NAIROBI: Irish leader Reports on GAFCON II: October 21st - 26th, 2013
By Tim Anderson
November 6, 2103
Peter Jensen, as General Secretary of GAFCON and recently retired Archbishop of Sydney, opened the six day conference in a warm Nairobi on Monday 21 October with these words: GAFCON is the future. What he meant was that GAFCON is now the future for worldwide orthodox Anglicanism. Liberal Anglicanism is moribund and a hindrance to the proclamation and spread of the true gospel.
It is numerically small (it represents a minority of the worldwide Anglican church) and instead of growing is declining. In contrast orthodox Anglicanism, reflected within GAFCON, is numerically large and is growing. GAFCON therefore, is where the future lies. So what the remainder of the Conference did was to flesh out what this future will look like on the ground in provinces, dioceses and parishes worldwide.
To that end, the four page Nairobi Communique and Commitment was presented to the Conference on the penultimate day and adopted by the delegates. So how did this work? How was GAFCON able to produce a very detailed document that reflected a common mind of so many people (1,358 delegates from 38 countries representing millions of faithful Anglicans worldwide)? The key to this were the nine mini conferences that met on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (in total, each one meeting for 11 hours).
Each mini conference looked at a particular aspect of mission and ministry and every delegate was assigned to one mini conference only. The topics were the gospel, Islam and freedom; the Spirit of truth in the life of the church; how do we create strong families (marriage and family)?; how do we disciple tomorrow's leaders (children and youth)?; how can we re-evangelize the West (Gospel and culture)?; being women of God; aid and development (building self-sustaining churches); preparing pastors to know the Scriptures (theological education); priorities for a Bishop's leadership.
Each mini conference submitted a statement of its findings to the 'writing group' who in turn wrote up the final Nairobi Communique and Commitment. So what did this final Communique and Commitment say? It can be summed up in the following ways.
First, it is confessional.
It reaffirms the 2008 Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which commits the members of GAFCON to biblical faithfulness and proclamation (i.e. foundational doctrines such as the uniqueness of Christ, his substitutionary death, the divine inspiration of Scripture, the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage etc). It also affirms the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality as a continuing authoritative statement for the worldwide Anglican Church.
The Communique recognises that there are different traditions within the GFCA - evangelical, anglo-catholic and charismatic. This means that very occasionally the Communique is not as doctrinally sharp as some would like (e.g. there is no specific mention of the doctrine of justification by faith alone). It does however remain clearly confessional in it's expression of and its desire for a renewed Anglican orthodoxy.
Second it is missional
With Christ's Great Commission in mind, and in order to counter a false gospel that is spreading throughout the Communion, GAFCON will organise itself to promote more the proclaiming of, and the contending for, the gospel.
A foundational aspect of this will be supporting a network of theological colleges whose students are better equipped for ministry through well trained faculties and the offering of courses that are built on the faithful reading of Scripture. Another key element of being missional is that GFCA will authorise and affirm faithful Anglicans who are being hindered from doing gospel mission by their current diocese or province. It will in effect become a province for orthodox Anglicans that require alternative oversight.
It's support of the Diocese of Recife in Brazil is already an example of this. Another example is it's formal recognition of and support for the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE). The GFCA has also been instrumental in the emergence of the new Province of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
Third it is transformational.
There is a godly optimism within the Communique that the Lord is already bringing renewal, regeneration and change, and will continue to do so. The attempts by some nations to redefine marriage, legalise same sex unions, marginalize women and children, and persecute Christians are some of the huge challenges mentioned in the Communique that orthodox Anglicans are facing today.
To make matters worse, in some cases, the church has allowed itself to be shaped by these things and has adopted some of them. However, the Communique and Commitment clearly refers to the power of the gospel being expressed in terms of the transformation it can bring to society through the faithful witness of the church. This alone gives cause for a godly optimism and reassures us that GAFCON not only has a future but will continue to build momentum no matter how great the opposition.
Fourth and finally, it is spiritual
GAFCON is not a structure or an organisation (although it is organised and clear in it's direction). Instead it is a movement of faithful Anglicans united together by the truth of the gospel. The Communique acknowledges that there is diversity and difference within this fellowship (e.g. over the roles of men and women in church leadership).
However, it also points to the lessons we can learn from the East African Revival: a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit leading to real repentance and a renewed confidence that the gospel has the power to save the lost and to transform the church. In East Africa it was often the lay people who were used by the Lord to set the pace for revival. It's significant then, that at the end of the Communique we read: The seriousness with which we take our mission and our fellowship will be reflected in the way individual churches make the GAFCON vision their own, and in how we resource the work that GFCA seeks to initiate. We invite all faithful Anglicans to join the GFCA.
So GAFCON is confessional; missional; transformational; and spiritual. At the start of each day there were expositions from Ephesians. As well as a great opportunity to be fed from God's Word these were highly symbolic in demonstrating that Scripture is indeed the supreme authority of the GFCA.
There was so much that was helpful from these expositions and for many of us the response to God's Word (and maybe to the whole of the Conference) is summed up in Ephesians 5.14: Wake Up. Paul warns us of the danger of being partners with darkness (sin) instead of exposing this darkness by the light (through our proclaiming and living the gospel). Perhaps this takes us to the heart of the challenge that comes out of GAFCON 2. What does it mean for orthodox Anglicans today to wake up? What does it mean to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead to expose them? What does this mean for faithful Anglicans within the Church of Ireland? It's quite possible that this principle will have different applications in different parts of the Anglican Communion. But what is as plain as a pikestaff is that sleeping (in the spiritual sense) in not an option. We need God's wisdom and courage to wake up and step forward.
The Rev Tim Anderson is a member of Reform Ireland in the Church of Ireland
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