God is on the move in the broken Anglican Communion

(Photo: Gafcon)

I write as GAFCON IV [Global Anglican Future Conference] has just ended. It was held in clean, green, beautiful Kigali, Rwanda, with over 1,300 delegates - perhaps two thirds from the Majority World, spanning 52 countries.

We met in Kigali's iconic Convention Centre, where I perched high in the stands to overlook this sea of people. Such a vantage point gave great views of both the speakers and the delegates and how they were responding to what they were hearing.

Over the week, we enjoyed vibrant cross-cultural worship, preaching, training, small and larger group work and resource-sharing. We were encouraged to think outside the box, begin conversations and start exploring partnerships: what were we waiting for?

The leisurely breaks and delicious food (local and international cuisine) facilitated these exchanges, as did the settings - spacious, exotic gardens and magnificent views over this city of a hundred hills.

Most importantly, we contributed to and witnessed the public presentation of the magisterial Kigali Commitment. Please do read it! It has been reported that approximately 85 per cent of the Anglican Communion is represented by the eleven Primate signatories, and it is not confined to issues in the CofE but speaks to all.

Crossing the Rubicon and what's next?

There was little time spent unpacking the CofE blessing of same-sex unions and, unfortunately, few realize that these unions are not inherently, automatically monogamous or exclusive. This aspect was not addressed nor its profound implications.

However, the impact of these blessings was clearly spelled out. 'The rot' set in decades ago but has only come to full public fruition now. In fact, what is at stake is biblical authority, not just in relation to same-sex matters but also the uniqueness of Christ and other aspects like his physical, bodily Resurrection.

The CofE is following The Episcopal Church, USA, in developing what is in many ways a new religion with politically-correct aspects of orthodoxy included to quell the misgivings of the still faithful. Though wealthy, TEC is old and dying. Will the CofE follow suit?

The mourning and grief over this sorry state was almost palpable, and tears were shed. But barring a miracle, the Rubicon has been crossed.

The question now on people's minds: what will GAFCON (a movement, though also, the Global South, an 'ecclesial body') do next?

Thankfully, GAFCON and the Global South are now working closely together; these entities and the huge constituencies they collectively represent are the hope and future of the Communion.

On GAFCON and the Global South, much has been written on the different aspects, interpretations, potential future scenarios etc. I focus here on my own personal reflections about and around the wonderfully rich, intense experience which was GAFCON IV - my fourth GAFCON conference and in my opinion, the best thus far.

1. The future belongs to the fertile

In both physical and spiritual ways, the African continent is taking the lead with its youthful populations and thriving churches. There are 25 million regular Anglican worshippers in Nigeria alone. The amazed reaction of Empress Jadis in CS Lewis' Magician's Nephew to Digory and Polly's earth kept coming to mind: cold, dull, dark, empty worlds versus warm, sunny, colourful, populated ones.

2. God is in the desolation

Cheek by jowl with heart-warming, 'God showing up' reports, were sickening accounts of persecution and death in many countries. In Nigeria, girls and women are particularly at risk. In 2021 alone more than 4,500 Christians are reported to have been killed.

Nigerian Archbishop Ben Kwashi recounted how he fled for his life, only to return to find his home burnt to the ground. He now carries a small, coffin-shaped box with a handful of these ashes and a cross, which survived the fire.

Another Nigerian pastor just had three of his flock kidnapped the week before.

All they have is God. I had to wonder: is it, is He, enough? They say yes, and have nothing to gain by being duplicitous. What are we in the West missing?

3. 'No earthly good'

The popular caricature of conservative religious people - 'so heavenly minded they are no earthly good' - was exposed as grossly false, at least in terms of this group. We heard of many innovative, cutting-edge acts of mercy (relief and development) to victims of war, drought, disaster etc, often done at great personal risk and cost and with no public recognition or reward.

On a separate but related issue, many Majority Christian brothers and sisters live at much lower economic levels than we do in the West. How is that right? We were encouraged to explore how we can practically assist and James 2 came to mind.

Concerns about government corruption, financial abuse, electoral integrity, justice and righteousness also emerged in many chats over coffee - music to my ears! 'This world' matters to them too.

4. Removing the log first and that 'self-serving blind spot'

Given the challenges of same-sex sex and its attendant spiritual strongholds around Baal, it was imperative that we owned our 'stuff'. What of our own frailties, addictions, flaws, failures, wounds - and not just in the sexual realm but across the board? We were encouraged to search our hearts and confess our sins in lengthy times of silence. This happened not once but daily.

On Day 4, Sydney Archbishop Kanishka Raffel remarked that, while noting the voices of the victims of non-LGBT forms of sexual immorality especially victims of predatory sexual behavior, prostitution, and violence in marriage, and the Church's failure to address these dimensions in its focus on homosexuality, "there is a self-serving blind spot for which we must repent lest the wrath of God fall upon us."

5. Rich social capital - touch matters

Alfred Kinsey's mostly toxic sexual revolution has been somewhat contained in the Majority World. So, for instance, it was common to see non-erotic physical affection expressed between those of the same sex. The contrast between these intimate, life-giving 'sisterhoods' and 'brotherhoods' and what many experience in Western religious culture could not be greater. Thanks to Kinsey, almost all touch has been sexualised in the West. But in truth, everyone needs healthy non-erotic human touch! How can this need be met?

6. It's not about GAFCON

In fact, the conference was not really about GAFCON at all. Fundamentally it was about God, and allowing Him access into our own worlds to love, clean, heal, change and use us to reach the broken and lost around us.

Bitter persecution has produced a kind of faith in these Majority World Christians which is hard to analyse, but compelling and magnetic. Is it perfect? Of course not. But it is the 'real thing', and we have much to learn from them.

7. It's not about privilege and purple shirts but a different kind of egalitarianism

I was delighted to note a kind of natural, organic, 'putting the other first' level playing field with not a hint of Marxist ideology in both the sessions and free time. That there is a concern for the empowerment of women, say, is all to the good.

However, now in the West, males have almost become persona non grata, one reason psychologist Jordan Peterson has attracted such immense support. He hears and addresses the felt needs of populations despised, rubbished and ignored by the mainstream.

In key ways, that is what GAFCON has done as well, just in different spheres. The specific needs of both sexes must be met. If one sex suffers, it impacts the other as well.

8. What most amazed me

I was most amazed, however, by what dozens of African leaders shared with me. They 'get it': they view the Woke envelopment of the West and its institutions and the totalitarian crushing of dissent, with horror and fear.

And they have good reason to do so. A Canadian leader told of an incident in which he had stumbled across a Pride event and was offered a pamphlet which he politely declined. He was then spat on. Wiping away the saliva from his face, he realized a policeman was standing close by. He asked him what would have happened if he had responded in kind. He was told, 'I would have had to arrest you,' or words to that effect.

The role of propaganda

Triumphalist mainstream media has convinced my African friends and colleagues that the West has gone over. Though futile skirmishes remain, it is a lost cause for conservatives, backfooted, shamed and silenced in public.

Such conservatives (according to the narrative) deserve punishment. They are not just wrong but evil. They hate and hurt people, unlike the loving, tolerant, fully inclusive Woke (as demonstrated by the spitter, above).

Statements such as above are no more than propaganda but Western mainstream media pumps it out 24/7, and few have the platforms to push back.

And because there are horror stories which seem to offer corroboration, few are curious or honest enough to study these issues for themselves at deeper levels. Were they to do so they would discover there exists a strong counter narrative. But as the BBC won't say, it seems no one else should either.

Poacher-turned-gamekeeper German sociologist Gabrielle Kuby offers an insightful analysis in her seminal The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom (2015).

Regardless of the imploding West, the African leaders realize this revolution is now targeting their own, especially the young. As lesbian activist Patricia Warren rightly notes: "Whoever captures the kids owns the future."

Redeeming, reclaiming, restoring

And so, we were kept very busy in almost non-stop engagement, hearing their concerns and sharing our strategies for redemption, reclamation and restoration and asking for their responses and reactions: how do they see it?

And more broadly, what is pressing for them elsewhere? It was fascinating to find out more about their situations and experiences, and an honour to be allowed to see a bit of life through their eyes.

Ministries represented at our corner stall included: Dr Mike Davidson's cutting-edge Core Issues Trust (pastoral support), X-Outloud (ex-gay voices and views) and the IFTCC (the International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice), which focuses on the science, therapy and academic research around these issues.

Also present was the Revd Elizabeth Woning from California and her wonderful Changed Movement (aka 'We left LGBTQ+ Because We Wanted To'. Their pamphlet, Self-Discovery: How childhood shaped our sexual identity, is well worth a read.

And finally the MSC. I am CEO of the Marriage, Sex and Culture Group, London. I run 'Sex Proofing Your Kids' seminars and do a great deal on the sex education front, exposing the bad and promoting the good with a scientific, secular apologetic.

We engaged across the Woke clobber claims which included: born gay; gay is the new black; once gay, always gay; traditionalists make gay people kill themselves etc. We offer hope and help to those who want to move away from sexual brokenness and dysfunction.

In fact one of our shared key themes is that same-sex attraction [SSA] is only the symptom, not the real problem. In reality, few choose SSA. They are victims, saddled with alarming, unwanted, unasked-for attractions emerging often around puberty. These feelings seem to be intractable, unchangeable; for many, a curse, an albatross.

By the week's end, we had given away the boxes and boxes of materials we had brought, exchanged details and started planning Zoom calls with our new friends and colleagues in far flung countries.

In conclusion

Though the writing has been on the wall for decades, it is now public knowledge: the Anglican Communion is broken. Though Justin Welby minimizes the challenges posed by GAFCON and the Global South, he and the other Instruments of the Communion have basically become an irrelevance.

That the Primates of GAFCON and the Global South are moving forward together and getting on with the many tasks at hand gives great hope for the present and the future. They listened carefully to us. They engaged prayerfully and produced the impressive Kigali Commitment, a document which, in my view, will prove to be a touchstone for decades to come.

God met me, God met us, in Kigali. I am encouraged and excited. God is on the move.

For more visit https://gafcon23.org/ or https://anglicanmainstream.org/kigali-latest/