“…Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
Our theme for GAFCON IV
Thank you for praying for me and for Anglicans from around the world as we gathered in Kigali, Rwanda last week for GAFCON IV. I am grateful.
Before I share a bit about it, let me offer a quick shout to anyone who is new or newish to Restoration. We would love to have you over for dinner! Next Tuesday, May 2nd at 7pm in Fellowship Hall, we will be hosting ‘Living God’s Story at Restoration’. It’s an opportunity to hear the story of our church and to find your place in it. Come hear what’s important to us and how you can join us in connecting people to God, others, and the needs of the world. Dinner starts right at 7. The program starts at 7:45 and we get you out by 8:50. Childcare is available at the church as well. Please let us know that you are coming by registering for the dinner, here. I look forward to seeing you there!
Ok, back to GAFCON. First some pictures:
Inside the Kigali Convention Center during worship
We had prayer groups each morning.
I am so thankful that I was able to participate in GAFCON IV in Kigali.
Each GAFCON gathering has issued a significant statement. In fact, we spent a good portion of the week praying through and working on what has come to be called, ‘The Kigali Commitment’. I urge you to read it, here. It has a fairly lengthy preamble. The section called, ‘The Current Crisis’ will catch you up to speed. The section called, ‘The Failure of the Archbishop of Canterbury…’ is where things get monumental and possibly historic. Some have said, ‘we were in the room when the Anglican Communion reset.’ We will only know if it was historic as we see what happens over the next 5 years.
Canon Phil Ashey wrote an excellent analysis of the Kigali Commitment. You can read it, here. He does a good job explaining why the things that were said in it are important. Rev. Sam Ferguson also wrote a fantastic piece for The Gospel Coalition, here. I especially appreciate Sam’s connection: ‘faithfulness to God’s Son requires faithfulness to God’s Word.’ That paragraph captures the tension we sometimes feel talking to people who ‘love Jesus’ but ‘don’t believe everything in the Bible.’
A few things that stood out to me:
- The statement makes a clear commitment to Scripture, not just in matters of human sexuality but also in “the uniqueness and divinity of Christ, his bodily resurrection, his promised return, the summons to faith and repentance and the final judgment.” Most will only see this as being about sex, but I was glad for the intentionality that the crisis within the Anglican Communion is about so much more.
- The idea that blessing same sex unions is pastorally ‘deceptive’. “Since the Lord does not bless same-sex unions, it is pastorally deceptive and blasphemous to craft prayers that invoke blessing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” This kind of clarity can be challenging to read but it’s not new and it defines the stakes in a way that is important for us to see.
- This was the strongest statement against the ‘Instruments of Communion.’ Quick Anglican Polity Lesson: there are 4 structures that hold the Global Communion together globally. One, the Lambeth Conference of Bishops held every ten years (but not fully attended since 1998 because of protests). Two, the Anglican Consultative Council, a ‘vestry’ for the Communion as a whole, consisting of bishops, priests, deacons, and laity. Three, the Primates Council which meets as often as needed and consists of only the Archbishops (or Primates) of the 38 provinces. (This meeting has been consistently boycotted since 2003.) Fourth, the Archbishop of Canterbury who is considered ‘the first among equals’ of the 38 primates.The distinctive clarity of the Kigali Commitment lies in this: “We have no confidence that the Archbishop of Canterbury nor the other Instruments of Communion led by him (the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meetings) are able to provide a godly way forward that will be acceptable to those who are committed to the truthfulness, clarity, sufficiency and authority of Scripture. The Instruments of Communion have failed to maintain true communion based on the Word of God and shared faith in Christ.”
- GAFCON has existed since 2008. There is a larger body of generally orthodox provinces that are called the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA). It is both encouraging and noteworthy to see a united front from both of these groups in the Kigali Statement. GAFCON is significant, but smaller than GSFA. GSFA (including places like Egypt, Singapore) have been concerned about the direction that Canterbury is leading, but unwilling to walk away from the instruments of communion. This is the first time that GSFA statements have matched the strength of GAFCON’s statements. Together, GAFCON and GSFA make up 85%(!) of the world’s Anglicans. Thus, this could be the beginning of a historic change for the Communion.
I have found myself oscillating between hope and grief as I process my time there. I experience hope as I think about the faces around me who were worshipping and praying with me. It is significant that there are so many courageous, faithful, sticking close to Jesus, enduring material deprivation, and showing up in persecuted places, Anglicans in the world. I wish you all could have been there to see them. We have beloved brothers and sisters in Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa, India, and Europe. Our worship was vibrant and a repentant humility ran through all of our deliberations. I was grateful for the lack of triumphalism that characterized our conversations. And there was grief. We really did feel ‘heart-broken’ that it had come to this.
I imagine the challenges will be significant between now and GAFCON 2028. Archbishop Foley Beach transitioned his leadership of GAFCON to Archbishop Laurent Mbanda of Rwanda. He is a good man and we are blessed to have him take this role. I am glad he was chosen. In 2024, the ACNA will choose their next Archbishop. That will be significant. TEC will also choose theirs. Two of the principal actors will be new to the stage next year.
In all of this, Restoration must keep teaching the Scriptures, sharing the Gospel, and inviting people to new life in Christ. I am grateful that I could be there, grateful for the ways the Lord has refreshed me, and grateful for the season ahead.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.