Gafcon events in England and USA

Jul 4, 2017 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

The last week of June has seen a number of high profile events marking the life of Gafcon, the global movement for renewal of the Anglican Communion according to biblical orthodoxy.

29th June is Gafcon Day, the anniversary of the first unveiling of the iconic Jerusalem Declaration and Statement at the end of the first Gafcon gathering in 2008. These documents, agreed with great rejoicing by a racially and culturally diverse group of Anglican leaders united in understanding of the message and mission of the Church, remain a beacon of hope for millions, and a challenge to those who want to alter that message to be more acceptable to the dominant powers of the age.

It’s really worth reading the Jerusalem Declaration regularly. Its clear summary of historic Christian creeds, celebration of Anglican history, polity and worship, commitment to upholding New Testament standards of marriage and family, and call to heterodox leaders to repentance, remains the best basis available for genuine unity and fellowship across a diversity of cultures and variety of worship styles and understandings of secondary issues.


On 30th June, in Wheaton, Illinois, as part of the programme of the Assembly of the Anglican Church of North America, Canon Andy Lines, Mission Director of Crosslinks in London, was consecrated by Bishops of ACNA and a number of Primates of the Anglican Communion, as a ‘missionary Bishop’ for Europe. He will have special focus on congregrations in Scotland which have broken fellowship with the Scottish Episcopal Church over their decision to redefine marriage, and also AMiE congregations which are outside C of E structures. The official report and video of the consecration can be seen here, and an excellent personal reflection from an observer from England can be found here.


Meanwhile in England two meetings were held to celebrate and promote the Gafcon vision, firstly at St James, Clerkenwell in London on 28th June, and then in Hartford, Cheshire on the 30th. The London gathering, attended by around 200 clergy and laity, was introduced by Andy Lines before his journey across the Atlantic for the consecration, and the addressed firstly by Prebendary Charles Marnham, who spoke movingly on the importance of Gafcon as a global missionary movement: as an encouragement to him personally as a minister of a central London C of E church, and as a vital support to orthodox Anglicans in north America, whose courage and sacrifices are still not widely understood in Britain.

At Friday’s meeting in the north west, the opening address was given by Bishop Keith Sinclair, who spoke warmly of his experience of the Gafcon meetings in Jerusalem 2008 and Nairobi 2013, and the joint Gafcon/Global South gathering in Cairo 2016. As parts of the Anglican Communion, particularly those in the cultural ‘West’, appear to be embracing another gospel, Gafcon is vital in its role of calling the church to repent and return to the truth. The vision encourages us to find creative ways of showing how the biblical message about God, men and women, and how we are created to live, is for the benefit and flourishing of all people.


Both meetings featured a number of short interviews and presentations giving a flavour of the diversity of Anglican life in Britain that is connected with Gafcon. Andy Lines himself spoke briefly on the 28th June about his forthcoming role and the churches he will be ministering to. The meeting on the 30th June was able to display photos from the consecration in USA which had taken place just hours earlier, and we prayed specially for Andy and his family.

The majority of Gafcon supporters in England are still committed to contending for biblical orthodoxy within the C of E, perhaps with some form of separation from those who promote false teaching, and the meeting featured interviews with those who took this position. While the direction of the C of E is of great concern, there are still great opportunities for the ministry of the local parish church in mission and pastoral care, based on the great heritage of reformed theology which still remains at the heart of our denomination.

But other models are also emerging: we heard from gifted clergy from Nigeria with remarkable experience of church growth in that nation. With more time available it would have been great to hear more from Ven Dr Gideon Illechukwu about his involvement in the establishment of 43 new congregations in Nigeria while also training and then working as a medical doctor as well as an ordained clergyman! Gideon, now based in Manchester, spoke of how new Nigerian Anglican congregations are developing in a number of British cities. Similarly, Canon Amatu Christian-Iwuagwu, who attended the 2008 Gafcon meeting in Jerusalem and was able to speak about the strengths and weaknesses of the Church of Nigeria, is now Priest in Charge of a Parish in West London, and is involved a network of Igbo speaking congregations and chaplaincies for Nigerian Anglican students across the south of England.

Meanwhile the Free Church of England, which originated in 19th century disassociations from the C of E because of false teaching and broken fellowship, and the more recently formed Anglican Mission in England, are providing two discrete but united-in-faith models of being Anglican outside the Church of England, linked to Gafcon. In the coming months these will link up further with the new Scottish Anglican Network, and who knows – perhaps new groups in England and Wales which may emerge. These small groups are sparking renewed interest from some clergy keen to look for possible future ‘lifeboats’ should they feel that a full break with the official structures may be needed in the future.


The Gafcon meetings on 28th and 30th both concluded with an address by Peter Jensen, retired Archbishop of Sydney and Secretary General of Gafcon. He began by confessing that in the past he did not sufficiently value the Anglican Communion or the role of its Bishops, but over recent years he has seen the vital importance of both: the Communion as a global mission network, and good Bishops as leaders in the tasks of disciple making and relating the church to society.

The Church of England has historically been used disproportionately by God in the task of world mission, but now we face grave spiritual danger, he said. Anglicans must decide which direction to follow. The ‘strategy of compromise’ with the increasingly assertive values of society as they drift further from Christian orthodoxy, does not necessarily mean affirming a liberal position. It can be seen also in trying to adopt ‘the middle ground’, relegating key issues of sexual ethics to ‘secondary matters’, perhaps casting doubt on the clarity of the Bible’s witness. Rather, faithful believers should follow ‘the strategy of Elijah’, challenging false ideologies and calling both church and nation back to the life-giving ways of Christ, even to the point of withdrawing fellowship from those who believe a different gospel. This should be done in love, and with tears. The ‘voice of Elijah’ is not an individual, but a vision and a movement such as represented by Gafcon, whose purpose is uniting the global church around biblical truth and equipping it for mission.


The meetings ended with brief details about recent increases in membership of Gafcon (to join Gafcon, see here), and information about the next great conference in Jerusalem, June 2018.


Andrew Symes is Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream, and also on the Task Group of Gafcon UK

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