LONDON: Nigerian Archbishop says FCA Should Not Apologize for Evangelizing Anywhere
Presented on behalf of Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council by Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Bendel, Nigeria.
Westminster Central Hall
July 6th, 2009
Beloved in Christ,
I bring you sincere love and greetings from my family and the Church of Nigeria, in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, the Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I count myself blessed to be part of this remarkable event in this great city, even though only through my representatives Archbishop Nicholas Okoh and Bishop David Onuoha.
Permit me to use this medium to express my profound gratitude to all of you who were part of the planning, sponsoring and execution of GAFCON 2008 in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Those of us in the leadership of GAFCON owe you an incalculable debt of gratitude for daring to stand with the rest of orthodox Anglicans at a time when it was too costly to do so. Some of you were deliberately misquoted, misunderstood, vilified and sidelined.
This clearly demonstrates the continuing effect of the fallenness of man, and the stark imperfection of the Church. In the words of St John's gospel, "in the world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world" (John 16.33). Your contribution to the success story of GAFCON, Jerusalem, and the continuing story of the GAFCON movement is hereby acknowledged with humility and deep appreciation.
This great gathering is significant in several respects:
i) It is a clear demonstration of the fact that the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) held in Jerusalem from 22-29th June 2008 was divinely mandated;
ii) That the organization, execution, decisions and declarations which came out of it were inspired by the Holy Spirit and they reflect the mind of God for our dear Anglican Church in this generation;
iii) It shows that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) is divinely chosen and called to be the channel of continuing this work of reviving, reforming and transforming the Anglican Church in the UK and Ireland in particular, and in God's wide world in general. This is with a view to repositioning it to restore "what the locust had eaten" in this great land, for the salvation of mankind, and all of God's creation.
iv) Furthermore I see the significance of this gathering against the background of Acts chapter two - the great gathering from all over the world, and the descent of the Holy Spirit, to inaugurate God's New Testament Church, empower men and women to evangelize and do the work of mission. Thus I see this gathering as a people assembled, as the Jerusalem gathering before it, by the finger of God, to receive fresh power and a saving message for the broken, hurting, confused and confusing world all around us.
v) Moreover it is gratifying to note that this crowd has assembled in the city of London - not Lagos, Nairobi or Kampala. It thus answers to the derogatory remarks of some who say that the faith, commitment and zeal of African Anglicans is borne out of uneducated minds and flawed missionary enterprise in Africa.
I am happy that men and women like you who have received sound education in the British tradition and the gospel 'from the feet of Gamaliel', can assemble under the umbrella of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Indeed wise men and wise women still seek Jesus.
The inauguration of the FCA today in the city of London is a testimony that the movement is not an African idiocy, but a testimony of the mass movement occasioned by the Holy Spirit in our time: it is holy; it is universal. Was there a justification for GAFCON, Jerusalem, and by extension, this FCA assembly? Our GAFCON handbook has this answer.
Over the last ten years we have journeyed together in search for a definition of faithful, orthodox Anglican identity. GAFCON is no new or reactive phenomenon. It is the culmination of years of witness, discussion, listening engagement and prayer. The setting up of GAFCON came to be seen as a necessity, in order that we might meet together, affirm our identity as orthodox Anglicans, and identify the challenges to that identity, both from within the Anglican Communion and from without. We meet together as a people under Biblical authority, and as a people called to mission. We meet to maintain and to strengthen the unity of the Body of Christ. (GAFCON 2008:85)
The theme of this launch: "Be Faithful - Confessing Anglicans in Global and Local Mission" is most fitting for such a great movement as this and could have come at no better time than now. As a matter of fact, the time in which we are fits better what the apostle Paul described long ago as "perilous times".
A cursory look at the Christian world today will reveal a gradual but steady slide towards self-destruction. This is clearly demonstrated by the rise of two evil patterns - Atheism and Secularism. In addition to this, the rise of aggressive movements in some other religions has not helped matters.
It is no longer news that Great Britain, which was founded on the Christian faith, built and nurtured by Christian principles and ethos, has opened wide its gates to allow insidious policies that will inevitably have disastrous consequences. Is it not an irony that at a time when other religions are consolidating on their gains, this society seems to be doing everything possible to undermine the faith that is responsible for its greatness. While atheists are allowed to take their unbelief to public places and institutions, Christians are prohibited from taking their faith and belief to their work places, and some face the threat of losing their jobs for daring to be Christians in their offices and duty posts.
A nation that was once sending missionaries to other parts of the world with the good news that 'Jesus saves' is today denying its own citizens the opportunity to hear and receive this good news. The refusal to allow prayers in public places are indeed one of the tragedies of the time as it has denied most people the opportunity of building their lives on solid Christian foundations.
That the law seems to be on the side of the minority against the majority is another irony of the present time especially when viewed from the background that this is happening in one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. Religions that are in the minority in this land have more opportunities and freedom to practice their faith than Christianity. The danger this portends to this nation is better imagined than described. Frankly speaking, all these are capable of making the love for many for God and his Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour to grow cold. But the charge by no other person than the Lord of the Church himself should encourage us: "be faithful unto the end, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev 2:10)
This divine assignment of confessing Christ in this fast secularizing and decaying society should strictly follow biblical principles for it to record needed success. Here the parting instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples in Acts 1:8 becomes informative and instructive:
And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is Come upon you and you shall be my witnesses from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)
At this stage of the fellowship, effort should be made to concentrate at the local level before launching out to the rest of the world. You must discover the "ancient paths" which your forbears trod that brought light and civilization to your land and beyond. The world is anxiously waiting for the time when the wind of the Holy Spirit will blow afresh in a very prayerful way in Great Britain so that the whole nation will come alive with revival that will rebuild broken foundations and lives.
As we rejoice at the birth of FCA, UK and Ireland, it might be necessary in this address to highlight as a reminder some of our distinctive theological positions. The core theological commitment of FCA anchors on the eternal Trinity - God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It lays emphasis on the love of the Father for a fallen and depraved humanity; the uniqueness and universal Lordship of the Son who became flesh, dwelt among us, died, rose again, ascended into heaven and will come again; and the work of the Holy Spirit in the transformation of lives and empowerment for mission. These are set out in The Way, the Truth and the Life, the preparation paper for GAFCON, Latimer Trust, London 2008, pp 18-20.
In your context faced by aggressive secularism and radical Islam, what message has the FCA? Some teach that the Church is the message. The Anglican Church in its diversity, ability to move along and maintain the deceitful appearances that all is well, thus creating the false impression that it can absorb all forms of plurality and contradictions, is its message to the plural world around us. But we who lay claim to orthodoxy in the Church have this message. A message not identifiable with the present quest and wrangling for a solution to the unending debate of a listening or restructuring process of the communion with which many are disenchanted. The Church preaches and teaches the Biblical message of Repentance and forgiveness, and the transformation of life (Rom 12.1) "amendment of life".
The Church is committed to the biblical message of healing, including the all-important ministry of pastoral counseling to set free dis-eased hearts and minds. This gives hope and a future to everyone no matter how seemingly irredeemable (Isaiah 1:18-20). In your highly developed, industrialized and affluent context, you need to run with this message of transformation because we believe in the priority of evangelism. The Gospel has been here a very long time and now renewal is needed.
A fellowship such as yours has been raised at a time like this in order to rise to this enormous challenge. At a time when many ancient Christian lands are now firmly in the hands of Islam; at a time when the membership of some great Cathedrals and Churches in Europe are in terrible decline, we can ill afford the luxury of a garrulous and endless debate. Take a stand; maintain your position; do the work of an evangelist. Be busy with the Lord's business.
Church history provides a stern warning to us of what might happen to the Church if we get immersed deeper and deeper in this endless controversy. The Christological debate took heavy tolls on the Churches in Africa and the East.
In this gathering and afterwards may I urge you not to be ashamed to affirm and reaffirm the authoritative, definitive and normative voice of scripture in your private, and public life, in family and ecclesial matters as far as the faith and conduct of the Christians are concerned. Our loyalty and obedience to God's Word is non-negotiable.
We know that the Church which says the same thing as the World says may be politically correct but is a friend of the world, and would, like the world, pass away like the fashions of this world; it does not abide forever, because it is inauthentic. The Church, indeed, the FCA should proclaim without apology and the present pervasive timidity but rather with fresh Pentecostal power the Biblical message of transformation, new life and growth. This message should confront the cultures of all races, and human circumstances (cf Gal. 3:28) with a view to releasing them from the fetters of their own cultures in their geographical context.
You are of course aware that in our communion the uniqueness and Lordship of Christ have come under severe attack, with all its missiological implications. Members of the FCA are committed to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, clause 5, puts it this way:
We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity's only Saviour from sin, judgment and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.
This unique and universal Lord of the Church commissioned the believers to preach the Gospel, and make disciples. Evangelism and different aspects of mission work and development are an integral part of the nature of Christian Faith. Unlike some, we in the FCA do not apologise for getting involved in evangelical pursuits and the work of mission anywhere. When we evangelise, we are appropriately within our elements.
We are all aware of the outcome of ACC14 held two months ago in Jamaica. A great opportunity for telling ourselves the hard truth that could heal our present division was turned into dangerous politicking and self-serving manoeuvring, to the total disappointment of the honest majority. Consider the huge investment in that conference: airfares, accommodation and feeding, stationery, socials and special entertainment etc. Was it good stewardship of God's money? Did it fail naturally or was it programmed to fail? No one should be deceived; the celebrated endless listening process is designed to wear down opposition, with the vain hope that in no distant future every Anglican would accept the strange teachings. As I see this crowd today, I know that this assumption is a huge fallacy. Stand firm and proclaim the undiluted Word of God, which alone is able to save humanity.
Great men and women do fail and have been known to fail. Similarly the reign of great emperors/ empresses have waxed and waned, but the rule and reign of God is forever. This should therefore encourage and sustain our hope in the power of God to bring to a fruitful completion this project of trying to be true to our charge as disciples of Jesus who he metaphorically described as "salt of the earth" and "light of the World", in a broken, fast decaying and hurting society.
We call on all faithful servants of God to stand up and be counted in this move of the Holy Spirit to renew the Church. Even though many Christians today dislike the imagery of soldiering as a Christian symbol, especially in these days of bombing and mass blood letting, I think the time has come to sing aloud these hymns: "Stand up, stand up for Jesus" and "Faith of our fathers, living faith".
As I look forward to formal meetings with your leaders and informal meetings and encounters with some of you, sometime, let me pray that what we have begun today in this city of London, given your high technology and information system will reverberate all over Europe, and indeed all over the world to the glory of God. I pray you will live up to God's expectation, and later be celebrated like some earlier Anglicans, the Clapham Sect, Church Missionary Society , SPCK and others.
"Therefore my beloved brothers, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the works of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor 15.58)
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