GAFCON announced new officers at its close last Friday afternoon in Jerusalem. Archbishop Ben Kwashi of the Province of Jos, Nigeria, will immediately assume a transitional post in partnership with the current General Secretary, Archbishop Peter Jensen, whom he will succeed when he retires (for a second time) on 1 January, 2019.
Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA will succeed Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria as chairman of the Primates Council in 2019.
Archbishop Kwashi has been Bishop of Jos for 25years. His wife Gloria convenes the new Women’s Network ,which was formally established with eight others this week.
Together they have provided a home at Bishopscourt for scores of orphaned children. They also keep a pet donkey, a horse, an ostrich, peacocks, goats, cows, pigs and chickens. One night, while home alone, Gloria was badly beaten up and almost lost her sight.
On another occasion intruders took Bishop Ben outside and made him kneel down with a gun pointed at his head. While he prayed, for unexplained reasons the intruders went away.
Archbishop Kwashi is on the Board of Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and is international chairman of Sharing of Ministries Abroad.
“My goal,” says Archbishop Kwashi,“is to focus on world evangelisation, taking the gospel not only in words but in deeds, in humility with simplicity and integrity; to take the love and compassion of Jesus genuinely to all, regardless of gender, race, nationality or condition of life. We have a securely Bible-based ministry of reconciliation, uncompromisingly Holy Spirit-led and missional.”
Bishop Rennis Ponniah of Singapore spoke on the final morning of the 10,000 Anglicans in 80 churches in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Many of these churches had developed after the 2015 earthquake as people found hope in Jesus, he said.
Nepal is one of seven archdeaconries in South and East Asia overseen by the Diocese of Singapore.
In his exposition of Luke’s Passion narrative he focused on the Ascension, still celebrated as a public holiday in Indonesia, which indicated that the Kingdom of God, the new creation had arrived in Jesus to be fulfilled at his return in a new heaven and earth. Jesus was taken up to heaven like Elijah but unlike Elijah bears all of us with him in his chariots of fire.
He said that Jesus’ new age was expressed in healing the sick and delivering the demon possessed.Jesus’ promise that the disciples would be clothed with power from on high recalls Gabriel’s announcement that the power of the most high would overshadow Mary.
However, to counter suggestions that cessationist theology dominated Gafcon, Bishop Ponniah commended ‘being continuously filled with the Spirit through the means of grace in reading Scripture, being filled at the common meal, praying and reaching out’.
Responses to Gafcon
What has Gafcon signified for those who attended?Theologian Dr Claire Smith from Australia said: “It was wonderful to have upwards of 650 women involved in leading so many types of ministry at the conference and so many involved in the programme, leading the liturgy, music, seminars and networks.”
The Rev Hugh Palmer, chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council,said: “Hearingthe stories of courage and boldness in getting the gospel out, who would not want to stand alongside these brothers and sisters? How sad that so many face battles within and without the church.”
The Rev Justin Mote of the North West Gospel Partnership said: “Gafcon has buried for ever the notion that the Anglican Communion is run by the English.”
The Rev William Taylor of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, sees Gafcon as “the only active and effective instrument of communion at the heart of the Anglican Communion, protecting it against the spread of idolatrous unity.”
Rico Tice of Christianity Explored said: “Central to our endeavours is that we honour the Holy Spirit by teaching the truth of the Gospel, lest our Lord remove his lampstand.
“It was an overwhelming reliefto have those representing over 70 per cent of the world’s Anglicans affirm the Christian faith ‘once delivered’! It is now for the Church ofEnglandto decide whether we will preach that gospel, central to which is repenting of all sin as we honour Jesus as Lord of all.”
He noted that the scriptures spoke of judgement on the greedy as well as judgement on sexual sin.
In response to criticism that Gafcon critiqued sexual impropriety in the western church but was publicly silent about it in the African church one African Archbishop responded that his diocese had been exercising such discipline for the last 25 years.
What has Gafcon signified for those who observed? Former EFAC General Secretary Canon Dr Vinay Samuel from India, one of the founders of Gafcon, points out that it has has continued to secure a distinct identity and space for orthodox Anglican faith in the Anglican Communion not only by what it upholds but by expressing a distinctively orthodox understanding of the church.
“With ‘future’ in its title, Gafcon is moving Anglicanism on from being Anglo-centric to being global. It needs to develop a new narrative that the coming generations can own and accept rather than being defined by others as only holding on to the past.
“The apostle Paul pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus. So it is welcome to see mission at the heart of the movement, yet Gafcon cannot sound like an Anglican version of the Lausanne Movement.
“It is an Anglican body of Churches enabling orthodox Anglicans to address contemporary challenges of their cultures in the Non-Western and Western worlds. The challenge it faces is how to witness to the truth with compassion for human frailty and to obedience to God’s standards with repentance, in brotherly love with those parts of the Anglican family who hold different views.
“Gafcon’s strength is not in its numbers but in the leadership it can give to the Anglican Communion in protecting the integrity of orthodox Christian witness in a fast-changing contemporary world.”