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!