Archbishops and bishops from both the Evangelical and
Anglo-Catholic wings of the Church, who lead 30 million of the
world's 55 million active Anglicans, will make a pilgrimage to the
Holy Land in June 2008 for the Global Anglican Future Conference
(GAFCON: News, 4 January). They are travelling
to the places of Christ's ministry, where the gift of the Holy
Spirit was first poured out, in order to strengthen them for what
they believe will be difficult days ahead.
The vision, according to the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd
Benjamin Nzimbi, is to inform and inspire the invited leaders "to
seek transformation in our own lives and help impact communities
and societies through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ".
The convening Primates have said that their pastoral
responsibility requires that they provide an opportunity for their
bishops, who would normally have looked to the Lambeth Conference,
to meet for prayer, fellowship, and counsel, on matters vital to
their Church's mission and ministry.
The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, the Most Revd Gregory
Venables, said: "Shared mission clearly must rise from common
shared faith. Our pastoral responsibility to the people that we
lead is now to provide the opportunity to come together around the
central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging
historic Anglican faith. Rather than being subject to the continued
chaos and compromise that have dramatically impeded Anglican
mission, GAFCON will seek to clarify God's call at this time, and
build a network of co-operation for global mission."
The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, has written: "The
conference is to discuss the future of mission and relationships
within the Churches of the Anglican Communion. Those who wish to
retain biblical standards, especially in the area of sexual ethics,
want to move on together with the gospel of Christ's lordship, a
gospel which challenges us and changes lives."
There are challenges to the world of religion, the world of
secularism, and the role of the family in world peace, and
impediments to the means of economic empowerment for families and
The conference will grapple with the crisis of authority and
ecclesiology that has occurred as a result of North American
actions. We want to ensure that our relationships in the Anglican
Communion reflect gospel values. We seek to affirm both biblical
orthodoxy and Catholic order, but a Catholic order that will serve
the Catholic faith, not the other way around. Were Catholic faith
to serve Catholic order, there would never have been a
Responses have been positive: One senior English cleric spoke
for many: "We have to find a way which does not leave us endlessly
stuck waiting for decisions which never come and allow us to move
on with the gospel." Another called the decision to hold the
conference "momentous". From East Africa, a senior official has
written: "The vision is timely."
As the principle of calling the conference was being discussed
in December, a clear sense emerged that there was only one global
venue for Christians seeking to affirm the basis of the apostolic
and biblical faith: the Holy Land.
The Lord spoke through Psalms of ascent - for example, in Psalm
122: "I rejoiced with those who said to me 'Let us go to the house
of the Lord.' Our feet are standing in thy gates, O Jerusalem. That
is where the tribes go up to praise the name of the Lord. Pray for
the peace of Jerusalem." The difficulties and complexities were
faced, and discussed with others, but the conviction remained.
Bishops and their wives, and clergy and laity, including the
next generation of young leaders, will attend GAFCON. It will bring
together Anglican leaders from around the globe, who are committed
to the accepted teaching of the Bible, of the Church throughout the
ages, and of the Anglican Communion.
This will enable Anglican Churches in all parts of the world to
develop their understanding of the gospel by building relationships
across the usual dividing lines of humanity, race, culture, gender,
and economics. This expresses the true inclusiveness of the gospel
- that all who receive the good news of Jesus have a contribution
to make to the spiritual health of the whole.
This is one of God's ways of ensuring that Churches in the West
are not overwhelmed by the power of their surrounding culture,
because they are in fellowship with and accountable to Christians
in other cultures and contexts.
God is clearly at work. This is a time of asking people to
reaffirm their Anglican identity by being clear about their
commitment to the biblical gospel and the faith of the Church as
expressed in its creeds and formularies. We have to be ready to
make a clear witness, not to compromise what has been entrusted to
us, for the health, wholeness, and salvation of men, women, and
We must put our hope in God; we must pray for his will to be
done; we must be ready to be willing instruments of his purpose;
and we must look for him to give the increase.
Canon Dr Chris Sugden is Executive Secretary of Anglican