GAFCON chairman’s letter, July 2017

GafconPRIMATETo the Faithful of the GAFCON movement and friends from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council.

My dear people of God,

“Lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not.” (Isaiah 40:9).

Last week I was in Chicago where it was my joy and privilege to be part of the Anglican Church of North America’s General Assembly. This great gathering of over 1,400 bishops, clergy and laity was a truly historic event. Through the initiative of Gafcon, in less than ten years, a new strong, united and spiritually vigorous Anglican Province has come into being. Now in turn it has become the launch pad for a new work with the consecration of Bishop Andy Lines as a missionary bishop for Europe.

We were joined by many people from around the world, including eleven Anglican Primates. So in my sermon at Andy Lines’ consecration I was able to say, “Remember you are not alone. You have not sent yourself. All these people here have come to say, ‘Amen’ to the mission that has been entrusted to you.” We had a wonderful sense of what the Anglican Communion can become, a truly global partnership in the gospel which is able to ‘lift up its voice’ without confusion and compromise.

Chicago was therefore a foretaste of what we can expect in Jerusalem as we gather in June 2018 on the tenth anniversary of the founding of this great movement and the publication of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. Our theme is ‘Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations’ and invitations will be going out this month. We look forward with great eagerness to another wonderful gathering as we come together in true communion under the Word of God and in the power of the Spirit of God.

As a global family we do not want any to be excluded through lack of resources. We are looking to fund some bursaries for those in real need and I urge those of us who are materially blessed, whether as provinces, dioceses, parishes or individuals, to be generous so that our fellowship will not be hindered.

Gafcon began in 2008 as what my predeccesor, Archbishop Peter Akinola, described as a ‘rescue mission’ for the Anglican Communion. That rescue was not limited to North America. There is still much to do because history is repeating itself in other parts of the world, as the recent capitulation of the Scottish Episcopal Church to secular ideas about marriage has demonstrated.

False teaching is restless and relentless, and the Church of England itself is in grave spiritual danger. It is much to be regretted that there has been far more concern about alleged ‘boundary crossing’ than about the contempt of God’s Word that made a missionary bishop necessary. In fact, the Bishop of Edinburgh, who has strongly supported the Scottish Episcopal Church’s adoption of same sex ‘marriage’ was invited as a guest of honour to the Church of England’s July General Synod meeting.

Although the Church of England’s legal position on marriage has not changed, its understanding of sexual morality has. Same sex relationships, which were described by Lambeth Resolution I.10 of 1998 as ‘incompatible with Scripture’ now receive approval at the highest level. For example, Vicky Beeching, a singer, songwriter and activist who advocates homosexual marriage was honoured with the Archbishop Thomas Cranmer award for Worship in a ceremony at Lambeth Palace.

The need for Gafcon to safeguard the integrity and clarity of global Anglican mission is as urgent as it has ever been. Our calling is not to be conformed, but to be transformed. A watching world needs to know that Anglicans are defined first and foremost by faithfulness to the Word of God. By God’s grace, we will demonstrate that resolve as we gather in Jerusalem to be heralds of the good news of Jesus, God’s Son and our Saviour.

The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council

Archbishop Davies on the Consecration of Andy Lines

A wolf in sheep’s (or, in this case, shepherd’s) clothing speaks like this:

You will have received correspondence from Archbishop Glenn Davies and Bishop Richard Condie advising of their intention to participate in the consecration of a bishop for Europe in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), a church that is not a member of the Anglican Communion and is not in communion with the Anglican Church of Australia. That ordination will by now have taken place. Each of our colleagues, according to their conscience, declares their intended participation to be an act of solidarity ‘with those who will act to protect the gospel of Christ’ or ‘who contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints’ – an issue as to the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of our National Constitution (ss 1- 6).

As you will have seen from that correspondence, I advised both bishops against this course of action. I take the view that communion – koinonia, is a gift of our Lord to his Church and that in our context it is the Anglican Church of Australia, through its constitution and the framework it establishes, that determines how this is expressed in practical terms. As s5 of our National Constitution provides:

Subject to the Fundamental Declarations and the provisions of this chapter [Chapter 2] this Church has plenary authority and power to make canons, ordinances and rules for the order and good government of the Church, and to administer the affairs thereof. Such authority and power may be exercised by the several synods and tribunals in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

For reasons explained below, I do not think that it is for us individually, acting independently, to determine with whom we are in communion or to act unilaterally to that end. I do not think that it is for individual dioceses in the Anglican Church of Australia to determine with whom we, as members of that Church, are in communion. We must act in accordance with the Constitution that binds us as the Anglican Church of Australia.

A true shepherd of Christ’s flock speaks like this:

“The Language of the Shepherd,” revisited, but not revised, for “trendy” Anglicans

In following the proceedings of the ACNA Provincial Assembly, I cannot help but notice that, for all its promise as a church in mission to a post-Christian world, our new provincial home has the occasional tendency to wade into the shallow waters of “church growth” and “mega-church” cultures with the hipster vocabulary characteristic of such fading fads. The message of the Gospel is not enhanced by trendy language or cutesy gimmicks. On the contrary, its effectiveness is greatly hindered when made subservient to such passing fancies.

The following is the transcript of a sermon I preached on May 2, 2004. I was, at the time, a Methodist minister. Reading it again today, I don’t think it necessary to change a single word to fit my current Anglican context.

a320c-cranmerText: John 10:22-30

The Church is in a time of crisis. It is a crisis much deeper and a problem much more serious than most of us realize. The issue at the heart of this crisis is not the maintenance of some ancient code of Christian morality. Neither is it, as some have suggested, a question about the authority of Scripture. I would suggest, rather, that the center of the crisis is this man we call Jesus. The question is, are we truly being his sheep, listening to his voice, and responding to the challenge he presents to us? It is a question of the very nature and mission of the Church, the Body of Christ in the world today.

Jesus declares himself to be the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. The people of Israel in Jesus’ day said, “Well, if you are the Messiah, go ahead and tell us.” But Jesus says to them, “I just told you I was the Good Shepherd. Does that not resonate with you? Do you not understand that when I tell you that I am the Good Shepherd, I am telling you that I am the one who has come to bring together the true people of God?”

The mission of Jesus and the mission he has imparted to the Church is to call out from the midst of the world those who are lost and suffering into the fold of love, mercy, and grace which the Father has prepared for them. The people of Jesus’ day did not understand this because, as Jesus says, they were not truly his sheep. They were not being attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They were not responding in faith to the gracious initiative of the Father in sending Jesus, to call them into this new and living way that God had prepared for them. Jesus came proclaiming the Good News in a language that could only be understood by those who, by the grace of God, would receive it.

That same Good News is the Good News which we, as the Church, are called to proclaim today. As the Church, we are the Body of Christ, having the mind of Christ, being bound as one through the Spirit of Christ. Our mission is to continue his mission, the work of the Good Shepherd, to feed the sheep, to tend the flock. Our message, to those who will receive it, is one of mercy and forgiveness; a gracious invitation to repent and become a part of a new community which the Good Shepherd laid down his life to bring into being.

But there are other voices out there today; voices from within the Church who tell us it is time to change our language, change our message, and change the very nature of who we are and the mission we are called to accomplish. There are those who blame the Church for the fact that many souls are lost and hurting. There are those who say the message the Church ought to be proclaiming to those lost and hurting is not one of repentance and new life in Jesus Christ, but a message of apology for having told them for so long that they need to repent of their sins. There are those who say that the message we ought to proclaim to the lost and hurting is one of regret and sorrow for having told them that they have to give up something in order to be a part of this community.

Each and every one of us had to give up something to be a part of this community. When God called each of us to be a part of this community, he called us to leave behind our life of sin. He called us to repent, believe the Gospel, place our faith in Jesus Christ, and be made a new creature in him.

There are voices out there that tell us that our message is antiquated, outdated, and needs to be replaced with a message of accommodation, compromise, and outright surrender. The world cannot live up to our standards. But rather than calling the world to change, we are told that the Church must change because the Church is the cause of the world’s hurt and suffering.

There is but one cause of hurt and suffering in this world. It is called sin. The Church, through Jesus Christ, has been given the divine mission to go out into the world and redeem those who have been devastated by sin. The Church is not the cause. The Church offers the cure, and that cure is Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

The joyful message of Easter is, “He is risen!” Yet, we become so caught up in the joy of that message that we miss another important detail of the story. When you read Luke’s account of the resurrection, when the women come to the tomb, the angels say, “He is risen!” But before that, they ask the women a question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

That question is a challenge to all of us. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

When we hear those voices that tell us that, as a Church we need to accommodate, compromise, and surrender to the world, it is a sign that we, as a Church, have become comfortable with living among the dead. If we have no message of hope, no message of mercy, no message of forgiveness and grace, then we have nothing to offer the world but a eulogy.

Yet, there’s more to the resurrection story. In Matthew and Mark, the women are told that Jesus “is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him.” When the disciples do see Jesus in Galilee, he gives them a job to do: “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” In other words, “Go out there and wake up the dead! Go out there and tell them that there’s a new life available to them. Tell them that they don’t have to remain dead in their sins, but they can live again.”

Jesus Christ has opened the door to a new life. Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen. And he has gone before you into Galilee. Go, catch up with him. Go and see him. Listen to his voice. He is calling us, not to become comfortable among the dead, but to wake up the dead. Wake up the dead with the message of resurrection, of forgiveness, of love and joy and peace.

What do we say to the voices that would have us abandon our message of forgiveness and mercy for a message of accommodation and compromise? To them, we say this: Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, laid down his life for those who are lost and hurting and suffering, in bondage to sin. He has entrusted to the Church the only message that will bring those lost, hurting souls new life; and that message begins with the gracious invitation, “Repent and believe.”

If the Church has lost its passion for that message, then the Church has ceased to be the Church. May it never be! May we never lose our passion for speaking the language of the Shepherd: the language of forgiveness, the language of hope, the language of grace, and, most importantly, the language of uncompromised and unconditional love.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Watch ACNA Assembly on livestream

ACNA Assembly

If you can’t be in Wheaton this week for the ACNA Provincial Assembly, you have several options for watching it via livestream.

Over 1,400 Anglican leaders from North America are being joined by Primates, Archbishop, and bishops from around the Anglican Communion for The Assembly 2017 Conference.

The Assembly and the meeting of the Provincial Council will be livestreamed so that you can stay connected to what is happening. The theme of Assembly 2017 is “Mission on Our Doorstep.” Hear from Archbishop Beach, and a breadth of global leaders as they encourage the Church to engage the mission right outside our front door.

Watch online via, AnglicanChurch.net, YouTube, or Facebook.

The schedule is as follows (all times CDT):

Tuesday

8:30am – 4:30pm Provincial Council
The key moments of this meeting will come early in the day as the Council votes on accepting the Diocese of South Carolina into the Anglican Church in North America, and Archbishop Beach gives the opening address.

Wednesday

9:00am Opening Eucharist
Preacher: Archbishop Foley Beach
Musical Worship: Steve Williamson & the Chicago Deanery Team

11:00am Plenary Session 1: Local Mission
Speakers: Bishop Stewart E. Ruch, III & Canon William Beasley

7:00pm Global Family Worship Night
Preacher: Louie Giglio: Worship with the Global Family
Music: Pastor Ray Berryhill & the Resurrected Life Church International Choir

Thursday

8:30am Plenary Session 2: Five Visions of Mission on Our Doorstep
Preacher: Fr. Geoff Chapman, The Double Direction of the Gospel: To the Ends of the Earth and the Ends of our Hearts

9:00am Five Visions of Mission on our Doorstep
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali,
Lisa Espineli Chinn,
Pastor Ed Stetzer,
Dr. M. Daniel Carroll Rodas,
Pastor Dave Ferguson

2:00pm Pastor Ed Stetzer: Missional Church Planting

7:00pm Global Family Ministry Night
Preachers: Archbishops Tito Zavala & Ben Kwashi
Musical Worship: Sergio Villanueva & Team

Friday

8:30am Plenary 3: Shared Gospel & the Global GAFCON Story
Speakers: Baroness Caroline Cox & Global GAFCON Leaders

10:00am Consecration, Closing Eucharist, & Commissioning Service
Preacher: Archbishop & Primate Nicholas Okoh
Musical Worship: Steve Williamson & the Chicago Deanery Team

1:00pm Press Conference
Archbishop Foley Beach & Bishop Andy Lines

Make up your mind, Justin: Is ACNA a province or not?

JustinWelby_2361939b

Justin Welby sat back and did nothing to prevent the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) from apostasizing itself. As Archbishop of Canterbury, titular head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, he should have intervened long before the SEC voted to abandon the faith and embrace sexual revisionism. Had he done so, he would have been fulfilling his responsibility as a bishop to maintain the unity of the church. Instead, he completely abdicated that responsibility, leaving faithful Christians in Scotland as sheep without a shepherd and forcing one of his own episcopal colleagues in England to break communion with the Scottish church.

Stepping into the vacuum left by Welby’s inaction, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) announced the consecration of Canon Andy Lines as missionary bishop for Scotland. Now, all of a sudden, Welby feels compelled to respond. In a letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion [apparently a pre-emptive strike, as it is dated June 1], he decries the practice of “cross border interventions,” citing dubious historical canons and pleading for his colleagues to respect diocesan boundaries, all the while never bothering to mention the gross transgression of the SEC.

It is important to point out that Canon Lines is being consecrated by the ACNA, a province not yet officially recognized by Canterbury. If Welby considers the Scottish initiative to be a “cross border intervention,” he is saying, in effect, that ACNA is an officially recognized province.

So, what is it, Your Grace?

Is ACNA officially “Anglican” in your eyes, or not?

If it is, you are best advised to listen to its leaders and the leaders of GAFCON and the Global South who are admonishing you as a Christian brother to halt the slide of your own province into apostasy.

If it is not, you have no reason to fear, and certainly no cause to protest, its sending a missionary into the land of moors and mountains.

Either let ACNA be ACNA apart from you, or accept ACNA as an authentically Anglican province and, with humility, seek to learn a little from it about how to be a church in mission in the midst of a culture that is corrupt and collapsing.