NAIROBI: GAFCON and the Spiritual War for Anglicanism
By Michael Heidt
Special VOL Correspondent
October 22, 2013
The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) being held here at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi is a positive event. It's obvious in the faces of over 1,300 delegates from around the world who fill the Cathedral precinct for worship, teaching and fellowship.
They haven't come to complain or set up an aggressive political agenda, or even necessarily to create a new church structure within the Anglican Communion, but to praise Christ. You can hear that in the joyful singing of the assembled congregations; it's wild (but not out of control), distinctly African in its many hymns. Above all, it is a joyful sound based on faith rather than strategies to take over a denomination.
Still, GAFCON and the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) are clearly opposed to churches that have adopted a "false gospel" of universalism, immoral pansexuality and disobedience to Scripture. In the words of the Archbishop of Kenya and Chairman of the GFCA, Eliud Wabukala, "We are in a spiritual battle for the future of Anglicanism."
These aren't empty words. In what amounts to a slow-burning Anglican civil war, many of the churches and provinces that make up GAFCON and the GFCA have declared themselves out of communion with liberal Anglican provinces, such as such as the gender strategist churches like the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC). Who will win the war?
The one protagonist, liberal Western Anglicanism, is shrinking. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, for example, have been in steady numeric decline for well over a decade. TEC has lost some 100,000 people in the last 10 years while the ACoC can not attract much more than 300,000 persons on any given Sunday. This is hardly surprising with both churches actively concentrating on litigating against traditionalists instead of proclaiming the Gospel. No wonder they have no gospel to proclaim other than the secularism of the culture around themselves.
Whatever the case, the culture shows an understandable reluctance to darken the doors of churches that seem devoid of any distinctive Christianity. Faithless, disbelieving liberals have hijacked their respective denominations and replaced the transformative power of the Gospel with an increasingly strange brew of low-level eco-gnosticism and sexual lobbying. They now have the satisfaction of watching these same churches slowly die. Despite promises to the contrary, the pews haven't filled; the millions haven't come.
That's one side of the war. The other side is represented largely by Anglican Christians present at this year's GAFCON event in Nairobi. These have a Gospel to proclaim that is unequivocally grounded in Scripture, confesses Christ crucified and holds fast to his unique divinity as savior. This version of Anglicanism is mission-focused and growing, representing the majority of Anglicans around the world. Furthermore, it's a majority that isn't afraid to bypass the official structures of the Anglican Communion -- structures that many believe have been irrevocably compromised with the liberal false gospel. "You don't have to go through Canterbury to be an Anglican," said GAFCON General Secretary, Archbishop Peter Jensen, on the first day of the Nairobi conference.
Jensen is telling the truth, as conservative Anglicans in North America and elsewhere are getting the recognition from GAFCON primates that they have, so far, been denied by Canterbury.
A spiritual battle is certainly being fought for the future of Anglicanism and the war is between two rival, irreconcilable versions of Christianity. To put it bluntly, the one version relies on Jesus as savior, the other doesn't, or more plainly, one side is recognizably Christian. If present numeric trends continue and if it's true that Christ is with his church, we should have no doubt as to the outcome of this particular spiritual struggle. The Gospel wins over its false variant every time.
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