GAFCON: Former spiritual powerhouses now 'hostile' to Christian faith


After celebrating the East African Revival on the opening evening of the conference, those attending GAFCON2013 on Tuesday morning were presented with challenges facing the church around the world.

The day began with a Eucharist in Nairobi Cathedral where there was standing room only. Afterwards the 331 bishops, over a third of those in the Anglican Communion, gathered for a group photograph in which they gave the "One-way" sign.

In his chairman's address Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya said the challenge facing the church "is that the nations which were once the spiritual powerhouses of world wide mission have now become deeply secularised and even hostile to the Christian faith".

"What really rots the fabric of the Communion is the process by which weak churches are gradually taken captive by the surrounding culture," he said.

The Archbishop went on to note that there are powerful and well-funded organisations working to see Kenya adopt the same values that are causing so much havoc to faith, family and society in the West.

He suggested that some would like to see the position of orthodox Anglicans in the Communion similar to African wildlife - limited to special game reserves where they must stay and not challenge false teaching.

"It has now become clear that the Communion needs new wineskins, a new way of ordering its affairs to fulfil the Great Commission. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has now come to this conclusion and I am grateful for His Grace's honesty in acknowledging that the neo-colonial leadership structures need to be replaced.

"Organisational change on its own will not be enough. Even the very weak theological discipline of the Anglican Covenant has failed to win consent and the Archbishop of Canterbury is no longer able to gather the Communion."

The Archbishop drew the following conclusions:

"One, we must be ready to take action. This movement has sought not only to articulate what the Bible teaches, but also to act in obedience to that teaching. We cannot stand by passively as the cause of Christ is attacked and undermined. We are in a spiritual battle which requires prayerful action.

"Two, the strategic global challenge within the Anglican Communion is the re-evangelisation of the West. As my brother GAFCON Primate, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali has said, GAFCON should be to the Anglican Communion as the East African Revival was to this region. This will extend from adventurous practical partnership in mission to the encouragement of powerful biblical apologetics to challenge the secular world view which is now so established.

"Acting in this way will also be a protection for those of us in the Global South as we seek to develop churches and societies which are honouring to God."

Dr Mike Ovey, the Principal of Oak Hill Theological College, North London gave a plenary address analysing the nature of aggressive secularism in western society which Archbishop Wabukala had noted.

He identified a condition of social narcisism in Western society in which people are encouraged from childhood to have a positive and inflated view of themselves, thinking of themselves as entitled and unique, and where self respect has morphed into self esteem.

He noted the lyrics of the late Witney Houston - "Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all" - as indicative of this culture.

He said this resulted in an inability to cope with disappointment and gave as an example the rage that accompanied the defeat of the women bishop's legislation in November 2012.

He went onto say that certain kinds of dissent are deeply resented in western culture and that the church's response to social narcissism has often been cheap grace without repentance, only disapproving of what society already disapproves of. .

This kind of secularism also has an uncritical relationship with science and cannot resist demands of science, he contended.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali noted that social narcissism led to independence from God and from other people and related a recent news report of a woman in the United States who had married herself.

Referring back to the presentation from the East African revival, the only solution was to turn to the light and walk in the light, repent and start again.

In the afternoon Patrick Sookhdeo of the Barnabas Fund led the conference in prayer for the millions of Christians displaced in the Middle East and West Asia with their churches desecrated and their institutions destroyed.

The Archbishop of Sudan, whom it was announced has joined the Primate's Council, told how the Anglican Church of the Sudan had grown from one million to four million during fifty five years of civil war.

"We cannot be threatened by death. Jesus is accompanying us," he said.