NAIROBI: GAFCON 2 Report Thursday 24 October
By Andrew Symes
October 24th, 2013
After some great praise songs led y the Ugandans and Kenyans, we heard a brief interview with Michael Abel from Pakistan, who is now involved in supervising church planting in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. In Pakistan, many Christians were originally converted from lower-caste Hindus, and so are looked down on not just because of religion but because of class. This means restrictions and discrimination but it is not directly from Government, rather from the predominantly Muslim society.
Pakistan is on the front line in the war on terror. The enemy is all around you - suicide bombings and indiscriminate killing. Also Christians can be targeted, for example the attack on All Saints Church Peshawar where 85 died. Civil society has been sickened by this, and many ordinary Muslims have begun to reject the Taliban and express solidarity with Christians. In Lahore groups of Moslems have been known to protect churches against the Taliban.
Michael urged us to pray for the church in Pakistan: to stand firm in faith and the proclamation of the Gospel, and for protection against the evils of terrorism.
Message from Ephesians
Our preacher was Rev Dr John Yates from Raleigh in North Carolina. He briefly surveyed Ephesians 3 and then concentrated on chapter 4. Here were John's main points:
The nature of our unity, 4:1f. Christian unity comes from the Spirit - something from God, not something we did. Not a feeling but brought about by blood of the cross. Unity a gift is we receive when we turn to Christ in faith and are incorporated into his body.
Unity is rooted in God, Father, Son and Spirit, and is a reflection of God to the world.
There is a tension between fact of the unity and our responsibility to maintain it.
If different churches have different ideas about God and his word, then the church overall sends an "incoherent" message about God to the world. Unity is shattered, and the image of God is distorted.
But humble, Christ-centred unity reflects the glory of God.
The goal of maturity, 4:7f.
Maturity requires diversity because we require one another's gifts which (Psalm 68) are directly related to Christ's resurrection and ascension.
Paul focusses on the gifts to the church of the different word-centred ministries.
If we fail to provide instruction and training in the Scriptures, disunity and scattering results.
The passage refers to maturity as a corporate reality. Not referring to maturity of individuals but the Body as a whole. So building mature churches is a priority.
Walking in the way of Christ. 4:17f. Every believer is called to be a new person in Christ.
Each one must turn away from the lifestyle of "the Gentiles" - the pursuit of self gratification and sensuality. This desensitises people to the needs of those around.
Walking in the way of Christ requires a soft heart, a renewed mind (understanding the world according to God's view not the world's own view). A willing heart - no stealing but service, and a chastened tongue. We are rightly concerned about sexual purity - but we should be equally concerned about purity of our lips.
Giving thanks for deliverance
The service ended with Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of Nigeria, introducing Archbishop Kattye who with his wife was kidnapped by thugs and held in the bush for 9 days. His wife was released on the first night. Prayers were said around the world, and the Archbishop was delivered. Thanks were expressed to God, and to GAFCON churches for prayer.
Global South ministry focus
It was fascinating to have a brief conversation with two young me from the Province of Myanmar. Rev Dr Paul Myint Htet teaches at Holy Cross theological college in Rangoon. He is very pleased with the commitment of the ordinands studying there, but resources are stretched.
Rev Noah Hka Raw Brang in the Diocesan Secretary, ie the Bishop's right hand man, in the Diocese of Myitkwina in the north of the country. It a predominantly rural area, and many of the people survive with farming, especially rice growing. A rebel independence movement has sprung up in the area, and some places are blighted by the effects of a war between the rebels and the Government forces. The church plays a role in pastoral care, and food programmes for those affected.
The country is on the way to democracy after years of military rule. There are religious tensions between majority Buddhists and Moslems. For someone to leave their faith and become a Christian is seen as a disgrace, dishonouring to family and the nation. Traditionally the church has "kept its head down" and has concentrated on pastoral work among its members. Paul says that the college is now aiming to produce more mission-minded clergy. He asks for prayer in this: that the Holy Spirit would fire the clergy and those in training with enthusiasm for mission. Also he recognises that the church in the West, particularly Britain, has been generous in providing support. The Myanmar church needs to become more self-sufficient and less dependent.
Rest of the day
The "mini conferences" continued today until 3pm, when the majority of participants were bussed to the Nairobi National Park, and had a good time seeing the animals. After this the many hundreds had dinner at the Carnivore restaurant, without which no visit to Nairobi is complete.
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