GAFCON is for the sake of our children — Eliud Wabukala
The Chairman’s Address at the GAFCON 2013 Plenary 22nd October:
My dear brother and sisters, it was a delight to welcome you to Nairobi and All Saints Cathedral yesterday. At well over 1,300, attendance has exceeded our expectations and truly it can be said that the world has come to Kenya. We are deeply honoured by your presence. But this is no merely human idea. By God’s grace, sinners though we are, what we are experiencing together here is a foretaste of the glorious reality we glimpse in the Book of Revelation , when every tribe and nation shall worship and cry out ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’ (Rev7:10).
It is quite impossible or us to experience worship and fellowship like this and ignore the global scope of the gospel. This is God’s revealed truth and saving for all people in all times an the Anglican Communion at it best demarcates this reality. Historically its origins lie in the expansion of the English speaking world, but here we are in Africa where, as elsewhere, the gospel has taken root in very different cultures. This is the Global Anglican Future conference because biblical Anglicanism is by its very nature global – not merely because of our history, but because the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ is to ‘all nations’ (Matt28:19).
The challenge we face is that the nations which were once the spiritual powerhouses of world wide mission have now become deeply secularised and even hostile to the Christian faith and the Churches of those lands have more often than not been strongly influenced by the societies in which they are set. I am aware that for some of you, the threat of violence from Islamic extremism may be uppermost your minds, and we have had a painful reminder of that reality recently here in Kenya, but that which really rots the fabric of the Communion is the much more insidious process by which weak churches are gradually taken captive by the surrounding culture.
Those of us in Africa and the Global South have no room for complacency. A few weeks ago we discussed GAFCON in our Provincial Synod and one senior layman remarked that GAFCON is for the sake of our children. There are powerful and well funded organisations working to see Kenya and other African nations adopt the same values which are causing so much havoc to faith and family and society in the West and we must confront these challenges together as a truly global Communion.
One hundred years ago, what is now Kenya teemed with wildlife which roamed freely through the land. Now our wildlife is largely limited to special game reserves and some worry about possible extinctions. I think this is a picture of what is happening in part of the Anglican Communion. There are those who would like to see orthodox Anglicans allotted a reserve in which they must stay and not challenge false teaching and it is very sad to see faithful people struggling for a place to survive in such compromised Churches. Orthodox Anglicans who feel themselves beleaguered should never settle to be thought of merely as an endangered species called ‘traditionalists’ because our Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans links us together as what we are, a global majority. In 2008 we took the historic step of recognising a new orthodox Province in North America, and it is a great joy to have the Primate of the Anglican Church of North America, Robert Duncan, here with us at this conference. We need to continue to act with the same boldness.
Let me remind you of the conclusion we reached in 2008 with a quotation from the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration (you will find the full text in your conference programme). We said:
‘The meeting in Jerusalem this week was called in a sense of urgency that a false gospel has so paralysed the Anglican Communion that this crisis must be addressed. The chief threat of this dispute involves the compromising of the integrity of the church’s worldwide mission. The primary reason we have come to Jerusalem and issued this declaration is to free our churches to give clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ.’
Five years on, the paralysis of which we spoke has intensified. And it has become clear that the Communion now needs new wineskins, a new way of ordering its affairs to fulfil the world wide scope of the Great Commission. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has now come to this conclusion and I am grateful for
His Grace’s honesty in acknowledging that the Anglican Communion’s neo- colonial leadership structures need to be replaced when he preached here at All Saints Cathedral last Sunday. However, it is difficult to see how stable and effective leadership can be developed unless the depth of the spiritual crisis we face is acknowledged. Organisational change on its own will not be enough. Even the very weak theological discipline of the Anglican Covenant has failed to win consent despite years of negotiation and the Archbishop of Canterbury is no longer able to gather the Communion.
The problem lies with the fact that we have an unprecedented situation to deal with now which is the existence and tolerance of a false gospel within the Anglican Communion, as identified in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. Any solution to our difficulties must face this reality without flinching and the fact this GAFCON movement is gaining momentum tells me that we are right to assert the historic Anglican gospel of grace as the basis upon which we gather. Here we have over 1,300 delegates from 36 countries and 27 Provinces, and at this point I want to make especial mention of my brother Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, who was elected as a new member of the GAFCON Primates Council last week. Despite the great challenges his Province faces, he is willing to commit himself to the cause of the gospel globally and I honour you my brother for your vision and your love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we gather to worship, pray , hear the Scriptures expounded and reflect on particular issues in the mini conferences, I am sure that the Holy Spirit will lead us into a common mind for the future and I do not want at this stage to anticipate. But some things already seem clear to me.
1. We must be ready to take action. From the outset this movement has sought not only to articulate what the Bible teaches, but also to act in obedience to that teaching. We cannot stand by passively as the cause of Christ is attacked and undermined. We are in a spiritual battle which requires prayer ful action.
2. The strategic global challenge within the Anglican Communion is there- evangelisation of the West. As my brother GAFCON Primate, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali has said, GAFCON should be to the Anglican Communion as the East African Revival was to this region. This will extend from adventurous practical partnership in mission to the encouragement of powerful biblical apologetics to challenge the secular world view which is now so established. Acting in this way will also be a protection for those of us in the Global South as we seek to develop churches and societies which are honouring to God.
So my friends let our time together in Nairobi be not only a time of refreshment and inspiration, but also of careful thought about the action we need to take so that we can sustain and strengthen our fellowship for the future. And let us guard the unity of the Spirit so that there will be no opportunity for the devil to create discord and strife. We are in a fierce spiritual battle, but as we stand together in the unity of the Spirit we are confident of victory as we rededicate ourselves to the service of the Risen Christ, the one who has promised his presence ‘to the end of the age’.
The Most Rev Dr Eliud Wabukala
Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans
October 22, 2013