To whom shall we go?

Apr 18, 2023 by

by Rev Canon Phil Ashey, AAC:

When Abp Ben Kwashi said at today’s press conference that he hopes this Gafcon would be a new Pentecost, it reflected both the purpose and result of the first Pentecost: empowerment by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ for the nations and to the nations. Many times Gafcon has been seen either, by Canterbury, as a “ginger group” with not much behind it or as a group that only focuses on negative aspects of Western cultural encroachment and human sexuality. But what we see here on this first day is that Gafcon is for something, not just against something. The theme for this conference is “To Whom Shall We Go?”. The disciples asked Christ this when other disciples abandoned him, because what he taught was too hard. When others left, the Lord turned to the Twelve and asked, “Will you leave me, too?” Gafcon’s theme this year was Peter’s response: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It is moving forward with Jesus towards Jesus for the sake of mission.

When anyone moves forward there must be some recognition of where they were before and why they’re moving ahead. Some may see this as focusing on the negative, but before we move on to what we’re called to do, we must remember what we’re leaving, primarily so that we can never go back there again. The vice-chair of Gafcon, the Most Rev. Laurent Mbanda, reminded all Gafcon delegates that what is at stake is the Bible, which has always been central to the ministry of Gafcon. He reminded all those present of the East African Revival, where the clarity and authority of God’s Word became a walking stick for all.

Archbishop Foley Beach also addressed this collapse of biblical faithfulness. The main thrust of his message was repentance, which is key to the Christian vibrant life of both individuals and churches and especially of the Anglican Communion. “We call the Archbishop of Canterbury to repent!” he declared. “We call the Episcopal Church to repent!” There were others called to repentance as well. It was not subtle. It was not uncertain. It was very clear. Unless the Archbishop of Canterbury repents, he can no longer be first among equals in the Anglican Communion. This comment received a loud round of applause. He asked why a secular government of one country gets to pick the spiritual leader of a global communion. It doesn’t make sense, he said, in a post-colonial world. This is what many have thought for awhile, but the recent actions in the Church of England brought the issue to the forefront once again. In order for Anglicans to be an expression of this new Pentecost, Archbishop Beach reminded us that we must also repent. Not just those “out there” but those “in here” in need of transformation. In addition to repenting, we must be a reconciling people (building bridges in Christ to others), a reproducing people (reaching the three billion people who do not yet know Jesus), and a relentlessly compassionate people (always sharing in tangible ways the transforming love of Jesus Christ). The place where this change begins is the human heart, and that’s where we meet Jesus Christ, the one to whom we shall go when the culture and structures around us fail. And it is with him that we must go towards others, to the nations for the sake of the Gospel.

Archbishop Kwashi spoke to the conference in this same spirit. He echoed Abp Mbanda’s words when he stated that the Bible, which much of the Western world has rejected, is the power of God for salvation and not merely just written words. “The world around us is falling into disintegration,” he said. The answer to this is Christ and His Gospel through a biblically-faithful witness. Gafcon has recognized the deficits of the Communion and the sins of her leaders, but now it moves forward in mission, building the Church for the saving of souls and transformation of lives. “Either the Gospel spreads its wings and grows or it stands doing nothing and disintegrates.” Whatever we are facing today there is always hope, he reiterated, because hardship and persecution gives that Gospel wings and breathes new life into what might stagnate. The Jerusalem Declaration is an important step on the road ahead towards Gospel mission. “We believe that the Anglian Communion should and will be reformed,” he quoted, and he stated that holding to the Jerusalem Declaration is an essential part of that strategic focus for moving forward in biblical faithfulness.

The opening ceremony of Gafcon highlighted the fact that the majority of Anglicans live in the Global South. The presence of a Nigerian choir singing traditional hymns in their native language and the enthusiastic Rwandan cultural dance group reminded all of those present that we are part of a global family primarily located in Africa. And there is a clear message ringing out from here: Christ is the one to whom we shall go. Christ is the one we go with, out to all the nations, even if others turn away. The worship and speakers brought hope that here, in Kigali, all those gathered together will receive God’s favor for a new Pentecost that begins in the hearts of each attendee, the churches they are from, and the provinces those churches are a part of. A revitalized Global Communion can then form organically, not from the top down, from primates to laity, but from the ground up. And this is a great hope in Jesus Christ. The Spirit he provides remains with us and empowers all of us when we come to him in faith and repentance. May it be so for the Global Anglican Communion as we move in Christ for the nations.

Received by email

Related Posts


Share This