GAFCON II and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Sermon

Peter Wanyama, a member of the choir at All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi and a member of Changing Attitude Kenya’s committee, heard the Archbishop of Canterbury preach on Sunday morning. Here he conveys his own impression of the sermon and notes the content of collect, asking questions about the intended meaning. Peter reports:

The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) started on Monday the 21st of October with a beehive of activities. This marks a historic moment in the Anglican Church of Kenya with the Archbishop of Canterbury being given an opportunity to deliver what is believed to be a keynote sermon. The uniqueness of the Conference will therefore be defined and depend on the basis of the declarations that will be made and how they will affect the wellbeing of the LGBTI Anglicans in Kenya.

At the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi which is the host of the meeting, a collect for GAFCON was prepared and was read in all the Sunday services of the past few weeks preceding the conference. The collect read as follows:

‘Our Gracious Heavenly Father we thank you that in every age you call your people to shun moral compromises, doctrinal errors and come back to the clarion call of the Scriptures, to heed your voice and follow you in obedience to your word. We yearn that in our generation we may give a lost world a clear Biblical witness of your saving grace. We pray for GAFCON that the Mission and Ministry in the Anglican Church will be based on the Biblical faith as handed down to us.’

My curiosity is drawn to four key statements from the collect. I hope the process of GAFCON II will address their meaning. They are as follows:

1. What in GAFCON’s view are moral compromises and doctrinal errors?

2. What in their view is the clarion call of the Scriptures?

3. What is a clear Biblical witness of Gods saving grace and lastly but not least,

4. What do they envision when they talk of the Mission and Ministry based on Biblical Faith?

The theme that was carefully selected for this Sunday at All Saints Cathedral was “Alive to Witness”. The readings were drawn from Hebrews 13:1 to 10 and Luke 18: 1 to 8. Thereafter a powerful sermon was delivered by The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Justin Welby.

He started his sermon by acknowledging that the Church world-wide was greatly divided and that nothing can be done about it. He said this happened throughout the days of the Acts of the Apostles.

“When the Church is generous or it is weak, we will always find people who will seek to take advantage of one group or another, and in every church we will find favoritism, we will find bias; we will find structures and systems that are not suiting into the world in which we live. Churches are changing to new forms of Ministry to reach out. Favoritism, bad structures and bad decisions are nothing new,” the Archbishop stated.

He said that we have all failed in the past and we will still fail now.  He emphasized that all of us being sinners, we must learn from scriptures on how to respond on the challenging situations the Church faces. He also said that historically leaders of the Church have misused Scripture for their own ends. He emphasized the importance to live as a Church in a way that reflects the nature of Jesus Christ.

“Coming back to scriptures is essential, but it is proper teaching that comes out of church leaders that is indispensable. All of us look at the bible through our own experiences. We have misused power to support ourselves, we misread scripture together in gatherings like GAFCON to hear what God is saying, we misread together across the church globally praying for a common vision that has to be applied differently in its purposes. It is also true that if we only read the Bible and do not abet, we disgrace the Gospel. We cannot work in a way that scandalizes the Gospel.

My prayer for this week is a fresh vision, a clear sense of hearing the word of God, of knowing what He is saying through the GAFCON meeting and a clear expression about what is reflecting the amazing and extraordinary wonderful love of Jesus Christ, to all of us and in all circumstances. The issues that divide us are on one way very simple, they are on the other level very complicated. The divisions tell me that we need a new way of being together that reflects the 21st Century and not the colonial path. The Anglican Communion must structure itself so us to reflect equality, to reflect the partnership we share in the Gospel throughout the world.”

Welby stressed that the method of achieving this important goal is quite difficult.

“As I travel around the world to visit the 37 primates, I ask each one of them what the 21st Century Anglican Communion looks like and every one of them gives me a different answer, so at the moment it is a case of prayer and thoughtfulness of seeking the Lord, or say how can we serve the purpose of God. We want a communion that has worship and mission and witness and evangelism as its aim. We are here to win a world in faith to Christ through His overwhelming wonderful love,’’ he said.

He also tried to explain that the writer of Hebrews meant to bring out three sins; the sins of power, sex and money. He said if we honor God with power, sex and money then He will be faithful in all our ways. On gay marriages he said that when the English law that supports same sex marriages was passed the Church of England disagreed with it.

“…Not because we hate or fear anyone whatever their sexuality, hatred and fear is not the teaching of the bible, it is not only bad laws that dishonor marriages, violence in marriage , failing to respect each other, adultery, pornography, all these dishonor marriage. We should not pretend we are right and the rest of the world is wrong, that is hypocrisy. We want to be a Church of love and generosity that is faithful and holy. We have all sinned and still sin and I don’t think we are the only ones in England. Let us be the people that God has made, the people that he calls us to be.”

He ended his sermon by reminding all of us that the vision of the Acts of Apostles was that of a practically-loving, Bible-centered God, the God of justice.

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