Legacy of East African Revival Frames GAFCON Opening Night
Appeals to scriptural authority and the urgency of a revival that spread across East Africa characterized the opening session of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday 21st October, 2013. The evening spotlighted the experience of Global South Christians who are both hosting the conference and leading the renewal movement.
“If you are to get anything from East Africa at GAFCON 2, revival begins with an individual,” shared Dr. John Senyonyi of Uganda Christian University. “Revival doesn’t begin with the church, it begins with me when the Holy Spirit convicts me, I bow and say ‘Lord, may you begin with me.'”
Senyonyi was one of several speakers who came to faith through the 1930s-1970s revival, but warned of danger in talking of it as though it were a relic of history when it was a “lived experience” that could be shared in.
“We should ask the Lord [for us] not to be satisfied with what is around us but say ‘give us that hunger’ and ‘do something new in my time,'” declared Rwandan Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, testafying to his own life-altering encounter with the Holy Spirit in the revival. “I heard from my ears — and I think they were spiritual ears — ‘you have to change.'”
Rwaje was one of several panelists speaking about the revival following the introductory remarks by GAFCON Chairman Eliud Wabukala of Kenya who annouced “loving Jesus and reading his word” were key traits of the movement.
Central to revival was that conviction of sin was a necessary first step, according to the speakers. Many people, Senyonyi diagnosed, were putting one foot in the culture and another in the church, making a compromise of faith that was essentially a form of syncretism.
“We can’t have revival without seriousness of sin,” Senyonyi flatly stated. “God brought unflagging zeal for revival and conviction of sin.”
Declaring that the Holy Spirit “cannot live with sin” the Uganda Christian University Vice-Chancellor insisted those living with sin must repent and that when the Holy Spirit brings a sin to attention, it should never be called small.
“When people stand up and tell what God has done for them they are not airing dirty linen – they are showing what is washed in the blood of Christ,” Senyonyi announced.
Senyonyi also took aim at those in the church who do not uphold the scriptures.
“The Bible is precious and true,” Senyonyi declared. “If it says ‘this is sin’ it is sin.” Adding that the foundations of the Christian life are swept away when biblical authority is undermined, Senyonyi determined that “When a theology begins to undermine the authority of scriptures, it has gone bad.”