NAIROBI: "On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand"
By David W. Virtue in Nairobi
October 26, 2013
Passing through the cathedral grounds of All Saints' I was struck by the joyful singing coming from one of the cathedral's classrooms where children were being educated.
Peering through the windows I saw a sea of shining black faces with voices raised, singing over and over the words of that well-known hymn, "On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand". For a brief moment, I remembered my own childhood. The memories poured back of another time and another country where this and so many other hymns like it that I sang with great gusto.
I wondered as I saw their inquiring eyes and joyful faces how many would still be singing those words and meaning them decades from now as life with all its ups and downs swept over them. Some of them would go on to great success in life, a few would be scholars, and a small handful would no doubt drop out. Some would have good marriages; a few would have bad ones. Some would have their faith strengthened over the years while others would let it slip through their fingers, to be lost forever.
For the more than 1300 evangelically driven GAFCON delegates here who are several decades older, the singing of Stand up, stand up for Jesus, are words with meaning, especially in the face of bitter persecution. There was no equivocation, no second-guessing, or no doubts. Before the Throne of God I Stand, In Christ Alone and the more sturdy and robust, what the Aussies call rugby hymns, like Faith of our Fathers and Be Thou my Vision and Lift high the Cross, thundered through the cavernous nave of the cathedral.
These evangelical Anglicans are in the vanguard of the explosive growth of Christianity in the Global South that would make Augustine proud. Now they are the majority in the Anglican Communion. They stand on the front line of a vigorous and dynamic growing church and nothing will stop them or hold them back. They are sweeping across the deserts, plains and mountains of Africa telling the timeless story of Jesus to anyone who will listen, including Muslims, animists and those with no religion at all.
When they turn their eyes westward, they are shocked and stunned by what they see and hear. They view the West as having largely lost the plot, swept away by a sea of moral relativism and post modernism leading to doubt, despair and unbelief.
They marvel that it was Western missionaries who brought the gospel to them a century ago, bringing liberation from sin and death, with an authoritative and binding Bible that they now hold tightly. Now they watch with incredulity and despair as the West gives it all up for immoral sex and with it a compromised theology of uncertainty and doubt.
The ravings of a John Shelby Spong are incomprehensible to them as is the sexual behavior of a Vicky Gene Robinson.
To make matters worse, they felt insulted and marginalized by their own leader, Archbishop Justin Welby, an Evangelical like themselves who briefly showed up and treated GAFCON delegates like an Anglican side show, with statements that appeared condescending, marginalizing the very people who could be closest to him; his real allies these evangelicals. They saw his efforts at trying to domesticate them while toadying up to homosexuals like V. Gene Robinson as a studied insult. Old colonial attitudes die hard, apparently. Welby's words will come back to haunt him.
As Dr. Alfred Owla of the Ugandan Christian University put it, "The Gospel is the Gospel -- in the West or elsewhere. The Gospel needs nothing added to it -- there are those who want to pervert the Gospel turning it into a different gospel - not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the Gospel of Christ."
He couldn't have said it better or clearer.
As I looked again at this sea of beautiful black faces, shining like the morning sun, I wonder how many, years from now, will remember those words as some black scarecrow like creature, vaguely resembling Katharine Jefferts Schori or Barbara Harris, a Spong or Robinson, presents them with "another gospel"; will someone stand up and shout, NO, NO, NO, on Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.
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