jQuery Slider

You are here

JERUSALEM: Report on GAFCON

JERUSALEM: Report on GAFCON

The following is a day by day account of what transpired at GAFCON in Jerusalem. Dr. Sugden fills in the blank spaces that VOL could not cover with our limited reportorial resources. He brings insights and observations critical to understanding what went on at this one of a kind gathering of orthodox Anglicans. VOL is indebted to him for his reporting.

By Canon Dr. Chris Sugden
June 28, 2018

Day 1: GAFCON 3 in Jerusalem sounds firm notes

GAFCON 3 opened at the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem on Monday June 17.

Worship of and faithful obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord and his teaching in the Bible was front and centre in all the plenaries.

A sizeable cross stands on the stage, following delicate negotiations with the ICC management. "We will proclaim" with the congregational response "Christ faithfully to all nations" is the watchword of the gathering. The role of the African church in the movement and the Communion was silently stated by the background of the first Bible Reading by Bishop Alfred Olwa from Uganda and the Keynote address by the GAFCON chairman, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria.

A choir drawn from across Nigeria led the worship in upbeat style. Applause regularly signaled agreement with statements made in the course of addresses. Archbishop Suweil Dewani of Jerusalem and the Middle East welcomed the almost 2000 delegates to "the city of God, the city of the resurrection and the city of the empty tomb".

Claimed as the largest global Anglican gathering for fifty years, delegates themselves sat in assigned seats for the first morning sessions to share and pray in small groups after the Bible exposition. Archbishop Okoh analysed pressures leading churches to lose the essence of the gospel in various cultures.

"The West maintains an optimistic view of human nature. The Church of England substituted moralism for the gospel of grace. When morality in wider society ceased to coincide with the Christian gospel problems arose." In Africa the power of the gospel appealed to solve existential problems but then could be lost in forms of prosperity gospel or to solve problems created by politicians. Changes by TEC, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and Canadian and New Zealand Anglicans had 'awoken the sleeping giant of orthodox Anglicans around the world'.

GAFCON represents 71% of the 70 million active Anglicans according to the Global Center for Christianity in Boston. GAFCON3 is a step change up from the 2008 and 2013 GAFCONs in presentation and use of media. The movement is clearly institutionalizing. A panel of advice, with a bishop, priest and layperson from each province or region will give a more synodal feel to a movement led up to now by a Primates' Council. Regional deputy secretaries will be appointed.

Nine global networks will cover Theological Education, Church Planting, Mission Partnerships, Youth and Children's ministry, Sustainable Development, Lawyers' Task Force and an Intercessors Fellowship; the Bishops Training Institute which has held three courses for over 100 bishops, plans to include bishops' wives and bishops from USA, Australia and Britain according to its director, Bishop Samson Mwaluda. Gloria Kwashi from Jos, Nigeria leads the Mothers Union and Women Senior Leaders' network: 'This will be fully concerned about Christian teachings about marriage.

Some people are turning their backs on the Mothers Union which is losing face.' She hoped to reawaken what the Mothers Union used to be, take Christian women back to their responsibilities and help families be what they should be. Reviewing the history of GAFCON Archbishop Peter Akinola said there had been no point in bishops attending Lambeth 2008 because decisions taken in previous meetings were not acted on.

Bishops would attend Lambeth 2020 if TEC, Canada and Scotland returned to their teaching and practice of 1998. Churches in South Carolina, Edinburgh, Brazil and New Zealand spoke of their costly stands against the actions of their provinces. "Good disagreement on matters of faith ends up with an inclusivism that means all arrive at the same destination", said Archbishop Okoh. "It cannot solve the problem of human depravity. Jesus is the only solution."

Day 2: "GAFCON is not an alternative Anglican Communion because we are the true Anglican Church"

A recurring theme of the first two days of GAFCON has been "We are not leaving Anglicanism. Others have left by departing from the Anglican formularies, particularly its commitment to the authority of scripture."

The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Greg Venables of Argentina said that "we are the true Anglican church which is made up of born again Christians who like Anglicanism. Others have left." He likened good 1. We are not attending Lambeth 2020 2. Unless godly order is restored we will not attend other meetings invited by Canterbury 3. Unless ACNA and the new Brazil Province are invited we will not attend any meetings invited by Canterbury

This was greeted by a standing ovation followed by spontaneous singing of the East African Revival Hymn Tukutendereza Yesu (We praise you Jesus). In the afternoon, delegates fulfilled the pilgrimage part of the gathering. Our very knowledgeable Jewish guide explained as he read from his Jewish Bible that the site of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan (a muddy river understandably despised by Naaman the Syrian) was the same place over which Joshua had crossed with the Ark of the Covenant on dry land.

A minor earthquake had altered the course of the river in 1927 and dried it up for 3 days; thus the Ark crossing on dry land is entirely explicable through the operations of the natural order under God. It is also where Elijah, a lone prophet like the Baptist was taken up to heaven and his mantle passed to Elisha, who worked more closely with others. On the Jerusalem-Jericho road he explained that since they lived well to the north, normally no Samaritan would have travelled here, giving a further depth of understanding that the Good Samaritan was feeling highly vulnerable himself when he helped the wounded Jew. In the evening the British contingent packed a hotel room to hear the experiences of Anglicans in New Zealand, Scotland, trainers from Kenya, three bishops from Myanmar and from a stirring Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem, which some participants visited on their tour, Dr Salim Munayer. Bishop John Ellison (formerly of Paraguay) has pointed out that those with experience of relating the gospel to people in overseas countries have skills for enabling the gospel to transform English culture. Successful efforts are clearly being made at GAFCON3 for those in the Church of England to listen to those in the wider Communion and no longer see itself as the Communion's centre.

Day 3: GAFCON3 highlights global mission

The third day at GAFCON3 had a flavour of a missions conference. After a Bible Reading on the Resurrection narrative given by the Primate-elect of the new Anglican Province of Chile, Dr Tito Tzavala, the Archbishop of Rwanda, Laurent Mbanda, made a passionate plea for more Anglican missionaries with a clear hint that many should come from African countries. A presentation from Operation World showed that most missionaries in the world now come from East Asia and Brazil.

The nine emerging networks met throughout the afternoon to plan their work between now and GAFCON 2023 which will like GAFCON 2013 be held in another part of the world. GAFCON 2028 will be held back in Jerusalem. An emerging question for all parties is what is to be the relationship between these new Anglican networks and those linked with the Anglican Consultative Council. The question also surfaced about how a new province, such as Chile, could be incorporated as an 'official' Anglican Province and at the same time be a GAFCON Province.

With the Primates Council standing on stage behind him, Archbishop-elect Zavala of Chile affirmed that their new province stood firmly with GAFCON as part of the Anglican Communion. The Panel of Advice, a synodal council has had its first meeting. It has two houses: the primates form one and a bishop, clergy and layperson from each province with GAFCON representation make up the other.

A series of seminars and presentations address issues such as the uniqueness of Christ, engaging with non-Christian religions including traditional religions, marriage, love and intimacy, addressing the culture of death, the Holy Spirit, how to preach on hell, same-sex attraction and singleness, equipping women in ministry for ministry, the practice of discipline, gender and identity, human flourishing in different cultural contexts, empowering the laity and the sacraments in the Christian Life.

GAFCON is clear that it is broader than evangelicalism and includes women priests and Anglo-Catholics in its membership. The seminar on human flourishing and Mission addressed how the practice of Christian faith expressing the gospel of the kingdom of God addressed free floating individual choice of the capitalist consumer culture of the west extending as far as consensual sex with whatever gender felt right for a person's needs, and its provision of a new identity as sons and daughters of God for those robbed of their identity by poverty and social exclusion.

On Thursday lunchtime the first draft of the Conference statement will be given to the regional groups to discuss over their packed lunches of a well filled brown roll and a pineapple and grape desert. They will feed their responses to the statement drafting group who will present the final document for approval on Friday morning. Delegates have been assured that the drafting group have started with a blank sheet of paper. On Thursday afternoon the delegates will take part in a second part of their pilgrimage, for a group photo on the temple steps, a photo venue made very familiar from GAFCON 2008. GAFCON 3 has almost 2000 delegates from 53 countries, almost equally divided between clergy and laity of whom 673 are women and 94 are female clergy. 218 are from Australia, 232 from Uganda, 367 are from USA, 204 from UK and 472 from Nigeria. A special extra platform is being provided to accommodate them all.

Day 4: In Jerusalem. "This is our family home"

An extra platform had to be constructed on the southern steps of the Jerusalem Temple Mount to accommodate the almost 2000 GAFCON delegates on Thursday afternoon for the Conference Photograph, to be welcomed by a Government minister and to hear Rev David Pileggi, rector of Christ Church Jerusalem explain where we were.

These are the actual steps up which Jesus and his devout parents would have entered the Temple every year, and on which Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost. 3000 people were baptised then and the apostles may have used the hundreds of ritual bathing places to accommodate the crowd. There had been some disappointment that the venue of Jerusalem had precluded Anglicans from some Muslim majority countries from attending.

Archbishop Mouneer Anis was prevented by the authorities at Cairo's airport from flying out. But there was a profound sense that for Anglicans as for all Christians this place was our family home where all were on an equal footing because none could be host or owner. And a home with what a history as we walked through the stone streets of the Old City, the Jewish Quarter, hard by the Wailing Wall and centered around an impressive Minorah, like the one made by Moses from the Israelites' gold and then looted by Emporer Titus and melted down to pay for the Coliseum; through the Armenian Quarter, recalling the Armenian Genocide of 1915, past the Roman High Street three to four metres below modern Jerusalem and finally to the Christian Quarter and Christ Church Jaffa Gate, built through a concession wrung from the Ottoman Empire as the sole payment for England's help in time of war.

Earlier in the day, Rev David Short of St John's Shaughessy Vancouver had expounded the book of Titus to show Paul's and God's strategy to transform the pirate culture of the lying brutish and gluttonous Cretans to produce people to live upright lives through the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.

Then the leaders of the GAFCON movement, identified as Archbishops Miguel Bonino of Brazil, Foley Beach of ACNA, Ole Sapit of Kenya, Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, Stanley Ntagali of Uganda, Tito Zavala of Chile, Gregory Venables of South America, Stephen Tan of Myanmar, Peter Jensen formerly of Sydney and Bishop Andy Lines (ACNA Bishop for Europe), led the assembly in prayer for the reconciliation meeting in Addis Ababa of the President and Vice President of South Sudan.

They then read a declaration that called on all in the Anglican Communion to "unite with us in the defence and proclamation of the gospel." Archbishop Glenn Davies of Sydney gave the first reading of the Conference Statement. This is embargoed until the final draft is approved on Friday morning. The Convenor is Dr Stephen Noll (USA/Uganda) with Bishop Michael Stead (Sydney), AB David Onouha (Nigeria), AB Laurent Mbanda (Rwanda), Rev Dr John Senyonyi (Uganda), Canon Alison Barfoot (Uganda), Rev Tim Anderson (Ireland), Bishop Michael Nazir Ali (Pakistan/UK), AB Tito Tzavala (Chile) and Rev Dr Mark Thompson (Sydney). Delegates were assured that the group had started with a blank sheet of paper and were told "You need to own the statement".

The statement projected on screen was read out in 27 minutes and over the lunch hour regional groups discussed their responses for the drafters who would work all night to produce the final version for approval on Friday morning. During conference breaks delegates visited the Exhibitors' stands including a stand from EFAC where the General Secretary Richard Crocker reported that delegates had been like bees round a honeypot. "The seam of goodwill will take a long time for follow up. Biblically faithful provinces want to establish EFAC and places where EFAC has never been want it."

Before delegates left for the Temple Steps on 40 coaches, Archbishop Stephen Tan of Myanmar spoke of the unending 64-year civil war in his country. At the age of 24 he was imprisoned and tortured by the government, since though he was uninvolved, his two brothers were but evaded capture so he was arrested.

Day 5: GAFCON names new leadership for movement after Jerusalem meeting

GAFCON announced new officers at its close on Friday afternoon in Jerusalem. Archbishop Ben Kwashi of the Province of Jos Nigeria will immediately assume a transitional post in partnership with the current General Secretary, Archbishop Peter Jensen, whom he will succeed when he retires (for a second time!) on January 1 2019. Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA will succeed Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria as chairman of the Primates Council in 2019. Archbishop Kwashi has been Bishop of Jos for twenty five years. His wife Gloria convenes the new Women's Network which was formally established with eight others this week. Together they have provided a home at Bishopscourt for scores of orphaned children. They also keep a pet donkey, a horse, an ostrich, peacocks, goats, cows, pigs and chickens.

One night, while home alone, Gloria was badly beaten up and almost lost her sight. On another occasion intruders took Bishop Ben outside and made him kneel down with a gun pointed at his head. While he prayed, for unexplained reasons the intruders went away. Archbishop Kwashi is on the Board of Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry in Ambridge Pennsylvania and is International Chairman of Sharing of Ministries Abroad. "My goal", says Archbishop Kwashi," is to focus on World Evangelisation, taking the gospel not only in words but in deeds, in humility with simplicity and integrity; to take the love and compassion of Jesus genuinely to all, regardless of gender, race, nationality or condition of life. We have a securely bible-based ministry of reconciliation, uncompromisingly Holy Spirit led and missional."

Archbishop Kwashi is on the Board of Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry in Ambridge Pennsylvania and is International Chairman of Sharing of Ministries Abroad. "My goal", says Archbishop Kwashi," is to focus on World Evangelisation, taking the gospel not only in words but in deeds, in humility with simplicity and integrity; to take the love and compassion of Jesus genuinely to all, regardless of gender, race, nationality or condition of life. We have a securely bible-based ministry of reconciliation, uncompromisingly Holy Spirit led and missional."

Bishop Rennis Ponniah of Singapore spoke on the final morning of the 10,000 Anglicans in 80 churches in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Many had developed after the 2015 earthquake as people found hope in Jesus.

Nepal is one of seven archdeaconries in South and East Asia overseen by the Diocese of Singapore. In his exposition of Luke's Passion narrative he focused on the Ascension, still celebrated as a public holiday in Indonesia, which indicated that the Kingdom of God, the new creation had arrived in Jesus to be fulfilled at his return in a new heaven and earth. Jesus was taken up to heaven like Elijah but unlike Elijah bears all of us with him in his chariots of fire. Jesus's new age was expressed in healing the sick and delivering the demon possessed. Jesus' promise that the disciples would be clothed with power from on high recalls Gabriel's announcement that the power of the most high would overshadow Mary. Lest any thought that cessationist theology dominated GAFCON, Bishop Ponniah commended being continuously filled with the Spirit through the means of grace in reading Scripture, being filled at the common meal, praying and reaching out.

Responses to GAFCON. What has GAFCON signified for those who attended?

Theologian Dr Claire Smith from Australia said "It was wonderful to have upwards of 650 women involved in leading so many types of ministry at the conference and so many involved in the programme, leading the liturgy, music, seminars and networks."
Rev Hugh Palmer, chairman of CEEC said: "Hearing the stories of courage and boldness in getting the gospel out, who would not want to stand alongside these brothers and sisters? How sad that so many face battles within and without the church."
Rev Justin Mote of the North West Gospel Partnership said "GAFCON has buried for ever the notion that the Anglican Communion is run by the English."
Rev William Taylor of St Helens Bishopsgate sees GAFCON as "the only active and effective instrument of communion at the heart of the Anglican Communion, protecting it against the spread of idolatrous unity."
Rico Tice of Christianity Explored said: "Central to our endeavours is that we honour the Holy Spirit by teaching the truth of the Gospel, lest our Lord remove his lampstand. It was an overwhelming relief to have those representing over 70% of the world's Anglicans affirm the Christian faith 'once delivered'! It is now for the CofE to decide whether we will preach that gospel, central to which is repenting of all sin as we honour Jesus as Lord of all."

He noted that the scriptures spoke of judgement on the greedy as well as judgement on sexual sin. In response to criticism that GAFCON critiqued sexual impropriety in the western church but was publicly silent about it in the African church one African Archbishop responded that his diocese had been exercising such discipline for the last twenty five years.

What has GAFCON signified for those who observed? Former EFAC General Secretary Canon Dr Vinay Samuel from India, one of the founders of GAFCON, points out that GAFCON has continued to secure a distinct identity and space for orthodox Anglican faith in the Anglican Communion not only by what it upholds but by expressing a distinctively orthodox understanding of the church. "With 'future' in its title, GAFCON is moving Anglicanism on from being Anglo-centric to being Global. It needs to develop a new narrative that the coming generations can own and accept rather than being defined by others as only holding on to the past.

The apostle Paul pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus. So it is welcome to see Mission at the heart of the movement, yet GAFCON cannot sound like an Anglican version of the Lausanne Movement. It is an Anglican body of churches enabling orthodox Anglicans to address contemporary challenges of their cultures in the Non-Western and Western worlds.

The challenge it faces is how to witness to the truth with compassion for human frailty and to obedience to God's standards with repentance, in brotherly love with those parts of the Anglican family who hold different views. GAFCON's strength is not in its numbers but in the leadership it can give to the Anglican Communion in protecting the integrity of orthodox Christian witness in a fast-changing contemporary world."

Canon Dr. Chris Sugden is a trustee of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC) http://efac-usa.org/

These reports appeared on the Church of England Newspaper and Anglican Mainstream websites during the conference

Subscribe
Get the latest news and perspectives in the Anglican world.
comments powered by Disqus
Prayer Book Alliance
Trinity School for Ministry

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Drink Coffee

Do Good

Sustainable Ministry

Coffee, Community, Social Justice

DrinkCoffeeDoGood.com

Go To Top