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EFAC Australia

Essentials

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.

ETC Asia gets up and running
Andrew and Heather Reid have moved from Holy Trinity Doncaster to Singapore, with Andrew accepting the invitation of Singaporean friends to be the first principal of a new theological college. Here’s an orientation to ETC Asia. Andrew Reid is the Principal of the Evangelical Theological College of Asia

I still have the email. It is dated October 2000 and we were in our first year of church planting in Perth. The writer was aware of our earlier ministry at St Matthew’s Shenton Park in Perth and had just started up a ministry in Singapore called Project Timothy. He wondered if I’d be available to give some expositions for them at some stage in the future. While I’d never had a great interest in ministry in Asia or South East Asia, my wife Heather had always been interested in ministry to Asians and particularly Chinese. However, things began to change for me as God brought a steady stream of Chinese students to our church plant intended for Aussies and they were gradually converted as Heather met with them to do ESL classes using the Bible.
The October 2000 email bore fruit in a visit to Singapore two or three years later. When I quizzed my new-found friend on the needs in Singapore, he noted that there was a significant dearth of churches that had strong expository preaching ministries. Jokingly he quipped that what was really needed was a new Bible college to train a new generation of gospel workers. At the same conference, I also renewed acquaintances with a previous AFES student president who had taken a position at St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur and we resolved to do whatever we could to help these gospel friends. Visits to Singapore or Malaysia became almost annual and God was at work in other ways as well. I started doctoral studies and lecturing at Ridley. Heather started working with international students at RMIT. Our son married a Singaporean and we then moved to Holy Trinity Doncaster in 2010 (a church with a significant ministry among mainland Chinese people).

The crunch came with a phone call from my Singaporean friend. He told me that the idea we joked about earlier was beginning to look feasible. In response to the growing need a group of six like-minded pastors had gathered to form a board. They had a fledgling company and potential students. They wondered if I would come and be their first principal! After interviews, we accepted the position and we began the heartbreaking preparation to move from HTD. We arrived in Singapore in mid-2016 to join our Singaporean friends with their gospel-grounded dream. They thought they could raise enough money for a principal and two or three faculty and premises and I began the process in a new country of trying to get this done. We now have two full time faculty (in Old Testament and New Testament), a theology faculty member arriving in mid-2019, Mike Raiter from the Centre for Biblical Preaching for a month a year, and some part time, adjunct and voluntary lecturers.

I remember as we were preparing to come to Singapore, an influential friend knowledgeable about South East Asia expressed some reservations about the venture. He thought that there were enough colleges and was not sure that a new one would add anything. The irony of course is that this initiative has always been a local one—local people seeing the local need and working toward making up a perceived deficit. Our answer to the regularly asked question of what makes us distinctive, our response come under four headings:

Reformed and Evangelical Theology

Although board and faculty come from diverse denominational backgrounds we share a commitment to reformed evangelical distinctives such as those found in the confessional statement of The Gospel Coalition and the Australian version of the The Gospel Coalition Theological Vision for Ministry.

Integrated Training for Expository Preaching

Too often there is a divide between training in theology and training for ministry, including preaching and other ministries of the word. At all levels we rigorously seek to bind the two disciplines together and to practise them together, particularly theological study and expository preaching.

Robust and Informed Biblical Theology

While we believe that expository preaching is the best way to handle God’s word, we are also convinced that such preaching needs to be informed by a robust Biblical theology, that is, the Bible’s theological drive towards Jesus as the centre, fulfilment, and end of all God’s purposes.

Challenging and Training for World Mission

Although based in Singapore, the goal of ETC Asia is to serve Asia as a whole. We are committed to mission, that is, seeing the gospel go out to all the cities, villages, and tribes of Asia.

Three other important goals are, first, to become more financially stable and continue to grow our student numbers (our first year consisted of nine full time students and five part time; this year there are about five full time and about five part time). Second, to transition to like-minded and adequately educated and trained Singaporean faculty before Heather and I finish the ten year commitment we’ve given. Thirdly, to form partnerships with like-minded gospel friends in Malaysia and South East Asia and see if we can help them train the next generation of theological college leaders.

 Essentials interviews Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy

Being a diocesan bishop is a demanding ministry, and all the more given the current declension in Christian adherence, belief and practice, which means that clergy and laity alike are fervently hoping that their bishops will have some wisdom and energy for the challenges Christian churches face. Kay Goldsworthy was installed as the eighth Archbishop of Perth on 10 February 2018. She is not an evangelical, but many evangelicals serve in her diocese, and as she takes up this metropolitical see, evangelicals here and across the country are keen to see what her priorities, convictions and attitudes are, and what kind of leadership she will offer. In this short interview, Kay has graciously and gladly given us some insight into her initial thoughts and responses to the opportunities and responsibilities of her new role.

Ess: How are you settling back into Perth?

+Kay:I am loving being back here, closer to family and reacquainting myself with people, parishes and places, as well as discovering new places and meeting new people.

Ess: What are your initial priorities as Archbishop of Perth?

+Kay: The first priority is to prayerfully listen to the Diocese. It has been an unsettling time and in God’s gracious providence these times of careful listening are allowing hope and healing for this new season.

Ess: What do you see as the greatest challenges and tasks for the Christians in the churches you oversee?

+Kay: There are various challenges for our parishes. Those in the rural and remote areas of the Diocese face particular concerns as communities and populations shrink. Many city parishes are seeking God for new direction in sprawling suburbs and communities who see the church as irrelevant. Hope is ever present even in small congregations. It is wonderful that so many men and women are in ministry formation and study. The challenge of speaking, living, being faithful to the love of Jesus are very real, and a great responsibility for all of us.

Ess: What do you think we most need if we are to face those challenges and fulfil those tasks?

+Kay: We most need to seek Christ in and for our own lives and communities, and I believe to find and celebrate the common ground of Jesus’ love for the world together.

Ess: What is your vision of an ideal diocese? What will you be working for the Diocese of Perth to become?

+Kay: An ideal diocese? Where is that? Perhaps the ideal diocese is the one which follows Jesus to the cross and into the transforming love of his resurrection which is freedom from fear and freedom for life, confident in the Father’s love.

Ess: What motivates you to take on the tasks of an archbishop?

+Kay: This has been an answer to a call of Christ’s Church. The Holy Spirit is a wonderful and surprising motivator for us all in our ministry.  I am one among many. With you a Christian, for you a Bishop.

Ess: What would you like to say to the EFAC community?

+Kay: It is good to be with you. Thanks for your welcome. I look forward to us being a sign of Christ’s unity and a force for his love to be known. Please pray for us all; that Jesus’ love will be received, lives transformed and grace abound: ‘For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.  And he died for all, so that those who live might no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.’ (2 Cor 5:14-15)

Our trouble with church buildings

Bishop Stephen Hale is the Lead Minister of the St Hilary’s Network, and Chair of EFAC, Australia.

In 2017 I had a curious experience. My mother had passed away and the funeral was held at the church of my childhood and youth. The ministry and pastoral concern of the church was faultless and the service went incredibly well. Why was it curious? The facilities were more or less the same as when I last regularly attended nearly 40 years ago.

I’ve been at St Hilary’s for 8 and half years and we are just in the process of lodging plans for the redevelopment of the Kew Site in our Network of three sites. It has been a slow and at points painful process to get to this point. Our facilities have had very heavy usage over an extended period of time and it’s a joy that we have at last reached this point with strong support. Along the way we have had people leave because they in conscience can’t support a capital program.

These two stories illustrate the tension evangelical Anglican churches seem to have with renewing their facilities. For a range of reasons we seem to baulk in this area. We all know that the church is the people and the building is there to keep the rain off and we could easily do church in a rented space. Yet we have hundreds of buildings and they each are a statement or testimony to who we are and what we value. It strikes me that to visit many of our churches is increasingly a discontinuous experience for many non-churchgoers. Everywhere else they go in their life they go to fresh contemporary spaces that are fit for purpose and easily accessible. When they come to our churches they will often come to places that look tired and dated and are freezing in winter and an oven in summer. It is said that independent schools renew their facilities every 25 to 30 years. For churches it is seemingly every 50 or more years.

In one sense I’ve been spoilt, as I was Curate in a brand new church complex at Castle Hill and Vicar at a near new renewal at Diamond Creek. This shapes you. As Bishop I was involved in several processes that led to the closure and sale of some churches. Leading services of deconsecrating a church is a challenging experience.

If we want to connect in the contemporary era we need to give careful and active consideration to what sort of facilities we currently have and the best way we can renew and refresh them. Most of us do that in our own homes, why not the church? Most of us have leveraged off the generosity of previous generations for many years yet are reluctant to commit to the renewal of those facilities. Many churches have had ministers who were involved in the deferral of maintenance from one generation to the next and the cost of catching up is now considerable.

Perhaps we have a theological problem here? Perhaps our theology of church has flaws. In every generation the church has been involved in building buildings to meet in and we marvel at the best examples of these when we play tourist in many parts of the world. Would any of us be bold enough to build something grand and dynamic in our day? Visiting Barcelona a few years ago it was striking the impact on the waves of tourists entering the Sagrada Familia Basilica. They almost all fell silent and were awed and touched by being in that remarkable space.

Why should children participate in dynamic and interesting spaces at their school and then rattle around in dreary halls on Sunday? Do we need to reflect on how we think abut buildings in more than just functional terms. Are they in fact special spaces that enable worship, community and outreach? I’ve always said that it doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re hyper-liberal or hyper-reformed people seem to have an emotional attachment to their church and it’s buildings. Equally it doesn’t seem to matter if the building looks like a Telstra sub station built in the 1960’s or a beautiful gothic building built in the 1860’s people are still attached to the spaces.

In the new mission era we’re in we need facilities that are open and accessible. Facilities that can be used for all sorts of activities in all sorts of ways. Worship spaces that are flexible yet retain a sense of the sacred. We need a new culture of openness and generosity to enable our existing facilities to be refreshed and renewed as a matter of course rather than deferring it to the next generation. We need to refresh our theology of buildings.

 

Although the life of parishes and congregations is the fundamental expression and experience of church and the coalface of ministry, there are other levels of fellowship and ministry that arise amongst Christians. They arise, for example, from the relationships between the churches that make a diocese, and the dioceses and provinces that make a communion, these relationships being focussed and conducted through the unity and collegiality of the clergy and bishops who teach and lead these churches, dioceses and provinces.
In this issue of Essentials we hear from bishops labouring to give leadership to dioceses. I’m not sure the last time Bishop Kay Goldsworthy paid her EFAC subs (or if she ever has), but given that she is the new incumbent in the metropolitical Diocese of Perth, where I and many other evangelical Anglicans find our church home, I thought it would be good to hear from her about how she is thinking and feeling about the task of shepherding the churches and people of the Diocese of Perth. Across the continent, Bishop Richard Condie has had more time to find his feet, set a direction and seek to lead the Diocese of Tasmania on in difficult circumstances. He contributes two articles, one on the state of the Diocese, and another on the specific, current, fraught and consequential issue of making redress in the wake of the scandal of child abusers finding opportunity in churches to assault the innocent and to escape unprosecuted.
Another level of fellowship and ministry is the whole Anglican communion, which, as you will know, is being strained to breaking point by the very different theological directions in which various individuals, parishes, dioceses and provinces wish to go. GAFCON was held again in 2018, gathering together those who wish to remain where the church has historically been on issues of biblical interpretation and authority, tested at present in particular by debates over the bounds of permissibly orthodox understandings of homosexual desire and behaviour. Of course GAFCON is not about sexuality, it is about establishing and affirming the unity and collegiality of Anglicans from around the world as we seek to do what we can to keep our communion faithful, united and vital. In this issue we include three reports from Australian participants in the conference.
The training of clergy is a key factor in the character and health of the churches, and many Australians are following with interest the establishment of ETC Asia, and so ETC Asia principal Andrew Reid has given us a report on this new venture in this issue. Bishop Peter Brain brings us resources to reflect on Jesus’ rebuke to the Ephesians, ‘you have forsaken your first love’, and there are a clutch of book reviews to round out the issue.
I have had positive comments about the biographical piece on Peter Soedojo by Tony Nichols in the winter 2018 issue, and I would like to be able to include such biographical sketches from time to time. If you think you could write an interesting and encouraging appreciation of the life of faith of an admirable Christian you have known, do be in touch with me.
Ben Underwood
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Church Growth Through Mentoring
Rhys Bezzant

The Mathew Hale Library Public Lecture for 2016
Available from http://mathewhalepubliclibrary.com/book-sales/

Our country has never been wealthier, we are one of the most stable democracies in the world with little to fear from the state, yet the church is losing ground’ writes Rhys Bezzant. We are asking ‘how we find children’s workers or youth workers, how we get people to come to church every week.’

He identifies impediments and distractions that may prevent us undertaking this work: the burden of compliance with increased regulation, the growing loss of traction Christian evangelism and a Christian outlook is experiencing in our society, disempowering church leadership and dejected Christian leaders.

He reflects on Paul’s example in 2 Timothy 2:2 ‘What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others also’, and expounds Paul’s strategy as relational, visionary and having theological content.

I am myself involved in trying to see a new congregation grow, and it is slow, long work, but one of the things which is making an impression is the patient, persistent personal work being done by my assistant minister among the people of this congregation.

Bezzant gives us a good reminder that we cannot do Christian ministry from a height or a distance, but we need to spend purposeful time alongside people, passing on, not just ideas, but attitudes, aspirations and ways of living that are shaped and energised by knowing God through Christ and that seek to serve the fruitfulness of the gospel of Christ in the lives of others.

Ben Underwood, WA.

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