By: Father Ellis
Special to News Talk Florida
From the genesis of secular history and evolution of Judeo-Christianity faith from biblical times to date has had some form of slavery of one kind or the other attached to it and one such historic landmark remembering is the historic Jamestown Settlement, a cornerstone of this great nation. From 1619 to 2019 marks 400 years and that, thenceforth the first acknowledged arrival of “20 and odd” Africans (as was recorded) enslaved Africans arrived in English America through Point Comfort, present-day Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia and sold as involuntary laborers or indentured servants in the English colonies.
After about 130 years later of slave trade, Rev. Thomas Thompson, serving as the minister for Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Monmouth, New Jersey, between 1745 and 1751, where he instructed the enslaved people and, as he puts it, being very concerned with “the poor Negroes, who wanted enlightening more than any.” Thompson requested posting to the “Coast of Guiney (then Gold Coast now Ghana), that he could go to make a Trial with the Natives and see what Hopes there would be of introducing among them the Christian Religion.” The SPG agreed and in 1751 sent Thompson to Cape Coast as its first missionary to Africa. He lived and worked there until 1756 when poor health forced him to return to England.
(Extracts from Missionaries, Methodists, and a Ghost: Philip Quaque in London and Cape Coast, 1756–1816 Travis Glasson)
As a fellow missionary, learning to walk in the big shoes of these great men, I am of the humble opinion that Rev Thomas Thompson and his handpick predecessor the Reverend Philip Quaque, (1741–1816), first African Church of England clergyman and missionary did a great job as the unsung progenitors of both the Anglican and Methodist churches in the Gold Coast now Ghana, and their failures and successes should be a guide for all missionaries’ home and abroad.
Therefore, as a missionary priest on route to Pinellas Park in Florida from Maryland as the new Vicar of St Philip’s Anglican Church, passing through YORK-JAMESTOWN-WILLIAMSBURG brings some sentimental and indescribable feelings about the future.
Among my numerous thoughts on my new missionary journey are; is it still foolishness to Americans as it was “Foolishness to the Greeks” and how do I propagate the good news in Florida and beyond as “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society”, these two books are among the many written by James Edward Lesslie Newbigin who posits that “The missionary calling has sometimes been interpreted as a calling to stem this fearful cataract of souls going to eternal perdition. But I do not find this in the center of the New Testament representation of the missionary calling.” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Eerdmans, 1989 (reprinted 2002),125.)
“The leaders of this movement [The Religious Right in the United States], while accepting the biblical doctrine regarding the radical corruption of human nature by sin, in effect exempt themselves as “born-again Christians” from its operation. They identify their own cause unconditionally with the cause of God, regard their critics as agents of Satan, and are apparently prepared to see the human race obliterated in an apocalyptic catastrophe in which the nuclear arsenal of the United States is the instrument of Jesus for the fulfillment of his purpose against the Soviet Union as the citadel of evil. This confusion of a particular and fallible set of political and moral judgments with the cause of Jesus Christ is more dangerous than the open rejection of the claim of Christ in Islam [….] The “Religious Right” uses the name of Jesus to cover the absolute claims of one national tradition.” (Foolishness to the Greeks. Eerdmans, 1986, 116.)
He was a man of two worlds, a theologian, missiologist, missionary, and author. Though initially ordained within the Church of Scotland, Newbigin spent much of his career serving as a missionary in India and became affiliated with the Church of South India and the United Reformed Church, becoming one of the Church of South India’s first bishops. So, what is ahead in Florida is to share the gospel of Christ in a pluralist society, whether it is foolish or not.
We welcome Father Ellis to the News Talk Florida team of writers. He is new to Florida but comes to the Sun Coast from Maryland. He is a world-renowned religious scholar, teacher and now he is the Vicar at Anglican Church in Pinellas Park where you can hear him speak each Sunday at 10 a.m.
Should you wish to find out more about him and where he will be conducting services feel free to contact him via email at [email protected]