Approval for new Diocese marks significant moment in mission partnership

A remarkable event took place on the evening of 23rd May 2024. After a long process “of prayerful liaison and detailed discussion between the leadership of ANiE and AMC”, the Synod of the Anglican Network in Europe voted overwhelmingly to welcome the Anglican Missionary Congregations as a third Diocese in its emerging Province.


A new global reality


The global shape of the Christian church has seen a paradigm shift in recent years. Churches in the global south, originally planted with much sacrifice by missionaries from Europe and North America in partnership with early indigenous converts, have multiplied exponentially. In contrast, Christian affiliation and influence, and church attendance in the global north and west continues to decline rapidly.


In the more economically developed countries, mainline historic denominations have seen catastrophic collapse in attendance, despite retaining economic assets, while newer churches are holding their own or growing slightly. There is an undeniable close link between this decline and failure to hold on to and communicate the apostolic gospel.


In the global south, mainline churches, especially Anglicans and Methodists, are growing and vibrant alongside the newer church movements. The Anglicans in particular appear flexible enough to retain strong denominational identity and adapt to local culture, while at the same time be open to self-reformation, influenced by new emphases on sound biblical teaching, charismatic renewal, church planting strategies and social responsibility.


But the growth of the church in the global south is only one part of the paradigm shift. Another is the growth of new churches in Europe and North America planted by immigrant populations. Increasing numbers of Christians from Africa, Asia and Latin America, whose great-great grandparents came to faith in Christ and received education and development through missionaries from the UK, now themselves call the UK their home. They are either contributing to the life of existing churches, or starting new diaspora congregations, some of which are now the largest in the country.


However, the international and cultural diversity that this brings does not automatically translate into gospel partnership and inter-racial harmony. The undeniable malign legacies of oppressive colonialism, the realities of sinful racial prejudice, combined with recent weaponisation of racial identities and grievances for ideological and political purposes, are all reasons for ongoing divisions along lines of race and culture in UK churches, mirroring those in society. Instead, the church is called to live as one body with many parts, not all the same, but each playing an important role according to the creator’s design, loving one another, and united in the head who is Christ.


An amazing biblical vision


The apostle Paul gives an amazing vision of this in his letter to the Ephesians. At the beginning of chapter 4 he talks about this unity in diversity: there is one body (v4) and yet different gifts (v7-11), for the goal of working together towards maturity under Christ (v15-16). This is based on what he has said earlier about how the gospel brings together people of different racial and cultural backgrounds who were previously at enmity with each other but now are one, sharing salvation in Christ (Eph 2:14-18).


The gospel is not just about how individuals are saved, glorious though that is (as in Eph 2:1-10). In the first part of chapter 3 Paul shows how the gospel brings together people from previously separated groups, into a new body, the church (3:6). And it is through this church, not uniform, sometimes messy, always diverse, that God makes his “multi-faceted wisdom” known, not just to people in the world, but to the spiritual powers which still need to be overcome.


Paul insists on two elements to a faithful church that is carrying out God’s purposes: culturally diverse, and biblically true. A bible-based local church may be dominated by one particular cultural group, and that’s OK, as long as they rejoice in being part of a wider diverse global body. This is where Gafcon is so important, as a movement and vision to which prediminantly white middle-class congregations in the UK can align. But simply applying secular-progressive programmes of “diversity, equity and inclusion” to a church which isn’t theologically clear or has even rejected key tenets of God’s word, as in the Church of England, is disastrous – a horrible counterfeit of God’s true intention for a church demonstrating reconciliation with one another and with God.


A practical expression of God’s gospel plan


A remarkable event took place on the evening of 23rd May 2024. After a long process “of prayerful liaison and detailed discussion between the leadership of ANiE and AMC” [from the Press Release which can be read here], the Synod of the Anglican Network in Europe voted overwhelmingly to welcome the Anglican Missionary Congregations as a third Diocese in its emerging Province. This is significant for a number of reasons.


It is a sign of kingdom growth. This new Anglican jurisdiction is not under the authority of the theologically liberal Canterbury structures, but overseen by the Gafcon movement and its Archbishops. At the first Gafcon gathering in 2008, the majority of leaders of world Anglicanism declared that being Anglican does not depend on authorising by Canterbury, but by recognition as holding to the common biblical faith and liturgical and polity heritage of faithful Anglicans around the world. At the most recent Conference held in Kigali in 2023 the continued leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury was declared “entirely indefensible”, and that the task ahead is to “re-set the Anglican Communion on its biblical foundations”. It’s for this reason that the Anglican Network in Europe was established, to plant and grow churches which maintain a distinctive and faithful Anglican form of witness separate from the Provinces aligned to Canterbury in our region.


The integration of AMC within ANiE is a sign and a practical expression of Jesus building and renewing his church to respond to a rapidly changing culture in Britain and Europe, and to declare his wisdom to hostile spiritual powers. “AMC has grown from a single Nigerian diaspora congregation in Manchester to 35 congregations all over the UK and some parts of Europe”, says the ANiE Press Release. A Nigerian Anglican church planting movement is joining a predominantly white British one, for partnership in the gospel and a visible expression of God’s intent and “multi-variegated wisdom” (Ephesians 3:10).


This is a new mission model, led by the Holy Spirit and based on shared commitment to biblical truth. Incorporation into ANiE means that this vibrant church movement, with its Nigerian culture and focus on flexible self-supporting ministry will develop strong partnerships with the existing ANiE Dioceses of AMiE and ACE, predominantly white, with their distinctive “church styles” and geographical focus. AMC will bring its specific God-given contribution to the new growing body, not having to give up its unique charism and become part of something uniform, but also no longer doing its mission separately. AMC will continue to relate informally to the Church of Nigeria where most clergy and laity in its congregations originate, but is now subject to the Canons and Constitutions of the Network, and overseen formally by Gafcon through the ANiE presiding bishop.


AMC are themselves very aware of the challenges of mission in Britain and Europe, and their churches are keen to make the transition from chaplaincy to Nigerian and other African ex-pats, to making disciples of indigenous Brits and other immigrant groups as well, praying and working with AMiE and ACE congregations. The AMC’s Lead Missioner, Ven Dr Gideon Ilechukwu, says: “We are excited to be part of GAFCON ANiE and we look forward to our ministry together in this family of believers in Christ. As we are accepted as a diocese, it’s now time to face the mission work with greater devotion in collaboration with our brothers and sisters in ANiE. Europe needs the Lord and together as a team we will till this field by His grace.”