Chairman’s Advent Letter 2013
To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council Advent 2013
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! Psalm 31:24
My dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
I am so thankful to the Lord for his goodness to us as we met here in Nairobi for GAFCON 2013. It was a great gathering in which we saw unmistakable signs of God’s blessing. Our expectations were exceeded in many ways as 1,358 delegates from 37 nations gathered for what I can only describe as a foretaste of heaven. My prayer was that we would see the glory of God and we did as we enjoyed a wonderful time of worship, prophetic bible teaching and mutual encouragement. It was truly a mountain top experience in which the Lord Jesus was gloriously present, but we knew we could not stay there. We have to come down from the mountain to face the challenges ahead.
And so we have. The Church of England has just released what is known as the Pilling Report, the conclusions of a Working Group commissioned by the House of Bishops to report and make recommendations on issues of human sexuality. I am sorry to say that it is very flawed. If this report is accepted I have no doubt that the Church of England, the Mother Church of the Communion, will have made a fateful decision. It will have chosen the same path as The Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada with all the heartbreak and division that will bring.
The problem is not simply that the Report proposes that parish churches should be free to hold public services for the blessing of homosexual relationships, but the way it justifies this proposal. Against the principle of Anglican teaching, right up to and beyond the Lambeth Conference of 1998, it questions the possibility that the Church can speak confidently on the basis of biblical authority and sees its teaching as essentially provisional. So Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth conference, which affirmed that homosexual practice was ‘incompatible with Scripture’ and said it could ‘not advise the legitimisation or blessing of same sex relationships’, is undermined both in practice and in principle.
The proposal to allow public services for the blessing of same sex relationships is seen as a provisional measure and the Report recommends a two-year process of ‘facilitated conversation’ throughout the Church of England which is likened to the ‘Continuing Indaba’ project. This should be a warning to us because it highlights that the unspoken assumption of Anglican Indaba is that the voice of Scripture is not clear. This amounts to a rejection of the conviction expressed in the Thirty-nine Articles that the Bible as ‘God’s Word written’ is a clear and effective standard for faith and conduct.
As a matter of conscience, one member of the Working Group, the Rt Rev’d Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead, was unable to sign the Report. He issued a dissenting statement which I strongly endorse as an alternative way forward which honours the authority of Scripture and expresses a deep pastoral concern for the transforming power of the gospel in a society which is moving into ever greater confusion about sexual morality and identity.
We should pray earnestly that the English House of Bishops steps back from endorsing this Report, but the developing situation in the Church of England, the historic Mother Church of the Communion, underlines the need for our Global Fellowship to build on the success of GAFCON 2013 and implement our commitments. As we noted in the Nairobi Communiqué, the GFCA is becoming an ‘ important and effective instrument of Communion during a period in which other instruments of Communion have failed both to uphold gospel priorities in the Church, and to heal the divisions among us.’
As Chairman I am committed to seeing our vital work of promoting and defending the gospel expand. During the coming year we shall be working to increase our organizational effectiveness, set up global networks and improve our communications, but we also need the involvement of every member in prayer, giving and active engagement with our global vision. We are at heart a spiritual movement of renewal, looking to the Lord who graciously revives his Church and this is a reality that flows out of the daily discipleship of each one.
I write with deep gratitude to you all for your prayer and fellowship in this great project which the Lord has called us. This Advent Season is a reminder to live as those who are ready for the Lord’s return in power and glory, as Saviour and as Judge. So let us be of good hope, confident in the ultimate triumph of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thess. 2:16,17).
The Most Rev Dr Eliud Wabukala
Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans