Monday 18th June
“There is no one, no one like Jesus” - this is a wonderful swahili song we sang today led by an amazing Nigerian choir.
I have met brothers and sisters in Christ today from around the world. Abraham is the Registrar for the Church of Nigeria; David an ex-military, Harley riding Canadian who is being ordained later this year; Pete Tong, an Asian Australian who teaches at Moore College in Sydney; Paul who is the dean of Texas and leads the largest church in the ACNA whose auditorium is bigger than the conference centre; Tom from Canada whose congregation had their church building taken from them they left the Canadian church. Then I sat down and the lovely Ugandan next to meet turned out to be Archbishop Stanley Ntagali. Oh, and I met up with James de Costobadie who is Emma’s godfather and a vicar in Christchurch New Zealand and who is in the process of leaving the denomination because it has departed from scripture.
This is the wonder of the gospel that unites all types and sorts of people under the lordship of Christ so that he becomes the universe’s VIP (Remember we looked at God’s plan for the world in Ephesians 1v10 last May...) There truly is no-one like Jesus. Here were faithful ministers from around the globe doing just what we do in Fowey, seeking to live for Jesus and speak for Jesus distinctively and attractively where the Lord has placed them. It immediately felt like ‘home’, perhaps because it is a little glimpse of what home will really be like in the new creation. The commitment is the same and the commission shared.
That said, it’s not been an easy day with clear challenges from scripture and from the stories around the world of the cost of being faithful to the historic orthodox biblical gospel - which is, of course, what authentic Anglicanism should be.
Archbishop Dr Alfred Olwa from Lango in Uganda expounded Luke’s account of Jesus’ 5 trials before the council, Pilate and Herod. He highlighted how Pilate sought to duck the issues, not least because he feared the crowd, “Some people fear the jeering of the crowd more than the judgement of God”.
GAFCON chairman, Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh challenged us from Romans 1v1-6 to stand firm for the authentic apostolic gospel, “It is either God’s gospel or no gospel.” “If we walk together with those who deny the orthodox faith, in word or deed, we have agreed that orthodoxy is optional.”
And so, this afternoon, we heard from those who have indeed refused to, “…walk together with those who deny the orthodox faith” and who paid the practical, physical, spiritual, emotional, pastoral, relational and financial cost of doing so. It was inspirational as we heard stories of churches from USA, Brazil, New Zealand, Canada, and Scotland, each seeking faithfully to proclaim Christ, suffering for it and finding a home in GAFCON. It was also exceptionally moving, as each nation completed their tale, when the whole conference affirmed them as true Anglicans for their confessional stance and courageous witness. It is why GAFCON is so needed and valued around the globe, bringing together Anglicans in Biblical truth rather than organisational, or institutional but compromised, structures.
The conference liturgy includes the acclamation “We will proclaim - Response: Christ faithfully to the nations.” The Africans punched the air as we said it.
with much love from Jerusalem
Monday 18th June