Remarkable Repentance on Day Four of Gafcon Kigali

Apr 21, 2023 by

by Canon Phil Ashey, AAC:

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16-17) and, therefore, it is worth paying whatever cost to stand up for and share this power-of-God Gospel with the world. Along the way, we need to ask ourselves about this cost. What lessons can we learn from the Church of Uganda, and others, about breaking Communion with Anglican Churches that will not uphold the Gospel? What is the cost of breaking Communion with the Mother Church of England? How can we reset the Communion on a Gospel basis? What can GAFCON and Global South do in this new reset to address the needs of African Anglicans in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ faithfully to all nations? These are among the questions the Rev. Canon Dr. Alison Barfoot (Church of Uganda) and I discussed in our Anglican Perspective Podcast yesterday evening. [See below]

We need the power of the Gospel more than ever in the cultures we are evangelizing where identity politics and divisions are deepening. This morning, we heard the power of the Gospel in the exposition of Colossians 3:1-17 by Archbishop Kanishka Raffel (Sydney) who contrasted the identity politics and divisions of the world with the identity of the Church and the unity we experience as followers of Jesus Christ. The identity of the Church finds its source in Jesus Christ and his saving work alone (Col. 3:1-4). “Therefore,” said Archbishop Raffel, “let Jesus be the counselor whose advice and approval is our sole focus.” The identity of the Church is shaped by the character of Christ (Col. 3:5-14) whose death on the cross calls us to “put to death whatever belongs to our earthly (sinful) nature” and “clothe ourselves” with the new nature Christ has given us, his very life, especially his forgiveness and love. Finally, the identity of the Church is formed by Christ-centered habits of the heart (Col. 3:15-17) especially the practice of peace as we gather around God’s word with thankfulness for all Christ has done for us. “Therefore,” he said, “there is no room for grumbling or pride or self-congratulation when we gather together.”

Archbishop Raffel also focused on two things at the heart of identity politics and divisions in our cultures: sex and speech. “Put to death therefore…sexual immorality,” and “rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language…” (Col. 3:5, 8-9). Because of these two things, the wrath of God is coming (Col. 3:6). Why? Because God cares about relationships, and sexual immorality and destructive speech are at the heart of unraveled relationships in our secular cultures.

He then turned the spotlight on the Church and said we, too, must repent of the same things. He noted that our championing of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) often only focuses on one aspect of sexual immorality, whereas the Resolution also includes the following expressions of sexual immorality:

“Promiscuity, prostitution, incest, pornography, paedophilia, predatory sexual behaviour, and sadomasochism (all of which may be heterosexual and homosexual), adultery, violence against wives, and female circumcision. From a Christian perspective these forms of sexual expression remain sinful in any context.” (Called to Full Humanity, Section 1 Report, subsection 3)

Noting the voices of the victims of these forms of sexual immorality especially victims of predatory sexual behavior, prostitution, and violence in marriage, and our failure to address these dimensions in our focus on homosexuality, Archbishop Raffel concluded that “there is a self-serving blind spot for which we must repent lest the wrath of God fall upon us.” He was followed immediately by Archbishop Peter Jensen (Sydney, ret.) who invited all GAFCON members to first repent of our sins and to turn away from our own impurity before we call others to repent.

A remarkable moment of repentance followed—a time of quiet self-examination for repentance of our own sins and prayers for forgiveness. I was reminded of the challenges we are facing in ACNA in responding to accusations of clergy misconduct by victims of predatory sexual behavior and other abuses of position and power. To what degree are we experiencing the cutting edge of God’s wrath for our failures? What can we do to repent?

Our time of prayer was followed immediately by an unexpected presentation by GAFCON leaders regarding the financial challenges facing GAFCON. It was very surprising and sobering. The leadership challenged those present to respond with extraordinary giving to raise a multi-million dollar endowment to fund the ongoing operations of GAFCON. This “ask” raises questions about the operations of GAFCON. But in the spirit of Archbishop Raffel’s challenge from Colossians 3, is this financial crisis one of the ways God is trying to speak to and shape GAFCON in its operations, vision, and mission? Is there a blind spot in the way GAFCON has functioned for which there needs to be some repentance?

At the heart of true repentance lies the heart of God and the heart of sinful people like you and me. This was the subject of the Rev. Dr. Ashley Null’s plenary presentation on “The power to love: the heart of historic Anglicanism.” Dr. Null reminded us that the human heart requires repentance because it is at the center of human sin. It is also at the center of humanity’s restoration. Our insecurities lead us to act in sinful ways driven by the disordered desires of our hearts. The only way out of sin is to discover a burning love for God that turns us outward away from self.

Medieval Catholic repentance was a combination of fear and hope, but the English Reformers like Thomas Cranmer thought the love of God, rather than the fear of God, leads to true change. The Reformers realized that the sins we struggle with draw us away from the love of God and act as replacements for it. They recognized that the devil’s principal strategy is to make us doubt that God really loves us, to turn away from God’s love, and to feel good about ourselves through “the devices and desires of our own heart.” By ourselves, we do not have the capacity to love God rather than sin.

In returning to the power of the Gospel, the Reformers rediscovered the truth of I John 4:19: We love God because he first loved us. So, Cranmer makes this the central theme of our liturgies and prayers in the Book of Common Prayer! God’s love comes first and always, not our own works and efforts. Through these prayers, we are reminded constantly of the love of God for us whose voice in our hearts can never be extinguished. Only God’s love for sinners can inspire sinners like you and me to love God more than sin!

This is the heart of remarkable repentance and the heart of true discipleship. This is what GAFCON stands for and what also must be at the heart of a reset Anglican Communion. We need GAFCON not only to remind us of this remarkable repentance but also to lead by example.


You cannot be what you cannot see. Since our creation, we are tempted to look away from the one we were meant to become. This affects everything about what it means for us to be human and also to be made in God’s image. In Genesis 3:1-5, Satan drove a wedge between the Creator and the Created by insinuating God didn’t have the best interests of the newly formed Image-Bearers at heart. Rather than look at the God with whom they walked in Paradise, they looked at the serpent and the fruit he offered. They soon became like what they gazed upon: bound to the earth, eating dirt in order to be satisfied. No longer could they see the one who could bring them up out of the limits of the earth and into heavenly realities. The glass through which they were allowed to perceive God had grown dim. The results of this new blindness were shame, fear, deception, and division from God and one another.

This is the tragic part of the Anglican Communion’s story in modern times. The glory she shared in and for Christ has dimmed, because some of the churches listened to another voice, and they stopped beholding Christ. They have reaped what they have sown: division, chaos, dwindling numbers, and irrelevance for real Gospel change. Gafcon is a great effort to recover the glory that was lost, grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Truth of His Word, and our identity in Him. There is a reason that the book of Colossians is the focus of daily Bible studies, where we have heard how St. Paul calls the Colossians to remember Christ’s supremacy, to look upon His glory, and to grasp the promise of that same glory within each of them.

We cannot become what we can’t perceive, and often, especially because of the world’s darkness, we find Christ’s glory hard to see. This is why God set his Church in the midst of the world, as a light to reflect the glory of God in Jesus Christ to those in darkness.

But what will we do when that glory is obscured in the church itself? How great must that darkness be?

A.W. Tozer wrote in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” The images we have of Him as Lord and Savior color how we pray, how we read Scripture, how we treat our families and our neighbors, what we teach, and how we live. Gafcon is here to call us back to repentance and, in reality, to help us recover the image of God in the Church. As Christians, spiritual blindness has driven us to embrace our sins, addictions, and anxieties. Many of us are overly-driven, seeking approval through those around us. We have been passive and have refused to take up our authority and our place as leaders in our families, workplaces, or churches. We accept an orphan heart rather than a heart of sonship, and we can resist many of the comforts offered to us by Christ, because we really don’t trust him. We tolerate false teaching and are willing to surrender what is tried and true for what is new.

Our healing begins by gazing intently at Christ again in the Scriptures, through the Church’s worship, in the spiritual disciplines, and in healthy men and women of God. We must commit our lives once again to God and ask that he transform our brokenness by the power of his Holy Spirit. We must begin to read and pray through the Scriptures. We must meditate and talk about who God is as revealed in the Bible and who we are meant to be in light of who He is. We must press into the process of forgiveness. We must work through forgiving our fallen leaders, those who hurt us and contributed to our distorted view of God and ourselves.

In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God promises a time when he will heal our inability to perceive him well, when we will all know him, even as we are known. The beginning of healing our image of God comes through believing that God is present and that he wants to be known. Then through prayer, fellowship, the Word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can grow into a deeper knowledge of who God really is, revealed in the glory of Jesus Christ. We will then begin to reflect that glory as we walk towards Paradise and, at the same time, lead those behind us on that same path. Gafcon reminds us this week that such healing is possible. Change will come and blind eyes will see, and once we behold him whose sight was lost to us, we will never be the same again.


Archbishop Kanishka Raffel of Sydney opened up the day with a morning teaching on Colossians Three. The foundation of the church’s identity is its union with Christ in all that he has done and will do. He spoke on the importance of embracing Christ’s supremacy and his identity as the Church, so that we can let go of the things in this world that define us. We can now know that there are no boundaries for those who want all that Christ has to give. And what he has to give is freedom from the old world of sin and death and union with himself. This hope is the basis for our identity as Christians. We must hold on to this hope despite the hidden aspects of that identity and that promise. We still see our own sin and selfishness, the persecution that the Church is going through, and the hardships that we suffer. But just as the glory of God was hiding in Christ on the cross, the glory of Christ is hidden in us as we walk through suffering. Our hope is that the glory of who we really are will one day be revealed.

The first plenary was led by the Rev. Dr. Ashley Null, who spoke on the renewal of the power to love, which is the heart of historic Anglicanism. He compared the English reformers’ view of the love of God as the central foundation for true repentance and transformation as opposed to the medieval view of self-condemnation and penance. Though the medieval church may have had the love of God as a theme in its spirituality, it had become obscured by many other teachings that brought man’s efforts to the forefront and God’s merciful love to the back.

Our sin, motivated by a desire to fill a void in our hearts that can only be filled by God’s love, is strengthened when robbed of the promise of God’s love. The devil convinces us that we’re unloved and that we should get our self-worth elsewhere, until we’re enslaved to the very things we’ve turned to. It is when we come to believe God’s love for us that we are given the inner strength to say “no” to the sins that took the place of his love. It is love that produces change; not fear, shame, or self-condemnation. Thomas Cranmer saw this major issue in the medieval church and put the love of God as the central theme for the English prayerbook and its liturgy. Out of this central theme, all other themes flow, so that God’s judgment is seen through the cross and the love of God, rather than the other way around. This is the great news that we have, not just for the world but for ourselves as we walk out our Christian life away from sin and towards God.

After lunch, attendees again broke out into seminars that reflected different ministries around the Anglican Communion. Today’s seminars included:

Contending in the Cause of the Gospel, with Dr. Gloria Kwashi
The Unchanging Gospel in a Changing World
Your Sisters and Brothers Throughout the World
Youth and Children
Biblical Ministry in African Cultural Settings
So Everyone Can See Your Progress, on selecting leaders, lifelong training, and developing and strengthening in ministry

Attendees were given free time before dinner, afterwhich they were able to attend a third night of God at Work in the World. This time, the focus was on Central and South America. Bishop Bill Atwood, Bishop of the ACNA International Diocese, hosted the speakers, who included Archbishop Tito Zavala of Chile, Bishop Eric Menees of the ACNA diocese of San Joaquin, Jenny Noyes of New Wineskins, and others. They spoke on the work of God in Mexico, Central America, and South America through the ministries of Caminamos Juntos and other ministries bringing outreach to Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries. Archbishop Ben Kwashi then went on stage to interview the Rev. Craig Roberts, head of Youth Works, from the Diocese of Sydney on the ministry going on with youth in Australia and the ways in which Gafcon can help develop missions for the sake of the next generation.

(Received by email)

Anglican Perspective
Gafcon Kigali: God at Work in Uganda

Canon Phil interviews the Rev. Cn. Dr. Alison Barfoot, the Archbishop of Uganda’s Assistant for International Relations and Director of Communications. They discuss the work of God in Uganda through partnership with both Gafcon and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches, as well as her thoughts on Gafcon Kigali and the ministry happening here today.

Listen here


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