NAIROBI: GAFCON 2 report, Friday 25th October
By Andrew Symes
Oct. 25, 2013
William Taylor from St Helen's Bishopsgate preached the sermon after a service of Morning Prayer led by Bishop Tim Dakin. As we opened Ephesians 5, we were reminded of the theme of "walking with Christ" which had begun in Chapter 4. The purpose is that "Christ's cosmic victory erupts in physical expression in the local meeting of Christians". This was very important in the context of fear of demons and worship of a female goddess in Ephesus. Its also very relevant to us. Paul sees sexual immorality and greed, which derive from self-centredness, as very serious sins. Examples were given of extra marital affairs, pornography and homosexual practice. We all need support to live lives of purity.
In Verse 7 Paul says "do not partner" with those with an immoral and worldly philosophy. The church is being asked to approve of unbiblical sexual ethics - we must resist. The GAFCON movement started because the Global South Anglicans could not in conscience partner with the Episcopal Church. The question was asked why the Church of England is partnering with the "Porvoo" Scandinavian Lutheran Churches, when they have among their number a lesbian Bishop and an unbelieving Marxist Bishop.
Paul teaches us to be "filled with the Spirit", a life characterised by obedience to the Word, whole life worship, and mutual submission. This is to be carried out in marriage, family and workplace. Some have suggested that the phrase "the husband is the head of the wife" does not mean "authority". But it means this in 1:22, when Christ is said to be "head" over creation. The call for wives to submit to husbands is balanced with the need for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church.
Marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. A same sex "marriage" cannot do this. The issue of homosexual partnerships is not "second order" because gender and marriage goes to the heart of ecclesiology and Christology - proper order reflects Christ's relationship with his saved people.
The husband's love for his wife should reflect Christ's love and care for us, selflessly, sacrificially - and so mirrors cosmic victory of Christ achieved through loving service. We must reject the idea of forced submission in marriage, bullying, physical violence - this is not the love of Christ. If that has happened we need to repent. Submission to Jesus is voluntary, not forced, and brings great benefits. So it should be with the wife's submission to the husband.
Global South Ministry Focus
I had heard that there was a delegate from Papua New Guinea, and it was great to find him next to me in the morning worship. Rev Denny Guka is minister of a church in Port Moresby, a city of 1.2 million where there are five Anglican Churches. In PNG as a whole 80% of the population live in rural villages, often in extremely remote areas cut off from neighbours by deep forest and valleys. The government has a poor record of meeting the needs of the people in terms of basic services in the rural areas, so often the church is the only agency providing basic health care, education and relief. The Anglican churches also have a number of programmes in the city dealing with drug addiction, HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. The government would like to use the church more in terms of delivering services, but Rev Guka and his colleagues are very aware of the need for the church to preserve it independence, and to remain free to preach the Gospel.
The church has recently made great strides in addressing the problem of nominal Christianity. Denny himself grew up in an Anglican church, but it was when he heard properly what Christ had done for him that he gave his life to Christ. For a number of years he has been urging his congregation not just to come to church, but to know Christ and follow him. His Bishop has asked him to take on a new role: from next year he will be Diocesan Training and Mission Coordinator, empowering Anglican clergy and laity to proclaim the Gospel.
At lunchtime there was a press conference, which started very late because a group of Primates went to see the President of Kenya; the meeting overran and then they got stuck in traffic on the way back. In the end recently retired Archbishop of Sydney and GAFCON secretary Peter Jensen, Archbishop Ben Kwashi from Nigeria, and Dr Ruth Senyonyi from Uganda answered the questions. Here are some of the points made:
* GAFCON is not a "new Province" but provides fellowship and oversight for those parishes and Dioceses which have lost connection with the official structures where they are.
* The office of Canterbury is supposed to draw people together. But since 2008 this has not happened. Yet there is still immense respect for Archbishop Justin personally and for his office. He himself had suggested new ways of relationship with each other and this is what we are doing.
* On homosexuality - we are not anti-homosexual, but standing for what the Bible says about sexuality ie one man and one woman in marriage.
* On Islamic militancy: Christians have taken the opportunity to show love "we have to shine the light in darkness". For Christians living under threat of Islamic militancy, you are not alone and we stand with you in solidarity.
GAFCON Nairobi Communique
After yet another sumptious lunch of rice, sweet and ordinary potatoes, salads, other vegetables, and various fish and meat dishes, we all gathered in the conference hall again, for the reading of the first draft of the Nairobi communiqué. A team of people from different countries have been tasked with drawing this up, and the work has involved listening carefully to themes which have emerged from formal presentations and informal conversations, and then spending many hours often late into the night working it into a document which all can agree to.
After the reading of the statement, we split up into country or area groups to comment on the document. Not surprisingly, in our group from Britain and Ireland, there were a lot of comments and suggested corrections. So the final document that we see tomorrow may be a bit different in terms of some of the wording. But the main themes are likely to remain. For example, a recommitment to the Jerusalem Statement from GAFCON 1. A clear declaration that GAFCON is necessary because of the departure from biblical teaching and practice in the church leadership in some Provinces. A reaffirmation of the traditional biblical teaching on sex and marriage. A commitment to evangelism, including the secularised West, and to social action, especially among the most vulnerable. A recognition that where official structures continue to block evangelistic mission, it may be necessary to support initiatives which bypass these structures - for example, the formation of the Anglican Mission in England - but at the same time as much as possible working within the Anglican system.
Tomorrow we will be having a Communion service in the Cathedral led by the Kenyans, and then we will have the reading of the revised statement. This wonderful conference will end at lunchtime, after which people will depart for home. I won't be posting a report tomorrow, but the final communiqué and many other items including photographs will be found on the GAFCON site.
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