Plans for GAFCON Church Planting Network underway as consultative group meet in Sheffield
The GAFCON Church Planting Consultative Group. From left to right: Rev Canon Tim Davies, Senior Minister, Christ Church Central, Sheffield, Rev Canon Charles Raven, GAFCON Membership Development Secretary, Rev Canon Dan Alger, Canon for Church Planting, ACNA, Bishop Flavio Adair Torres Soares, Suffragan Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Recife, Rev Canon Alan Hawkins, Director of Development, ACNA, Ven Amatu Christian Iwuagwu, Vicar of Harmondsworth, Rev Lee McMunn, Mission Director, Anglican Mission in England.
GAFCON is committed to seeing the world-wide Anglican Communion set free to be a united and effective movement for winning people to Christ in all cultures and church planting is vital to this task.
In a globalized world, GAFCON is uniquely able to gather faithful Anglicans for mutual encouragement, learning and collaboration. In this vein, the GAFCON Church Planting Consultative Group met in Sheffield, UK from 19th to 22nd January to plan for a GAFCON Church Planting Network in preparation for GAFCON 2018 in Jerusalem.
We began by looking at the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration of 2008 and were greatly encouraged by these words from the Statement:
‘The future of the Anglican Communion is but a piece of the wider scenario of opportunities and challenges for the gospel in 21st century global culture. We rejoice in the way God has opened doors for gospel mission among many peoples, but we grieve for the spiritual decline in the most economically developed nations, where the forces of militant secularism and pluralism are eating away the fabric of society and churches are compromised and enfeebled in their witness.
The vacuum left by them is readily filled by other faiths and deceptive cults. To meet these challenges will require Christians to work together to understand and oppose these forces and to liberate those under their sway. It will entail the planting of new churches among unreached peoples and also committed action to restore authentic Christianity to compromised churches.’
Church planting is one of the major opportunities for Anglicans worldwide in the 21st century and our meeting was a wonderful experience of the enrichment that comes when Anglicans from very different cultures gather with a shared vision and a common love for the Lord Jesus and the Scriptures.
Canon Dan Alger and Canon Dan Hawkins from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) shared the lessons and encouragements of planting hundreds of new churches since the Province’s formation in 2009 under the visionary leadership of Archbishops Robert Duncan and then Foley Beach, while Bishop Flavio Adair Torres Soares from the Anglican Diocese of Recife inspired us with his work as a missionary bishop who is himself planting a church while he supports clergy who are doing likewise.
Despite losing its property to the revisionist Episcopal Church in Brazil, the diocese is growing rapidly and seventy new churches have been planted in the past five years. Bishop Flavio also told us how he and other South American leaders are working with ACNA leaders in Caminemos Juntos, a missionary and church planting movement to reach Hispanics throughout the Americas.
The Ven Amatu Christian Iwuagwu, Vicar of St Mary’s Harmondsworth and a member of the GAFCON UK Panel of Reference, gave us fresh cross cultural insights as the leader of a church planting initiative in England to reach the Nigerian Igbo community while Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) was represented by its Mission Director, Rev Lee McMunn.
A particularly special part of our time together was a Skype call with Bishop Michael Nazir Ali who was able to shed much light for us on Anglican related church planting in the Middle East where incredibly brave believers are taking great risks despite endemic violence, persecution and instability.
The group are now looking forward eagerly to GAFCON 2018, where church planting will be a major theme and we are very excited by the possibilities that emerge as we take prayerful action to revitalize and strengthen Anglican gospel witness for the challenges of a globalized world.
Finally, thanks are due to Canon Tim Davies, senior minister of Christ Church Central Sheffield for being a wonderful host and for a giving us a first hand account of what it is like to found and lead a successful AMiE church in an urban and deeply secular context.
GAFCON Membership Development Secretary