June 2015

GAFCON: A moment and a movement

A meeting of church leaders from across Ireland has been challenged to remain biblically faithful but to ‘dare to do new things’ in the face of a ‘new spiritual darkness’ in the west.

The General Secretary of the Global Anglican Future Conference, Dr Peter Jensen, who addressed the event at Belfast’s Willowfield Church, told the story of GAFCON’s beginnings in the landmark conference of Bishops, clergy and lay leaders in Jerusalem in 2008, through to the Nairobi meeting in 2013 and the movement’s unifying work today across the Anglican world.

“Out of the Conference emerged an historic and noble document, the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. It made clear that we would not reject the world to live like hermits. It made clear that we wished still to win the world. But it also made clear that the way to do that was not to abandon historic, biblical Christianity but to be true to it and flexible in the ways of promoting it.” Dr Jensen said.

“Christianity is a missionary religion and those who have embraced the secular culture have done so in the belief that thus they can ‘make a difference’, Christianise the social order and bring people back to church. On such projects they will spend money and buy influence. Ironically, much of their time and effort is devoted to persuading their fellow believers to become like them.”

Dr Jensen said the ancient church provided the model for difficult times.

“The ancient world was won by those who preached and lived the biblical gospel with passion. It was the difference which made a difference; the difference with real content. It was the message that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he rules through the Scriptures, the word of God. The ancient Christians out-lived, out-thought and out-loved their contemporaries. They did not do this by doubting the faith or changing it to suit the times. They did it by confessing the truth, even to death.”

The GAFCON general secretary spoke of 'a new spiritual darkness".

“The churches are ill-prepared. But God is thoroughly prepared; he is not at a loss. There is nothing to fear; but we need to work out what new tactics are required for this new context.”

He told the gathering of Church of Ireland clergy and lay leaders that GAFCON was designed to be a unifying force.

“In the Christian world, we need each other. We need the skill and the resources and the wisdom of all to be available to all, across denominations and across the world. GAFCON means that biblical Anglicans do not need to stand alone.”

Dr Jensen said GAFCON “has saved and united Anglicans in the West and encouraged Anglicans in the South to realise that ‘we are not alone’. But it has done more than that, for it is a model too for other denominations and churches around the world and an encouragement for them to take their stand on the word of God.”

Addressing the current context in Ireland and Scotland, Dr Jensen drew a sharp comparison.

“In the last few days, two Anglican Provinces have spoken words of choice. In Scotland, the General Synod of the Episcopal Church has chosen to omit the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman from its canons, thus signalling an acceptance of so-called gay marriage. It is a choice to rewrite the Bible and so the Christian faith. In Ireland, the House of Bishops, following the referendum, has endorsed once more the teaching of the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman for life. The contrast is stark.” he said.

“Of course there are those who argue that the two positions can be held in tension in a denomination with mutual respect, recognising that sincere people will differ over the interpretation of the Bible. But let me offer a very serious warning: the cost of taking such a position is unacceptably high. It is to say that the Biblical testimony is so unclear that it can be read in several ways, whereas in fact the Biblical position is crystal clear. When the testimony of the bible is rendered so murky, the authority of the Bible is fatally compromised. The middle position is a vote for an unacceptable compromise.”

The general-secretary said “The business of GAFCON is to deliver fellowship to orthodox believers who have to bear testimony in the midst of such confusion; to resource them to teach the truth and to inspire them to preach the gospel.”

“GAFCON” Dr Jensen said “is a force which delivers fellowship and encourages courage.”

Posted June 19, 2015