorities.  Boko Hararm in Nigeria, in the name of Islam, has kidnapped hundreds of innocent Christian girls to rape and to force into converting to Islam.  In Iran Bah’is, Christians, Sunni and Dervish Muslims are persecuted.  In Egypt Coptic Christians, a most ancient community, are systematically harassed and tortured.  Sudan Islamic government has killed over two million Christians and Darfurian black Muslims and displaced millions as refugees.

Now the newest player, ISIS the Islamic State, is on stage with a vicious agenda to purify the Middle East by committing outrages on the Christian and Yazdi communities.  These communities lived in Iraq and Syria before the dawn of Islam.  His Holiness Louis Rapheal Sako, the Christian Chaldean patriarch of Babylon has said there are over 150,000 Christians who have fled their homes toward the Kurdish cities of Erbil, Duhok and Soulaymiya.

In Mosul, Iraq, ISIS offered Christians an ultimatum to (1) convert to Islam: (2) pay a religious submission tax, (3) face the sword, or (4) leave. Christian homes are marked with red paint with the Arabic letter “N” (Nazarene) for extermination or expropriation.  This community has had to run for their lives. Some of their men were crucified and women were forcibly given to militants as booty.  Now Mosul has no Christians and their churches have been desecrated.  Thirty churches and monasteries in Mosul and the Syriac Orthodox cathedral have been converted into mosques.

A Yazidi woman Vian Dahkeel, a member of the Iraqi Parliament, gave a very emotional speech in the Parliament on August 5, 2014 about the extermination of her community in the name of Islam: “There is a genocide taking against Yazidis.  We are being butchered under the name “There is no God but Allah.”  Our women are being sold in slave markets.  We are being wiped out by ISIS.  I am speaking in the name of humanity.  Please save us.”

We hear the cries of innocent people from Nigeria, Sudan, Pakistan and throughout the Middle East.  Atrocities are being committed in the name of religion.  We are often reminded in the West that “Islam is the religion of peace.”  Qur’an teaches “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Surah al-Baqarah 256).  Then what is wrong with this picture?

I remember growing up in a Muslim country where the Imam on Friday in his sermon often made statements such as “Death to Jews, Death to Christians, Death to Hindus, Death to America.” Graffiti on the walls would also show such hateful religious propaganda.  Decades of preaching hate has created dangerous militants acting as human missiles of hate to destroy their own existence and their neighbors too.  This hate is an acid which diminishes the face of humanity.

Christianity was once widespread in Babylonia, Susiana, Fars, Khuzistan, on the eastern coast of Arabia, in Bahrain, and in Oman; it had infiltrated as far as Afghanistan and China.[2]  In the seventh century there were large numbers of  Christians in Saudi Arabia. By the time of Prophet Muhammad’s death (632) Muslims had conquered these territories and they were not tolerant of other faith communities.  Arab Idolaters had to choose between death or conversion; as for Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, if they paid tribute and accepted the conditions of conquest, they could buy back their right to life, freedom of worship, and security of property.[3] The history of religion has many bloody chapters.  Christians have their own dark ages of Crusades in the middle ages.

Now we live in the 21st century, where the reality has changed. Millions of Muslims have by choice migrated to the west.  They live next door to Jews, Agnostics, Atheists, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians as good neighbors. In western countries, we are engaged in inter-faith dialogue for building better understanding.  But we confront a very serious situation as the Middle East is burning and Christians in many majority Muslim countries are facing extermination.

So far, not a single leader of an Islamic nation, not an Imam or Sheikh, has condemned atrocities being committed in the name of “There is no God but Allah.”  Muslim religious and civil rights groups exercise full freedom of religion in the west.  I believe there are people of goodwill among Islamic community. I beg them and all people of goodwill not to stay silent spectators.  Elie Wiesel during his Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1986 said these famous words:

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and  humiliation. We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Islam does not need to be hijacked by extremists but needs the “Gospel of Peace.” The Christian Church is empowered by Jesus Christ to proclaim his message of healing and reconciliation. Please join us to build bonds of friendship and break down the walls of hatred which separate us.  Christ calls us to focus on the two-fold mandate — to love God and to love our neighbors.  We can do both by recognizing and repeating these truths among people of all faiths, even the faithless.

Without doubt, religion is the most powerful force on earth.  When religion becomes corrupt and begins to kill and destroy, it turns evil. Following God’s precepts we can work together for peace and goodwill on earth.  The Qur’an provides wise word that celebrates our diversity: “If God had so willed, He would have created you one community, but [has not done so] that He may test you in what He has given you; so compete with one another in good works.  To God you shall all return and He will tell you the truth about that which you have been disputing” (al-Ma`idah 5:48) We beg our Muslim brothers to join hands with us to pray and work together for peace and brotherhood on earth.

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together. ~Desmond Tutu

[1] Charles Kimball, When Religion Becomes Evil, HarperSanFrancisco, 2002, p.50.

[2] Francois Nau, L’Expansion Nestorienne en Asie (Paris 1914); Michael G. Morony, Iraq after the Muslim Conquest (Princeton 1984).

[3] Bat Ye’or, The Declone of Eastern Christianity under Islam, Associated University Presses, 1996, PP.33-39

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Anglican Thomas Cranmer and Mission Wed, 05 Feb 2014 21:35:48 +0000 Thomas_Cranmer_by_Gerlach_Flicke

A friend of mine, Ashley Null, spent most of his life researching Thomas Cranmer, the author of the original Anglican Prayer Book.  Ashley recently wrote a manuscript about Cranmer that highlights two themes relevant to missions. I’ll call them Bible-chewing and ethnic worship.

Bible-chewing can nurture a right desire for God. It’s the key to spiritual renewal. To quote Cranmer, ‘In these bokes we may learne to know our selfes, how vile and miserable we be, and also to know God, how good he is of himself and how he communcateth his goodness unto us and to al creatures.’ So, the Bible tells us about God and ourselves, but it also turns our hearts to God: ‘…have power to converte [our souls] through God’s promise, and they be effectual through Gods assistance.’

Ethnic worship is the means God uses to draw people to Himself. For Cranmer, this meant replacing the Latin Mass with a reformed English liturgy. He realized that worship needed to be restructured to fit the ordinary work day of the average English bloke. He didn’t use a foreign language, but very English phrases like ‘erred and strayed’ or ‘devices and desires’ that reflected English sensibilities.

So, thanks Thomas C. for these themes! Whether we’re trying to reach a Muslim nomadic group in North Africa or a Hindu tribal community in South Asia, Bible-chewing and ethnic worship will continue to be essential elements for evangelism and church planting. The seeds of this are found in the pages of the original Book of Common Prayer. The fruit, we pray, will be found on the frontiers of mission.

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Bridging the Gap and Bringing Light Wed, 04 Dec 2013 21:37:21 +0000 bell bridge

The recommended collect from the Book of Common Prayer for Advent, “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, ” may sound like quaint, religious gobbledygook to many that might make us feel good, but lacks any power to change us. However, I believe it describes a reality for those who have  never heard that Jesus is the Light of the World.

Recently, I heard the story of an American pastor who had a dream about a bridge. He asked his assistant to find the bridge on the Internet. Amazingly, he found it! The bridge was in SE Asia in the heart of an ethnic community that was utterly unreached. The following year, the pastor took a trip to that very same bridge. He met a farmer from the minority people group and challenged him to take two weeks to study the Bible.

“What a crazy idea! Why in the world would I do that?” was the farmer’s response. The pastor replied, “It may be that you will be the very person who will dispel the darkness of your village. You may be the one who brings the light.” It sounds improbable, but the farmer changed his mind and said, “Well, then, what have I got to lose?” And over the following couple weeks, he took the course, repented of his sins and had faith in Jesus.

Today, that farmer is one of the very few language helpers in a translation of the Bible into that minority language. He is being used by God to bring the light into his unreached community.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood it. Perhaps we can pray the Lord will help us shed the works of darkness in our own souls so that we can be instruments of His grace for others. Others may include our neighbors across the street or the unreached around the world. We can’t put the armor on before we’ve cast out the darkness!

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What happened to the devil? Thu, 21 Nov 2013 21:04:49 +0000 devil

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“What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.” Justice Antonin Scalia commented last month in a New York Times Magazine interview.

“So what happened to him?” His interviewer asked. “He just got wilier.”

Here’s what intrigued me. Justice Scalia was offended that the journalist thought he was weird believing in the Devil. His response is worth quoting: “Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.”

Whatever we may think of Justice Scalia, I think he has a point. The Devil is alive and well. If he’s still prowling around like a roaring lion (I Peter 5:8) or subtly sneaking up on people like a snake (Gen 3), then his job description hasn’t changed. He still wants to demean God or to make people not believe in God (or in the Devil). He’s wily.

If we’re in touch with reality, perhaps similar to what Justice Scalia refers to as mainstream America (and we would add many parts of the world), then we must live with a recognition of the Devil. Anglican author, J.I.Packer  once noted that “Satanology” is a field of study that the academics have pooh-poohed, yet it is necessary for a full picture of the life we have with Christ.

“The Devil paid us a visit” was what my Anglican sister in Christ, Rosemary Mbogo, told me after the terrible political riots in Kenya a few years’ ago. Our fellow believers in the Global South know all about the Devil. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from them and from Justice Scalia as we consider how carry out God’s plan to reach the nations. Maybe we need to re-look at what the Scriptures teach us: “…through death Jesus might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).


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Power Keys Wed, 13 Nov 2013 01:41:44 +0000 key

“Yes, I held one of the four keys needed”, my new friend told me over lunch recently in Newport News, VA. “There were four of us US Air Force officers who each held a key. We only had a limited time to turn our key so that we were in sync with one another.”  His key could launch 50 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) within a range of 3,500+ miles.

That was during the Cold War when he was posted to North Dakota. He found it both a terrifying and boring assignment. Each missile contained 170 kilotons. I had to look up “kiloton”, but it means 170,000 tons of TNT. Or, more poignantly, that’s equivalent to 13 times the size of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. With one turn of a key, we might say, my friend could unleash 50 missiles capable of destroying 650 Hiroshimas. Thank God, he never needed to.

Well, it got me thinking about keys. In particular, the gospel as the key that the world needs. It’s the key to our vertical relationship with our Maker and to our horizontal relationship with our neighbor and to our environment. As Christians who’re concerned that the gospel reaches to the ends of the earth, I think we need to consider two aspects of this key:

  1. Access: Almost one-third of today’s population has either no access or extremely limited access to the gospel. Now I think we can learn something from the fact that  ICBMs can be launched from underground silos or submerged submarines. The silo aspect sounds rather colonial and static, but the submarine aspect makes me wonder if we need to be more nimble, mobile, and focused in communicating the gospel to remote, minority people groups. Perhaps one reason why so many remain untouched by the gospel is that we’re stuck in a silo mentality.

  2. Impact: We know that ICBMs release enormous amounts of energy. Now I’m not a mathematician (and would ask someone to correct me here), but 170 kilotons are equivalent to 0.17 megatons. And that releases enough energy to power the average US home for 17,590 years. That’s a long time. If we think of the gospel as the power of God for salvation, then perhaps we begin to grasp the immense impact the gospel can have on an entire racial group (for good).

Will you pray this week that the gospel will unleash the power of God for salvation among the unreached peoples of Turkey, India, North Africa, and SE Asia?

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What my African teacher taught me Wed, 06 Nov 2013 19:24:11 +0000

Kwame Bediako is from the West African country of Ghana. He is a Christian I never met, but he’s helping me understand Africa through his book  Jesus and the Gospel in Africa  (2004).

This week Kwame taught me about traditional African thinking.  There’s a big question for many people who live within traditional, tribal communities in relation to the gospel: Why should we be concerned with Jesus if he’s not from my tribe, from my clan or my language group? We revere our ancestors as individuals who represent the best of our culture and life together. So, why should we be interested in an outsider, like Jesus Christ? And, even if we should be (a big if), then how does he relate to us?

Now if you live in a suburban, middle class neighborhood in North America or Europe, this might not be such an issue. But if you’ve been raised to think that “my tribe” is unique and that only insiders can understand or connect with “my people”, then you’re probably unsure, possibly skeptical or even hostile, towards an outside person like Jesus Christ. And that’s probably just as much due to cultural and ethnic reasons as it is to anything religious or spiritual.

Kwame points out that Jesus’ priesthood is from Melchizedek rather than Aaron (Hebrews 7-8). That sounds pretty abstract. However, for traditional peoples, this is astonishing. Why?

Though Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, he’s not bound to the Jewish people or to the Levitical tribe. He’s not limited by the ethnic distinctions traditional (and modern) societies hem people in with. In effect, He’s not a tribal priest or an ethnic deity. Within traditional societies, there are numerous rules and regulations about who can become a priest or a religious leader. Only those within the tribe need apply.

In contrast, Jesus is the high priest for all ethnic groups. “ Therefore”, Kwame observes, “the priesthood, mediation, and salvation that Jesus brings to all people everywhere belong to an entirely different category from what people claim for their clan, family, tribal and national  priests and mediators.” That’s good news for traditional peoples who are not yet reached with the gospel. Also, perhaps it provides  a new perspective for those of us who live in an ethnically diverse, multicultural society.

To read more about Kwame Bediako, click here.

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Ears to the ground, eyes to the street Wed, 30 Oct 2013 00:01:26 +0000 listening

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In a nutshell, that’s what our pastors have to do. Keep their ears to the ground. Know the condition of their flocks. Take care of souls. Yet, they also need to look beyond their church buildings to what’s happening on the street outside.

Just this week, I heard how a U.S. pastor initiated outreach to Muslim refugees in a large metro area, but sadly this was at the expense of his parishioners. The result?  People left the church. Those who remained closed their wallets in protest. The church is in crisis. He lost his job. And now he’s struggling to sell his house.

Why did this happen? He failed to keep his ears to the ground inside the church and watch what was happening outside the church doors.

While this is tragic, both for the pastor and his parish, it’s also instructive. As parishioners, we need to pray for our pastors and priests. We need to pray for the congregation to understand the opportunities for witness and ministry to refugees, immigrants and international students at their backdoor. We need to pray our leaders have vision and wisdom.

Also, we need to recognize the relevance and wisdom of Paul’s letters to pastors nearly 2000 years ago. Yes, it’s true, for example, that  Paul urged Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5), but not at the expense of honoring widows “who are truly widows” (1 Tim 5:3).

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The Heart of Mission Wed, 16 Oct 2013 00:25:06 +0000 praying hands

We could say the best worshipers are those who best do missions. Or, possibly, the people who best do missions are those who worship best. If we are not worshiping Jesus Christ while we are on mission, then it is as though we are throwing out the burger and munching on a bun. If we’re not experiencing that beauty of His holiness (Psalm 96:9) individually and corporately during our mission work, then we have lost our way.

A couple weeks ago, I was leading a trip to S.E.Asia to intercede for unreached people groups. Our team met daily for worship, Bible study and prayer. That provided a strong sense of spiritual connectedness and purpose for our group. Then, about half-way through the trip, I realized that it was going to be logistically difficult to continue this daily rhythm. At the same time, I appreciated the fact that previous prayer teams had played a vital role in the emergence of new believers in the villages of various unreached people groups. One team from Singapore in the 1990s had placed a stick or a cloth in the walls of the villages they prayed for as a sign that this community had been brought before the Lord in prayer and worship. It was only several years later that the missionary realized that it had been in those ‘prayed for’ villages that the first believers in the people group had emerged. Well, we made a few adjustments and tried to ensure that prayer and worship would continue throughout the trip.

Although I am not sure we succeeded entirely,  I am convinced that a vibrant worship and prayer experience during mission trips is essential to the work. The best worshipers should be those who do missions best. And, the best missionaries are those who worship best. It’s both/and, not either/or.

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The Nigerian Story Mon, 23 Sep 2013 20:56:40 +0000 Many in the Anglican Communion are grateful for the release of Archbishop Kattey after he was abducted by kidnappers in Nigeria. We are rejoicing too. Archbishop Kattey is not only a  fervent evangelist and national leader within the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), but is also a friend of AFM’s.  He is passionate about recruiting, training and sending missionaries to unreached people groups. He  hosted a dynamic, week long frontier missions conference in Port Harcourt, June 17-21st this past summer.

Here’s a short clip highlighting some of this work being done in and through Nigeria.


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Why you need to read this book Mon, 09 Sep 2013 18:46:22 +0000 51WzNvrRkVL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_

Ruth Tucker’s  book From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya caught my attention last week. Sadly, it’s a book I had never read until now, never even put on my summer list. After reading the first few chapters, I’m convinced that it’s a gem.

An “oldie but a goodie” is how I would describe it. Its  sub-title, “A Biographical History of Christian Missions”,  is a bit more revealing than the title   First published thirty years ago (1983) by Zondervan, it received a lot of press in mission circles at that time. Today, though, it  looks past its sell-by date at first glance. Few, if any, people mention it even in mission-minded churches these days. Well, I would  like to change that for a couple reasons:

  1. Stories enrich us:  when God is the center of the stories, then we’re enriched. And that’s what we find in From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya. In an age of comfort and convenience, who is not startled by Perpetua and Felicitas in the third century? Who is not inspired by learning of this 22 year old mother of an infant son together with her personal slave (8 months pregnant) who refused to recant their faith in Jesus, but rather face public execution from a bear, leopard and wild boar  in a Roman arena? Who is not moved by Lottie Moon, a single woman missionary from Virginia to China in the 1800s? Who is not encouraged by the evangelistic zeal of the Anglican bishop of Uganda, Festo Kivengere?
  2. Stories are us: Biography that merely repeats certain facts and figures can leave us high and dry.  But when we realize these stories of God’s expansion of his kingdom from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth is a story we are part of today, then we can connect. Their stories become part of our story as fellow believers in Jesus Christ. The story of God’s unrelenting love for sinners saved by grace is a story that turns our world upside down. It tells us we’re not inventors of our own stories, nor is anyone else. Our personal life history only makes sense in light of the unfolding drama of God reaching out through Jesus to all peoples of the world.

The book is not without its faults.  It is tilted too much in the direction of the Global North for our tastes of today.  However, Ruth Tucker, who  describes herself as a biker, kayak-er, grandmother, skier, and blogger (see  has done us all a great service in making this simple, compelling collection available for us today.

And in my opinion, we shortchange ourselves by not reading it. And at  the (used book) price of a fancy coffee , it’s worth it.

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