Crisis in Anglican Communion is behind us, says Chair of GAFCON

Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, on the eve of GAFCON, 20 October 2013(Photographer: Andrew Gross, ACNA)

The chairman of GAFCON2013, the Archbishop of Kenya told reporters on Monday that Anglicans have moved on from the crisis of recent years.

"The crisis in the Anglican Communion is behind us," said the Most Reverend Eliud Wabukala. "We have moved on. Although the factors that produced it are still there, there are wider issues in the world for Christians also to address."

Preaching in All Saints Cathedral on Sunday to the Primates of Sudan, Southern Cone, Congo, Nigeria, Kenya and the Anglican Church of North America, the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Justin Welby said that the communion should be marked by worship, witness, evangelism and a passion for the Holy Spirit.

The Primates Council of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is leading a conference of 1,352 conservative Anglicans from 38 countries and 27 provinces, which opened in Nairobi on Monday. Thirty archbishops and 300 bishops are attending.

Friends reunited

They gathered at the All Saints Cathedral compound after going through measures of strict security. As they made their way through the tree shaded paths they passed a Masaai market of colourful local crafts, 43 stands in the exhibition area dealing with theological education, economic development, and leadership training, and long queues for tea in the sunshine and shade. Many friends were reunited across the communion.

A Nigerian delegate at afternoon tea GAFCON 2013(Photographer: Stephen Sizer, GAFCON)

Asked if GAFCON was a breakaway Anglican movement, Secretary of the Primates Council Archbishop Peter Jensen said: "Nothing could be further from the truth. It wishes to work in [and] with the Anglican Communion on the very issues Archbishop Welby mentioned. We seek to model how the communion can be when it insists on strong theological standards."

Archbishop Welby is clearly taking note of the words of the Primates Council of GAFCON when it met in London in April 2012 and said that the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion should elect their own chairman.

This conference was not supposed to happen. There was no trigger event like the Lambeth conference and its invitation to the consecrators of Gene Robinson to attend, which lit the fuse for the first GAFCON in Jerusalem in 2008. GAFCON at Jerusalem was ignored by the Anglican instruments of communion because they did not believe it would happen.

The current Archbishop made an enormous 8,000 mile detour to address their leadership. He has also clearly embraced their agenda. GAFCON said in 2008 that the colonial structures of the Anglican Communion need to change, and reiterated this in 2011 when they said that the Primates Meeting should elect their own chairman.

This is a movement to "gather up the fragments" of the Anglican Communion and a "force for unity", Archbishop Jensen said on Sunday at a special lunch with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

GAFCON 2013 is taking place in the Trinity Conference Centre at All Saints Cathedral Nairobi(Photographer: Stephen Sizer, GAFCON)

Paul Perkin chair of FCA (UK and Ireland) said: "It is clear that GAFCON is a worldwide movement, gaining confidence in maintaining the fellowship and mission of Anglicans and [I am] delighted that Archbishop Welby has recognised this."

Opening session on the East African revival

The opening session of the conference was a moving exposition of the story, influence and lessons from the East African revivals of the 1930s and 1970s which fuelled the growth of the churches here. A skillful Kenyan woman interviewer drew out of people who had been transformed by the revival in their youth, some at school, and were now bishops and archbishops.

They stressed again and again that it was a lay movement of teams of people who focused on repentance in response to the cross of Jesus, sometimes openly to others, and lives transformed by the indwelling of Jesus by his Holy Spirit. The hard questions of the genocide in Rwanda were also pressed. The Archbishop of Rwanda said that it was the remnants of the revivalists who stood against the genocide. A video was played of the testimony of the late Bishop Festo Kivengere, converted as an illiterate boy of 10 by someone teaching him to read the Gospel of Luke.

On Tuesday the Primate of Kenya will give his chairman's address, and Rev Mike Ovey, principal of Oak Hill College, Rev Paul Perkin, of St Marks Battersea Rise, and Bishop Michael Nazir Ali will speak to the conference on the Global Challenge.