GAFCON 2018 in Jerusalem

The third GAFCON has recently concluded in Jerusalem, and people you know may have returned with stories and ideas. Here three of the Australian delgates share something of the conference, its life and its concerns.

Katrina Holgate is Rector/Priest-in-charge at St Matthew’s Guildford, Perth Diocese.

It is said that the Fifth Gospel is the land of Israel—the sights, sounds and smells of the land that Jesus walked. Well, attending GAFCON in Jerusalem in June was so like that description. The sights, colours, music, accents and teaching were a joy to behold, remarkable. What better way could there be to celebrate 10 years of GAFCON than to be among the 1 950 delegates from 50 countries, representing the majority of the world’s Anglicans? The vibrant colours of the African women dressed so beautifully, celebrating life in their national costume, even Mothers Union representatives were wearing MU printed fabric. Chatter and laughter filled the conference centre; phones and cameras captured moments that will be remembered for years to come. The music was terrific, especially the Nigerian choir who inspired and led us to praise our Lord and Saviour for four of the five days. Each new day they led us in their vibrantly coloured costumes, which matched the celebratory conference music.

But there was serious business to be done in amongst it all, so Bible studies and teaching were very much part of the conference. We all became well-versed in the call of the conference, ‘We will proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations’, a call that should be on the heart of every Christian. To serve that purpose nine ministry networks were launched to be a driving force of GAFCON into the future. These networks are:

  • Youth and Children’s Ministry
  • Church Planting
  • Bishops Training Institute
  • Global Mission Partnership
  • Intercessors Fellowship
  • Lawyers’ Task Force
  • Mothers' and Women's Ministry
  • Sustainable Development
  • Theological Education

Words cannot fully capture the wonder and historical significance of this amazing conference, but video might add something where my words leave off. I recommend that you watch parts of GAFCON 2018 by visiting the Conference Video page in the Jerusalem 2018 section of the GAFCON website. There you will find all the videos taken in open session, as well as many of the interviews live streamed during the week. By the grace of our Lord Jesus, we were blessed and privileged to have the opportunity to attend GAFCON 2018. Praise be to God for his faithful people.

Kanishka Raffel is the Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney Diocese.

The third Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) held in Jerusalem at the end of June was a gathering of Anglican Christians (including 316 bishops, 669 other clergy and 965 laity) from more than 50 countries around the world. A truly global gathering in the City of David where Jesus preached, was crucified and rose again, and poured out his Spirit on his disciples for the preaching of the gospel to the whole world. It was a privilege and a joy for me and Cailey to be among the participants.

The conference theme was ‘Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations’. Each morning began with Morning Prayer and Bible exposition from Luke 22-24, looking at the dramatic final hours of Jesus’ life and the stunning victory of his resurrection. The Bible teachers for the morning sessions came from Uganda, UK, Chile, Australia and Singapore. Our singing was led by a Nigerian choir, in colourful costume and joyful praise. Our discussion group comprised members from Congo, Nigeria and USA. Plenary sessions were themed around God’s Gospel, God’s Church, God’s World and God’s Strategy. Again, we were served by speakers from around the globe - Nigeria, Rwanda, Canada. Elective seminars covered topics as diverse as the uniqueness of Christ; the clarity of Scripture; engaging with the Buddhist and Islamic worlds; marriage and sexuality; the work of the Holy Spirit; nurturing new Christians; equipping every Christian for ministry and many more.

The context of contemporary global Anglicanism is one in which issues of human identity and sexuality have come to be the touchstone for deeper issues of the authority of Scripture and the shape of repentance and godly living. Tragically, a deep chasm has been exposed. Some Anglican churches (notably in America, Canada, Scotland, Brazil and most recently, New Zealand) have rejected the teaching of Scripture on such matters and embraced understandings and practices that contradict the teaching of Scripture. Biblical Christians cannot affirm that it is loving or faithful to distort or reject God’s Word in this way. On the contrary, the truth that sets us free is precisely, the truth that God has preserved in his written Word for his people in all generations. Jesus said, ‘if you love me, obey my commands’ (John 14:15, 21, 23).

In affirming faithfulness in marriage between one man and one woman, and chastity in singleness (Lambeth Resolution 1.10), GAFCON represents more than 70% of the world’s Anglicans and the unbroken teaching of Scripture throughout history. The departure of some Anglican churches from this biblical standard not only fails to serve and love the wider world by obscuring God’s truth; but it has also rent the fabric of fellowship between Anglicans. In America and Canada, hundreds of Anglican clergy faithful to the Lord’s teaching in Scripture have been deposed and removed from their ministries. Congregations have been forced to leave their church buildings. Whole dioceses have been forced to leave their denomination. Tragically, the existing global Anglican institutional structures have failed to uphold godly discipline, to correct error or defend the faithful.

GAFCON affirmed the urgency of Jesus’ worldwide mission (which can only proceed on the basis of his true, holy and life giving Word); and called on those parts of the global Anglican family who have abandoned the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith to repent of their error and return to fellowship. The conference statement, ‘Letter to the Churches’ reflects the contribution of every Anglican Province present at the conference and was unanimously affirmed. Can I commend that letter to your attention (find it on the GAFCON website)? It reads in part:

‘The uniqueness of Jesus Christ lies at the heart of the gospel: “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The gospel confronts us in the midst of our confusion and sin but it does not leave us there. It includes a summons to repentance and a call to believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15), which results in a grace-filled life. The ascended Christ gave his Spirit to empower his disciples to take this gospel to the world […] As members of Christ’s body, they are sanctified in him, called to live lives of holiness and to be salt and light in the world […] Yet faithful proclamation of this gospel is under attack from without and within, as it has been from apostolic times (Acts 20:28-30) […] We dedicate ourselves afresh to proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations, working together to guard the gospel entrusted to us by our Lord and his apostles.’

 

Eugenie Harris attends Geraldton Anglican Cathedral, the Diocese of North West Australia

The shenanigans that occurred in Texas when The Episcopal Church (TEC) invited a 27-member choir from Rwanda to tour are worthy of a Netflix political drama. The talented Anglican Church singers jetted in, but before taking the stage they were presented with a document that required signed agreement with TEC’s inclusivity protocol.

The Bible-believing choir was not able to agree and so the US Church abandoned them. No accommodation, no food, no airfares home….nothing. It required intervention at the most senior levels in the Church of Rwanda and Rwandan Government to organise their rescue and repatriation.
I include this shameful episode because it helps explain the context for the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem in June. This was the third gathering of the Gafcon movement - set up in 2008 to promote Bible-based, mission-focused ministry in the Anglican Church. It’s a much-needed body providing vital Christian fellowship and support for churches in the worldwide Anglican communion that wish to remain orthodox in their faith despite threats from within and without the church.

What a joy it was to join in Jerusalem with some 2000 bishops, clergy and lay people, including many from the Global South, representing some 70 percent of worldwide Anglicans, for Bible studies, prayer, praise, discussion and deep fellowship. It was like a foretaste of the new Jerusalem in old Jerusalem. There arose in me a wonderful sense of relief to be amongst a great cloud of witnesses, united by the gospel, driven on by the desire to proclaim Christ crucified in an increasingly dark world. We may feel like our church is little and swimming weakly against the tide of the world. But Gafcon is testament that we are not alone and we should never doubt the truth of God’s good Word.

The Bishop of Lango, Uganda, the Right Revd Dr Alfred Olwa opened the conference with a stirring call to take a firm stand for Jesus and the true gospel.

‘None of us here can escape the responsibility of proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations so that people — when they come to Jesus in repentance and forgiveness of their sins — will escape the judgement of God. They will escape hell.

‘We need to remember that Jesus was tried and rejected, later resurrected. He lives and is going to come back. There is only one Jesus. King Jesus. One story from our God.’

Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh followed with a warning about the need to discern and combat the false gospel. We should not ‘distort the gospel in order to take away offence, for the gospel without offence is an empty gospel,’ was his impassioned plea. Praise God, and pray for, the many African church leaders who have such a clear and uncompromising commitment to the gospel, despite often enduring poverty and persecution.
One of my highlights was the Mothers Union (MU) luncheon. I felt rebuked that my prayer life had been so parochial, so uninformed and unaffected by the trials of sisters and brothers in other nations. Take, for example, my prayer partner who had received word that a church elder had been abducted by Fulani tribesmen. “May he not be beheaded,” was her petition to our Lord. Then there was Nigerian MU elder stateswoman Mama Gloria—the wife of Nigerian Archbishop Ben Kwashi. Her life is an extraordinary testimony to faith in the Lord Jesus. Early that morning she had become a mother again, to an 11-month-old boy, orphaned and delivered to her home when his own mother was shot dead. There are now 50 children (plus a group of older teenagers) living together in the Archbishop’s residence, in humble dependence on the grace of God.

To help guide continuing reform and renewal of the movement, the conference delegates produced a Letter to the Churches—a pledge to proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations and guard the gospel entrusted to us by our Lord and his apostles. I commend to you gafcon.org online resources, including the Youtube channel. I have listened over and over to these magnificent talks, gaining incredible encouragement. My prayer is that you too may be spurred on, marching forward, looking to Jesus the perfecter of our faith.