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Lusaka

 

Lusaka

To be fair, I admit I wasn’t in Lusaka for the ACC-16 meeting, but I’ve been to lots of Communion
stuff beginning when Michael Ramsey was Archbishop of Canterbury. Throughout the leadership tenures of Archbishops Donald Coggin, George Carey, and Rowan Williams, I’ve attended more gatherings than I can possibly remember. Somewhere around twenty-five years ago, I was even a regular speaker at ECUSA events and was treated very well until I diverged from the rhythmic march. What got me so out of step happened at a national church-planting conference where I was the Eucharistic celebrant. Just before the service began, two people came up to me and said, “In order to help the dis-enfranchized people feel welcome, for the Lord’s Prayer, you will have to say, ‘Our Mother Who art in heaven…’” I didn’t, and I came home never to return. 

Some may think that I’m bitter and stuck in a time warp, living in past struggles and unable to get on with the “new day.” Most of the time, I am quite happily a “new day” dweller. Sadly, some of the same gangrenous necrosis, oxymoronically “lives on.” It isn’t alive in the Biblical sense of “God’s kind of life,”, zoe (zwh), but it does “live on” in that it keeps on coming back, and back, and back. Rather than just being an irritant, the knowledge that the struggles in the Communion are actually about salvation, it is a really big deal. The Church exists to worship God, extend the Kingdom, and de-populate Hell. When instead the authority of Scripture is undermined or denied, by General Convention resolution or other institutional means, we are dealing with the most serious of problems. Nothing is worse than the institutional church leading people away from the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. It is heartbreaking that such a trajectory can wind up leading people to Hell. That is why I drag my multi-multi-million-mile body back on to a plane to work to stop increasing the population of the lake of anguish in Hell.  

So here is my assessment of the Lusaka meeting: 

1The Primates earlier (in a January meeting) offered absolutely the most minimal discipline that could be done without totally losing credibility. TEC was not supposed to vote or deliberate about polity, doctrine, or ecumenical affairs. 

2TEC came to Lusaka. 

3TEC voted at Lusaka. 

4TEC fully participated in the meeting in Lusaka. 

5TEC reported that they fully participated and voted, claiming themselves that they did not follow the decision of the Primates Meeting. 

6Many institutional leaders gave a litany of reasons why the Primates don’t have authority. 

7Many utterly distorted the context of the desire to “walk together” and completely ignored the discipline that is necessary for that to happen. 

8The focus of the meeting (made clear by the resolutions) was institutional- rather than Gospel-centered, and a close examination of most of what came out of the meeting reveals that even when Gospel language is used, it means different things to different people. 

In dramatic contrast was the meeting of the GAFCON Primates in Nairobi, which I did attend and which met shortly after the ACC. It was originally scheduled to be in Chile, but there were problems getting visas for some of the people, so we had to move it to Nairobi at the last minute. 

The atmosphere in Nairobi was very, VERY different from the many “institutional” meetings I have attended. The most dramatic difference was that the undergirding principle of the GAFCON Primates meeting was the Gospel. By that, I mean people being saved, forgiven, discipled, and transformed. The Primates are in absolute agreement about the supreme authority of Scripture, but even though everyone knows it is a shared value, it is repeated constantly, not because those speaking are trying to convince people to accept Biblical authority, but because the life-giving power of the Word is being celebrated. 

Nairobi 

Each day began with Bible study that was truly “world class.” People who live on the frontiers of the Gospel often present Biblical passages with a fresh perspective that brings revolution to our lives. That was certainly the case with the Bible studies in Nairobi. 

When the time came to discuss the state of the Anglican Communion and the ACC meeting in Lusaka, I was struck by two features. First of all, never was there a sense of hopelessness or victimhood. At every turn, godly leaders were prayerfully discussing how to be linked together in a faithful way. Second, every discussion revolved around sharing the Good News in word and deed, and working to disciple people.  

Many messages of solidarity came from people who were not able to attend, and a number of Provinces sent messages stating that they want to get together and join with GAFCON leadership. One Archbishop who has not been involved in GAFCON invited me (as GAFCON Ambassador) to come and visit him so we could talk about planning a series of meetings with his bishops and other leaders, to bring the Province into the GAFCON movement. As he said, “We absolutely must be unified. We need to work together for the Gospel.” 

Truly exciting plans are proceeding for the 10th anniversary celebration of the original GAFCON meeting that was held in Jerusalem. The 10th anniversary meeting will be on the “every five years” pattern that has been planned since the first meeting. Wonderful things are in the works for those gatherings, but simply getting together every five years is not enough. There are also networks forming (some are already robust and effective) and quite a few other works are in the offing.  

The Primates also commended a conference that is coming up, and you should know about it, too. It is the Global Proclamation Congress that is going to be held in Bangkok, Thailand in June 15-22, 2016. It is a gathering of as many as 5,000 people who are interested in and/or pursuing discipleship training, not only for individual Christians but also for discipleship training for Pastors. Already more than 2,000 people have registered from more than 100 countries.  Although it is not an “Anglican” conference, the founders love the Anglican Church and are keen to work with GAFCON. You can read more about it here: http://www.gprocongress.org

There is a special conference rate for Anglicans (at least those Anglicans committed to the authority of Scripture). Here, from the Congress website: 

The following profile will be true of delegates to the Congress:

What does a GProCongress delegate look like?

A servant of the Lord Jesus Christ who is committed to accelerating Church health worldwide by involvement or interest in the training of pastors anywhere and in every possible way, whether in formal and/or non-formal settings

and this:

All attendees will commit to training, on average, at least 25 pastors each year over the following four years, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America

The Congress is a wonderful design for discipleship, harnessing truths that have been learned from more than a hundred studies that have identified principles that will work cross-culturally anywhere. We can learn a great deal about discipleship. Our Primates commend this conference as one of the events related to discipleship that is going on with GAFCON. 

 A few years ago, multinational teams from GAFCON Provinces in East Africa (all native Swahili speakers) traveled to eastern Congo to do evangelism, church planting, intercessory prayer for spiritual warfare, discipleship, and economic development. Nothing of that magnitude of multinational outreach is being done by others. It is people associated with the GAFCON fellowship that are doing the most effective “heavy lifting.” Besides that, GAFCON is growing. I could describe countless other examples to underscore the reality of how GAFCON Provinces are providing a clarion call to pursue the Gospel.

 I left Nairobi inspired by the leaders we have. I am in awe of their sacrificial witness to Christ and their courage in the midst of what may well be the greatest struggle in the Church for 500 years. Individuals can go to the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans website: GAFCON

There they will find information about what is happening, a place to sign up for updates, and even an opportunity to donate.

The Anglican Communion Office is promoting a Sunday to give to the Anglican Communion. A better investment In the Kingdom is supporting GAFCON, where you can be sure that everything that is being done is unapologetically being pursued under the authority of Scripture. Nothing that involves people is perfect, but I can tell you this: I could not be more proud of our GAFCON leaders. They are faithful, wise, and practical. They understand the pressures of time and the places where the Gospel is most under attack, and they are laying a Biblical foundation on which the Good News can be fruitfully built and discipleship can be pursued.

 

That is worth joining!