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On The Road In Dubai For GAFCON 2019

On The Road In Dubai For GAFCON 2019

The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey
February 26, 2019

I write today from Dubai where Anglican bishops, clergy and lay leaders who were not able to attend GAFCON 2018 are gathered for a conference whose theme is "Serving Christ faithfully in the nations." Many of these leaders come from countries in what we call the "10-40 window" where Christianity is a minority religion. Some were prevented from attending in Jerusalem, for a variety of reasons. All of these leaders have demonstrated enormous courage and conviction in standing for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), often at great cost. It is quite humbling to be in this gathering of the saints of God.

Let me share a few reflections I picked up today from Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, and a brother who shall remain nameless for reasons of security.

The authority of Bishops rests on an understanding of "apostolic succession" that has more to do with faithfulness than a mechanical "laying on of hands"

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali taught from Philippians 2, and observed that even in this early letter there was already an outward expression of the Church that included "overseers and deacons" (Phil 1:1-2). These "overseers" were typically "elders" (presbyteroi) who were selected by their fellow presbyters for their qualities and pastoral care for "oversight" of all the presbyters and churches in a particular region. There were also itinerant prophets at that time who continually guarded the faith of the Church and corrected it when necessary. These prophets also settled down in various regions and were appointed overseers. Both kinds of overseers received their anointing for this office by the laying on of hands. So, we must understand apostolic succession as something more than the mere "mechanical" laying on of hands. It is a combination of these three things:

1. a sound commitment to guard the faith once delivered to the Church
2. pastoral care and supervision of the local churches
3. the laying on of hands.
For this reason, apostolic succession must be understood to include the succession of apostolic teaching! Therefore, we must reject the current Canterbury understanding of Apostolic succession which continues to recognize as "Anglican" all those bishops in TEC and Canada who have participated in the consecration of multiple non-celibate, homosexual bishops since 2003 in violation of the clear teaching of the Bible (and Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998))-while rejecting as Anglican the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America and Brazil (ACNA and IAB) who have guarded the apostolic faith once delivered (Jude 3) and often at great cost!

The Anglican Communion and GAFCON

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, the outgoing Chair of GAFCON, reminded us of four essential facts behind the GAFCON Jerusalem 2018 Letter to the Churches:

1. The Instruments of Communion have not only failed to address the ecclesial deficit (discipline), but have actually become ways to allow false teachers -- fierce wolves -- to devour the flock under the guise of "good disagreement";
2. If those who have radically departed from the faith are recognized as Anglican by Canterbury while those who have been faithful to the Bible, doctrine and discipline of Anglicanism are NOT recognized by Canterbury, then recognition by Canterbury cannot any longer be deemed to be essential for Anglican identity and membership in the Communion;
3. For Canterbury to say that GAFCON is a schismatic movement is as far from the truth as possible! Rather, GAFCON is a reforming movement that enables faithful Anglicans (in places like North America, Brazil, New Zealand and Scotland) to remain Anglican who would otherwise be driven out and dispossessed by false teachers.
4. The Good News of the Gospel is a call to decision. "There is no middle ground," said ++Okoh, "The Gospel must either be accepted or rejected." Like the prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel, ++Okoh threw down the challenge to choose. "We are at a turning point in the Anglican Communion," he said, "Anglicans must either choose the Gospel of Jesus Christ, proclaiming and serving Christ faithfully in the nations," or choose the false Gospels of cultural accommodation, disobedience of God's word, pride and rebellion. There is no middle ground.
The Church fulfills the Great Commission not by accommodation, but by faithfulness whatever the cost.

I listened in a small group to a leader from a country that is terrorized by militants from another religion who martyred many Christians in his community. Yet not all of the Christians were martyred. Those who were left did not compromise or shrink back. They actually witnessed to these militants, so much so that by their love and their witness many of these militants (including their families) turned to Christ and followed him. Although it took the military two years to drive the militants out, those who turned to Christ with their families continue to worship with the faithful Christians who stood by their convictions and courage in Christ -- whatever the cost.

Reflecting on the money and the politics flowing throughout the Communion, from Canterbury and the West to Anglicans in this 10-40 window, this dear brother replied, "Money and politics will not grow the Church. It was our faith and trust in Christ that grew the church!"

I am humbled by the courage, the faithfulness and the Gospel passion of these dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and the price they have paid.

The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council

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