Saints and Scholars

GAFCON Final Statement Released

June 29th, 2008

The GAFCON Statement, including the Jerusalem Declaration, has been released, and can be read online here.

Login and comment below about what you think of it, and what it means for the Church of Ireland.

‘What we have heard, what we have seen’

June 28th, 2008

One of the features of GAFCON being held in Jerusalem have been the visits to various sites associated with the story of Jesus. From time to time during the last week participants of GAFCON have de-camped en masse from the conference centre, to board buses and be transported to places around Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee. No mean feat to accomodate and choreograph tours of over 1000 people!

The ruins of Capernaum

Today, being the Jewish Sabbath, the conference staff were given a rest as GAFCON participants took to their buses to visit Galilee. Take away the ornate church buildings and claims that ‘this is the spot where’, the tour really did drive home that Christianity proclaims a message that is based on historical facts. Seeing the landscape of the Judean wilderness, the Jordan valley, the Golan heights on the far side of the Sea of Galilee, the excavated ruins of the village of Capernaum and its Synagogue (built on the visible ruins of an earlier Synagogue from the time of Jesus), truly brought home the historicity of the story of redemption.

Christianity rests on events that truly happened! We know they happened because of the eye-witness evidence of the people who walked with Jesus, and saw the crucified and risen Lord. More than that, they talked and ate with him, and listened to him as he explained the meaning of it all. This is what they wrote: ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest and we saw it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father…’ (1 John 1:1-2): and again, Peter says, ‘ For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty.’

In other words, not only do we have historical events (reliably eye-witnessed), but also the Spirit given interpretation of those events. We truly know why Jesus came, why he did what he; why he died; and why he rose again. Because we have God’s interpretation of these events recorded in Scripture, we are not left with uncertainty as to what the message of Christianity is.

The present crisis in the Anglican Communion is precisely about this interpretation of the meaning of Jesus for today. Those in the revisionist camp want to do away with the NT interpretation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in favour of their own interpretation, which unsurprisingly reflects 21st century secular western cultural mores. However, since none of the bishops of TEC and other revisionist bishops are either Apostles or eye-witnesses themselves of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, their re-interpretation of the Gospel events carries no weight whatsoever. In any case, since their re-interpretation is tied to the changing views of western culture, one day they believe one thing, and the next another!

GAFCON is calling the Anglican Communion back to the apostolic message of Jesus. Not only is this apostolic interpretation the only valid interpretation of Christ, but it is the only message that is the power of God to bring forgiveness and Christ-like transformation to the lives of sinful mankind.

Moving forward

June 27th, 2008

Today was a short day at GAFCON, but a highly significant day. Details will be released later by the GAFCON leadership, but what can be said is that decisions are being taken by those at GAFCON in a very tangible atmosphere of prayer, joy and worship. Not only is there a deep sense of fellowship in Christ, but also there is a huge desire to move forward under the Lordship of Christ to accomplish his mission in the world.

Yesterday, a wonderful aspect of the corporate worship of GAFCON was the marvellous singing led by the members of the Mothers’ Union Choir of Nigeria. But even that was trumped by a choir of four south American bishops, one toting a guitar, leading in a time of joyful praise - in spanish! Joyful as the fellowship is at GAFCON, it is most certainly not a spiritual ‘jamboree’. There is a serious determination to be about the heavenly Father’s business and this is expressed in the workshops, the plenary sessions, and in casual conversations.

Those who profess faith in Christ and are suspicious, or dismissory, or sceptical, or fearful, or downright hostile to GAFCON, should pause to think what exactly they are doing. Here at GAFCON are joyful, committed believers in Christ, faithful Anglicans, intensely loyal to the teachings of the Scripture as expressed in the formularies of Anglicanism: here, amongst the throng at GAFCON are some of Anglicanism’s best scholars and leaders; here are some of Anglicanism’s best evangelists; and here are people committed to godly living in Christ Jesus. What’s bad about that? Are those who sneer at or dismiss GAFCON jealous of the vitality and christian determination of the churches represented here? Do they feel threatened by the Gospel emphasis of GAFCON? If so, how then can they claim with any integrity to really have faith in Christ? They should be rejoicing at GAFCON, not keeping it at arm’s length!

GAFCON represents a movement that, under God, will renew Anglicanism and take it forward in serving Christ in the world. Isn’t that what those who have the Gospel at heart and the best interests of the Church of Ireland want to do? Then, if that is so, the decisions and statements of GAFCON should rejoice the heart and cause us in the Church of Ireland to want to align ourselves in joyful committment to the Gospel imperatives they reflect.

From North to South

June 26th, 2008

One of the immediately striking things about GAFCON is the evidence of the global shift in the numbers and influence of Anglicanism, from the northern hemisphere to the global south. The sea of african faces and the accents of the global south far outnumber those from the old centre of Anglicanism in Britain and America. Mainly, this has to do with the strong emphasis on evangelism so evident in the global south, as compared to the general apathy and even outright hostility to evangelism in much of the northern Anglican provinces. The long, slow death of the latter by the poison of liberal theology, is also a major factor in this evolution of Anglicanism from north to south.

The older provinces of the northern hemisphere may glory in their relative antiquity in comparison to their southern counterparts, but any lingering notions of colonial superiority are seriously misplaced. The British empire has gone, and with the emergence since WW2 of independent sovereign states, especially in Africa, have come independent and strong Anglican provinces. Their growth has been phenomenal; and whether or not TEC and Canterbury choose to acknowledge it, the life, vitality, and growth of the churches of the Global South will effectively make the northern provinces side-shows within world-wide Anglicanism. The northern anglican provinces are ostrich-like, simply ’sticking their heads in the sand’ if they think they can just dismiss the wishes of this confident growing Global south movement.

The Gnostic liberals of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, have already made up their mind that they want nothing to do with the Global south as represented in GAFCON. However, unless they repent, they will eventually just disappear off the ecclesiastical map, ever declining and becoming a footnote in church history. The Church of Ireland will soon have to face up to the shift of influence, power, and spiritual life in worldwide Anglicanism. Will it align itself with the policies and outlook of the pagan gnostic leadership of TEC and the like, or will it fully embrace the refreshing, joyful emphasis on the Gospel so clearly displayed by much of the Global south?

At the heart of Anglicanism

June 25th, 2008

GAFCON small groups

What’s at the heart of Anglicanism? Is it liturgy, bishops, Synods, robes and Prayer books? No doubt these are important, and they play an important role in the expression of Anglicanism and for ordering our corporate worship and common life. But they’re not the heart of Anglicanism. In this morning’s Bible exposition on Exodus 24, the Rev. David Short, Rector of St. John’s, Shaughnessy, of the Anglican Network in Canada, expressed the true heart of Anglicanism.

At the heart of Anglicanism is a message, God’s message of redemption to the world. The Gospel is the heart of Anglicanism. It is this message that was recovered for the church at the Reformation and so clearly expressed in the Anglican formularies, Articles and prayer book. It is a message that brings people from every tribe, nation, and language into communion with God and fellowship with one another.

David Short powerfully and clearly expounded the Gospel of Christ from Exodus 24, showing us that God’s aim for human beings is to call for himself a people who will fellowship with him and one another, and enter his glorious presence forever. He does that through redemption, having rescued his people from the slavery of sin through the blood of the sacrificial Lamb of God. The death of Christ on behalf of his people expresses both the holiness of God as he judges sin, and the love of God as he acts simply by grace with no merit on our part to bring us to himself. This message is the heart of Anglicanism and the growth of Anglicanism worldwide is only where this message is clearly taught and lived out.

Those who have broken the fellowship of the Anglican Communion have done so precisely because they have rejected this message. TEC, the Anglican Church in Canada, and indeed all those who deny the message that is the heart of Anglicanism show they have never truly understood what it is to be a Christian, and what it is to practice true Anglicanism. Their revisionist canons, their revisionist liturgies, their policies of persecution of faithful Anglicans stand against them to their shame and show that it is they who have walked away from the Anglican Communion.

Exploring the future together

June 24th, 2008

One of the striking aspects of this unique international gathering of Anglican leaders at GAFCON is the creative energy that is underpinning and driving the whole conference forward.  What’s very apparent is that there is no ‘fortress’ or ’siege’ mentality-far from it; conference members see themselves as engaging biblically and creatively not just with the problems of the present, but with exploring a confident future under God for global anglicanism.

The conference’s creative enthusiasm ultimately has its origins in a people confident in Christ and that the future belongs to him.  It’s also generated by a deep sense of fellowship and common purpose.  Probably the best place to see this confident creative energy is in the workshops, where conference members are engaging with one another in discussion and in the sharing of ideas and experiences.  The workshop topics include Anglican identity, Gospel and Culture, Gospel and Leadership, Family and marriage, Evangelism and Church planting, Biblical Authority, and Theological Education

Rev Cezar GuzmanIn regard to the workshop on Theological Education, those Involved in the Church of Ireland for the reshaping of theological education would do well to get hold of the keynote addresses of the college principals facilitating this workshop!   The Rev. Cezar Guzman, a college prinicpal from Chile, gave the first of these addresses, stressing that the goal of theological training is to serve the Gospel by producing pastors who understand the Gospel and are capable of communicating it effectively at the local parish  level.  This is something that the former Church of Ireland Theological College manifestly failed to do, and something that the new Church of Ireland Training Institute should take great pains to aim at! 

Theological colleges must serve the mission of the church; be committed to a deep and faithful study of Scripture, and have the local church as its focus for the theological education being given to ordinands. 

There’s no doubt that the creative energy demonstrated at GAFCON is going to have an effect on the Anglican Communion for years to come.  It would be a great pity if the Church of Ireland missed out on this through an inability to see that God is renewing his church in these days.  Listening to and engaging in these debates, an obvious thought comes to mind: wouldn’t it be glorifying to God and a blessing to the Church of Ireland, if it too were to engage creatively, biblically and confidently with the Gospel issues that are occupying and stimulating the minds of the members of GAFCON!?   

‘Do you want to be healed?’

June 23rd, 2008

Opening Communion Service

“Do you want to be healed?”  This was the question posed by the Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi to TEC, the Anglican Church of Canada, and all those who have torn the Anglican Communion asunder by their pursual of the gay agenda.  In an impressive sermon on John 5, Archbishop Orombi addressed over 1000 people, including 300 bishops in episcopal garb, at the opening communion service at GAFCON today.  

“This”, he said, “is the question the Lord is asking the Anglican Communion at this time.”  The Anglican Communion, like the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, has been trying in vain to heal itself and is need of the power of the Lord Jesus to lift it from its present crisis.  Nothing but listening to the voice of Jesus, plainly declared in the Scriptures, can heal the present predicament.  The word of God works miracles where it is listened to and obeyed.  “The Word is power-packed”, and it is only this that “will release us and make the church an instrument of reformation”.

As GAFCON is about to enter the first day of discussions and workshops, one of the key words that is on the lips of many is ‘reformation’.  At the opening session on the first day, the Archbishop of Rwanda, Emmanuel Kolini, spoke of this moment in the history of Anglicanism as a moment of reformation.  Many people at the conference share that outlook.  There is an air of determination that GAFCON will be the catalyst for that reformation and over the the week ahead, members of the conference will be exploring just how GAFCON can be that instrument, under God, of a reformation in the church. 

Gafcon a rescue mission

June 22nd, 2008

Day One of GAFCON

In a hard-hitting opening address to the first session of Gafcon in Jerusalem, Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of all Nigeria, declared that Gafcon is a ‘rescue mission’ to the Anglican Communion.   Highlighting the patience of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in calling TEC to repent of its gay agenda, and the American church’s complete disregard of such pleas, Archbishop Akinola declared that the Anglican Communion needs to be rescued from the manipulation of those who have denied the  Gospel and its power to transform.   Indeed, it needs rescued from the ’spiritual and religous dungeon’ that the liberal gay agenda has imposed.  

He stressed that GAFCON was no independent ‘breakaway’ from the Anglican Communion, rather it ‘is a tool of God’ for preserving Anglicanism: and not only preserving, but ensuring its perseverance in the faith once delivered to the saints so that future generations can inherit the legacy of the Gospel.

The Communion he said ‘is already in a state of brokeness’ because of the actions of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.  These provinces have already decided to walk apart from the rest of the Communion.  Furthermore, this brokeness has been underlined by the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to TEC to the Lambeth Conference.  He declared that Anglican ‘instruments of unity’ in continually giving way to TEC and its agenda has become the ‘instruments of disunity’.  Now is the time to insist on righteousness in God’s church.

Gafcon wants to proclaim God’s Word, believing that this is the only viable future of Anglicanism.  Archbishop Akinola issued a challenge to the GAFCON conference to explore how this new future might look as they listen and discuss together in the days to come.

Jerusalem 2008

June 19th, 2008

One of the most disputed territories in the world, the land of Israel has a special place in the history and affection of some of the world’s biggest religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  In a few days time, its capital, Jerusalem, will be hosting an historic international gatherings of Anglican bishops, clergy and laity, as they meet in fellowship to discuss the future of the Anglican Communion in the light of the great problems that Anglicanism faces today.

Its key objects will be fellowship together in Christ and a determination to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over his church.  As Christ himself has taught us- to say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, is to obey his word (John 14:15,21,23).  The great crisis faced in the Anglican Communion is that there are many who say, ‘Lord’, ‘Lord’, yet they not only fail to obey his commands as revealed clearly in Scripture, but they even deny them.  As Jesus said of the people of his day, ‘they honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’ (Mark 7:6).

This has come sharply into focus through the debate on homosexuality in the church, with ‘The Episcopal Church’ (TEC) of the United States, and the Anglican Church of Canada, pressing ahead with an anti-Scripture, liberal-revisionist agenda in order to promote the acceptance of homosexuality within the church.  Of course, they invoke Christ’s name for all these innovations and movements away from Christ’s plain command.  If ever there was a case of saying, ‘Lord, Lord’, and ignoring the Lordship of Christ, then TEC and its Canadian partner are a glaring example.

GAFCON is a clear statement that the majority of Anglicans worldwide want to honour Christ not only with their lips, but with faithful lives, obedient to his Word.  GAFCON wants to emphasise that the events in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago concerning the life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus, and its Spirit-taught revelation and interpretation in the words of the New Testament, are still the basis of authentic Christian living today.  It is that affirmation, that GAFCON wants the world, the Anglican Communion, and especially the heterodox schismatics of TEC and Canada, to hear loud and clear. 

Each day during the GAFCON meeting (22nd to 29th June), Reform Ireland will be reporting from Jerusalem on this historic event.

 

 

 

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