MYRTLE BEACH — Creighton Jones first felt the call to enter the priesthood in the 1980s, but he didn’t think the time was right.
Today, 10 years after receiving his seminary training, the Myrtle Beach priest is overseeing a worldwide congregation 1.5 million members strong.
On Saturday, he was the Rev. Canon Creighton Jones of Myrtle Beach’s Good Shepherd Anglican Church. Following a two-plus hour consecration ceremony – attended by bishops from Ghana and India as well as 80 parishioners – he was rechristened as the presiding bishop of the Orthodox Anglican Church in the U.S., and the archbishop of the worldwide Orthodox Anglican Communion.
Jones called the appointment humbling, and humbled is an accurate way to describe his demeanor during the consecration that was witnessed by family, fellow Church bishops and his congregation.
A member of the Good Shepherd choir filmed a majority of the ceremony with her cellphone, others took pictures and Jones smiled as he was embraced at the pulpit by his fellow brothers in Christ.
By the end of ceremony, it was apparent that Jones’ decision to finally answer this call was the right thing to do.
“All I ever wanted to be was a parish priest,” he said.
Getting the call
Jones was nominated for the position by the former archbishop, Scott McLaughlin, from Thomasville, N.C., he said.
That nomination came this year, on Ash Wednesday, said church Canon Tom Gordon. Once Jones was named as a candidate for the archbishopric, a general convention of clergy from the U.S. jurisdiction was held and an election took place, approving Jones’ nomination on June 9.
So, what made him stand head and shoulders above other church priests?
“He went out, from scratch, went out and planted this lovely parish in Myrtle Beach,” said Gordon.
History of a congregation
Good Shepherd is one of 25 Orthodox Anglican parishes in the U.S., and most are found in the Carolinas, according to Gordon. The American branch was formed in 1964 in Statesville, N.C., by a group of Episcopalians seeking a more conservative approach.
The Orthodox Anglican Communion now has jurisdictions all over the world, in countries like Ghana, India, Mexico and Venezuela.
Its website describes a global movement of Christians committed to the historic faith in the Anglican tradition. America has between 400 and 500 parishioners, Gordon said.
That pales in comparison to India, which has 1 million followers and is the largest of the communion’s jurisdiction. The second largest is in Africa, said Gordon.
In fact, India’s archbishop, the Most Rev. Dr. John Sathiyakumar, was originally tapped to be archbishop over the worldwide communion.
Gordon said the other jurisdictions like being associated with the one here in the U.S. and Sathiyakumar declined out of respect.
But he was there Saturday to help consecrate his friend, Jones, into the role.
“He’s a godly man,” Sathiyakumar said.
Consecrating an archbishop
The Most Rev. Dr. Jacob Welbourne, archbishop of Ghana and the chief consecrator on Saturday, started the ceremony by purifying Good Shepherd with incense.
Among his brothers and sisters in Christ, Welbourne was elated to take part in the occasion.
“The voice of a bishop must be a voice that speaks of peace and reconciliation,” he said from the pulpit.
Jones came from the back of church – arms locked with two other bishops – and accepted the vows that Welbourne read to him.
He then dressed in the remainder of the Episcopal habit and knelt down as the other bishops recited “Veni, Creator Spiritus” over him.
Watching all this from the back pulpit was Charles Snoddy, not a member of the Orthodox Anglican Church but a friend and neighbor of Jones’ who came out to show his support.
When Jones called to tell him of the appointment, Snoddy said his friend “was this high.”
“And now he’s one of the biggest big shots in this church,” Snoddy said.
Impact on Myrtle Beach
Now that Jones is the archbishop of the worldwide Orthodox Anglican Communion, Gordon sees that distinction as having an impact on Myrtle Beach.
“There are a lot of people who are really interested in this around the world,” he said.
Initially, the church will host clerical seminars locally for those interested in clergy, Gordon said. He added that it’s likely the general convention will also be held here. That event can bring in around 100 people.
“The future of the communion is very bright,” Gordon said. “The church is growing around the world, particularly in places like Africa and India.”
Jones’ desire, as archbishop, is to bring the Anglican movement together.
“We’re very traditional Orthodox. We need to find some unity,” Jones said.
He credited more liberal teachings and ideals as the reason the Anglican church split from the Episcopal church in the 1970s. Episcopalians caused an uproar in 2003 by consecrating New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican world.
Jones describes the Orthodox Anglican Church as more conservative, highlighting its right-to-life stance.
“We’re living in generations now that are Biblically ignorant,” he said.
Before he became knowledgeable on all things scripture, Jones was a management consultant. He retired 10 years ago and begin his seminary training.
In the end, he’s happy that he held off on answering the Lord’s call until he was a little older and a little wiser.
“Age teaches you a lot about patience,” Jones said.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301.