GAFCON chairman’s letter, June 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,

“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18)

As I write, we are preparing for Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is vital. Without it, we cannot speak truly of God in a way that is faithful to the bible. However, in the fourth century the Church was nearly overwhelmed by the Arians. They were the followers of Arius, who claimed that the Son was a created being, not really God.

If the Church had continued to follow Arius, the Christian faith would have been lost. To deny the full divinity of Jesus strikes at the heart of the Christian message that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. St Athanasius is still remembered as the man who was willing to make a costly stand against this heresy.

I am reminded of Athanasius because we are facing a similar struggle for the integrity of the gospel in our time. On Thursday 8th June, the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) changed its teaching to allow men to be married to men and women to women. It followed the path already taken by the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada.

This attempt to redefine marriage is not a secondary issue about which we can agree to disagree and continue to walk together. It means that Jesus was mistaken when he taught that marriage was between a man and a woman and that sex outside of such a marriage is a sin. It is a radical rejection of the authority of Scripture. The Church claims that it can consecrate behaviour that God’s Word clearly teaches to be sinful. According to the Bible, this behaviour, without repentance, separates those who practice it from his kingdom.

Athanasius consecrated orthodox bishops in dioceses led by Arians because he knew that the apostolic faith itself was at stake. This was the principle guiding the interventions which led to the formation of the Anglican Church in North America in 2009 and it was affirmed by over three hundred bishops in assembly at Gafcon 2013 in Nairobi. It was therefore very appropriate that on the same day that the Scottish Episcopal Church formally turned aside from the historic Christian faith, Gafcon announced that Canon Andy Lines, already an internationally recognised missionary statesman, will be consecrated later this month as a Gafcon missionary bishop for Europe.

This is not a step we have taken lightly, but from the beginning Gafcon has been committed to standing with the marginalised. Requests for help from Scottish orthodox leaders to the Archbishop of Canterbury were turned down. Indeed, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church told his General Synod last year that the Archbishop of Canterbury, had assured him that he would welcome the Scottish Church to the 2020 Lambeth Conference even if it chose to change its marriage canon to include same sex unions.

So now Gafcon stands ready to recognise and support orthodox Anglicans in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe as the drift away from apostolic faith and order continues. For reasons of mission and conscience, we can expect to find a growing number of orthodox Anglican congregations needing oversight outside traditional structures, as is already the case with the Anglican Mission in England.

The creation of a missionary bishop for Europe is an historic moment. It is a recognition that the era of European Christendom has passed and that in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, a new start is being made by building global partnerships for mission.

So let us be strong. Let us stand with the marginalised and work tirelessly for the continuing reformation of our beloved Communion. I thank God for our fellowship and pray that he will uphold us by his unfailing presence.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

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

A Communique from the GAFCON Primates to Members and Supporters

gafconprimates2017.jpg“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” ~ Isaiah 2:3

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As your Primates, we met in Lagos, Nigeria from 24th -28th April 2017 to pray and work for the continued renewal of the Anglican Communion. We give thanks for the extraordinary hospitality of the Diocesan Bishop of Lagos, the Archbishop of Lagos, and the Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

We began our time together each day with prayer and the study of God’s Word. Aware that we are approaching the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we gave thanks for the faithful witness of those leaders who challenged the Church to recover the authority of the Scriptures. They were men and women who were willing to take costly action, and sealed that testimony with their own blood.

Jerusalem 2018 Global Anglican Future Conference

Gafcon is a global family made up of 9 provinces and 5 branches representing the majority of the world’s Anglicans. Jerusalem 2018 will be the 10th anniversary of the founding of our movement. We are looking forward to acting as an instrument of unity in gathering our people together so that they can share the same joy in the Gospel that we experience when we are together.

Our theme will be “Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations” and we are anticipating having over 1,700 delegates join in worship, teaching and pilgrimage. In the next few months, each province or branch will be issuing invitations among their membership. Please pray for the planning team as they attend to the many details of this event.

If One Part of the Body Suffers, Every Part Suffers With It

Our meeting has also been an opportunity to share with one another our burdens and the suffering of our people. In particular, we discussed the ongoing civil war in South Sudan, and the challenges faced by the church in that province. This conflict has displaced millions, many of whom have found a temporary home in northern Uganda. The Anglican church there is caring for these refugees as best it can, but the region’s resources are currently overwhelmed. We commissioned the Primates of Uganda and Kenya to visit the South Sudan to explore ways we can work with other ecumenical partners to offer mediation that might bring about an end to this conflict.

Many in our African provinces are confronted by the dual threats of insurgent Islamism and drought. The targeting of Christians and churches in northern Nigeria has been in the news, and the daily dangers there and elsewhere continue to be real. Combined with drought conditions, there is the potential for widespread famine in our Sub-Saharan provinces.

In our Global North provinces the challenges are different. With the increasing influence of materialism, secularism, and the loss of moral foundations, our people in these provinces face dangers that are subtle, but spiritually dangerous.

Please keep each of these concerns in your prayers, and consider what God might be calling you to do in response. Our provinces have borders, but our Church does not, and the sharing of material and spiritual resources has never been more needed.

A Missionary Bishop

During our meeting, we considered how best to respond to the voice of faithful Anglicans in some parts of the Global North who are in need of biblically faithful episcopal leadership. Of immediate concern is the reality that on 8th June 2017 the Scottish Episcopal Church is likely to formalize their rejection of Jesus’ teaching on marriage. If this were to happen, faithful Anglicans in Scotland will need appropriate pastoral care. In addition, within England there are churches that have, for reasons of conscience, been planted outside of the Church of England by the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE). These churches are growing, and are in need of episcopal leadership. Therefore, we have decided to consecrate a missionary bishop who will be tasked with providing episcopal leadership for those who are outside the structures of any Anglican province, especially in Europe.

A Word of Encouragement to Faithful Anglicans within European Provinces

We wish to reassure all faithful Anglicans in European provinces that they also have our prayers and our support. We are aware that some Christians within these provinces who are contending for the faith may at first perceive the news of a missionary bishop as a threat to their hopes for reform from within.

We believe that the complexity of the current situation in Europe does not admit of a single solution. Faithful Christians may be called to different courses of action. We bless those whose context and conscience have led them to remain and contend for the faith within the current structures. If you are successful, you will not need a missionary bishop; if you are not successful, an alternative is at hand. The only true failure would be to waste time through inaction.

We also pray for those who are not yet clear about what faithfulness requires. May God give you the wisdom and courage of the Reformers to stand firm wherever the Lord calls you to stand.

Bishops Training Institute (BTI)

The launch of the Bishops Training Institute has been successful, drawing bishops from around the world for training and teaching in the unique role of leading a diocese. The Institute is based in Kenya, and led by the Rt Rev. Samson Mwaluda, assisted by the Rev. Paul Sampson. The next course will take place in May this year, and BTI 3 in November.

Branch Updates

We received updates from our established branches in Australia, New Zealand, Southern Africa, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. We also received encouraging reports about new Gafcon branches emerging in other parts of the Anglican world. We give thanks for the continued growth of this movement, and the opportunity we have to share in fellowship with those who are preaching the Gospel around the world both in season and out of season.

The Global South

We give thanks for the fellowship that we had last October with the Anglican Global South at the 6th Global South Anglican Conference in Cairo, Egypt. We affirm our desire to continue to work in close partnership, walking together in the truth of the Gospel.

Conclusion

We are grateful for the leadership of our Chairman, the Most Rev. Dr Nicholas Okoh. As we look towards Jerusalem 2018, we ask for your continued prayers and support. Specifically, we ask that you would pray for the continued renewal of the Anglican Communion, and the spread of this reform movement. In all these things may Christ be glorified and his name proclaimed faithfully to the nations.