Doctrine takes precedence over legalism in church life, Nigerian archbishop declares
My dear people of God,
‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’ Romans 1:16
As we stand at the beginning of the New Year and look forward to our third Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem, now just six months away, I take great encouragement from these wonderful words of the Apostle Paul.
Our conference theme is ‘Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations’ and it is good to be reminded that the gospel is not just another human idea, but that it really is the active power of God by which we are saved from his just judgement upon our sins and brought to eternal life.
Ten years ago, at our first gathering in Jerusalem, we dedicated ourselves to the service of this gospel. We described ourselves as ‘confessing Anglicans’ in contrast to those who were embracing a false gospel, yet had not been called to account by the traditional leadership of the Communion.
Time has shown how necessary that commitment has been. Some Anglican Churches have now adopted teaching and practice which puts them beyond the boundaries of what can be recognised as apostolic Christianity, but apparently they remain officially within the boundaries of the Anglican Communion. At the same time, the Anglican Church of North America, with which Gafcon and Anglican Global South Provinces are in full communion, remains institutionally unrecognised.
This amounts to an attempt to redefine the Anglican Communion simply as whatever Churches are recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but thank God for the many Anglican Provinces which have simply and fully embraced the Anglican Church in North America, recognising their doctrinal commitment to the truth and the suffering which has followed it as marks of apostolic Christianity.
At the same time there are worrying signs that the Mother Church of the Communion is itself unable to clearly and unambiguously uphold apostolic faith and order, judging by the words of some of its leaders. (See the recent article by Professor Stephen Noll).
Gafcon 2018 in Jerusalem is therefore a wonderful opportunity to take another step along the road of renewing the Anglican Communion so that it is fit for the purposes of the gospel in every culture and nation.
It will be our largest conference yet and will be truly inspirational, not just for those present but for all who identify with the vision for a renewed Communion. We shall gather with a common mind to hear God’s word, to draw in the faithful who have been made outcasts in their own Churches, to equip one another as effective witnesses of Jesus Christ and develop the global networks and structures necessary to support this work.
So while mission is our focus, we know that we cannot expect to see the power of God in the transformation of lives through the proclamation of the gospel if we do not continue to stand for the truth of the gospel, even when it is unpopular and costly.
The Apostle Paul says ‘I am not ashamed’. Shame is a powerful emotion, sometimes justified, sometimes not, but shame about the gospel is never right. In the West we see the result of shame at being seen as out of step with a secular cultural, but all of us are vulnerable in different ways and so at the beginning of this New Year let us resolve to be disciples who have counted the cost and, in our weakness, step out trusting in the mighty power of God.
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates CouncilTo the Faithful of the Gafcon movement and friends from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council.