Bishops from around the world convened in Selma, Alabama, on Friday evening, April 12, for a special moment in the life of the CEC.
Five and half years ago, Archbishop Randolph Adler, the communion’s founding patriarch, stepped down from full-time service to the church after more than fifteen years as its temporal leader, years that saw the CEC’s rapid Spirit-driven expansion in the United States, Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.
At the time of his retirement, in November of 2007, the church was unable to hold a service in which Archbishop Adler formally blessed his successor as patriarch, Archbishop Craig Bates.
This past December, the two men spent time together at the funeral of Archbishop Adler’s wife, Betty. In ongoing conversations this year, Archbishop Adler made clear his desire to bless Archbishop Bates in the leadership role he has held for five years.
While not officially announced or promoted, word of the event spread: a simple Eucharist to be held at Christ the King in Selma. All but two of the American bishops, including five Asian bishops who could make the journey on short notice, with 200 laity and clergy from dioceses in the American Southeast converged on this remote, historic town for a time of worship.
Archbishop Bates was the celebrant and preacher, speaking a direction-setting word for the CEC that should not be missed. It can be heard here: http://bit.ly/batesselmasermon
“Tonight’s celebration is not a political event (for power cannot save us, only divine love); tonight’s Eucharist isn’t a church growth strategy to add thousands to our numbers (for there is only one strategy in the mind of God: “love one another as I have loved you”); tonight is not about seeking another blessing or anointing for fear that God will withhold his blessing from us because we’re not good enough, for our God wants to bless us more than we want to be blessed and without condition. This is about a response to God’s unconditional love and I’m here tonight from New York because I love Bishop Adler and I want his blessing,” said Bates.
The blessing ceremony came at the end of Communion. Archbishop Adler prayed an extemporaneous prayer over Archbishop Bates as he knelt before the seated Adler, to the side of the altar:
“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I bless you. May you walk in God’s peace all the days of your life. May you fear no enemy. May you always have his peace wherever you go. May you always have a realization that this is not your church but it’s his church and that he entrusts us with these things for a short time. And you’re going to do what God wants you to do. You’re a brave man, you’re a courageous man, and you’re God’s man. And I bless you with all spiritual benediction in Jesus’ Name.”
You can listen to the blessing here: http://bit.ly/adlerblessingbates
Over the long weekend, from Thursday through Sunday, over meals, in fellowship and worship, the two patriarchs spent time together, reflecting on the CEC’s journey to this point, their personal friendship, and the wisdom these two men have gained leading this unique communion.