It was a joy for me to be able to participate in the most recent Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) that was held in Jerusalem last month. I am told that there were 1,950 of us in attendance from 50 different countries, all gathering around the stated theme of “proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations”.If you are unfamiliar with GAFCON and the reason for its existence, I encourage you to read this ‘Letter to the Churches’ that was prepared by the gathered assembly in Jerusalem. My own view is that it is a clear, strong, and winsome statement.
As I promised in last month’s newsletter, here are a few of my observations from this important gathering:
1. The central issue is the gospel. The primary reason GAFCON exists is because the gospel message – which is at the very heart of the Christian faith – is at stake. The current GAFCON Chairman, our own Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, made this very clear in his opening address to the delegates. When the many counterfeit gospels that are found in today’s world are identified, the clarity of the genuine gospel can be more fully observed. This gospel, in the words of the Archbishop, is the “message of salvation from sin and all its consequences through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is both a declaration and a summons – announcing what has been done for us in Christ and calling us to repentance, faith, and submission to his Lordship.”
2. We must pray that God’s Word will continue to drive the Anglican mission. There was a clear desire to submit to the authority of the Scriptures. I give many thanks for that. It is no small thing. But let us pray that Anglican churches today will put that belief into practice and that we will not just give ourselves to the authority and inspiration of Scripture, but that we will also trust its sufficiency (2 Timothy 3). This wonderful Anglican movement will only have staying power and the ability to speak distinctively to our culture if the Word of God drives its mission and ministry. Please pray for this.
3. I was reminded of the wonderful and faithful Anglican heritage we have for which we should be grateful. We have a confession of faith – the 39 Articles – that is clear and biblical. We have leaders from the past who faithfully proclaimed Christ – Thomas Cranmer, George Whitefield, J. C. Ryle, John Stott, and a myriad of others. But I was encouraged this week to observe that we also have so many faithful leaders in the present preserving our heritage and leading our church forward – David Short, Richard Coekin, Nicholas Okoh, Rico Tice, and so many others who opened and taught God’s Word at the GAFCON gathering.
4.What I also observed though was the need for the reminder that as much as we might find Anglicanism to be a faithful and healthy expression of the Christian faith, and as much as we may appreciate our heritage, identity, and shared fellowship, Anglicanism is not the most important thing. What is always most fundamental is that we are disciples of Jesus, and thus ultimately we need not be Anglicans should the Anglican Church abandon the gospel.
5. Finally, heaven is going to be far better than I can even imagine. Revelation chapters 5 and 7 give us a beautiful vision of people from all over the world joyfully singing the praises of God to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. I feel that I got just a glimpse of what that might look like in the time of worship and prayer that was had at GAFCON. What a joy and encouragement it was to hear people simultaneously praying the Lord’s Prayer in their own native tongues and to sing together of the love of our great Savior. What a joy heaven will be!
Grace and peace,
Photos from GAFCON:
ABOVE: the entire GAFCON gathering at the southern steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. BELOW: CANA East delegation.
View our July Newsletter here.