While I was in Jakarta I received word from Pittsburgh that I will be going to GAFCON in Nairobi this October as a “Delegate-at-Large” for the ACNA.
Most of you know that this is the second GAFCON meeting. (The acronym stands for Global Anglican Future Conference.) The first was held in 2008 at Jerusalem. It gave birth to the Jerusalem Declaration, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and the ACNA. Among other things, GAFCON is a unifying center for Anglicans who are seeking to stand for the scripture and the faith of the early church. The theme of this conference is, “Making Disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I will be leaving on October 19th and returning on the 28th. While the conference is one week long, getting there and back will require me to miss the two Sundays on either side. I regret this but I feel honored to represent not only the ACNA, but one of her newest churches–St Peter’s, Frankfort, KY!
There is a lot at stake in this gathering. Here is a recent statement by Archibishop Ntagali of Uganda giving a concise history of GAFCON. And here is a statement by Archbishop Wabukala of Kenya last month. Predictably ++Wabukala’s address has received some hard push-back. Challenging Canterbury is no small thing, nor is suggesting that the issue at hand is not a matter of differing pastoral approaches, but fundamentally differing gospels.
Many still want to believe that Archbishop Welby will soon give clear leadership for biblical truth, and find a way to unite the progressive and conservative wings of the Anglican Communion. I hold out prayerful hope for the former, but that would seem to preclude the latter. The longer he delays decisive action the more likely there will be a permanent schism in the Communion, with Canterbury left behind in the twilight of a compromised and dying church.
Some dismiss the whole GAFCON movement as a conspiracy by conservative hardliners in the ACNA who are manipulating the African bishops to promote their own ignoble agendas. It’s hard to imagine that so many robust Anglican leaders of the global south could be so easily duped by two or three aging, penniless and property-less refugee bishops in America. But that is the rumor.
If the church of the global south could be that easily bought GAFCON would not be happening. TEC and the C of E spend far more promoting the progressive agenda than the ACNA can ever muster, now or in the foreseeable future. The ACNA has no prestige with which to compete with Canterbury and very little cash. If the African bishops are looking for either of those commodities they have sadly miscalculated in their decision to go forward in the direction of orthodoxy.
The churches of the global south are massive compared to the churches of the US, Canada, and England, and stronger. The African churches in particular are tested regularly by chronic poverty and increasing persecution. Their vitality and durability dwarfs anything we see even in the impressive ministry of Holy Trinity Brompton and the Alpha course in England, or for that matter the fledgling efforts of the ACNA to plant 1000 churches.
The theme of “Making Disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ” suggests that GAFCON is moving forward in mission, rather than looking backward at the apostasy of TEC and the dithering of the C of E. There is nothing like the Great Commission to put things into perspective. Once you truly decide to follow Jesus Christ as Lord it is amazing how many seemingly complex problems simply evaporate, leaving you free to run the race unencumbered, see Hebrews 12.
I am eager to be there and to feel what is happening. Please pray that the conference will be truly Spirit-led, and whatever unworthy motives may be present they will be purged away.
On a personal note, the conference will be held in All Saints Cathedral, where I was ordained.