The Anglican Communion: A View from Pakistan
Bishops, Clergy, and Lay people brought stories and testimonies of being witnesses of Christ and enduring persecution for His name. Teaching from Philippians, multi-lingual worship, intercession, and stories of hope and pain were shared. Trust was built among complete strangers. Each one’s journey was difficult, but no one seemed overwhelmed by the challenges to the point of walking away.
Some wept, others shared betrayal, and others simple faith. As tears were swallowed back, the deep truths and the joyful highs behind every testimony of God’s goodness refined a theology of suffering for witnesses of Christ’s truth. One priest wept as he shared the betrayal he had suffered and his search for legitimate leadership that proclaims the authority of Christ.
Some told of physical and open persecution, harassing, attacking, and forcing marginalised Christians to deny their faith. Others told of more subtle forms of pain, evidences of denial of Christ’s gospel. We heard of betrayal, bold rejection, and dispossession.
The challenge to scriptural authority based on a cultural and relativist, individualist morality, a tolerance of intolerant, ideological, and tribalistic thinking continues in a clash of cultures and civilizations.
The prophetic promise
The hostility we face because of our love for the gospel of Jesus is not new. Standing firm together despite the world trying to pull us apart is even expected. GAFCON 2019 was a call to strengthen bonds for the whole Anglican Communion. Words and tears shed recognised that we bear witness as the apostles did in the Early Church in difficult circumstances. Faithfulness to God’s truth and love created and grew the church in the first place.
Persecution, of course is the prophetic promise: the privilege of walking with Him and knowing He is the fourth one in the fire. That fire could be overt attacks by liberalism and secularism, or violent attacks of extremist ideologies which seek to hurt the church.
In the crucible
Yet what was intended for encouragement and community soon was used to educate and encourage participants on biblical orthodoxy and persecution. Our final statement raised a voice against denial of the biblical standards in daily life that deny the mystery of marriage as a one man, one woman, and one God covenant. The corporate rejection of the authority of the gospel with false cultural philosophies places our future in hands of clay and destruction. Our pragmatic disappointment was crystalised in examining a question (posed by one archbishop):
‘Why should I give up my Bible and suffer twice, in this life and the next?’
Our sadness over the capitulation of the church in the West to bend to neo-pagan culture is turned to joy in the hope of Christ and His work with the majority church at GAFCON.
Bishop Azad Marshall quoted Romans 12:1-2 (‘Be transformed’) to call us to remain set apart despite the attacks that try to cripple us spiritually. We must resolutely stand on God’s word.
Suffering refines and prepares us for Christ’s return. Now we are experiencing the lick of the flame of those who cannot both proclaim Christ and live for Christ. We have been through the crucible and are ready to go again. We have tasted and seen that God is good. He will not leave us. Will we stand with Him through the fire?
Michelle Samuel is the Director of Development and Programmes at Lahore College of Theology, Pakistan