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GAFCON sounded like a great gig but now what?

GAFCON sounded like a great gig but now what?

By Julian Mann
July 6, 2018

For the delegates it is back to their local churches in which if the 'pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ's ordinance' (Article 19) the Lord will be as present as he was at the GAFCON 2018 Assembly in Jerusalem.

Judging from the broadcasts, there was tremendous biblical teaching at GAFCON and inspiring addresses and interviews. But the danger with large, agreed-agenda gatherings like these is that it is humanly possible to get swept up in the emotion of the occasion and experience a come-down when one returns to one's own local church with Mrs Smithers on the organ and the sidesperson turning up late. A gig mentality can sometimes take over:

'Coekin & the Coconuts were amazing, you know, so were Shorty & the Short-cuts -- mind-blowing riffs. He did his Pete Townshend revolving arm routine. I would've liked to have seen Thomas & the Tombolas on the main stage. But he did an intimate acoustic session in a smaller venue at the festival, which was really awesome, especially when he sang to his fellow conservative evangelicals in the Church of England: "You will never walk alone".'

It is likely and probably desirable that most GAFCON Anglicans will heed the call in the Letter to the Churches resulting from the conference to boycott Lambeth 2020. But if some confessing Anglican leaders go from the two-thirds world and speak prophetically at Lambeth, arguably that is a more courageous deed than preaching to the choir.

Certainly, when the former Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul, spoke up for biblical orthodoxy on human sexuality at Lambeth 2008, that had a powerful impact both at the conference and in the secular media in Britain. The persecution suffered by him and his fellow Sudanese Anglican gave real moral weight to the truth he spoke.

On human sexuality, GAFCON is united by God's grace. It is unitedly committed to the Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 that the expression of sexual love should be confined to heterosexual marriage. But there are still substantive theological differences within the movement particularly between its Reformed evangelicals and those more inclined towards Anglo-Catholic practices. That difference appeared to be touched on in the address by Richard Coekin, senior pastor of the Co-Mission Initiative churches in London. He warned against church practices, particularly at Holy Communion, that detract from the unique high-priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus.

So GAFCON faces its own spiritual challenges as do the frontline local churches its delegates belong to, whether in Jos, Nigeria or Jesmond, Newcastle.

Hence, the vital importance of the pure Word of God being preached in the Body of Christ, whether in gatherings of 20 or 2000.

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire, UK - http://www.oughtibridgechurch.org.uk/our_prayers.html

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