I have been so grateful for the opportunity to be in Nairobi this week. Yet, as I left our fall retreat on Saturday, my heart was so torn. Steve Hayner and I had a great conversation on the way to the retreat. So many of my favorite people were gathered at Massanetta Springs– how could I leave?? I love the fall retreat! I love hearing good preaching! I love playing football and the bonfire…
But I was also excited about heading to GAFCON and seeing what God had for us there. I left the fall retreat around 1:30pm on Saturday. 27 hours of travel later, I arrived at 11:30pm on Sunday in my hotel room.
Let me just stream of conscious things I’ve been noticing and experiencing:
- Starting with the mundane… the weather is incredible. Mid-80s during the day, no humidity. Gets hot in the cathedral, but gorgeous outside.
- Security is pretty high. Lots of reminders to not be outside after dark. The hotel is only a mile from the church, but we have to take a bus each way. Bags are checked and bodies are wand checked everywhere we go. Security guards in all the hotel elevators.
- The largest delegation is from Nigera– 450 strong. Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya are next in size. There are about 100 delegates from North America and 100 from the UK. There are delegations from Israel, from Papua New Guinea, and from Southern Sudan.
- Today we heard a series of interviews, called ‘you are not alone’. It began with a report on the ‘persecuted church’– specifically the situation for Christians in Syria. It was heart wrenching and reminded me of the talk we heard at Restoration on Sept 8. Then a report on the ‘suffering church’ which was given by the Archbishop of Southern Sudan [it just came into existence in the last 2 years]. Then the ‘compromised church’ with reports from New Zealand, Brazil, and England and the difficulty of still ‘doing church’ in a setting that is mostly not orthodox. Finally a report on the suffering experienced by the church in North America. It was so encouraging to hear stories of God’s faithfulness, to remember that ALL authority has been given to Jesus to send us to teach and baptize and to remember that He is with us Always. We have some spiritual studs in the Anglican Communion.
- This morning we heard a talk by Michael Ovey, the principal of Oak Hill College in London. He explained how the inculcation of ‘cheap grace’ has produced the current culture that is being experienced in the West. It was by far the most insightful talk I have ever heard on how we ‘ended up’ in this situation. Michael has been asked to post a transcript on the GAFCON site and as soon as it is available, I will tweet a link. It is one of those messages that I want to read several more times. I felt light bulbs going off as he drew connections between a lack of repentance, a presumption on God, an idol of human rights, a doctrine of entitlement, and no requirement of duty or responsibility. It was BRILLIANT. And heart-breaking.
- I have been praying for the right conversations that God wants me to have. God is so faithful. I have met several people who are in charge of Anglican work in SE Asia– Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar. I have talked with folks who were recently with Jesse and Sarah Blaine (they are doing great!). There is a cadre of people, missions organizations, and churches that are working in SE Asia and are excited about the conversations that Restoration is having and excited to dream with us about how we might get engaged.
- I really enjoyed dinner last night with John Yates III and his wife, Alicia (this is the son of TFC’s John Yates). John and Alicia have 4 kids and are leading a church in Raleigh that is in the middle of a building project. Sound familiar? We shared fun anecdotes about capital campaigns, architects, and parking… Holy Trinity Raleigh is a strong and growing church– and he’s preaching through creation and fall this autumn as well. How cool is that?
- We began this morning with Holy Eucharist lead by the Church of Nigeria. The preachers each morning are working through the book of Ephesians and today was a careful exposition of Ephesians 1 by The Most Reverend Emmanuel Egbunnu. I was reminded of my gratitude for the spiritual blessing of being ordained a priest in the church of Nigeria. I am grateful that they gave me a place to enter my calling as a pastor. I have also become aware that they are an extremely ordered church. If the worship guide says it, that’s what they are doing. So when the man leading music this morning started the recessional hymn and it was different from the worship guide, the archbishop stopped him mid-note and ‘requested’ that he do the hymn in the worship guide… and he did. Nice.
- Finally, I had tea with Bishop Laurent Mbanda, Bishop of the Shyira Diocese in Rwanda. He also serves on the board of International Justice Mission alongside our good friend Nicole Sedaca and our retreat speaker, Steve Hayner. Which brings me full circle to where I started this post.
I love the church of Jesus Christ. I love our little expression of it in Arlington. My cup is full. What a day.