Inspired by Jerusalem
This is the first letter for the Breda Messenger where I have had a chance to reflect on my trip to Jerusalem last June. It was a truly inspiring visit – though not for the reason you may imagine. We only had limited time to visit some of the sites of this unique and deeply religious city. Yes, I swam in the Dead Sea, went to the Garden Tomb and visited the great Western Wall. I believe I will always remember those experiences.
However, the really inspirational dimension to the trip came in the form of the Christian people I met. I was part of a 31 member Irish delegation to Gafcon (the Global Anglican Future Conference). The acronym is a bit of a mouthful but in part this is due to its non-English origins and the international makeup of its membership. Delegates to Jerusalem came from over fifty countries – from Africa, South America, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Anglicanism, especially over the last one hundred and fifty years, has spread globally and this made for fascinating and heart-warming interaction with fellow delegates.
Gafcon is the orthodox movement for biblical renewal within the Anglican Communion and has come about because of the crisis within worldwide Anglicanism. The presenting issue is a crisis in our understanding of marriage and in particular same-sex marriage. As this has been introduced in some provinces of the Anglican Communion it has brought division and distress in its wake. Orthodox parish churches, dioceses and provinces who hold to traditional Biblical teaching have had to say No to revisionism within their denomination – often at a heavy cost. They have formed Gafcon for support and encouragement.
They have had to say No because the presenting issue is not the main issue. The main issue is always authority within God’s Church. For two thousand years this authority has been the Bible. God has guided and directed his beloved Church by his gracious Word. It is this God-given Word which reveals to us what our heavenly Father is like, what he has achieved for our salvation and how he wants his holy people to live. When we stray from his Word, we stray from God, and at some point we cease to be God’s people at all. The New Testament makes this clear specifically in the way it addresses sexual relations (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6.9).
The large Gafcon meeting of 2000 delegates in Jerusalem was a hugely encouraging time. The crisis has enabled orthodox Anglicans to regroup and refocus on matters close to God’s heart: evangelism, church planting, recruitment of missionaries, the theological education of new pastors, the training of bishops and many other exciting opportunities to promote the gospel throughout our needy world. When like-minded, Bible believing, orthodox Christians assemble together for prayer, praise and the ministry of the Word it is an inspiring, affecting experience.
Sincerely in Christ