Kanishka Raffel reports on the second Global Anglican Future Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2013.
What was the "big issue" of the second Global Anglican Future Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2013? Making disciples. GAFCON II took as its theme, "Making Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ". As a gathering of more than 1300 Anglican Christians from 40 nations and 27 Anglican Provinces, GAFCON provided a rare and wonderful opportunity for fellowship among those engaged in the same mission around the world. We gathered as Anglican Christians who proclaim the same Lord by the power of the same Spirit in accordance with the truth of the same biblical gospel, yet in many different contexts.
In the majority world, gospel proclamation takes place in the face of increasing opposition from militant religionists, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist. Meeting in Kenya so soon after the attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi provided a sobering reminder that for many of those present at the conference, discipleship and evangelism are pursued in the face of daily threat and violence.
One gentle and learned Kenyan pastor, a student of the Qu"ran, spoke of evangelizing villages in his area by sharing the stories Jesus told in the Gospels. In September his church came under grenade attack and seventeen members were killed. He reported that the congregation resolved to remain in the village and ask God to protect them. Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Jos in northern Nigeria said that violence against Christians in his state "made life difficult, but not evangelism". Archbishop Deng Bul of South Sudan said that the war and suffering experienced by the Christians of his homeland had caused them to know the presence of Jesus in the midst of suffering. They have been tested, but also strengthened, he said. In the last decade, in the midst of war, the church in South Sudan has grown from 1 million to 4 million. Archbishop Bul commented, “We are not alone! Jesus is with us. And GAFCON is praying for us”.
In the Western world, gospel proclamation takes place in the face of deep hard-heartedness born of atheistic secularism; the crimes of Church leaders and institutions; and corrosive liberal theology. Mike Ovey, Principal of Oak Hill College, London, examined the trends in Western post-Christendom that distort our understanding and appropriation of the grace of God and render Western culture "graceless". 1 He noted that if the Christian church is to avoid "cheapening" God"s grace it needs to repent of sins the world does not condemn, as well as those that the world too, condemns. Failure to do so results in "self-bestowed grace" and the spiritually deadly condition of presumption before God. In the West, gospel proclamation must understand and disarm powerful currents of "entitlement", a "rights culture" devoid of a corresponding sense of duty and narcissism.
The conference concluded with the adoption of the GAFCON 2013: Nairobi Communique and Commitment2 which begins by reaffirming the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. Key elements of the commitment include mobilizing the whole church for mission; defense of biblical faith including the provision of oversight to faithful Anglicans where Dioceses "compromise biblical faith"; the promotion of a biblical ethic in relation to marriage, family and sexuality; commitment to the transforming power of the gospel especially in defence of oppressed or exploited women and children, persecuted Christians, and those suffering the effects of poverty and environmental degradation. The Communique affirms the establishment of an Anglican Mission in England, and commits to the development of enhanced structures for the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.
It was a great privilege to be among the 80 strong delegation of Australians, from every State and Territory, in attendance at GAFCON II. It was deeply encouraging to stand alongside brothers and sisters from every continent as "ordinary" Anglicans, part of the "one holy, catholic and apostolic church", built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20), shaped by the reformed heritage of the BCP, and the Articles of Religion. In the Lord"s harvest field, the growth depends on God but as fellow workers in the joy of making disciples, and in the face of myriad obstacles and challenges, it was good to see and to say "we are not alone!"
Kanishka Raffel is Rector of St Matthew's, Shenton Park in the Diocese of Perth and a Trustee of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund - Australia. He delivered one of the morning bible studies at GAFCON 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya.
1 Mike Ovey, The Grace of God or the World of the West? http://gafcon.org/news/the-grace-of-god-or-the-world-of-the-west