Church must be holy and gracious around sexuality issue, Archbishop tells GAFCON

Published 24 October 2013  |  
(Photograph: GAFCON)
Official photo of Bishops and Archbishops Day 2 GAFCON 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered his personal greetings to the GAFCON2013 conference by video recording on Wednesday morning.

"I particularly want to congratulate Archbishop Eliud [Wabukala of Kenya] and all his team and all the people in the Anglican Church of Kenya who have worked so hard to get this gathering together," Archbishop Justin Welby said.

"And I am so thrilled that you should be coming together to seek afresh the face of Jesus Christ, and for yourselves to have new vision in his service and bringing the gospel to an incredibly needy world."

He said that it is essential to take time out from the business of life to meet together.

"Archbishop Eliud powerfully spoke a few weeks ago of confidence in the gospel, of a Church that is confident in the good news of Jesus Christ and does not hesitate to proclaim it. What's happening is all around that, in what you're saying and doing with each other," the Archbishop said.

In order to carry out the task of telling people about Jesus Christ, the Archbishop said Anglicans needed to be a Church that is holy.

"That is always a massive challenge. The challenge is slightly different wherever we live. We are dealing with very rapid changes of culture in the Global North and the issue of sexuality is a very important one. How we respond rightly to that – in a way that is holy, truthful and gracious – is absolutely critical to our proclamation of the Gospel.

"Some churches are responding to challenges in their own context that are very different. We have churches that are caught up in the midst of wars and violence and have to learn to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of that. That's really incredibly hard, and I've much experience of seeing it. Other churches are in countries where there are governments that are corrupt. Wherever we are, in our own context, in the right way, we have to live as a Church that is holy.

"In addition, the Gospel has to be proclaimed by a Church that is in unity. That's really tough. It doesn't mean being unanimous, all saying exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. It means that, as Jesus prays in John 17, that we demonstrate by our love for one another that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore people are drawn to believe in him. I don't underestimate the challenge that is to all of us. And I'm so pleased, as I've said already several times, that you are meeting to be clear about where you stand.

"I pray for you this week that you will meet Jesus afresh with elation and joy and celebration; that you will hear his voice; and that you will find the determination, together with all other Christians, in passionate unity and love for another, expressing disagreement graciously yet with powerful truth, to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and there is no other."

Conference members have been enjoying the outstanding venue of All Saints Cathedral, its Trinity Conference Centre and grounds festooned with tents for meals, stands for 44 exhibiting organisations and a street craft market. There are one hundred patient volunteers of whom eighty are members of the cathedral congregation.

The Dean and the Church Council have closed all other Cathedral activities for the week and taken a bank loan of £100,000 to pay for the extra facilities. The overall impression is that this is how a Cathedral and its precincts can be used to resource the whole Church.

There were nine day long 'mini-conferences' today on Islam, Marriage and Family, Theological Education, Aid and Development.

In the evening the UK and Ireland contingent of 120 were hosted at a reception by the Deputy High Commissioner, who had himself been a member of churches led by those present in London and Cambridge.

On Friday the Conference will be presented with drafts of a statement and a commitment.

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