An extra platform had to be constructed on the southern steps of the Jerusalem Temple Mount to accommodate the almost 2,000 Gafcon delegates on Thursday afternoon for the Conference Photograph.
The delegates were welcomed by a Government minister and to hear the Rev David Pileggi, rector of Christ Church, Jerusalem, explain the significance of the venue.
These were the actual steps up which Jesus and his devout parents would have entered the Temple every year, and on which Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost.
Some 3,000 people were baptised then and the apostles may have used the hundreds of ritual bathing places to accommodate the crowd.
There had been some disappointment that the venue of Jerusalem had precluded Anglicans from some Muslim-majority countries from attending. Archbishop Mouneer Anis was prevented by the authorities at Cairo’s airport from flying out.
But there was a profound sense that for Anglicans, as for all Christians, ‘this place was our family home where all were on an equal footing because none could be host or owner’.
“And a home with what a history as we walked through the stone streets of the Old City, the Jewish Quarter, hard by the Wailing Wall and centred around an impressive Menorah, like the one made by Moses from the Israelites’ gold and then looted by Emperor Titus and melted down to pay for the Coliseum,” one delegate said.
They travelled through the Armenian Quarter, recalling the Armenian Genocide of 1915, past the Roman High Street three to four metres below modern Jerusalem and finally to the Christian Quarter and Christ Church, Jaffa Gate, built through a concession wrung from the Ottoman Empire as the sole payment for England’s help in time of war.
Earlier in the day, the Rev David Short of St John’s Shaughessy, Vancouver, had expounded the book of Titus to show Paul’s and God’s strategy to transform the pirate culture of the lying brutish and gluttonous Cretans to produce people to live upright lives through the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
Then the leaders of the Gafcon movement, identified as Archbishops Miguel Bonino of Brazil, Foley Beach of ACNA, Ole Sapit of Kenya, Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, Stanley Ntagali of Uganda, Tito Tzavala of Chile, Gregory Venables of South America, Stephen Tan of Myanmar, Peter Jensen formerly of Sydney and Bishop Andy Lines (ACNA Bishop for Europe), led the assembly in prayer for the reconciliation meeting in Addis Ababa of the President and Vice President of South Sudan.
They then read a declaration that called on all in the Anglican Communion to “unite with us in the defence and proclamation of the gospel.”
Archbishop Glenn Davies of Sydney gave the first reading of the Conference Statement. This is embargoed until the final draft is approved on Friday morning. The Convenor is Dr Stephen Noll (USA/Uganda) with Bishop Michael Stead (Sydney), Archbishop David Onouha (Nigeria), Archbishop Laurent Mbanda (Rwanda), the Rev Dr John Senyonyi (Uganda), Canon Alison Barfoot (Uganda), the Rev Tim Anderson (Ireland), Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali (Pakistan/UK), Archbishop Tito Tzavala (Chile) and the Rev Dr Mark Thompson (Sydney).
Delegates were assured that the group had started with a blank sheet of paper and were told: “You need to own the statement”.
The statement projected on screen was read out in 27 minutes and over the lunch hour regional groups discussed their responses for the drafters who would work all night to produce the final version for approval on Friday morning.
During conference breaks delegates visited the Exhibitors’ stands including a stand from EFAC where the General Secretary Richard Crocker reported that delegates had been ‘like bees round a honeypot.’
He said the seam of goodwill “will take a long time for follow-up. Biblically faithful provinces want to establish EFAC, and places where EFAC has never been, want it.”
Before delegates left for the Temple Steps on 40 coaches, Archbishop Stephen Tan of Myanmar spoke of the unending 64-year civil war in his country. At the age of 24 he was imprisoned and tortured by the government. Although he was uninvolved, his two brothers had evaded capture so he was arrested.
Brought up as a Christian he lost his faith in prison. He was confined with no light and no toilet in his cell for six months. Contemplating suicide he prayed one last time and then saw a purple cross. He fainted and seemed to fall down a deep hole.
At the bottom he heard someone say: “My son, I am always with you.” He shouted, “Jesus is alive” and began to preach in the jail.