Bishops “tasked with defending the Church from false teaching actually promoted it,” Archbishop Nicholas Okoh
My dear people of God,
As I write, GAFCON is about to launch a project which I believe will be very significant for the future of the Anglican Communion. Under the leadership of Director Dr Samson Mwaluda, the recently retired Bishop of Taita Taveta in Kenya, the GAFCON Bishops Training Institute begins its first conference in Nairobi on 29th September for some twenty recently consecrated bishops drawn from GAFCON affiliated provinces. We already have a waiting list for our next conference!
I thank God that we are taking this step because the potential of leadership, for good or for bad, is very great. We see this truth in the life of Jesus. Much of his earthly ministry was devoted to teaching and training disciples and his most severe warnings of future judgement were spoken to religious leaders who twisted the Scriptures and served their own interests.
Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11) and he is our example, in contrast to the hired man who runs for safety when the wolf attacks (John 10:12). Jesus is also the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) to whom all those of us who are entrusted with the care of God’s people will have to give account, but as Anglicans who hold to the historic episcopate, we look especially to our bishops to set wholesome examples as shepherds and overseers of the flock of God.
Along with Christ-like character, we also expect our bishops to be able to teach and preach the Word of God fearlessly and faithfully. They are to guard the apostolic inheritance not only through the ministry of the word, but also by ordination as they entrust that ministry to those ‘who will be able to teach others also’ (2 Timothy 2:2) after sound and thorough training.
When we remember the New Testament’s requirements for those who have oversight, it is shocking to recall that the current troubles of our beloved Communion began with some of its bishops. Those tasked with defending the Church from false teaching actually promoted it. They refused to accept the collegial mind of the Communion when the biblical teaching about marriage and sexuality was reaffirmed at the 1998 Lambeth Conference and ever since have worked tirelessly to overturn it.
Ungodly bishops have caused grievous tears in the fabric of the Communion, but godly bishops are being raised up to enable a reformed and renewed Anglican future with Bible at its heart. The GAFCON Bishops Training Institute serves this vision by equipping newly consecrated bishops to be courageous and discerning guardians of the faith.
So please join with me in praying for good shepherds will not stand idle or be distracted while there are lost sheep to be rescued or when the flock is being attacked and scattered. Let us call upon the Lord to use the Bishops Training Institute as an instrument of his eternal purposes and raise up those who will truly exercise the ‘cure of souls’ by word and deed, faithfully teaching and preaching the unchanging Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Most Revd Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council