Gafcon - Reforming and Uniting: Part 1
In the first in a series of articles in the run up to GAFCON 2018 in Jerusalem, Rev. Melvin Tinker tells us why GAFCON 2008 and GAFCON 2013 were so important, what he's looking forward to about GAFCON 2018 and the advice he has for those attending for the first time.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, what's your name, where are you from, job title, name of church.
I am Melvin Tinker, Vicar of St John, Newland, Hull, in Yorkshire, England. Hull is famous for a number of things, I mention two. It is the hometown of William Wilberforce who was instrumental in abolishing the slave trade in the early 19th century; and it has the lowest church attendance in Britain (less than 0.7%).
St John’s is a multicultural church with an overall attendance of 500 on a Sunday. I have been the senior minister there for 24 years and it has been a delight and privilege to have seen God at work in so many different lives through his Gospel.
2. Did you attend GAFCON 2008 or GAFCON 2013? What are your most memorable moments?
Having attended the two previous GAFCON conferences, what struck me most on both occasions was the power of the Gospel in doing what politicians can never do, bring together into one family people from diverse backgrounds, races, and outlooks, each with a passion to reach out to the world with the same Gospel. Fellowship can be a word which is used lightly, but GAFCON gives it real substance and visible expression.
3. Why are you going to GAFCON 2018, and what are you most looking forward to about the conference?
GAFCON 3 significantly takes place a year after the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Martin Luther recognised in his own day how the church was in a kind of ‘Babylonian Captivity’, the true Gospel having been obscured and corrupted, surrendered to the zeitgeist of the age. We face a similar situation, especially in the West. GAFCON is an opportunity to make a stand for Christ and the Gospel over and against the world in order to save the world. The ‘theology of glory’, as Luther put it, which calls ‘calls evil good and good evil’ (Theses 21 of the Heidelberg Disputation) bedevils certain parts of the Anglican Communion and needs to be repudiated and replaced with the theology of the cross. GAFCON 3, with God’s grace, is well placed to help do just that.
I hope that GAFCON 3 will be instrumental in taking forward the necessary transformation of the Anglican Communion world-wide. This will require three things:
- Having the proper information so we can assess accurately the challenges and opportunities facing us.
- Deep reflection- thinking matters through theologically.
- Genuine dedication- everything being done in a spirit of worship and prayer. As someone has said, ‘theology without worship is empty, worship without theology is blind.’
This year GAFCON brings together many godly and able people from all around the world to enable us to do these things. I am very much looking forward to having my vision enlarged, my mind engaged and my spirit stirred not only through the excellent meetings which have been planned, but by many informal conversations and times of prayer which will be taking place around them. Above all I look forward to meeting with God amongst his people.
4. What advice would you give to someone attending in June who hasn't attended a conference before? What can they be doing to get the best out of GAFCON 2018?
If you are coming to GAFCON for the first time, do be prepared to be challenged and work!
Beforehand, commit yourself in prayer for the conference- without it nothing will be achieved; gen up on the conference via the web site or any other material which might be sent on. Like anything else, you get out what you are prepared to put in, so do come determined not simply to stay with your friends and within your own comfort zone, but to make new friends from around the world- especially with those who are not like you!
It is an exciting prospect to be part of a world-wide reformation and renewal movement of the Spirit, I am glad to be a fellow traveller with you.