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Why GAFCON 2? - Andrew Symes


By Andrew Symes
October 10, 2013

Historian and social commentator Philip Jenkins wrote this in 2006: "Christian denominations worldwide have been deeply divided over issues of...sexual morality...these debates illustrate a sharp global division... controversies grounded in attitudes to authority and, above all, to the...Bible as an inspired text" (The New Faces of Christianity, OUP).

GAFCON 1, in Jerusalem 2008, was a positive expression from one side of this division: a historic gathering of Anglicans from across the world, mostly from the "Global South" but also with a large number from Australia, UK and North America who shared the same historic Bible-based understanding of the Christian faith. This was not just a response to the consecration of Gene Robinson as a Bishop, although that was the main crisis event - it was the persistent failure of the official structures of the worldwide Anglican Communion to deal with the tensions caused by the divergent understandings within Anglicanism of what the Christian faith actually is.

The frustrations and humiliations endured by African, Asian and Latin American Primates at the hands of those controlling the central Anglican administration, in particular before GAFCON 1 and the boycott of Lambeth 2008, are detailed in the Latimer House publication "Being Faithful", which also contains the Jerusalem Declaration and a commentary on it.

One result has been the visible expression of a truly global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans - the name is significant, as it sets the heart of our unity in what we confess, what we believe about God, Christ, salvation and the Christian life, not in forms of worship, or administration based on geography.

Its worth remembering that Christians in Nigeria, Egypt, Syria and Pakistan are not being targeted because of the architecture of their churches or the style of liturgy, but because they testify counter-culturally that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour.

We must also recognize that the majority of Anglicans worldwide to be found in Africa, where most Anglicans live in poverty compared to us, but have learned to trust daily in God for their daily bread, who share their faith as evangelical Christians with their neighbours, and who care for the poor and oppressed around them.

Through the global FCA and the GAFCON conferences the voices of these ordinary Anglicans, particularly women, can now be heard. So GAFCON 2 in Nairobi is nearly upon us. It starts on 21st October and runs for five days.

More than 100 delegates will be coming from the UK and Ireland, to join over 1000 others meeting in All Saints Cathedral for daily worship, inspiring messages and seminars wrestling with missional challenges in cross-cultural groups.

Nairobi is of course in the spotlight as recent terrifying events have highlighted the problem of Islamic extremism, and the presence of the Westgate shopping centre and the Kibera slum in the same city are a reminder of the challenge of economic inequality.

But the Church of Kenya is rooted in the East Africa Revival of the 1930's, where hundreds of thousands turned to Christ and tribal divisions were healed. These divisions resurface of course, but more recently the Anglican Church was at the forefront of the peaceful settlement after post election violence of a few years ago.

In Kenya we will be reminded that the world is dangerous, the challenges are huge, but God loves the world and its people, and the testimonies of Christians prove it . He has provided the way of salvation through his Son, and he has established his church as a supernatural gathering across racial barriers (Ephesians 2:14-16) through the Gospel (3:6), and as a means of displaying his wisdom to the hostile powers against whom we struggle (6:12), and who one day will be subdued in the new creation (1:10).

So the focus at GAFCON 2 will be on world mission. I'm looking forward (with slight trepidation) to having my tepid faith challenged and inspired by the preaching and teaching of godly leaders from around the world, and by conversational encounter with Africans and others with testimonies of God's grace and provision in seeing evangelism, rapid church growth, the training of leaders, and community transformation through the work of the church empowered by the Holy Spirit.

I'm sure we'll learn about blemishes in the global South church as well. But we will also be able to share about our church in Britain and Ireland. We can offer stories of hope here and maybe opportunities to share resources, but also the challenges facing secularism and resistance to the Gospel in the culture, and the problems within the church of bible-denying and human-centred theologies.

I don't claim to know how prayer works, but I know that we desperately need prayer, and God will act in our nation in response to the informed intercessions of righteous people from around the world.


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