Pete's blog

GAFCON - Day six - Saturday

 This final post comes from Addis Ababa in Ethopia - sitting waiting for my plane back.  I'm very much looking forward to coming home, but what an incredible week.

This morning we started with a communion service.  A very appropriate way to start our final day as we illustrated our unity together by sharing the one bread which so clearly illustrates the one sacrifice that unites us.  The sermon exhorted us to go out and 'do' what we've been talking about.  Why do we fear people?  Why do we fear not being a public witness to our Lord Jesus Christ?  God is so powerful and he has given us His word to empower us.  God wouldn't be a father if he leave/give us the tools to complete the job he;s given us to do.  And the key tool is His word that His Spirit uses to equip us to be His disciples.

The conference finished with one final session where the final communique and commitment were read.  This document is what the conference has been building up to.  It is a statement of action.  It builds on the brilliant work of 2008 at GAFCON 1 and shows a way forward where those who remain orthodox Bible believing Christians can remain Anglicans even when their own diocese or province rejects the unique truth of God as revealed in His word.

When the communique was read it was greeted with a prolonged standing ovation and deep joy and celebration.  It was an overwhelming end to this amazing week.

I must go now, it's midnight here and I need to get my flights.  Please do read the communique via the GAFCON website - ask me about tomorrow at church - but please let me give my children a cuddle first!

Thank you to all at St Johns for funding me to go - I hope what I've learnt will affect me for the rest of my life and I pray that what was produced will affect the evangelism of the world for a generation.

GAFCON - Day five - Friday

 The beginning of the end!  

Today started with one of the best expositions of the Bible I've ever heard.  William Taylor from St Helen's in London spoke on Ephesians 5.  Afterwards one of the English delegation said, "For the 1st time this week I can walk around this conference with my head held high and be proud I'm part of the CofE!"  A Nigerian Bishop said after hearing that talk said that "With preaching like that there is still hope for England"  

The key point of this passage is that we must walk as children of the light - that means there is no place for immorality or loose tongue/false speech in us.  Those who profess to be Christians but are immoral, or don't hold to the one true gospel, we MUST NOT partner with them.  To walk as a child of the light means to faithfully teach the Bible (focus on Word ministry); to worship God is to live a godly life 24/7 not just 1 hour a week in church; to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  The passage finishes by showing that a godly marriage between a man and a woman in a life long commitment based on headship and submission is an illustration to the world of Christ's cosmic victory of the church.  It illustrates our eternal union with Christ as the church.  Marriage is a mirror of the heavenly relationship that we were created for.  All the talks I think will be available on the GAFCON website already, or very soon, do listen to many of them, but please do make a particular effort to listen to this talk (and also Mike Ovey's from Tuesday).

The mini-conferences finished today.  The conclusion for the one I was on, How we can re-evangelise the West, was that lay people are vital, key, central to the proclamation of the gospel - it's down to you, not Tony or Rob or me.  We must stand against the false gospel that has infected so much of the church.  It will be costly, but there are very big fights just around the corner which are absolutely central to what the Bible teaches.  Will you stand for truth?  

The rest of the day was spent considering what will be different to the worldwide Anglican church as a result of GAFCON.  The first GAFCON conference in Jerusalem 5 years defined what it is to be an Anglican and produced the Jerusalem statement.  This time round in Nairobi we're considering what does it look like in practice to be an orthodox Bible centered Anglican.  GAFCON 2 is the action that will flow on from that declaration.  The answer will be different depending on where in the world you are and the detail of what the statement and commitment will be will have to wait until tomorrow when the final draft is produced. 

The key thoughts underpinning tomorrow's statement is the importance of Christians remaining united, but only if that unity is based on the cross of Christ which means we can be part of His family.  Any unity not based on that is pointless and idolatrous.

The key message I'm taking away is a new awareness of the depth of my sin and how much God loves me in forgiving me so much.  The more we're aware of our own sin the greater we will love God for his glorious forgiveness won for us through Christ's death on the cross in our place.

We have a final session tomorrow morning and then we all head home (hopefully for me to be in church on Sunday morning!).  It has been a huge privilege to spend this week with Christians from all over the world.  It has been humbling to learn from others about the stresses and strain they face to remain faithful to the Bible, terrorism, bombing, from many in Africa and Asian countries. Government opposition and oppression in countries like Malaysia (I had lunch today with 3 ministers from there).  I chatted to a Pakistani who plants churches in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan (pick an easy mission field) and he asked us to pray they keep faithful to the gospel and they don;t become insular Christians concerned with their own comfort, but will continue to share the gospel with the Muslim neighbours despite the very realistic chance of extreme suffering.

But, over and above all that, more humbling and shocking to me, is that they are more concerned about what is happening to the church in the West because of the threat of the secular world infecting the church then they are for their own suffering.  They see what is happening to us in the Western church as a greater threat to the Anglican church then the persecution they face.  Keep praying for the persecuted church, but KEEP PRAYING for us that we remember how precious the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is and that we'd be prepared to stand up and suffer for the sake of those we know and love; for the sake of the church in the West and, ultimately, for the glory of God!

 

 

GAFCON - Day four - Thursday

Singing words like "The whole earth hear his praise" has a clear application when you're in a room with 1,300 others from all corners of the globe.  Each day starts with morning worship and the music is very African in nature - it is full of joy, energy and enthusiasm.  This expression of praise powerfully reflects the message we hear from the talks on Ephesisans.  

Yesterday (it was yesterday as the internet was done in the hotel last night, so I'm posting this before heading off to the conference on Friday) we looked at Ephesians 4, the unity we have is a gift from God - we don't produce it but we need to maintain it.  The bond of peace that unites us is through the cross of Christ, our unity is a reflection of God to the world.  Therefore our unity MUST begin with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the fact we're only united through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Therefore if anyone moves away from the gospel we aren't, by definition, united with them.  As the speaker, John Yates III (yes he is American!) said "To seek unity apart from the gospel is dangerous as its seeking to do the work of Christ - that is idolatry'"

The rest of the day at the conference was given over to the mini-conferences which began with a direct challenge to us in the West that we have a lack of confidence in our faith which automatically leads to unwillingness to suffer for the gospel.  The very clear and bright Bishop from Tanzania said "The greatest enemy to the gospel in the West is the people in the church not the people outside!"  

This led onto Mark Thomson talking about the role of the Church in re-evangelising the West.  The church must be a gathering in which God's word is central and its mission is to equip God's people to do the work of evangelism.  At its best the church should be a gathering of people becoming more and more like Christ.  Jesus' main concern was to seek and save the lost, so if we're to become more like our wonderful Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we too should have the priority.  We become a gathering of mission minded people.  If all we become is pale reflection of the culture around us then we will have no impact with the gospel.  Instead we need to display God's love to the world by the clear and unambigous declarion of the glorious gospel message of Jesus.  The church is the place we go outwards from not the place we sit and wait for people to come to us.  This is only possible by all we do being constantly underpinned by humble dependence on God expressed through prayer.  The day finished with the challenge that we don't pray enough in the West.  And if we don't pray why should we suprised if the gospel isn't making inroads into our society.

The formal conference finished at 3 yesterday so we could go on a safari and then have a cultural evening with lots of meat to eat!  The most exciting aspect was the fact the Kenyan police closed all the roads in central Nairobi so our convoy, of 50+ buses, could race through the city centre with no traffic.  They closed the roads for us!!  It struck me how significant a conference this is - it has a global impact!  Not sure when I'll next get traffic stopped with police outriders, but I think I could get used to it!  

 

 

GAFCON - Day three - Wednesday

Yesterday was a very long day; we started at 8am and finished about 11pm – hence the delay in posting this until this morning!

 It wasn’t all work, work, work though as the British delegation went to a reception at the deputy high commissioners residence – not a ferro rocher in sight – other than that failing it was great to get out and relax.

 The day start with a talk from Ephesians 2 from a minister from Australia.  He reminded us that the power that will set the world to right is the power of the gospel – we were all once in darkness (vs 1) and have been transformed by the extraordinary power of the gospel to be the people of verse 22.  (Look it up and compare what you were in Ephesians 2:1 and what you now are in Ephesians 2:22 – what has happened?  The power of God’s grace shown through the power of the cross of Christ).  In the context of a gathering of Christians from around the world it reminds us of our joint identity in Christ – we really are brothers and sisters – we have one story, one faith, one Lord, one cross, one baptism, one Spirit – we are united.  We have fellowship in prayer and truth and that is the only fellowship worth having.

 The conference then split into their mini-conference streams which was the focus of much of yesterday and will be today.  The stream I’m on is “Gospel and culture: How can we re-evangelize the West?”  It’s very interesting to get the perspective from all over the world on what we need to do.  I had lunch with a Rwandan and a Madagascan and listening to their experiences and their challenges helps think through what we face and what we prioritize.  I think the repeated challenge I’m felling is how comfortable we are in our faith – not talking about our economic comfort – rather our willingness to live our life with gospel priorities.  I’ll give more on this on the next post! 

  The English delegation is to meet at least three times to consider how the challenges we face can be dealt with. It is hoped that the fruits of these discussions will be considered at a conference in November which Tony is attending.  Maybe we can get him to blog from there!

 Keep praying for us – many are fairly tired, we need God to help us to keep focused and to stay united.  The devil would love nothing more than to disrupt this conference because the fruit of what we’re doing could have a significant impact on the growth of God’s family around the world.

 

GAFCON - Day two - Tuesday

I had the great privilege of meeting Giles Williams today who sends you much love.  I also met David Seccombe who is very much looking forward to preaching at St John’s on Sunday.

The day started with a communion service in the cathedral.  There is something very special about declaring the creed, our shared statement of faith, with Christians from all over the world.  Also sharing the peace wonderfully expresses our unity.  The sermon was from Ephesians 1, all things brought together (unity) under Christ.  We can be united because we share the one gospel of salvation that comes through Christ alone.  Without the shared gospel message we have no unity.  The bishop from Nigeria who preached said “The resurrection must be the benchmark of our witness – without it we have nothing.  Therefore Christ must be central – without him it is worthless.

Archbishop Wabukala said that GAFCON is a glimpse and taste of heaven as every tribe, tongue and nation sing “praise to the Lamb.”  He went on to say that the greatest threat to Christianity isn’t the militant Islam that is killing 1000’s of Christians every month but from Western secularism.  In the face of this he called on us to be ready to take action and to evangelize our communities. 

Mike Ovey, the principal of Oak Hill Theological College, then gave a brilliant talk on the impact of secularism on the Church of England.  He said, “We have a different gospel in the West than the one we evangelized the world with.  The change is that we’ve lost the grace of God.”  His main argument is that the church in the West is pushing cheap grace – that’s grace without discipleship, repentance or discipline.  The basic message has become one that God loves you despite who you are and what you do.  This is a denial of the gospel which tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin, so our response should be one of humble repentance and worship to the God who loved us so much to free us from our sin.  The message from so much of the CofE is of inclusion without repentance.  We are the ones, from Luke 7, who think we’ve been forgiven little and therefore only love a little.  The message our culture tells us (and so much more worryingly) is the most important thing we can do is “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all!”

Mike’s conclusion was a rallying call to preach the true gospel, call people to repentance.  We must preach this not because we hate the world but because we love the world.

This message was then applied to various situations around the world where Christians are suffering.  Patrick Soodekho said there is currently “unprecedented degree of suffering of Christians around the world.”  Archbishop Ben Kwazi from Nigeria said of the suffering there (were Christians villages are being attacked, churches bombed, many dying) said of this suffering.  “Yes we are dying, but our church is still growing.  Suffering didn’t make evangelism difficult; it made life difficult!”  He finished with a challenge to us in the West that if we want our churches to grow we need to be willing to “Go to prison for political incorrectness!”

Paul Perkin, from St Mark’s Battersea Rise in London, spoke about the situation on the ground in England, many encouragements, but the secular nation has penetrated deeply into the church.  “A worldly church will always oppose the churches that the true Word into the World.”  When Paul explained to the gathering that upwards of 50% of our clergy do not believe in the basic truths of Christianity: the virgin birth, resurrection, atoning sacrifice of Christ for sin or Jesus as the only way to God the shock amongst many of those from Africa was audible. The same was true when it was explained that many of our Bishops do not stand against immorality and thwart evangelistic mission. One East African theological student asked his English counterpart, “Which gospel do you expect us to believe- the one you brought to us or the one you teach now? Us Brits can now teach the rest of the world little more than what we have lost to aggressive secularism. In God’s mercy much of the rest of the world can teach us to learn again what we have lost.

What a day!  What a gospel we have!  Let’s be prepared at St John’s to stand firm on the one true gospel – whatever the cost!

GAFCON - Day one - Monday

 Greetings from sunny Nairobi - a very nice 29 degrees!

Thank you for your prayers for the person who had the joy of sitting next to me on the flight - they didn't show up so I had 2 seats to myself!

The conference started this afternoon with a great celebration of who we are at the conference and genuine excitement about what can be achieved.  There are 1,352 delegates from 41 countries.  It is very humbling to be part of this global movement that is centred on the Bible as God's authoratitive word to the world.  

It is also very striking that we in the Church of England are actually quite insignificant on the global anglican stage.  As the recently retired Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen said in the opening address "The old anglican structures have failed" - they can't cope when a church gives up on confessing the truth about Christ and heads of into ungodliness.  This is why GAFCON is so vital, it needs to stand for the unique truth about Jesus Christ as the only means for salvation and to call on Christians to do do 3 things.   (1) Proclaim the truth about Jesus. (2) Disciple Christians into greater maturity.  (3) Partner with other Christians around the world who confess the same faith.

The majority of the Anglican world comes from Africa and the day finished with a review of the East African revival of the 1930s.  This wasn't a review to give us some nice historical context about the church in East Africa, this was a challenge to see what we can learn from this powerful movement of God that brought many, many 1000s to Christ.  This was a living movement of lay (as in not Tony, Rob or me - but YOU!) to revive the church - this is what we need today.  The big message is that we can't talk about revival, or reviving the church, unless we talk about sin.  Unless we take our godliness seriously we have nothing to offer the world.  This mass revival in East Africa was based on a deep awareness of personal sin and a deep joy at the cleansing that Jesus alone can bring.  This quote sums up the clarity and passion of the speakers "When the Holy Spirit reveals a sin in your life never call it small - repent of every sin. Revival begins with ME! when I know my sin and repent than revival begins with the individual."

The point is that if we get our life with Christ sorted we are then in a much better position to proclaim the unique truth about Jesus that is revealed in the Bible.

The day finished with a challenge to many of the anglican churches in the west - "When theology undermines the authority of scripture - that theology is bad!"

It has been a wonderful start, if tiring.  Lots of the delegates arrived today after overnight flights from around the world - so today was a gentle warm up - the real business starts tomorrow.

What is GAFCON and why is it needed?

 Hopefully I will be blogging from Nairobi - technology permitting! This 1st post is the notice that I gave last week at the evening service and will give tomorrow to explain what GAFCON is and why it is needed.

GAFCON 2

GAFCON 2 sounds very exciting – it sounds like a code name for a military emergency.  When you know what it stands for it sounds far less exciting; it is the second Global Anglican Futures Conference organised by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.  The first one was in 2008 in Jerusalem, and this one will be in Nairobi from 20th to 27th October.

 Its full name may sound very dull, but actually it is very, very exciting and hugely important.  It is a conference about fighting for the authority of God’s Word in the Anglican Church.  In North America, Britain and Europe many Anglican churches have moved away from treating the Bible as God’s authoritative word.  Their approach is to let our culture interpret the Bible, whereas the orthodox approach has always been to let God’s Word interpret, or critique, culture.

 This goes to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian, let alone an Anglican.  Romans 1:16 says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for salvation.”  Wonderfully, the vast majority of Anglican churches around the world believe 2 Timothy 3:16 that the Bible is God’s Word and contains everything we need to live a godly life and to be saved.  So, the Archbishops from these parts of the world, like Archbishop Eliud Wabukala from Kenya who ordained me, have called this conference to work out how we can fight for Biblical Christianity within the Anglican Church.

At one level it’s very sad that there is a need for a conference like GAFCON.  But, the truth is there really is.  So please pray for those organising it.  Please pray for me, as I’m going, that I would be encouraged to keep standing for Biblical truth and that I would be able to encourage others to do the same.  And specifically pray for the Church of England.  Pray it would be transformed into one where the Bible is treated as God’s Word, where it is taught faithfully, where congregations are shown how to obey what God has to say and, therefore, where the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel are always centre-stage.

 

 

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