Gafcon Gleanings - Thursday

The tone of this conference has been strangely marked both by overflowing joyful thanksgiving and by deep grief and repentance. This morning Kanishka Raffel (Archbishop of Sydney) preached on Colossians 3. Once again the focus has been on Jesus as all. “Let him be the first and last thought, the motivation and inspiration, the judge of every enterprise, his approval be all that you desire.” The church’s identity is shaped by the character of Christ. Kanishka challenged us to clothe ourselves in him and to repent where we have failed to do so.

Reflections from ANiE Delegates:

Camilla Symes, Christchurch Botley, Oxford (AMiE)

Rwanda is a beautiful backdrop and a stark warning of what evil ordinary people are capable. On a trip at the beginning of our visit here, our guide related how he had lost both parents and 4 brothers when he was 7. No one here needs to be reminded how identity can be manipulated by the wicked, what sin looks like, how fragile the veneer of “civility” in a society can be, and how fast evil left unchecked and unchallenged can sweep a nation. Proclaiming the unchanging truth to a changing world is essential work. 

Of course I have heard for years about GAFCON and the remarkable gathering and prophetic movement that it is, but nothing could have prepared me for the real thing. To be in a room with over 1300 people from more than 50 countries worshipping God and listening to searing, prophetic Bible teaching is amazing.  Beyond that, a remarkable effect of the courageous, Bible-believing filter applied to the participant list, is that you can walk up to anyone and connect at a deep spiritual level, knowing they also believe the core doctrines on which my own faith and identity are built.  We are many and diverse here at GAFCON, but as Archbishop Kanishka Raffel pointed out today, our unity transcends our differences - we are one. I have discovered that I have more in common with strangers here, than with people I have known for years in the Oxfordshire village where we live.  People have said GAFCON is a taste of Heaven.  I am looking forward to getting there. Meanwhile we have the assurance of Deuteronomy 31:6

Ben Williamson, Church Planter, Bury (AMiE)

This morning in Ashley Null’s session on ‘Renewing The Power To Love: The Heart Of Historic Anglicanism’, we were reminded that right at the heart of the gospel is God’s love for sinners. “Only God’s love for sinners inspires sinners to love God more than sin.” We see this in Scripture and in our Anglican heritage. In current debates around the communion it was great to be reminded that those of us who call people to respond to the gospel in faith and repentance are those who truly love those people.

Gafcon is not only about the upfront content but also the personal interactions. It was such an encouragement to hear different stories of those who have endured in the gospel through persecution. I saw that in a women’s testimony of how her church in New Zealand had left the Anglican Church in New Zealand for the CCAANZ. Despite leaving buildings and stability, the Lord has been faithful in bringing resources and growth. It was also shown as I caught up with an old friend, who is now a bishop in northern Nigeria. When I asked him of the challenges his diocese was facing, he asked for prayer for security. Churches face constant threat from Islamist terrorism and yet they go our with the gospel continuing to declare the glories of God’s love.

As we approach our own mission of reaching a secular and sometimes hostile Europe, it is great to reminded that we declare the gospel of a loving God, who redeems his people and calls his people to repentance out of sin and to new life. We can also be encouraged by our brothers and sisters around the world, who have and do sacrifice much for Christ and his gospel yet, can speak of our Father’s gracious care and provision. Together gloriously witness the extension of God’s kingdom.

Petra Elias, German Congregation of Leipzig English Church (ACE)

A meeting of over 1300 people from all over the world, spending long days together in praise, prayer, and conversation filled me with great awe. I knew only four attendees might speak my native language so I was nervous that I wouldn’t understand the different accents of the English language. But all concerns have vanished. 

I have heard numerous stories about what led people to come here. One in particular touched me deeply. 40 years ago at a high school in UK she had attended a gospel choir concert. The Lord shone bright through the singers from Uganda that she and many of her high school friends came to faith. One of the singers from back then is at GAFCON and they found each other. Her gratitude for her awakening moved me deeply. She had asked the same question back then that I asked myself 24 years ago: "To whom shall I go to get what they have?"

I have seen people here refreshed, strengthened, and growing in faith and union. What a huge difference GAFCON is compared to synod meetings of CoE in Europe. People I met there were afraid to offer or receive prayer! I have met people here with whom I would normally be estranged to by thought, culture and language, but found union in prayer and communion with one another in Christ. May the Lord keep our paths.

Network delegates contributed to a seminar on the cost of being faithful

Joel Barder (ACE)

"Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity" (Psalm 133:1) - this psalm has always meant a great deal to me, and yet there have been few times where I have felt its truth lived out quite as much as at GAFCON. Having resigned from ministry in the Church in Wales last year, and the deep discouragements I felt at every diocesan or Provincial event, this conference has shown what true joy and unity in Jesus is all about. It has encouraged and blessed me beyond words to be here - thank you those who made it possible! 

I have met some wonderful people, including Berthier from Madagascar who I met when I was 19, as I spent a month in Antananarivo with some other Welsh Christian students, who recognised me as soon as I entered the auditorium. It was special to see him 15 years later.

The times of worship have been wonderful, and the speakers have inspired. I'd like to make special mention of Canon Ashley Null, whose message, with no pretence, spoke right to my heart, like a refreshing wind blowing away the dust. "Only God's love for sinners can enable sinners to love God more than sin" was a line that will stay with me forever.

There are people who have made effort with me when I have felt overwhelmed, and who have offered support for the future, as I continue to think through potential church planting in time to come. It is so good to pray with people, to laugh, sing, and to cry. I came to the conference still feeling very hurt and broken after the last year's experience with the Church in Wales, and I will leave feeling encouraged and blessed, knowing that I do have an Anglican Family who truly care, and that is a gift I will never forget. "Jesus's love is very wonderful! Oh wonderful love!"

Ben Cadoux-Hudson, Hope Church Tyneside, Newcastle upon Tyne (AMiE) 

I've enjoyed meeting a family sent by an Anglican church in Brazil to plant an Anglican Church among Muslim people in Guinea Bissau (Portuguese speaking West Africa), where there is no Anglican presence at all. It's hard work (they run a school for Muslim children, cook for them and work to cover their own costs) and dangerous (Justino regularly has visits from Muslim men who intend to harm him, but are caught off guard by his kindness towards them). He and his wife Deise are determined, with God's help to plant a church among these people. Pray for perseverance for him, protection and for the Lord to send more co-workers to help this dedicated and isolated family.

Another brother I've met from Zimbabwe has a real burden to envision the  parents in his church to actively disciple his children in a culture which may well become significantly more secular in the coming 10-15 years. Thank God for his vision and pray for the Christian youth of Zimbabwe to serve Jesus wholeheartedly.

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