SUNDAY NOVEMBER 3, 2013
LESSONS FROM GAFCON 2 IN KENYA
THE second Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) was held in All Saints Cathedral Church, near Uhuru Park, Nairobi, Kenya from October 21 to 26, 2013. Incidentally, this conference fell at a time Kenyans were celebrating their freedom day. However, it is on record that the first GAFCON was held in Jerusalem in 2008. By every standard, this second GAFCON was an improvement of the first one. The conference, though a spiritual one, tried to re-awaken the conscience of believers, as they owe their allegiance to their Master and Saviour, Jesus Christ and at the same time uphold the authority of the scripture.
A total of 1, 358 participants including Archbishops, Bishops, Clergy and lay people, men and women, from almost 40 countries were in attendance. The number of Bishops that attended is 331, of whom 30 are Archbishops. It is heart warming to note that the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), which has 18 million active Anglicans, sent in a delegation numbering about 450 persons, the highest from among all the nations in attendance. Of course, the vice chairman of GAFCON, Primate of All Nigeria, Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh, led the Nigerian delegation. The writer is deeply grateful to him for the opportunity to be part of the GAFCON 2.
Earlier, the chairman of GAFCON, the Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala had observed: ‘I am confident this will be a decisive moment in a great spiritual movement, which will help shape the future of the Anglican Communion for generations to come.’
Therefore, some derivable lessons from this great gathering of God’s people include: One, this gathering was a re-affirmation of the indisputable authority of the scriptures. The retired Archbishop of Sydney and a front-line member of GAFCON at the conference recounted that the history of the movement hinges on the authority of the scripture. He noted that: ‘the clarity of the scriptures, particularly in the area of human sexuality, which is so important for our identity, means that we believe that we know and are always ready to look again; but when we look again, the same message appears: that human sexual expression needs to occur within the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman…’
The scripture was right: ‘In the beginning, God made them male and female…’ (Gen. 5:2, Mk. 10:6). The direct implication, therefore, is that conferees at the GAFCON re-affirmed their Biblical stand on the Word of God, as anything short of this is tantamount to teaching from the pit of hell.
Speaking in the same vein, Dr John Senyonyi, the Vice-Chancellor of Uganda Christian University observed: ‘When a theology begins to undermine the authority of scriptures, it has gone bad.’
Secondly, the gathering was a harvest of testimonies, particularly, as obtained from the East African Revivals. It was gathered that confession, brokenness, restitution, forgiveness, study of the word of God and prayer were pivotal to their growth in faith. Men and women were not ashamed to openly confess their sins, as they were broken from inside. It was very uplifting hearing the Rwandan Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje testifying to his own life-altering encounter with the Holy Spirit in a revival: ‘I heard from my ears and I think they were spiritual ears, “you have to change.’ St Paul taught believers to be bold for Christ, ‘for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek’ (Rom. 1:16). Therefore, Dr Senyonyi’s further comment is highly instructive here: ‘When people stand up and tell what God has done for them they are not airing dirty linen – they are showing what is washed in the blood of Christ.’ Every child of God must have a genuine testimony backing his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, like in the apostolic times, the conferees had time in different mini conference groups to study under the feet of some believers. Some topics and their teachers include: The Challenge of Islam: The Gospel, Islam and Freedom (Rt. Rev Michael Nazir-Ali), The Work of the Holy Spirit: The Spirit of truth in the life of the church (Rev Dr Stephen Noll), Gospel and Culture: How can we re-evangelise the West (Dr Alfred Olwa), Marriage and Family: How do we create strong families? (Dr John and Mrs Ruth Senyonyi), Episcopal Ministry: Priorities for a Bishop’s Leadership (Rt. Rev Wallace Benn), Children and Youth: How do we discipline tomorrow’s leaders? (Rev Zac Veron), Being women of God: What is your calling? (Mrs. Christine Perkin), Aid and Development: Holistic discipleship, building self-sustaining churches (Rev Dennis Tongoi), Theological Education: Preparing Pastors to know the scriptures (Rev Dr Andrew Shead).
Therefore, the message of GAFCON is well understood if church congregations will take up seriously the idea of teaching, as it edifies members of Christ body. The scripture illuminates us thus: ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’ Acts 2:42. The question begging for attention, therefore, is: Do modern believers today willingly submit themselves to sound teaching from sound teachers?
There is no doubt that in GAFCON, the character and boundaries of fellowship are not determined by institutions but by the word of God. Indeed, the church is the place where the truth matters, where it is guarded and promoted and where alternatives are exposed for what they are – an exchange of the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25). Therefore, every authentic Anglican believer is called upon to ‘walk in the light, as He is in the light’ (1 John1: 17; Eph. 5:8).