by Andrea Meier
We are excited and grateful that the Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon will join us on staff as Bishop-in-Residence for Evangelism, Mission, and Global Partnerships. Bishop Josiah is a man of immense experience and wisdom as a leader for the global Anglican Communion, and we are extremely blessed he was open and feels called to join our parish family.
Q: We are excited to welcome you to St. John the Divine as Bishop-in-Residence for Evangelism, Mission, and Global Partnerships. How do you see this role and what will you focus on?
Bishop Josiah: Let me start by saying I'm really looking forward to it, simply because the invitation and offer came unexpectedly. I never discussed this with anyone. But it came at the time I was searching, praying, and asking the Lord, “What's next?” Because as a priest, you never retire — you simply take another role. In the process of praying and waiting this letter came from your rector, Leigh Spruill. I read it and said, “No. This cannot be true!” Then the last paragraph said, "Well, I wouldn't want to sound presumptuous, but we would love for you to seriously consider coming here." I then wrote to thank him and to express my shock and surprise. I let him know I would give it some serious thought and prayers, which I did. Then the conversation began, and he came up with these three areas of focus: evangelism, mission, and global partnerships.
As Bishop-in-Residence responsible for mission, mission is my brief. And that should be the brief of every person who comes to know Jesus Christ because we are saved to serve. And that service is mission because it is the mission of God.
So part of my job will be to raise awareness, to mobilize, to join the other staff in helping our members, our brothers and sisters, to become conscious of what in the Anglican Communion we call the five marks of mission. First, to proclaim the Gospel and encourage people to come to Christ. Second, to disciple them, teach them, guide them, and help them to know how to share their faith. Third, to be engaged in making the Gospel relevant to people, meeting them where they are, meeting their needs, and helping them to know that the Kingdom of God is liberation. The fourth thing is to fight injustice and make sure everybody has a voice and everyone is called to be free. And the fifth thing is to work together and preserve the environment. These are the five marks of mission, which help all Anglicans get engaged in mission.
“As Bishop-in-Residence responsible for mission, mission is my brief. And that should be the brief of every person who comes to know Jesus Christ because we are saved to serve. And that service is mission because it is the mission of God.”
—Bishop Josiah Fearon
Q: What big lesson are you taking from your most recent role as Secretary General of the Anglican Communion?
Bishop Josiah: The role of Secretary General helped me to know the Communion at a deeper and wider level. We are very diverse, and that is why we are not the Anglican Church, but a Communion of Churches. Anglican Communion is simply shorthand for Anglican Communion of Churches. We number 85-90 million in almost 170 countries. We are culturally different. However, we have agreements on certain things. One of which is we are called as a family to respect decisions that you take and for you to respect the decisions I take in my own church. That's one of the things I have learned a little bit more in this position. I've also learned that the way we govern ourselves, what we call church polity, varies. Canada is different from America. England is different from, say, Kenya. So I respect a decision that, for example, the Anglican Church of Canada arrives at, even if I don’t agree with it coming from the Church of England. However, because of our identity as a Communion, when they want to make that type of decision, they inform the Communion. As Secretary General, my job was to know what was going on and help advertise and inform others about it. We help to sensitize people. Also, my responsibility, with that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was to say, “Canada, we know you want to make this decision. Be aware, we are a family. You are independent, yet we are interconnected. Your decisions matter.” That is what I have learned at a deeper level in this role.
I’m also hoping that we will be able to do something within the Communion. That with the availability of funds, we will be able to visit and get to know others in the Communion. I’m saying this based on an experience I had when I was bishop in Kaduna, Nigeria. I invited The Compass Rose Society, and they came to visit the Kaduna diocese where I was bishop.
Kaduna is in a primarily Muslim area in the central part of Nigeria. Most of the members of the Compass Rose that came to visit were Americans. We took them to villages, and they lived with our people, ate our food. The following week, three of them went with me to a remote village about 50 miles away. Despite the short distance, it took us almost four hours as the roads are not smooth. In some places, we had to meander. But the people were really excited in this village. The following Sunday, the catechist in charge and members of a Catholic church in the same village a mile way came to the Anglican Church we had visited. My evangelist in charge was shocked. “Why are you here?” he asked. They said, “We want to belong to this church.” He asked them what the problem with their church was, and they answered, “We’ve been here for about 10 years and in that time no priest has ever visited us. And you have had visitors from America who are members of the Anglican Church. We want to belong to this church.” This is a true story.
Relationship is a language, a vocabulary. Because when you relate to people, you eat their food, you see the way they live, you begin to understand why they behave. You begin to understand what their needs are. And, because you are better privileged and a child of God by adoption, you have no choice but to reach out.
Q: Is there anything else you want to share?
Bishop Josiah: Just that I’m Josiah. I love the Church. I love the Lord. And I always seize on every opportunity to share the good news. I’m excited to work with the staff and clergy and parishioners here. I can’t wait!