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!