GAFCON Chairman’s October 2017 letter

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,

On the 31st October, it will be 500 years since Martin Luther’s 95 Theses triggered the Reformation. He was fired by holy indignation because of the way ordinary Christians were being abused by a church which was turning the need for divine forgiveness into a money making machine through the sale of indulgences, but that led him on to see the root of the problem.

The message of God’s free grace in the gospel had been buried under layers of superstition and human tradition, which Luther and the Reformers then exposed to the light of God’s Word. The recovery of the Bible as the first and foremost source of authority in the Church was the basic principle of the Reformation. Everything else depended on this and still does.

Anglicanism claims to be an expression of Reformed Catholic Christianity, but the Canterbury Primates Meeting held earlier this month shows once again that the Anglican Communion is in urgent need of a new reformation. I and a number of brother Primates (representing between us over half of practising Anglicans worldwide) did not attend as a matter of conscience. We cannot ‘walk together’ with those who have abandoned the teaching of the Bible, but that is what the Communiqué issued from the meeting encourages us to do. The painful truth is that the authority of Scripture is being replaced by the authority of Canterbury.

There is no mention in the Communiqué of Lambeth Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference where the vast majority of the Communion’s bishops reaffirmed the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, including the clear statement that homosexual practice is contrary to Scripture.

Same-sex ‘marriage’ is referred to merely as a difference of understanding while the only call to repentance is to those who have crossed provincial boundaries to support orthodox brothers and sisters unchurched by leaders who have rejected God’s Word.

The Conference also affirmed the LGBTI community and their lifestyle, while unequivocally disowning the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), an orthodox Anglican Province.

If we may be reminded, it was the unwillingness of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to provide oversight to dissenting orthodox Anglicans in the USA as advised by the Primates Meeting that led to the formation of ACNA, to keep it in the Anglican Communion fold. ACNA is therefore authentically orthodox, Anglican and Gafcon altogether.

Let me humbly advise Canterbury here to take urgent steps to recognise ACNA as an authentic Province of the Anglican Communion before new realignments make that need unnecessary.

It appears that the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) and other revisionists have now got what they failed to get at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. It seems it is now ‘officially’ possible to teach the opposite of what the Bible teaches and still be fully part of the Communion, with the only penalty being a few procedural handicaps which in practice amount to very little.

Is this now how the Primates of the Anglican Communion understand ‘Walking Together’? It has become clear that the Communiqué does not represent the reality of the meeting.

Some Gafcon Primates did attend the meeting in the hope that they could make a difference, including Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Anglican Church of South America who was one of the original members of the Gafcon Primates Council in 2008. Commenting on the Communiqué, he has said ‘It does not reflect what I experienced and heard in the meeting.  That’s fine, it might be somebody’s perception, but it wasn’t my perception and that leads me to ask more serious questions.’

Our Gafcon Jerusalem Statement and Declaration of 2008 got to the heart of a painful truth when it concluded that ‘we are a global Communion with a colonial structure’ and the appearance of a few African faces in those structures does not mean that anything has changed. The Primates Meeting Communiqué does not embarrass the Archbishop of Canterbury who, as widely reported just before the meeting began, refused to answer a journalist’s direct question about whether or not homosexual practice was sinful, but it should embarrass all Anglicans who seek to live under the authority of the Word of God.

Also, the outcome of the meeting helps the Archbishop of Canterbury to continue tolerating almost routine breaches of Lambeth Resolution I.10 in the Church of England, but it does not help the global majority of ordinary Anglicans who wish to see their families and societies enjoy the great blessing of godly living.

So how should we move forward? The process of reformation is never smooth sailing, but we can be sure that as we remain faithful to our vision of restoring the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion, we shall have success in God’s good time. Already, Gafcon is enabling training, building global mission relationships, gathering the marginalised and resourcing Anglicans worldwide. Our next conference in Jerusalem in June 2018 will mark a further step in the great project of reformation begun ten years previously and by the grace of God will enable Anglicans around the world to walk together in the true communion of gospel partnership.

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

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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:

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

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.