Gafcon Gleanings - Wednesday

“To whom shall we go? We go to Christ in his unchanging word then with Christ we go to the whole world.”
(Conference liturgical response) 

"If there is one reason that GAFCON exists it is this: to get the gospel out to the world. Please don’t stop sharing Jesus”  (Archbishop Ben Kwashi) 

The focus today has been on evangelism. As last night, we’ve heard of how God is at work in world with stories of gospel growth. We’ve been equipped to share Jesus with Christianity Explored and The Word One to One. We’ve also been equipped through a range of seminars and worked together in our delegation to comment on the emerging draft conference statement.

The Anglican Network in Europe Delegation

Reflections from ANiE Delegates:

Adam Cumine, Wellspring Anglican, Pembroke Wales (ACE)

I am a bit of an accidental Anglican. Before coming to St Silas 6 years ago my only experience of an Anglican Church was a High Church service when I was 8 years old. I was confused and a bit frightened by the strange man in a robe and hat waving some incense.  Cue GAFCON 23. Sarah and I were genuinely unsure what to expect. What I didn't expect was to be so utterly inspired. 

Two words have run throughout this conference; confidence and compassion. 

Two stories to illustrate these points. We met some guys from Texas who when the AEC began to alter the truth of scripture they left.  By the grace of God and faithfulness of their church  they were able to buy back their building with incredible giving, God providing the funds in a few months. Now they stand rooted in the words of life and they have planted a number of churches in their diocese. They were confident in the truth of the Gospel and they have seen it advance mightily. 

Another story; The Archbishop Of Rwanda met us at the airport at 3 in the morning after what has become known as "the Zanzibar flight." He was warm and generous. Smilingly he welcomed us and offered to carry our bags. Throughout this conference there has been a constant stream of joyful volunteers guiding us, I have never felt such compassion from people who were strangers but loved us as family. 

GAFCON has shown us that we can be confident in the gospel and called us to compassion to both fellow believers and those yet to hear the good news. We are part of a global family; one that will stand with us, grieve with us and contend with us for the gospel. How exciting to be part of this!

Charlotte Scott, Christchurch Newland, Hull (AMiE)

We’ve had  wonderful opportunities to pray with people from around the world and I was blessed to hear from a brother from Uganda. The youth ministry he is in is truly heart-breaking and yet his love and compassion for lost and broken souls was remarkable. 

I am just amazed by the beauty of orthodox Christians coming together seeking to pursue truth. I am being reminded of God’s goodness and kindness as I reflect on my own journey as a believer and share that with many of the people I meet here. I’ve been blessed to meet many Australians which has reminded me of my time there as a non-believer, remembering the church I attended before I came to Christ and just once again marvel in the amazing work the Spirit has done in me and can do across the world. It gives me hope of the miraculous life changing work of the Lord, which can bring about repentance and reform in those who have turned away from truth.

Klaus Nickel, German congregation, Leipzig English Church, Germany (ACE)

The almost overwhelmingly rich array of impressions from Gafcon IV are a beautiful mirror image of God's love for the world. This loving one-another-ness spanning the globe is a powerful testimony by which the world may know that we are disciples of Christ. And yet there are many impressive communities, many of whom are not remotely Christian. Some communities who might call themselves Christian have lost touch with the real Jesus. What makes us distinct is that our love is modelled on the unique love of Christ as revealed in Scripture. Looking around the various stalls at the conference, I was therefore filled with great joy as I discovered a keen focus on biblical training — Community Bible Study, Bible Mesh, Latimer Trust, Crossway, George Whitfield College and, of course, my beloved Moore College. It brought home to me with renewed clarity that the heart of Gafcon lies in the centrality of God's revelation through Scripture. Scripture is where we discover the real love of the real Christ who died and lives for us. Scripture is where our one-anotherness finds itself invigorated by his Holy Spirit.

Mark Rainbow, Grace Church Newton Hall, Durham (AMiE)

Joy. Thankfulness. Grief. All three have been in evidence here at the conference:

“Shout with joy to God, all the earth! (Ps 66:1) We’ve seen singing (and dancing), enthusiastic responses to things said from the front (Amen!), happy embraces of old friends being reunited, and enthusiastic new introductions being made.

“Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on man’s behalf” (Ps 66:5) It’s been great to hear some of the stories of what God has done through previous conferences and the relationships formed through them.  It’s also been wonderful to hear accounts of God’s work in different places.  Chatting to a Rwandan bishop about the reconciliation ministry he has been involved in and the impact it has had in bringing healing was bore wonderful testimony to the awesome work of the Lord.

“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” (Ps 66:10) An important part of the conference’s work this week is to co-ordinate a response to cultural accommodation by the leaders of the Church of England in regard to same-sex relationships. I wasn’t sure on arrival how different parts of the communion would be feeling about this.  Anger?  Disappointment?  Weary resignation?  The overwhelming answer seems to be grief.  They are grieved by what their mother church has done.  There’s a feeling of abandonment.

I’m loving the chance we have this week to learn from different parts of the body of Christ.  A challenge I have appreciated has been the message coming from persecuted parts of the world that God uses persecution to strengthen his church – a conviction we have potentially lost sight of in the West.  How many of our problems with cultural accommodation stem from fear of persecution rather than conviction of doing what is right?  

Martin Ayers, St Silas Glasgow (ACE)

In ministry I often worry about the obstacles. And today the Lord has impressed upon me very deeply that he is at work in his extraordinary power and goodness in the global Anglican church. 

Along with the 4 other delegates from Glasgow, we met Bishop Vithalis from Tanzania - just informally, over lunch. With both excitement and humility he told us how in his Diocese, the newest in Tanzania, there were 70 churches in 2017. Today, there are 130. He is rejoicing and at the same time feels the burden to equip and encourage pastors for these new churches, so that the many disciples in this season of extraordinary growth can grow to maturity in Christ. It was humbling to hear how our story, as a church and a network, had encouraged him! He urged us to build our church on the unchanging word of God. 

In a seminar on theological training, we heard from an Anglican minister who is training pastors out of necessity having experienced extraordinary church growth. In one particular week he baptised 2000 people. He said that after that, he was tired.  We have heard of the Lord strengthening his people amidst appalling persecution to endure patiently, pray fervently, and rejoice in their hope. In the evening plenary we heard of church growth and strengthening in East Africa beyond what I could have imagined, in Zambia, in Mozambique,  in Zimbabwe. All of these people rejoice in the global family, Gafcon.

Of course there are obstacles. Yet these stories of God at work reminded me of 2 Corinthians 4:7, that God places the treasure of his gospel of grace in jars of clay, to show in our weakness that the surpassing power belongs to him.

Leo Davidson, Christchurch Wyre Forest (AMiE)

It is a joy to be here together with brothers and sisters from all around the world. Today I met Koki from Uganda and Mark from the United States. Our family situations are very similar, we each have 2 sons and a daughter around the same age, but our experiences of life and ministry are very different. Even those of us from the UK have different contexts. It has been a privilege to listen to others as they share the joys and challenges of their particular context and hear what the Lord is doing in and through them. It has also struck me today, as we discussed the draft statement, how significant this gathering is and how necessary listening and understanding our brothers and sisters’ varied contexts is necessary if we are walk together and therefore why it is so valuable to meet like this at GAFCON.

Today the focus has been on how we take the gospel to the world. It’s been wonderful to be reminded of the simplicity of the task. If our confidence is in the word of God then all we need to do is to open the Bible with people and God will be at work by his Spirit to bring people from death to life. As I met Mark from the United States it was a privilege to hear how he was going about the task of introducing others to Jesus. His son was the only teenager in the church so Mark suggested they invite his friends to do Hope Explored. 4 of them came and 2 of them are now coming to church. As a recovering alcoholic Mark also has a heart to share the freedom of Christ with addicts.

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