Kanishka Raffel

Talk given at GAFCON IV in Kigali, Rwanda on 20 April 2023

This is by way of testimony. It is not a history and so I apologise in advance if there are details that are incorrect or missing elements. I want to speak as a person who had the great privilege of attending GAFCON 2008 in Jerusalem when I was a Rector in a parish in Western Australia in the Diocese of Perth, a Diocese self-described at that time as a liberal and progressive diocese.

As you know, the first GAFCON produced the Jerusalem Declaration which has proved to be a foundational document of contemporary Anglicanism. It was GAFCON I that uniquely, and for the first time ever, drew together Anglicans from numerous jurisdictions not recognized by Canterbury, and not invited to the Lambeth Conference that took place that year. It was an emotional gathering at least in part for that reason. It was the first time that faithful Anglicans around the world, who had been marginalised and excluded and deposed by their own bishops and synods, were welcomed and embraced by seven Anglican Primates of the day and all those who gathered, who made a stand against the failure of the Anglican Communion Instruments to withdraw fellowship from provinces and bishops who had rejected the teaching of Scripture and the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference, the Global South and the Primates Conference.

At GAFCON I when the statement was read, the whole assembly rose to its feet in applause, there were tears and embracing as people recognised that in a way that had not been true before, Anglican Christians who were faithful to the Scriptures, faithful to the Lord, faithful to Anglican distinctives were united in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not merely parties to a bureaucratic and administrative structure that operated from England. GAFCON I expressed its desire that it should not be only a conference but we recognized what God had done in our midst. He had created a movement to promote and protect the biblical gospel and to advance mission to the world, maintaining orthodox Anglican faith and distinctives as outlined in the Jerusalem Declaration.

It was only a year later, more or less, that the GAFCON Primates formally endorsed and recognized as full members of the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Church of North America, which was a work of God. A church that had drawn together disparate groups if I understand correctly who were united together under the encouragement and support of GAFCON Primates and of course our chairman Archbishop Foley Beach is the current Presiding Bishop of that church which drew together amongst its members, hundreds of faithful clergy who had been deposed by the Episcopal church in America.

The GAFCON Primates subsequently extended the hand of fellowship to the Anglican Church in Brazil, the Anglican Mission in England consecrating Andy Lines in America under the auspices of the Anglican Church of North America, one of the best attended consecrations in the history of Anglicanism! Three Australian bishops attended that event to express fellowship and support both with the GAFCON movement and with the Anglican Church in North America in releasing and commissioning Andy for this work in England. For their trouble, proceedings were brought against them in Australia that were so weak they were ultimately withdrawn.

IN 2013, GAFCON II in Nairobi confirmed that the GAFCON Primates would formally recognise Anglican jurisdictions of orthodox believers marginalised by liberal dioceses and provinces and offer support to Anglicans serving in heterodox jurisdictions who were not able to move out or not willing to do so at that time. In other words, GAFCON has provided support both in the creation of new jurisdictions of orthodox Anglicanism and provided support, global support, the support of the Communion, for isolated clergy and congregations who remain faithful in hostile contexts.

Immediately after GAFCON II in 2018, the following year the GAFCON family welcomed the Church of Confessing Anglicans in Aotearoa New Zealand at the consecration of Jay Behan -who brought us our first bible study on Tuesday. Establishing that church from twelve congregations that withdrew from their General Synod after the New Zealand Anglican church changed their doctrine of marriage. They walked away from their buildings and ministerial entitlements. GAFCON Australia walked closely with New Zealand brothers and sisters at that time; rejected by their own they knew were not alone, they knew they were welcomed and acknowledged as part of the global Anglican family.

In 2022, the Diocese of the Southern Cross was established under the auspices of the GAFCON Primates in Australia with Bishop Glenn Davies serving as interim Bishop. Since 2017 in Scotland, Ireland, this year in Wales, GAFCON has provided a safe harbour to Anglicans who at great cost refuse to join in a departure from the teaching of Christ.

Let’s be clear, there are hundreds in this room and hundreds more not here but whom we represent who could not be here, who would not be recognized as Anglicans, churches that may not have even come into existence if it were not for the determination of GAFCON as a movement to promote the gospel, uphold mission and welcome orthodox Anglicans whoever and wherever they are.

And the effect of this is to strengthen provinces, to increase our joy in communion, to see the church built, to see many communities blessed and the Lord honoured through the proclamation of his gospel, not only in the face of theological and moral liberalism but in the face of religious extremism, in the face of poverty and pandemic. In all of this, the GAFCON Primates and GAFCON branches have been attacked and ridiculed and criticized but they have stood up and stood alongside those who were defamed and isolated for the sake of holding to the truth of God’s word.

This is the legacy of GAFCON.

This is what is at stake, only GAFCON did this. If it were not for GAFCON these things would not have happened and we would not be here. No one else came to their aid, no one else encouraged their faithfulness, no one else offered to pray and to plan and to stand and to support and to weep and to rejoice with those who preferred to suffer for the Name than take the wide road to destruction.

Under God’s good and gracious hand, brothers and sisters, those who came before us in this movement have handed it on to us. God used GAFCON to do it. Praise God. This is GAFCON. Praise the Lord.