A SECOND Gafcon conference was held in the Middle East at the end of February that brought a current witness of ministry among war, suffering and persecution
The G19 Conference director Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali told the The Church of England Newspaper that “a good number of faithful Anglicans could not attend Gafcon in Jerusalem last year, so a conference was arranged at a place accessible to them.
“More than 100 leaders from 12 nations attended (in all 4 primates, 31 bishops and ‘internal provincial’ archbishops, 44 clergy and 59 lay leaders) from the Middle East, South Asia, and East and West Africa.”
He said that these were fellow Christians that ‘we must not isolate’.
“Some churches who were able to attend Gafcon last year sent leaders to encourage but also to learn from the main participants, who bring the dimension of suffering to Gafcon –correcting any temptation to triumphalism.
“Participants said the conference exceeded their expectations – for fellowship, teaching, and engagement. All delegates were involved in prayer groups, discussion groups, and developing the conference statement which will be available on the Gafcon website.
“This was a gathering of the suffering and restricted church, but they were hungry for bible teaching, and exuberant in worship. Their witness should be central to the life and work of the Anglican Communion.”
Gafcon’s new Secretary General, Archbishop Ben Kwashi, spoke of his experience of death threats, murders of Christians, burned churches and confiscation of property over the years in Jos, Nigeria. “The Christian Gospel does not destroy—it builds, in all contexts. There is no gospel of retaliation. You must clear and clean your minds of all bitterness and violence and retaliation.”
He encouraged the suffering Church to look at Peter’s First Epistle for encouragement in the face of persecution and concluded with this exhortation: “I don’t want money! I want a Communion that will weep and suffer with me, not persecute me and take away my Bible. The Bible is the only thing I have to hold onto! So now we must all hold on to the Word of God! It is the only thing to hold on to.
“We learn through suffering how to use the little that we have to the glory of God. As leaders of the church under persecution, we must stress this over and against the self-centred, self-serving altars we build to ourselves—tear them down so that we may deny ourselves and pour out our lives for Jesus.”
The 1,300 word conference statement “Streams in the Desert – a letter from Churches in Restricted Situations”, available at www.Gafcon.org, speaks of “the sense of betrayal when the very gospel for which they (those living in restricted situations) are suffering is being undermined and denied in other parts of the Anglican Communion” …. which undermines “the credibility of our witness amongst our fellow citizens of other faiths and of none.”
The statementurges “that all faithful Anglican provinces, including the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Province of Brazil, be invited to future Anglican gatherings and that those provinces, bishops and clergy who openly disregard the teaching of the Church as described, for example, by Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, should not be invited unless they repent of their actions and their consequences.”
They also request that the Gafcon Primates consider developing a new network to provide fellowship, advocacy and intentional prayer for those in restricted situations.