In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, we are most blessed on this occasion to witness and to celebrate the consecration of the Reverend Canon William Bower to the Order of Bishop. This is a great milestone in the life of our Friend, our Priest, our Soldier in Christ. Like all milestones, it is a moment that encapsulates all that has happened before in his life. We can all look back and see, albeit through a glass, darkly, the Hand of Providence guiding his life, both in his successes and in his setbacks, in his joys and in his sorrows, deeper into that vocation that God in His own Wisdom has ordained for him. And yet as much as this moment invites us to look backward, it is all the more pregnant with the promise of the joyful work to be done. For as Christians we are all called to be about Our Father’s business, and yet it is the singular role of the Bishop to take his staff in hand and to shepherd us along the narrow path into Our Father’s Kingdom. As our Bishop he carries the fullness of that Holy Priesthood that Christ Jesus has ordained unto men. So, we see that his work is intrinsically sacrificial, and his life is dedicated to the worship of the Lord in the beauty of holiness at His one eternal altar. As our Bishop he carries the joy and the burden of that Prophetic Ministry that God ordained among a select few in Israel and that His Son literally breathed into the Apostolic Order of His Church. So, we see that his voice is given to the preservation and the evangelism of the Catholic Faith and Practice that Christ Jesus first entrusted unto His Apostles. In this era in which it is fashionable to view all truths as culturally relative, and all eternal institutions as either malleable or so outdated as to be fit only for the bonfire, our Bishop stands apart, and more often than not contrary, to the time and the place wherein he labors for Christ. He will have the brotherhood of his fellow Bishops, but I suspect, given the hostility of our secular culture to his Priestly Ministry and Prophetic Voice, he will be reminded in myriad ways that that Episcopal Order to which he is today dedicating his life is in this world but not of this world. As such, there will be moments no doubt when in his ministry our Bishop feels altogether alone, if not despised, not unlike Our Lord upon His cross. This is a burden to be sure, but much more so this is a joy and an intimation of the greater glory yet to come. For God forbid that any man should glory, save in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and this is most especially true of our Bishop.
In his “Prescription Against the Heretics,” Tertullian offers an insight into the apostolic nature of the Order of Bishop. He writes, “Having on the authority of a prophecy, which occurs in a Psalm of David, chosen Matthias by lot as the twelfth, into the place of Judas, they obtained then the promised power of the Holy Ghost for the gift of miracles and of utterance. After first bearing witness to the faith in Jesus Christ throughout Judea, and rounding churches there, they next went forth into the world and preached the same doctrine of the same faith to the nations.” The Disciples first maintained the institutional order that Christ Jesus had entrusted to them. They kept their number as twelve. Because of their fidelity to that order, the Holy Spirit then empowered them to be Apostles, to be sent themselves and also to send others to bring the Gospel to the farthest reaches of the world. The Oneness of the Church is in her unswerving faithfulness to what Christ Jesus had imparted unto her, and it is because the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic that she can bring salvation to the heathen. In his faithfulness to Catholic Faith and Practice, our Bishop expresses the Oneness of the Church, and therefore at the same time he may be described as a man who has been sent. Like all Christians, he must continue to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, but he has the added task of being God’s agent and courier of the faith first bestowed unto the Twelve. There will be a time and a place where he stands before God to answer for what has been appointed unto him. Did he invest the five talents given unto him and so gained five more? Did he invest the two talents given unto him and so gained two more? Or did he bury the one talent he received and so had nothing more to show for it? The Oneness of the Church, the Oneness that is encapsulated and passed on in the Order of Bishop, is no excuse for insularity. On the contrary, that very Oneness is the impetus for evangelism. It is meant to be shared. The doors are meant to be opened, the windows unlatched, so that the people may have a chance at least to hear the hymns we sing and to sense the incense we burn. Perhaps, some of those people will come inside to join with us in worshipping the One God in whom alone there is eternal life. We cannot know who will join with us, or who will walk on, for the Holy Spirit alone converts a man’s soul. Nevertheless, we know that the Church must continue to be the Body of Christ in the world even to the end, and it is the solemn duty and joy of our Bishop to be the man most responsible for that faithful work. In turn, we Christians have the solemn duty and joy to support him in his ministry and to abide him in his admonition and in his counsel. For as St. Ignatius of Antioch writes, “Be subject to the Bishop as to the Lord, for he watches for your souls as the one that shall give account to God.” Our Bishop leads, because he is a servant to our souls. Our Bishop exercises authority in regards to our salvation, because he is faithful to Our Lord and to the Church Our Lord gave us.
I have been honored and privileged over the better part of a year to come to know our Bishop Elect as a faithful steward. Like any man who has served in the military, he knows that there is a mobilization underway. There is an enemy to be confronted. There will be many hands from the rifleman to the cook, but they will march under one flag and sing cadence to one voice. As our Bishop, William Bower will be marching at the front, and we shall keep time to his steps. His is going to be an exalted position, as indeed it must be, for every Christian must be able to see the guidon held high; and yet he will be most prone to the enemy artillery. This is the task for which God has called him. We should pray for him, as we do all Bishops who remain steadfast in faith; for the prayers of the Church Militant and Triumphant, the faithful on earth and in heaven, will protect him as he protects us. Those prayers will be alive in his episcopal ministry, as his prayers for us will be alive in our lives. In prayer, we start to see the symbiotic relationship between the Bishop and the Baptized Faithful, the shepherd and his flock, and this is a hint of the eternal life awaiting those who finally and fully give themselves over to Christ Jesus. I recall in particular a conversation I had with our Bishop Elect about the work of the Church. He told me that our one purpose is the salvation of souls. Everything else must be gauged by the extent to which it may serve that purpose. The Salvation of Souls: This is the clarion call we hear from our Bishop. This is the task for which we Christians pray, work, struggle, and sometimes die. This is the task for which our Bishop dons his miter, ring, and staff. Pray, brethren, that that task remains forever at the forefront of all our Bishops, what motivates them in their governance of the Church and in their priestly and pastoral care of souls. For with salvation in Christ Jesus alone will we find that wellspring of eternal life, which is the Good News for which the One Church evangelizes, and is the consecrated vocation to which a Bishop has dedicated his life.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.