Daily Archives: June 21, 2018
Laurent Mbanda, Archbishop of Rwanda, began by warning against corruption, and the temptation for church leaders of receiving money from compromised sources, and losing their identity as a result. “We must not be afraid to say: keep your money – we have Jesus and will proclaim him!” he said, to applause.
He then reminded us that though the world is lost in sin, God loves it enough to have sent his Son for the salvation of people from all the different people groups and nations in the world.
The Archbishop was followed by Jason Mandryk, Direction of Operation World, a trusted organization researching statistics on world mission to assist in mobilizing the church for the Great Commission. In an information-packed and stirring presentation, Jason showed that despite the rise of secularism, religious belief is also on the rise, which means in some cases, openness to the gospel, but in others, increasing resistance, and even violence against believers.
There are other huge challenges in the world today, such as poverty and inequality, conflict and migration. But the church has continued to grow: while in 1980 the number of bible-believing Christians in the global south was the same as those in the north/West, today it is five 5 times more. So the idea of Christianity as the ‘white man’s religion’ is a myth. The majority of missionaries today are female and from the global south. There are more than 1000 missionaries to the UK from other countries. “Given the spiritual state of the UK I am praying for at least 1000 more!” said Mandryk.
He concluded: History belongs to the intercessors because nothing less than a miracle will be required for the global making of disciples. Archbishop Mbanda concurred:
“The task is huge, so we won’t be out of a job any time soon.”
Two brief presentations followed, giving examples of mission in practice; in south east Asia, where the Diocese of Singapore oversees evangelism and church planting in seven surrounding nations, and in England where a new form of Anglicanism outside the Church of England, validated by Gafcon, is emerging. “Pray for a new generation of Anglican leaders connected to Gafcon who will work sacrificially”, said Lee McMunn. “Could God be calling some from around the world to plant churches in England?”
You can watch Jason Mandryk’s talk here.
You can watch Archbishop Laurent Mbanda’s talk here.
As the Church engages in its God given mission to proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations it has to engage with the issue of human flourishing. This is because people will only begin to follow Jesus Christ, or continue to follow him if they do so already, if they believe that following him will lead them to flourish more than some other way of life.
We can see this point if we consider the famous words found at the beginning of Book I of the Confessions of St. Augustine, ‘Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in thee….’ The point that St Augustine is making is that human beings have been created by and for God and in consequence they can only truly flourish if they find rest in a right relationship with God. According to Augustine, the reason for being a Christian, rather than being a Neo-Platonist or a Manichee, is that Christianity enables people to find this rest and so to flourish as they were made to do. Just as being a flourishing rhubarb plant means having big green leaves and a big red stem, so being a flourishing human being means being people whose hearts find their rest in God and, says Augustine, being a Christian makes this possible.
If we are going to try to persuade people to follow Jesus Christ because doing so will best enable them to flourish we have to begin by understanding what they currently think about the matter. Think of St. Paul preaching in the Areopagus in Athens in Acts 17. The Athenians whom he is addressing hold that what enables human flourishing is worshiping the various gods of the Greek pantheon. What St. Paul tells them is that they are right to take the need to worship seriously, but that the objects of their worship are wrong. In order to flourish they need to give up idolatry and worship instead the one true God who made heaven and earth and every human being and to whom the Greek poets bore witness.
In similar fashion we have to target our proclamation of the gospel so that it addresses what the people we are in conversation with think makes for human flourishing.
The strength of GAFCON III rests upon the same foundation that Bonhoeffer observed at St Peter’s — a unity centered round, and resting upon Jesus Christ and his word. As Bonhoeffer expressed it: “standing under God’s rule means living in community with God and with the church.”
Happy families, are comprised of individuals — and not all of them are happy. GAFCON’s constituencies are in different places — ACNA delegates were uniformly upbeat. Their church has prospered, their work is bearing visible fruit. English delegates at the start of the week were discouraged and divided — battling a hostile culture and an indifferent or unpleasant ecclesial establishment. The Anglo-Catholic presence at GAFCON is smaller than at previous gatherings. Fort Worth has 14 members present, but many of its bishops are absent and not represented in the top leadership ranks. Sydney delegates voice mixed thoughts — some are fearful that the culture in Australia is moving against them, undercutting their complementarian viewpoint on human anthropology, while others see the universality of the Anglican way as a portent of the future of the church.
Small blips on the news radar have surfaced. The Church of Uganda has restated its views on Lambeth 2020 (they won’t go if ACNA doesn’t go). The Church of Kenya has restated its ambivalence about the relationship of GAFCON with the Anglican Communion (if GAFCON leaves the Anglican Communion it would have to reconsider it’s relationship to GAFCON). And primates whose first language is not English have made verbal slips that have not fully expressed their views. But as of this point — no surprises have arisen.