GAFCON II is a movement of the Holy Spirit
GAFCON is a call to simply live the Gospel
By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
October 23, 2013
GAFCON II is not an African event, nor is it a gathering of African bishops, as some have claimed. Rather the Global Anglican Future Conference is a modern movement of the Holy Spirit.
Occasionally the Holy Spirit deems it necessary to let His omnipresence be made known and a renewed religious fervor occurs. It is happening again, this time through GAFCON II and in Africa.
Why Africa? Because Africans are not so stiff-necked that they cannot respond to the Holy Spirit's gentle nudge. As with King David of old, they dance with joy and abandon. Worship isn't timed by the clock but by a timeless act of adoration and praise.
When hearts become hardened and ears become deaf the Holy Spirit has to act. Several times in America's history the Holy Spirit has made Himself known. These occasions have been called the Great Awakenings and have mirrored similar European revivals. The First Great Awakening happened during the colonial period - before the Revolutionary War and the establishment of the United States as a sovereign country. Powerful preachers such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield - an Anglican - thundered the message of salvation from their pulpits. Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is representative of the style of preaching during the First Great Awakening which led the people back to God.
The Second Great Awakening came around the turn of the 19th century. The United States of America was founded and Methodism, an offshoot of Anglicanism, was exploding as circuit riders rode the back trails of the American frontier on horseback to bring the Good News. This was an early form of church planting particularly in isolated rural areas.
The mid to late 18th century religious ferment of the Second Great Awakening lead to the founding of new American Protestant denominations and sects including the Mormons, the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Shakers as reform movements trying to bring their religious experience back to the more primitive expression of First Century Christians. Some noted preachers and prominent figures in the Second Great Awakening include: Francis Ashbury, Henry Ward Beecher, Charles Finney, Joseph Smith and Ellen G. White.
The Third Great Awakening, which bridged the turn of the 20th century, at about the same time the Oxford Movement was occurring in Anglicanism, brought in the Social Gospel movement where practicing Christians were spurred into social action as a way to live out their faith in the world around them. Dwight D. Moody founded the Moody Bible Institute while the Salvation Army and the YMCA, both British institutions, made their way to North American soil.
Spiritually the Holiness Movement also broke out in Methodism and the Azusa Street experience was the first Pentecostal outbreak of the Holy Ghost in America. From that small Apostolic Faith Mission the modern Pentecost Movement was born.
The Holy Spirit again revealed Himself in the mid 20th Century when Episcopal priest Dennis Bennett received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the unique experience from his pulpit at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California. As a result he was forced to leave the large Van Nuys church and eventually settled at St. Luke's Episcopal in Seattle. His was the first experience in the modern Charismatic Movement which was closely followed by a Holy Ghost breakout among the Roman Catholics at Pittsburgh's Duquesne University in 1967. Since then the Charismatic Renewal has spread to all mainline liturgical churches and remains a small but vibrant part of the universal church.
Neither has the Holy Spirit hasn't neglected Africa. In the late 1920's the East Africa Revival, an evangelical renewal movement, broke out at an Anglican Church Missionary Society mission station in Ruanda-Urundi now present day Burundi and Rwanda. The revival spread to Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya and today's Balokole Movement still has a strong influence on modern day African Christians. It is upon this spiritual backdrop that GACFON II is happening.
Whenever there is a spiritual movement within the church it is always a matter of the Holy Spirit bringing straying church members back to their Gospel roots - the Reformation, the Great Awakenings, the Charismatic Renewal and now GAFCON.
The Holy Spirit is calling all Anglicans, who do not have closed hearts and are willing to listen to Him, to GACFON II, and not just African bishops. GAFCON Archbishops Peter Jansen and Robert Duncan are not African bishops; neither are attending Bishops Mark Lawrence, Jack Iker or Clark Lowenfield. Even Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, with his bronze face, is not an African bishop. He is a Church of England bishop and, as a British subject, could very well have become the Archbishop of Canterbury.
GAFCON II is focused on the Gospel ... the Good News ... the Scriptures and not only bishops are involved. There are only 331 bishops of the 1353 who have come to Nairobi. But bishops must be involved because as successors to the Apostles they are charged with remaining true to the Faith once delivered to the Saints - protecting it, defending it, cherishing it and passing it on to successive generations unscathed with nothing added to nor detracted from it.
GAFCON II is accomplishing that. It is a gathering of the faithful with their bishops for prayer, for exultation, for fellowship, for encouragement, for teaching and preaching and the celebration of the Sacraments. It is a global gathering of part of the Anglican Family of God.
The mid afternoon tea is quaint, an Anglican throwback to British colonial roots. First World countries as the United States, Canada and England do not have time for such social niceties. The pace of life is too fast. The cell phone buzzes and an e-mail pops up. It is perhaps only Anglican nuns who now find time to have afternoon tea during their more laidback contemplative life of prayer.
For the most part, many Africans don't have to run to check their e-mail or leap to answer their vibrating cell phones. Life in the African bush is hard but it is simple and that simplicity leads naturally to God when life is tied to the land and to the sun, the moon, the stars and to the seasons, and to the cyclical life of creation.
The American colonialists knew that. Life then was hard and tied to the land. There was no electricity and automobiles. No computers and telephones. No technology and cultural secularization. They had time to turn their faces to God and drop to their knees in heartfelt prayer. They believed the Gospel and they responded to the gentle nudging of the Holy Ghost.
GAFCON II is a turning back to the Gospel, a call to live scripturally. It is as much an Anglican spiritual awakening as any of the great revivals of the past.
Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline.
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