Today we are gathered to consecrate the Very Rev Dr Samy Fawzy as a new bishop for North Africa within the Anglican/Episcopal Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa. He succeeds Bishop Bill Musk, who retired last year.I am grateful to have this opportunity to give my thanks and appreciation to Bishop Bill for all of his hard work and sacrifice through his years of service in North Africa.
The word consecration means to devote a person for service of the Lord. Today we consecrate Samy to be a bishop and shepherd for the ministers of the Church of North Africa, and at the same time, a bishop in the universal Church of God. Today, Bishop-elect Samy will pray these words, “I am not for myself but for You, O Lord” because he will be consecrated for the Lord’s service.
Some people might ask, “Why did I choose Dean Samy to be a Bishop?”
In response, I’d like to make clear that for many years, it has been put on my heart to prepare leaders and shepherds from the new generation of believers to carry the responsibility of leadership in the Church.
Truly the Church needs trustworthy shepherds who love the Lord with all their hearts and who will exert every effort to guide the people of God through spiritual teaching and encouragement to live out the message of Christ… the message of love. I have seen this in Dean Samy. Heloves the Lord and is humble. His desire to serve the Lord was evident when he put aside his career as an engineer after graduating from the School of Engineering, Cairo University in 1985. He was led to study at the School of Theology at the University of Wales and Birmingham in the United Kingdom, continuing until he completed his Doctorate Degree in Theology. He returned to Egypt to serve in the church of Alexandria. He is distinguished in his pastoral care for his congregation, including for the wounded, the oppressed and marginalized. He grew the church in Alexandria. This has encouraged me to choose him as Dean ofSt. Mark’sCathedral in Alexandria and Dean of the Anglican/Episcopal School of Theology. Samy has used all of his gifts and talents in the service of Christ and His Church. He has done so with joy and without hesitation. He became my real partner in vision and service. Jesus Christ taught us that those who invest their gifts and talents for the Kingdom of God will be given even greater responsibility. For this reason, we have chosen Dean Samy to be Bishop for North Africa, making him the first Egyptian Bishop in North Africa.
Few days ago, I have prayed that God would give me a message for Bishop Samy today, as well as for myself and for all ministers of the Church. The Spirit has guided me to focus my meditation todayon Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, because the main ministry of the bishop is shepherding.
If we desire to be trustworthy shepherds of God’s people, we must fix our eyes upon the Good Shepherd, who has been our model in His life and His care, in order to fulfill our responsibility towards the Church, of Christ.
Jesus Christ has given us a clear description of the Good Shepherd, which we read in the Gospel of John:
Firstly, the Good Shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep know His voice.Jesus said, “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3, NIV). This is made possible only after the Shepherd has spent a long time with those in his care, guiding them to green pastures and to sources of water, giving them medicine when they fall sick, and carrying them on his shoulders when they grow tired. It is true that we can’t shepherd well the Flock of God unless we spend good time in their midst.
There’s no doubt that we, as Bishops, receive many invitations from around the world to visit other churches and dioceses. These attractive offers to travel abroad and visit new churches and new places can be tempting. It can be hard to turn these offers down, but travel separates us from those in our care and prevents us from being able to provide for their needs. Thiscan weaken the church and lead to deeper problems. When the Shepherd is not present, those in his care scatter, as is written “I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”(Matthew 26:31, NIV). This happened in a neighboring country, wherethe church was facingtribal conflict. The Diocesan Bishop happened to be traveling during this situation, and his absence during the conflict resulted in thescattering of his congregations and the loss of his diocesan office.
It is our first responsibility as servants of the Lord is to be among the flock.
Secondly, the Good Shepherd leads his flock.Jesus said when describing the good shepherd, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”(John 10:4, NIV)Bywalking in front of His sheep, the shepherd does three things:
- One,he determines the vision and the goals that work for the flock. He knows the way to proceed ahead of those in His care.The Shepherd mustask for the vision and wisdom from God as promised in Psalm 32:8 (NIV), “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
- Two;by walking in front of the flock, the shepherd sets an example for all who follow him. St. Paul said to his disciple Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV). We need to be a role model and example, hence we are in need of the rich grace of God to help us because of our weakness as humans and supports us when we fail to live up to this model.
- Three;by going in front of the flock, the shepherd protects the sheep from danger. He faces the difficulties before his flock.
Thirdly, the Good Shepherd sacrifices himself for the sheep.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.” (John 10:11-12, NIV). The Shepherd must always remember what Jesus has done to save us from death which is the wage of our sin. He sacrificed himself upon the cross to be our ransom, and this puts on us the responsibility as Shepherds to give it our best effort to save sinners from eternal death. Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15: 13, NIV)
The Good Shepherd protects his sheep from false teaching and promotes correct teaching, as was given to us by our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ the Lord, for example, when he rejected the teaching of the Pharisees and the false Jewish teachers.“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27, NIV).One of the examples which we know well here in Egypt is St. Athanasius;who stood firm against the Arian heresy which was supported by the emperor at that time. However, Athanasius stood against the heresy, to the point that he was called contra mundum.
In this day and age, we find that many leaders find it difficult to oppose false teaching, for truth has become relative, and it’s no longer appropriate to speak against false teaching, as it contradicts with the trends of inclusiveness, which welcomes any and all views, even those which go against the Bible.
That’s why we need to remember that the Bishop makes vows in front of God to guard the faith so he needs to fulfil this responsibility without any compromise or hesitation.
Fourthly, the Good Shepherd leads His flock towards an abundant life.
Jesus Christ said (John 10:10, NIV) “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.No doubt that the true shepherd is the one who leads his people towards the abundant life. We can find this life when we meet Jesus Christ and accept Him in our lives. He said: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14: 6, NIV). This means that the shepherd should lead his people to Christ and help them to become spiritually mature disciples and faithful in their life and ministry.
Fifthly, the Good Shepherd searches for His sheep.
Jesus said in the parable of the lost sheep “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4, NIV). The good shepherd should look for his lost sheep. Those who went astray in the worries of this world, when he found them, he should share the good news of Jesus Christ with them and give them the hope they had lost. We sometimes forget as we become busy in administration that we as shepherds have the responsibility to give a message of hope to the broken world around us. Hope helps us to persevere through all the difficulties we face and to look for the good.
St Clement of Alexandria wrote: “If you don’t have hope, you would not find what is beyond your hopes”. He also said “Christ transformed all our sunsets in our lives into dawns.” Our Middle Eastern people are in desperate need for, hope. This is why we should bring hope to them all the time.
My beloved Samy, I believe that today that you would receive special grace from the Lord. This grace will accompany you on your journey as a bishop. With this grace, you can shepherd the flock of Christ that is entrusted to you.
Finally, I would like to share with you one of the dear gifts that was given to me at the time of my consecration. I put this in front of my eyes every day. It is a quote from St Augustine of Hippo which was written for me by one of the nuns and the quote is: “For you I am a bishop but with you I am a Christian. The first is an office accepted, the second is a gift received. One is danger, the other is safety. If I am happier to be redeemed with you than to be placed over you, then I shall, as the Lord commanded, be more fully your servant.”
St Augustine sees here a potential danger linked to the office of a bishop if the people around us glorify the bishop to a degree that he becomes proud. We all need to keep the words of St Augustine in front of our eyes so that we do not forget that we, by the end of the day, are servants for the flock of Christ. I pray from my heart that;“The Lord bless youand keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”(Numbers 6:24-26, NIV)