GAFCON day 5, the last full day!
The Bible studies by his week have been exceptional. Today William Taylor of St Helen’s Bishopsgate was given the unenviable task of preaching from Ephesians 5, which includes the politically incorrect, but biblically vital teaching on the complementarian relationships in marriage. There were definitely many bits to set aside for future plagiarism!
The final session of the mini conference on the Holy Spirit was summing up its themes and writing up a paper. I was able to make a couple of key contributions to help distinguish the Spirit’s work in inspiration of Scripture from his work in illumination of Scripture by which he applies it to us today – vital because the claim of many liberals is that the new moralities they are championing are a work of the Spirit even though they clearly contradict Scripture.
Disappointingly I was not lunching with royalty today, rather with a Masai who was archdeacon in Kenya. Unlike a UK archdeacon, in Kenya he is called to go into unreached areas of the province, and with local evangelists, discern where to set up new churches. It can be risky, but, as said, all you need to set up an church in Kenya is people and a big tree to meet I under. I’m not sure that would work in the Manchester area, unless you like rain!
The final session was then devoted to working through a draft conference statement in regional groups. They don’t pre-write any of it. A team of observers interview people all week, get feedback from sessions, consult with the bishops and primates and then pray together while drafting it. The feedback on the draft will then feed in to the final draft which the whole conference is invited to ratify ( or not). It is going to be good! A clear commitment to orthodoxy and biblical morality and the commitment to evangelism and mission. I’ll link in to it when it is finished.
The final meeting of the UK group was a rounding off session. We had time to reflect on the conference highlights, noting particularly the unity across the ‘streams’ of the church. This is very relevant challenge from God, because that is a huge problem at home. It is doubly vital, as we were given some informed speculation about what the Pilling report on sexuality will probably say, with the advice that this is undoubtedly the real big issue for then next 10-20 years and will need robust confident contributions, which are winsome in manner, when consultations go out to dioceses. The tragedy is that the whole report, which has a final drafting in 3-4 days from now, is likely to get leaked after the bishop’s meeting just before the churches’ most fruitful evangelistic season of Christmas – which sums up the complete lack of evangelistic wisdom that is part of our problem.
So what is God calling us to for the future? From the conference and people I have met, we face:
1. A struggle with an increasingly hostile world, and liberal church, so we will needs courage, conviction, and genuine winsome compassion for others.
2. A struggle for unity among those who uphold the Scripture’s authority. If we don’t stand together, we will deserve to call under the judgement of God!
3. A struggle for mission. We will enter a phase of church life where, like in Africa, every member of local churches will have to be pro- actively involved in sharing faith.
4. A struggle for repentance, humility and dependence on God, as our future will rely on grace not our politics. We need to recapture the spirit of the E.African revival- in honest repentance,sacrificial commitment to Christ and enthusiastic witness.
5. Finally, a hope in the grace of God to have mercy on us and turn us around. He can do it, he has done it in the past, but it may come down to whether we want it enough to cry to him for it from the heart.
That is what GAFCON has shown me. God can and will honour his name, if we, as his people, are willing to walk his way, seek his face and share his good news. This GAFCON initiative has not been about politics or factionalism. This is, in my opinion, a rare move of the Spirit of God calling his church back to what he has called us and blessed us to be- a people full of his presence witnessing to his world. In the end, it is his grace and presence that we seek, and that we are called to share. So the challenge for me is to follow him despite the cost, so in may walk his way with him.
Discerning the call of God for the future
GAFCON day 5, the last full day!