Building in Belfast
The doomed White Star Liner has come to symbolise a bygone age and to become a byword for humanity’s hubris. But, notwithstanding that, Harland & Wolff, which when it launched the ‘Unsinkable’ had already been building ships for over a half a century, has gone on to do so to the present day. The area around the Belfast docks may have been rebranded the Titanic Quarter, but in reality it is a place where great successes have been built for over 150 years.
Something new and potentially more powerful than even the greatest of ships was launched there again on Saturday. GAFCON Ireland is the latest GAFCON branch1. It was launched at the Waterfront Conference Centre, against the backdrop of the yellow ‘Samson’ and ‘Goliath’ gantry cranes of Harland & Wolff.
Around 450 men and women from both sides of the border were joined by GAFCON supporters from Nigeria, England, Scotland, Argentina and Australia to celebrate the occasion. Greetings were received from the worldwide GAFCON community. No champagne was wasted, but the Bible teaching was more than worthy of the setting, and the organisational panache, music and venue would have befitted any occasion from the Quarter’s past.
The day’s theme was ‘Faithful’: ‘GAFCON Ireland is faithful to the unchanging, transforming gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaiming him on the island of Ireland.’ The new organisation has a mission to proclaim the good news, especially to areas where it has been obscured or lost, to partner with Anglicans from around the world who share that passion, to plant churches and to prepare Christians for such a ministry through theological education.
Prominent was a deep concern for the generations to come: for the Irish children and grandchildren of the present generation of faithful Anglicans. Archbishop of the Southern Cone, Greg Venables, former Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, the Most Reverend Ali Buba Lamido, Archbishop of Kaduna, Nigeria, and the Reverend Vaughan Roberts charged those attending to look with a passionate concern beyond the present age to the appearing of the Kingdom of Christ, that generations in-between might inherit for themselves the unchanging gospel as expressed in traditional Anglican teaching. For those for whom that seems hard or impossible the global GAFCON community exists to tell them that ‘now you know you’re not alone’. It was made plain that it is no more possible to be ‘90% faithful’ to the gospel than ‘90% faithful to one’s wife’. Faithfulness means absolute fidelity to the revealed Word of God as lived out by the Church and noticed by the world amidst a cult of ‘selfism’ and a ‘secularised’ Anglicanism.
There is a fear that the leadership of the Church of Ireland is at best ignoring the perils ahead and at worst unaware that the Church is sinking without trace. GAFCON Ireland now exists to seek to meet that Anglican deficit on the island. On the evidence of this weekend, the men and women in charge of GAFCON Ireland are more than capable of undertaking the Samson and Goliath-like heavy-lifting that will be required. They are much to be commended.