JERUSALEM — In what is being billed as the largest international gathering of Anglicans in 50 years, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) kicked off a week of gospel celebration with nearly 2,000 delegates from 53 countries meeting under the theme “proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations.”
In a rousing address to the delegates, Uganda’s Bishop, Rt. Rev. Alfred Olwa, said that “the line is drawn by Jesus, you are either in or you are out, there is no sitting on the fence. Not to embrace Jesus is to reject Jesus. We must proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations.”
The bishop publicly repudiated the prosperity gospel sweeping Africa “especially among Pentecostals”, and said it was not Christian.
“They ignore texts when Jesus talks about the poor and focus on those texts that proclaim wealth,” he said.
Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh echoed similar words in his address to delegates saying that the prosperity gospel was short-lived with many who had left Anglicanism for prosperity teaching and were now returning when they found it did not meet their expectations.
“Preaching must not be compromised, but is to be discharged faithfully in every generation, as Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,” Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said.
Olwa said, “There is no Jesus for the Africans, No Jesus for the British, no Jesus for the Americans, just one Jesus from one story, from one God.”
The Uganda bishop said there had been a heavy cost to pay for those upholding the faith. “At GAFCON One, people took a stand for Jesus, in proclaiming Jesus faithfully to the nations. You may feel isolated from other people in the communion but stand firm, Jesus is always with you.”
The Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, expressed great disappointment at the lack of action and repentance by the head of the Anglican Church on same-sex marriage.
“The mission of Jesus is too important to just allow these things to slide along. You have to be able to give people a true and living hope, which we cannot do if we have a kind of mixed message about something that is very important to most people.” he said.
Delegates from the gathering released an open letter committing to “defend the gospel against threats from without and within,” and calling upon others to do so as well.
The letter notes that in these modern times, there are not only those who actively reject Christ and push ungodly agendas, but those who profess the name of Christ while holding to unorthodox and dangerous doctrines.
“External attacks include superstitious practices of sacrifices and libations that deny the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. Some religions deny the unique person and work of Christ on the cross, and others are innately syncretistic,” it outlines.
“Secularism seeks to exclude God from all public discourse and to dismantle the Christian heritage of many nations. This has been most obvious in the redefinition of what it means to be human, especially in the areas of gender, sexuality and marriage,” the open letter states.
It also cites the ongoing devaluation of the human race through abortion advocacy and euthanasia, which it characterizes as “an assault upon human life uniquely created in the image of God.”
“Militant forms of religion and secularism are hostile to the preaching of Christ and persecute his people,” the delegates note.
The letter additionally points to the problem of prosperity preaching infiltrating the churches, as well as theological revisionism.
“Internally, the ‘prosperity gospel’ and theological revisionism both seek in different ways to recast God’s gospel to accommodate the surrounding culture, resulting in a seductive syncretism that denies the uniqueness of Christ, the seriousness of sin, the need for repentance and the final authority of the Bible,” it laments.
The delegates mourn that many pastors do not sound an alarm against threats to the gospel, whether they be from without or within.
“Tragically, there has been a failure of leadership in our churches to address these threats to the gospel of God,” the letter states. “We repent of our failure to take seriously the words of the apostle Paul: ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number, men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them’ (Acts 20:28-30).”
They also lament that American Episcopalians and some Anglicans have turned their backs on a 1998 resolution affirming Christ’s teachings in Matthew 19 that God created marriage to be between a man and a woman. Adding to the downgrade is the lack of discipline by the Instruments of Communion, which includes the archbishop of Canterbury, in light of such developments.
“During the past twenty years, the Instruments of Communion have not only failed to uphold godly discipline but their representatives have refused to recognize our concerns and have chosen instead to demean GAFCON as a one-issue pressure group and accuse it of promoting schism, where in fact the schismatics are those who have departed from the teaching of the Bible and the historic doctrine of the Church,” the delegates contend.
“Slogans such as ‘walking together’ and ‘good disagreement’ are dangerously deceptive in seeking to persuade people to accommodate false teaching in the Communion,” they opine.
The delegates outline that while they grieve, they have not lost hope in potential reforms.
The group says that they have committed afresh to proclaiming the gospel to the nations, and have repented of the times that they have failed to take Christ outside of the walls of the church.
“We repent for the times and seasons when we have only preached to ourselves and not embraced the difficult task of reaching beyond our own cultural groups in obedience to God’s call to be a light to the nations (cf. Acts 13:47). In faith and obedience, we joyfully recommit ourselves to the faithful proclamation of the gospel,” the letter reads, pointing to nine strategies that were discussed at the conference, which include church planting efforts, global missions partnerships and an intercessor’s fellowship.
Other efforts cited include being a voice for the voiceless, advocating for the oppressed, protecting women and children, caring for the poor, and reaching out to those persecuted for the name of Christ.
“To proclaim the gospel, we must first defend the gospel against threats from without and within,” the delegates reiterate. “… We dedicate ourselves afresh to proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations, working together to guard the gospel entrusted to us by our Lord and his apostles.”
This year’s GAFCON conference was held in Jerusalem and about 230 representatives from Uganda were stated to be in attendance.
By Paul W Dennis. Additional reporting by Agencies.