Concerned with the disparity of the voice of Anglican Churches in “developing nations” versus the Western industrial nations, a gathering in Limuru, Kenya, was organized in 1994. The concept was that the voice of those from the Provinces which had the majority of active Anglicans in the world would be more effective if they spoke together. Sadly, the Western liberal Provinces dominated the public voice of Anglicanism. Archbishop Joseph Adetiloye (Nigeria) (1985-1999) was quoted from that meeting saying, “We have learnt as a community of faith that it is our duty to demonstrate the virtues of love and compassion towards those who humiliate or marginalize us, and to work for peace and reconciliation between peoples and nations as we anticipate His kingdom.” It was a powerful demonstration of the balanced health of the Provinces of the “developing nations.” In many ways, they were more “developed” in the Kingdom than their louder Western counterparts.
The second “Encounter” was held in Kuala Lumpur in 1997 as part of the run-up to the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Among other things that were addressed, the most timely and powerful statement was a clear, Biblical statement about human sexuality.
Third was a gathering in Egypt at a place called Ain El Sukhna. In Arabic, that means “The Crossing,” which was likely a reference to the place where the Jews crossed the Red Sea. The conference focused on the “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.”
The fourth “Encounter” was held in Singapore in 2010 and pursued both “The Gospel of Jesus Christ – Covenant for the People; Light for the Nations” and more conversation about sustainable economic development to support ministry and mission.
This week there has been a Global South meeting in Bangkok on Mission and Networking. I have been leading a team from ACNA that is part of the gathering. It has been good to see the ongoing strength of commitment from a growing number of Provinces to the same principles that gave rise to the founding of the ACNA. There were many examples of ways in which ACNA’s partnership was affirmed in conversation, presentations, and diplomatic protocols.
Also gratifying has been the growing strength of GAFCON/FCA being seen as a global movement of renewal and preservation of “the faith once delivered.” With the organization of the Global South being around geography, it does not automatically have theological coherence. Some Provinces that would ordinarily be counted in the Global South are well advanced in the liberal agenda. By contrast, GAFCON/FCA, by gathering around theological agreement, continues to connect leaders of shared faith. That faith has been clearly articulated in the Jerusalem Declaration.
Increasingly, more and more leaders are seeing that the structures of the Anglican Communion have not only failed to preserve institutional integrity, they have failed to preserve the faith. Where structures fail, new wineskins must be employed. Here at the Bangkok meeting, the need for GAFCON/FCA has been acknowledged. GAFCON/FCA’s witness and contributions have helped some who have previously had reservations about the movement to support it. Rather than being seen as groups in competition, the conversations in Bangkok have yielded a commitment to cooperation.
In the many sessions in Bangkok, the need was expressed for Biblical faith to guide mission, theological training, leadership development, and economic empowerment. The tone has been Biblical and orthodox, with only a sprinkling of comments from a few Provinces about “inclusivity” and the like. None of that survived the discussions. The outcomes have been solid.
There were many significant conversations outside the formal sessions that were helpful and illuminating. One of the most moving conversations I had was with Archbishop Deng of Sudan. Though South Sudan deals with extreme poverty itself, he was bewailing the worse state of poverty in the neighboring nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo. He said, “They are really suffering from poverty. I told the Archbishop of Congo that South Sudan must go there and help them.” He went on to share how as a young man he had grown tomatoes. When he sold the tomatoes, he would save the money until he had enough to buy cows. Then he bred the cows an d got more cows. Even as a young man, he had enough cows for a marriage dowry and a start in life. He wants to share that kind of “possibility thinking” with the Congolese. It is an inspiring witness.
Many Primates here in Bangkok who had the chance to visit our ACNA 2012 Assembly in Ridgecrest have spoken to me to thank the ACNA for the Provincial Assembly and to say how powerful it was to see us gathered in worship and focused on mission. Some have said that they want to follow the ACNA model in their own synods!
Though there is a great deal of agreement, there are still assaults on the faith from those who want to introduce “innovations. In light of this, Archbishop Bolly Lapok, the new Primate of the Province of South East Asia, said, “There is a tradition in the villages of my country called ‘nggat'” (pronounced “nah-jah”). It is an invitation for visitors to join in the local dance.” He indicated that in this invitation, they are not worried about terpsichorean skill, saying, “Any step of dance that the visitor does will do. The act of joining in the dance means that you belong, even if you are not a skilled dancer. While that is winsome for relationships,” Archbishop Bolly said, “theology is not like that. Not every step is good. What we do must be ordered by the Word of God.”
Liberal bankruptcy has led to the crisis in Anglicanism. In stark contrast, godly leaders from the Global South gathered in Bangkok to pursue Gospel mission. Many of them are also leaders in GAFCON/FCA. Bangkok provided a wonderful opportunity to build partnership. While the Global South group will continue its networking and pursuit of mission, GAFCON/FCA has been agreed as a mechanism for global renewal. The complementary approach is encouraging to the cause of Christ. Biblical leadership offers bright hope for tomorrow.