“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
2 Corinthians 5:6,7
My dear people of God,
Gafcon began as a movement of courage. Bishops, clergy, and lay leaders around the world were prepared to be unpopular and break with the abuse of tradition to gather in Jerusalem for our first Global Anglican Future Conference in 2008. It was unfairly criticised as schismatic and one senior bishop of the Church of England even compared the leaders to the false teachers described as ‘super-apostles’ by St Paul (2 Corinthians 11:5).
A decade later, we thank Almighty God that the Gafcon movement continues to expand and to gather those who are committed to proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations. But we still need the same courage as in those pioneering days because the temptation to compromise with false teaching has not gone away.
On the contrary, it has become greater as the number of Provinces rejecting the authority of Scripture grows, and I want to congratulate Archbishop Mbanda who has confirmed that Rwanda will be joining Nigeria and Uganda in declining to attend the 2020 Lambeth Conference unless the Archbishop of Canterbury includes all faithful bishops of the Communion, and declines to invite those who continue to accept the jurisdiction of Provinces which have stepped outside the boundaries of apostolic faith.
This season of Advent is a time to renew our courage as we look up and look forward. For many of us our culture encourages a focus on the present and we want immediate rewards. The gospel is different. It points us to a home that we do not yet see and a glory that is far beyond anything we will experience in this life. St Paul can say ‘we are always of good courage’ because he knew what it meant to ‘walk by faith and not by sight.’ His life was invested in the world to come, in things eternal, not in the temporary rewards of the present. May we take this lesson to heart and know that whatever losses we may risk in this life, nothing can take away the glory to come.
So we salute the courage of all those Anglicans around the world who sacrifice to proclaim Christ faithfully. Some live in contexts where Christians face attempts to very severely restrict their witness and our Gafcon 2019 Conference in Dubai next February is designed to encourage such brothers and sisters. Others continue to face persecution from within the Church itself, most notoriously in North America, and I commend especially to your prayers the Bishop of Albany, the Rt Revd Bill Love, who was present with us in Jerusalem for Gafcon 2018.
With effect from Advent, TEC (the Episcopal Church of the United States) has mandated that all its dioceses must permit same sex marriage rites, but Bishop Love has issued a pastoral letter in which he makes it clear that this will not be permitted in the Diocese of Albany because the Episcopal Church “is attempting to order me as a Bishop in God’s holy Church, to compromise ‘the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3) and to turn my back on the vows I have made to God and His People.”
It remains to be seen how Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will proceed, but TEC is relentlessly pursuing the faithful Dioceses of South Carolina and Fort Worth through the courts, as it has done with many others in the past.
Finally, let us ask Almighty God to continue his blessing upon us in this time of leadership transition.
Archbishop Peter Jensen will be standing down at the end of this month as our General Secretary. He is one of our founding fathers and truly a man of courage who has not flinched from the heavy burden of this global ministry. The affection and esteem in which he is held were obvious to all at the close of our Jerusalem conference and his passion for the gospel of God will continue to be a great inspiration.
As we prepare to welcome his successor, Archbishop Ben Kwashi, we thank God for the appointment of a leader who has shown outstanding faith and courage throughout his long ministry. With his wide international experience and his determination to preach the gospel, we can be sure that this movement has a great champion for its commitment to ‘Proclaiming Christ faithfully to the Nations’.
In closing, I wish to use this medium on behalf of the Gafcon family to convey to our beloved brothers, Canon Charles Raven and Archbishop Miguel Uchoa who were bereaved of their beloved wives, our heart-felt condolences.
May the strength of God uphold them and may the Souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in the bosom of our LORD and Saviour.
Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:8).
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria
Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council