GAFCON chairman offers prayers for the safe release of Leah Sharibu
To the Faithful of the Gafcon movement and friends from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council.
‘Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.’
1 Corinthians 15:58
My dear people of God,
Around the world we have just celebrated the mighty resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The tomb is empty and Christ is Risen! Christ’s sacrifice of himself upon the cross really has broken the power of sin and death, the tomb could not hold him and it is only a matter of time before the Risen Christ will be revealed to all at his second coming as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He will indeed make all things new.
It is in the light of these great truths that the Apostle Paul gives us words of command and of encouragement at the end of 1 Corinthians 15, a chapter in which he reminds the church of the gospel they have received and the unshakeable hope that is theirs in Christ. These words are also for us, to give us strength to persevere and not lose heart in the face of discouragement.
Some of you face challenges such as persecution, disease, communal strife and food insecurity. Some have to struggle with less physically threatening problems which can still be very hard as you are marginalised because of your faithfulness and those who were once friends draw back from you. But in all these circumstances the resurrection of Jesus from the dead assures us that despite the sins, confusions, suffering and setbacks that are part of our experience now, ultimate victory is certain.
Gafcon is a movement which lives by this power of resurrection hope. We are determined to be steadfast and immovable in the face of great pressures to compromise the unchanging truth of the gospel, whether through money or seductive calls to unity which are based merely on shared history rather than shared truth.
More than that, by God’s grace we shall not just stand, but flourish. Some of you may feel that you are weak and insignificant in your stand for orthodox faith compared to those who enjoy the favours compromise seems to bring, but we can have complete confidence that our work is not in vain if it is done in reliance on his resurrection power at work in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
It is this hope that sustains us for the long haul. Reformation takes time. It may be that we do not see the full fruits of the work God has begun through Gafcon in our lifetimes, but there is much to be thankful for and I am looking forward with great anticipation as we prepare to return to Jerusalem ten years after that moment when the Spirit of God first moved so powerfully among us. Already it is clear that attendance should be well in excess of Nairobi five years ago which is a great encouragement as we rededicate ourselves to the task we have taken as our conference theme, ‘Proclaiming Christ faithfully to the Nations’. To see the Anglican Communion set free from compromise with a counterfeit gospel for obedience to our Lord’s Great Commission is an inspiring vision and in Jerusalem we shall launch major new initiatives to equip Anglicans around the world to fulfil this mandate.
Let me conclude with an example of what it can mean to be ‘steadfast and immovable’. Last month I requested your prayers for 110 schoolgirls who had been abducted by Boko Haram from a school in Dapchi, a town in north eastern Nigeria.
Very sadly, five did not survive, but the rest have been released with the exception of a solitary Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, (pictured) who has refused to convert to Islam. While we thank God for the release of the many, please pray that this girl will be kept strong in the Lord and safely reunited with her family.
‘Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen’ (Hebrews 13:21)
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council