GAFCON day 6, and an amazing week is over.
Appropriately we started with a communion service in the cathedral, and with the Kenyans leading us, it was fairly energetic. The message loosely based in theory on Ephesians 6, ended up being more on that famous passage in 2 Chronicles 7:14 …if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (ESV) For me personally that sums up the heart of the challenge that we are facing. The state of the church in England (let alone Church of England) is not going to be fixed by politics or campaigns, it will take heartfelt repentance on our part, and genuine dependence on God.
That theme came out again when Miguel Uchoa preached (who is a friend of ours – Junior de Souza, our mission partner, his senior minister at Holy Spirit church, who is also bishop of Recife now). Miguel preached on the armour of God in Ephesians 6. His point was simply that God’s armour is the gospel, and we cannot fight the spiritual battle we are called to in our own strength.
And that took us to the climax of the conference. The final statement, which you can read for yourself at http://www.gafcon.org/news/nairobi-communique-and-commitment
The drafting group apparently had been up ’til 3.30am to finish it, and it is a wonderful summary of what the Anglican Communion ought to be. It is not driven by campaigning, but by the celebration of a shared commitment to the gospel.
Its most controversial point was the one that was most evident by my experience, which is saying that this movement of the Spirit, (which is what it has felt like to me), is an ‘instrument of communion’, that is, one of the ways that you can tell what an Anglican is. That in itself is a remarkable conviction, because here the evangelical, charismatic and traditional catholics have found a genuine gospel fellowship under the Word of God (which is what the basic formularies of the Anglican Church assume.) We have discovered here that what unites us is the authority of God’s Word and a commitment to share the gospel.
So what does a united communion do?
Simply we do Gospel work- not institutional activity, but evangelism, discipleship, and societal transformation, particularly where the gospel is under pressure through persecution or political correctness (ie aggressive secularism). And whatever catalysts have started by his movement (the situation in USA being the most obvious), its commitments show a simple resolve to stand firm on the key biblical issues of our day: mission (because the gospel has to actually be shared), theological education (which has sadly often had a reputation for being liberal), support of those that have been persecuted or excluded (like Recife diocese), support for families and society, and doing all this firmly within the Anglican Church.
There is one specific UK mention. The Anglican Mission in England, which is a group supporting a few UK churches who have had problems getting the support of their local bishops, either by church planting or theology, plan to get organised with a General Secretary- which is not controversial in itself, but a reminder that there are places that this sort of gospel-focussed Anglicanism is not well received.
So what next?
GAFCON has been for me a taste of what the Anglican Communion could and should be. In one sense, it isn’t so concerned to DO something, as to BE something, an authentic Anglican fellowships being what the Anglican faith uses to be, says it is in its basis of faith, but which has been diminishing in the onslaught of biblical ignorance and liberalism. The UK incarnation of GAFCON will have to work hard to live up to the depth and joy of the fellowship here in Nairobi. There is much yet to do if the Spirit of this movement is going to take root, but personally, I will pray and work for it, as only such gospel seeds will bear eternal fruit in the UK.
It has been a joy to share in, and learn from, and the final PS will be tomorrow when I go and worship with the usual congregation of the Anglican cathedral, before the long trip home. What’s next is now firmly in God’s hands!