Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Lenten message from the Chairman of Gafcon

The presence of leaders from the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) at the South Carolina Convention was a sign of hope for the future. As a false unity that is based merely on institutional history breaks down, a new unity is emerging which finds its inspiration in the great historic truths of Anglican faith.

My dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

During this season of Lent, we are brought back to the absolute necessity of repentance in conversion and Christian discipleship. The Collect for Ash Wednesday, used throughout Lent, speaks of us ‘worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness’, words which jolt us out of pride and shallow self esteem so that we can know afresh the transforming power of the gospel. The need for real repentance is also one of the legacies of the East African Revival, from which we drew much inspiration during GAFCON 2013 here in Nairobi.

Revival is always preceded by repentance. One of the great prayers of repentance in the Bible is that of Daniel as he pours out his heart before God, pleading with him to revive his people and restore the ruins of Jerusalem. He cries out  ‘O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate’ (9:17) and the basis for his prayer is trust in the grace of God; ‘To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him’ (9:9). GAFCON came into being as a rescue mission for a Communion threatened by rebellion against the biblical gospel and during Lent we should learn from Daniel and intercede for God’s mercy as we see so much spiritual desolation.

I believe we are seeing such prayers being answered. GAFCON sponsored the Anglican Church in North America after our first conference in Jerusalem and we endorsed the Anglican Mission in England last year here in Nairobi.  Now, at its Annual Convention last week, the Diocese of South Carolina has aligned itself with the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and, as a step on the journey, accepted provisional oversight through the Global South group of primates. Once again we see that the radical liberalism of western churches requires Provinces from elsewhere to authenticate and recognize those who are being marginalized, as our Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has done and is doing.

The presence of leaders from the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) at the South Carolina Convention was a sign of hope for the future. As a false unity that is based merely on institutional history breaks down, a new unity is emerging which finds its inspiration in the great historic truths of Anglican faith. GAFCON is a movement for unity, both within its fellowship and with other orthodox groupings. Orthodox Anglicans should expect to find themselves converging as they share a common allegiance to the gospel and GAFCON’s Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, a clear and contemporary statement of faithful Anglican believing, is a key contribution to building this godly unity.

The need for repentance, without which we cannot have true unity, is obscured when the authority and clarity of Scripture come into question. Sadly, this is the inevitable result of the Continuing Indaba project. By assuming that all differences are matters of context and interpretation, it becomes a way of affirming a false gospel. Much of its funding comes through the Episcopal Church of the United Sates.

We see here the repetition of a subtle and ancient strategy. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent says to Eve ‘Did God really say…’ (Genesis 3:1) and the consequences are tragic. By grace, we have been rescued from the power of death and sin. So how then can we once more set ourselves above its truth, we who are a made a new creation through hearing and obeying the Word of God?

I do therefore need to make an important clarification. Contrary to the claim made on the website of the London Anglican Communion office that there is a Kenyan ‘Resource Hub’ for Continuing Indaba, neither the Anglican Church of Kenya nor any of its learning institutions are participants in this project. We are strongly committed to the work of reconciliation within the Church and within civil society, but the gospel ministry of reconciliation is given to us by God and must not therefore compromise the Word of God.

We need diligence, especially on the part of our seminaries, and this was recognized by a great Anglican leader, the Rev’d Everett L. ‘Terry’ Fullam, who died on 15th March at the age of 83. He was an outstanding leader in the renewal movement and led one of the fastest growing congregations in the United States. His ministry was inspirational for a whole generation, but despite the growth he had seen, he came to believe that The Episcopal Church did not have a future. When asked in an interview given in 2004 where things had gone wrong he said ‘I blame the seminaries, because they do not give proper instruction. The process has been a gradual breakdown but it has accelerated over time, and so I don’t believe The Episcopal Church can be reclaimed’. This is a very important insight. He went on to explain that any future for faithful Anglicans in North America would depend on the faithfulness of the two remaining orthodox seminaries.

This key role of theological education was recognised in the third of our ‘Nairobi Commitments’ in which we stated ‘We commit ourselves to give greater priority to theological education and to helping each other find the necessary resources. The purposes of theological education need clarifying so that students are better oriented to ministry, faculty are well-trained, and curricula are built on the faithful reading of Scripture.’

Over the coming months, I want us to make progress in fulfilling this commitment. The sustained renewal we look for will require faithful leaders who are soundly trained, able to make disciples and equipped to guard the people of God from the destructiveness of false gospels.

So let us pray continually that God will grant us the gift of true repentance and that his Church may be united, restored and revived.

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