Gafcon Gleanings - Tuesday

Each morning of the conference starts with Morning Prayer and an exposition from Scripture. Today Bishop Jay Behan from the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa New Zealand opened up Colossians 1:15-23. The conference theme is “To whom shall we go?” and Bishop Jay pointed us clearly to the first and foremost answer - which is to Jesus! Indeed, what is so fantastic about Gafcon is the determination of all here to glorify Jesus as the supreme and sufficient Lord of all. Gafcon is not a single issue group or simply working for the realignment of the Communion. As Jay said, “above everything else and before anything else, we believe Jesus is Lord. It is he whom we point the world to.”

In line with Archbishop Foley’s exhortation to be a repenting church, immediately following Bishop Jay’s exposition, we responded to God’s word in repentance, which we shall do each morning. Archbishop Kanishka Raffel from Sydney led us in application of God’s word to ourselves. This is another striking feature of the conference and the movement, infused as it is by the reality of the Lord’s transforming grace in the lives of flawed and fallen individuals as we come to him in repentance and faith.

Tonight Bishop Andy led a session explaining a little of how God is at work in Europe. We heard from a number of members of the Network, including Scott McKay and Klaus Hickel who expressed their gratitude (and ours) to Gafcon for their provision of ACE & AMiE:

Scott McKay: What are the blessings of leading the Christchurch Network in Hull, out of the CoE and into AMiE? 

“My conscience was no longer burdened or troubled by certain things that related to being part of the CofE. I found I was more liberated in ministry.  Our people didn't feel compromised in different ways through our association and found a new liberty in evangelism. Our stance made an impact in the community in which we minister and all three churches grew over the next 2-3 years.  None of our discussions were wasted on demotivating denominational politics. We can instead focus on what really matters.  We had maybe got too comfortable and this season of discomfort brought us closer together and made us more reliant on the Lord.  We had distanced ourselves in so many ways that it felt fairly isolating but now in AMiE we know we have fellow soldiers and servants again to stand and move forward with in this great work.”

Klaus Hickel: What the blessings of ACE? 

“Where do I start? I love ACE because it provides sound biblical oversight by a bishop I trust. I love ACE because it connects us to a global body of likeminded, Spirit-filled, Jesus-loving believers. I love ACE because it demonstrates healthy generosity towards one another, without compromising on essential issues. This healthy unity preserves the best of Anglicanism, without repeating past mistakes. Lastly, ACE has a highly strategic benefit for Anglican mission in Europe. ACE can become genuinely European, for us genuinely German in ways the Church of England never could. Even without the current crisis in the Church of England, Europe needed ACE.”

Reflections from ANiE Delegates:

Stephen Scale, Wellspring Anglican, Pembroke, Wales (ACE)

The conference today has been very interesting and moving. Meeting and talking to people from many different lands and hearing their stories has been such a rewarding experience.

This morning I found myself seated between two gentlemen from Australia: Trevor Sagger from Cairns, who leads New Hope Church which is part of the new Gafcon Diocese of the Southern Cross, as well as Peter from Perth. Peter and my own experiences were so similar, his church is now going through the painful process of withdrawing from his diocese and seeking alternative oversight, just as we in my church were compelled to do last year.

In the afternoon session, when clergy and laity were gathered to hear a panel from across the world, including my friend and rector, Josh Maynard. They presented the problems they see the church is facing worldwide. I, like many, found the testimony of a Sudanese pastor deeply moving and emotional. His words brought home to me the reality of the plight of our brethren facing deadly persecution in their countries. 

We then broke into small groups to discuss and participate in the formulation of the Gafcon statement which is such a privilege.

Today has been a very full and enjoyable experience, and a real blessing.

Andy Palmer, Christ Church Balham (AMiE)

There is always a danger for those of us serving in local churches that we begin to treat the small work we are doing for the Kingdom with the totality of the Kingdom of God. Now we would never actually say that out loud, but often we do behave like that. We often pray like that. I confess that I all too easily fall into this mindset, which is of course utterly contrary to what we read in the Scriptures.

Attending Gafcon has been a great antidote to such parochialism in my heart. We may often recite the creed “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the one holy catholic [universal] church”, the communion of saints…” but here we can worship, pray, and enjoy fellowship with brothers and sisters from all over the world. I’ve been struck by how much many of these brothers are sisters have a great deal to teach us about what being faithful to Christ looks like, and in particular, what such faithfulness might cost.

On the bus ride to our hotel yesterday I got chatting with a Sudanese bishop, currently in exile from his warring homeland. Thankfully his family are currently safe elsewhere, and when asked how the churches under his oversight are doing he said “They are thriving because they proclaim Christ!” But he went on to explain that should Canterbury approve same-sex blessings, he would need to break communion with it. The financial cost of this move for his diocese will be enormous since the Church of England sends large amounts of funds to Sudan. And yet he sees his first priority must be to be faithful to the Lord. He is trusting that alternative partnerships might be set up with faithful Anglicans in wealthier countries. That is faith.

I’m not exactly sure what I bring to the party here at GAFCON. But I am just enjoying being blessed by meeting these faithful brothers and sisters from around the world. Let’s remember that God’s Kingdom is bigger than us, and the Spirit is working throughout all his church to boldly stand up for the gospel of truth.

Bishop Stuart Bell, Fellowship 345, Aberystwyth (ACE)

My over-riding impression is of being amongst people who have rolled up their sleeves. They have rolled up their sleeves in worship from the Hallelujah chorus yesterday to Amazing Grace this evening.  They have rolled up their sleeves in reading and applying the Bible with a masterly presentation this morning from Colossians 1. They have rolled up their sleeves in contending for the Gospel both in prayer and expressed concern for the direction of travel of the Anglican church in the west. But perhaps the most exciting result of the rolled up sleeves is the international nature of the conference. I have met people from every continent today and am certain to sleep like a log tonight!

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