Lent Pastoral Letter
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
‘For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.’
1 Corinthians 2:2
My dear brothers and sisters,
I send you greetings in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ who by his suffering and death has destroyed death!
The gospel writers normally portray Jesus’ mission as the unfolding of a clear divine purpose so I find it striking that the only occasions when we find him wrestling with choices are the temptations in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry and in the Garden of Gethsemane as he approaches the cross.
In contrast, we easily become preoccupied with self-centred choices that distract us from the challenges of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. The temptations that Jesus faced remind us that we too are in a lifelong spiritual battle. This is a truth we affirm in the baptism service of the Anglican Church of Kenya which includes the words ‘Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified. Fight bravely under his banner against sin, the world and the devil and continue his faithful soldiers and servants to the end of your lives.’
Attacks on Christians in the Middle East and West Africa show us that for a growing number of Christians, confessing the faith of Christ crucified can lead to extreme suffering and cruel death. Now we have seen Islamic militants extend their barbarity to North Africa and turn the sea red with the blood of twenty-one Egyptian Christians beheaded on a Libyan beach for being ‘people of the cross.’ Let us pledge during this Lenten season to pray continually for those facing such ruthless persecution. In the same week as this atrocity, the Church of Uganda celebrated the courageous leadership of Ugandan Archbishop Janani Luwum who died as a martyr at the hands of Idi Amin thirty-eight years ago and whose witness is a continual inspiration and a reminder that the blood of those who die for the cause of Christ is not be shed in vain.
For many of us testing comes in more ordinary ways through life’s trials, in the face of which there can be the temptation to despair and give up. A person who could have done just that was the first missionary to East Africa, Johann Krapf, who was sent by CMS and arrived in Mombasa in 1844. In the same year his wife and baby daughter died of malaria, but he persevered and wrote ‘The victories of the Church are gained by stepping over the graves of her members’. Today, he is honoured as a founding figure of the Anglican Church of Kenya.
We learn the key to such spiritual strength in the face of temptation from Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. He repels the devil’s assaults by the Word of God and challenges the devil’s prompting to turn stones into bread by saying ‘it is written’ as he quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).
Jesus here affirms that the words of Scripture are words that come from the mouth of God. They are divine words, not merely human words, and it is by every such word that we are to live, not just those words that we find comfortable in our culture.
A Church that is no longer able to say ‘it is written’ has placed itself in great spiritual danger, but that is where the Anglican Communion could be led according to a review just released of ‘Living Reconciliation’, a book written to promote the ‘Continuing Indaba’ project.
The review by Dr Martin Davie, a respected Church of England theologian who was until recently Theological Consultant to its House of Bishops, shows that ‘Living Reconciliation’ is not faithful to the Bible’s teaching that reconciliation has evangelism at its heart. What the writers are really concerned about is institutional unity and they simply assume that the deeply divisive promotion of same sex relationships by such Churches as the Episcopal Church of the United States is not a barrier to full and continued fellowship.
According to Dr Davie ‘The New Testament’s emphasis is not on people learning to live with what divides then, but learning to live out what unites them’. The New Testament teaches that reconciliation with each other flows from reconciliation with God through repentance and faith in the gospel message. It does not make sense to call for reconciliation in the Church while at the same time accepting behaviour that the Bible says excludes people from the Kingdom of God unless they repent.
He concludes that the path recommended by the authors of ‘Living Reconciliation’ is ‘effectively a blank cheque for the acceptance of any and every possible form of deviation from New Testament Christianity.’ An introduction and link to the review is given on the GAFCON website here.
The GAFCON movement is vital for the future. At its heart is a passion to see the Anglican Communion restored and renewed so that it can confess the faith of Christ crucified with integrity and without confusion and division. This is a call to discipleship for each one of us, so let us learn from Jesus to say ‘it is written’ and stand firm in the power and promises of God.
Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council