Thursday, August 6, 2015

GAFCON Chairman's July/August 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

‘When they became fully awake they saw his glory.’ Luke 9: 32

My dear brothers and sisters,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our only Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

I am writing to you on the day when the Church has traditionally celebrated the Transfiguration. The veil that covered Jesus’ glory in his earthly ministry is briefly drawn aside before he begins his journey to Jerusalem and death upon the cross. While Jesus prayed, Peter, James and John slept, but we must not judge them harshly. Climbing mountains is hard work! In fact, they were so deeply asleep that the reality being revealed was not immediately clear to them, yet the impact was lasting.

Years later, Peter recalls this moment on the mountain as he writes to spiritually sleepy Christians who are in danger of forgetting the truth of the gospel and have become complacent about false teachers. He reminds them that ‘we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty’ (2 Peter 1:16).

Peter’s apostolic challenge needs to come to the Church in every generation and this is what GAFCON exists for. We are not a movement that finds its energy in division and controversy, but in the desire that all should be fully awake to the majesty and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. If the radiance of his glory has truly imprinted itself on our hearts and minds, then we will find ourselves longing for fellowship with others who share that vision and being much more alert to the tragic confusions and divisions which false teaching brings.

How is it that the glory of Jesus is recognised in the Church today? As Peter was speaking out of his ignorance about making shelters for Moses, Elijah and Jesus, the voice of God the Father interrupts him saying “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him”. The same is true today. We must listen to him. But we can be much more interested in our ideas than God’s Word. We must listen to the voice of Jesus as it comes to us through the whole of the Scriptures, but the recent decisions of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) and the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) to amend their marriage canons to accommodate so called ‘gay marriage’ remind us that parts of the Church are becoming increasingly bold in speaking what they have learned from listening to the world rather than listening to the Scriptures and the witness of the Church through two millennia.

The problem TEC in particular continues to pose for the rest of the Communion was highlighted by another but less reported resolution from its 2015 General Convention, A051, ‘Support LGBT African Advocacy’ which mandates that Church to spread its ideas to Africa. In the light of this resolution it is increasingly difficult to see what purpose the dialogue of Continuing Indaba and associated projects such as Bishop Graham Kings’ ‘Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion’ project can serve except as a means, even if unintentional, by which TEC can promote further confusion and division around the Communion.

But there is better news from North America and I continue to give thanks to God for the Anglican Church in North America which continues to grow as a church that is committed to listening first and foremost to the Word of God. The bishops have announced a ‘Matthew 25’ initiative to increase funding for ministry to the poor and have appointed a theological Task Force under the leadership of the Rev Dr Stephen Noll on Marriage, Family, and the Single Life to enable the authentic voice of the Scriptures to be heard clearly on these vital subjects.

Let us pray that whatever our situation, we shall be fully awake to the glory of the Lord Jesus. On the Mount of Transfiguration we see the one who is truly the Son of God, who is to fulfil the Law and the Prophets by his offering of himself for our sins, who will be raised gloriously from the dead and is yet to return in awesome majesty as Lord and Judge of all. May this vision capture our hearts and inspire our labour.

The Feast of the Transfiguration, 6th August 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sojourn in a nation under judgment: Anne Kennedy's epic takedown of Rachel Held Evans

Any article critiquing Rachel Held Evans ought to be required reading. This morning, Anne Kennedy scored an epic takedown of the sniveling, neo-Pharisaical, proto-millennial blogger, who never seems to tire of pointing an accusing finger at Christians who actually believe Jesus is who he said he is and the Bible is what the church has always said it was.
First off, I wish she would desist calling me, and others who love the Bible and the Jesus revealed in the bible her “fellow Christians”. We are not fellows together. We believe contradictory opposite gospels. She is not curious enough about the gospel I embrace to know what it says, to understand that love is at the center of this issue, that Christians like me are horrified to find that the culture, and self identified “Christians” like her, have created a new definition of love that lets a person sexually tie himself or herself to a person of the same gender, regardless of God’s clear, explicit hatred of such an act. Love demands, love implores, love does everything it can to warn of the peril right ahead. So yes to fear, this is a perilous place we inhabit, now. But from whence cometh the entitlement? Christians have rightly perceived the rejection of their world view and are retreating in sorrow and grief. As for the charge that we are obscuring the gospel, I think the church has already been complicit in that confusion, and I think now Jesus himself is making the gospel more than abundantly clear. One of the ways (only one way, there are so many) gay “marriage” is so hateful to God is because it obscures the central relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage isn’t about individuals. Each and every marriage paints a picture of Jesus’ sacrificial love for his bride, who is not the same as him. Gay “marriage” paints a lying idolatrous picture of this reality and is one reason why, I think, the winners are so angry. Because living in a horrible lie is actually not that comfortable and pleasant. Look in the defiant, tragic gaze of a child who is lying and who doesn’t know how to get out, and you have an expression of the anger we are seeing everywhere. Why, pray tell, in this moment of great joy, Rachel Held Evans, do you pause to take a wack at bible loving Christians? I’ll tell you why, because the lie is ugly and hurtful, and so there must be lots of shouting and anger to cover up the great wound that leads to death. But moving on.
Kennedy's concluding observations are most insightful.
God’s judgement is pouring out. His burning anger is already here. If you feel angry, I long for you to look in his face, and not flinch when you see his abiding, perfect wrath. Really, my Christian identity has never been clearer than at this precise moment.
Hardly a day goes by now that I don't see some Facebook post or meme issuing the dire warning that "God is going to judge America" for all of the abominations it is now condoning. But, as Kennedy implies, the judgment is already happening. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul speaks about "men behaving indecently with men," etc. precisely in terms of judgment. The prevalence of such abominable acts is not a sign that God's wrath is about to be poured out but, indeed, that it is already being poured out. It's not the popular caricature of lightning striking, but the more subtle judgment of God giving a rebellious people over to their "dishonorable passions." God may not judge a nation because it celebrates sexual deviancy. Rather, the celebration of deviancy may very well be evidence that God's judgment has already come.

If that is the case, it presents us with a very crucial question. What is the church's responsibility as it sojourns in the midst of a nation under judgment? Most assuredly, it has a more significant role to play than the complacent compromising suggested by the likes of Rachel Held Evans. In his commentary on Revelation (unfortunately, long out of print), M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. offers this sacramentally saturated observation on the church's mission in the midst of a rebellious order.
For the church in John's day, as well as today, the vision reveals the profoundly deep reality of what it means to be a citizen of New Jerusalem. To be part of the eucharistic community of God's people is to become part of God's response to the rebellion. To partake of the Eucharist is to be drawn into the very being and nature of God so as to be shaped in the image and likeness of God. To partake of the Eucharist is to be thrust out into the midst of Fallen Babylon to participate in God's costly, redemptive response to the rebellion. The vision images this in the bowls [Revelation 15:6-16:21], which, on the one hand, are the prayers of the saints that open them to the shaping presence of God and that, on the other hand, being filled with the presence of God, are then poured out into the life of the world.
The outpouring of God's wrath is never an arbitrary act. Its purpose, like all the purposes of God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is ultimately redemptive. The church, as an active participant in God's response to the fallen order's rebellion, is called to be an agent of what Mulholland calls redemptive wrath.

Friday, June 26, 2015

ACNA statement on Supreme Court same sex "marriage" ruling

“From the Beginning”: God’s Design for Marriage

A Statement from the Anglican Church in North America

The Archbishop and Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America have received the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States of America and are deeply grieved by the stark departure from God’s revealed order. We are concerned for the inevitable results from this action to change the legal understanding of marriage and family life.

While this decision grieves us, God’s truth and the goodness of the order established in creation have not been changed. The kingdom of God cannot be shaken. We pray with confidence that God will reveal his glory, love, goodness, and hope to the world through his Church as we seek to follow him in faith and obedience.

Jesus Christ teaches that God is the author of marriage from the beginning of time (Matthew 19:4-6). God’s design for marriage has always involved a man and a woman: “a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). These truths have ordered civilization for thousands of years. Where God’s designs are followed in any society, including his designs for marriage and families, the result is the greatest possible blessing and abundance of life.

The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is often summarized as, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Because of his love, we love and care for all those who experience same-sex attraction. The Anglican Church in North America continues to welcome everyone to experience the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Marriage is established by God for the procreation and raising of children and for the good of society. For this reason, governments have an interest in marriage and have delegated authority from God to protect and regulate it. But no court, no legislature and no local magistrate has the authority to redefine marriage and to impose this definition on their citizens.

The United States of America, so its founders believed and taught, is a nation under God whose citizens’ fundamental rights are derived from the Creator. There is no right to a relationship which is contrary to the Creator’s express design. We cannot accept the Supreme Court’s decision purporting to find a fundamental right to same-sex “marriage” any more than we can accept its claim to have found a right to destroy human life in the womb. We will work with others to overturn this decision, and we pray that others will join with us in this effort.

Diocese of South Carolina statement on holy matrimony following SCOTUS same sex "marriage" decision

STATEMENT FROM THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

“We stand firm under the authority of Holy Scripture”

CHARLESTON, SC, JUNE 24, 2015 – On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that "all states must license marriage between two people of the same sex" and "recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state." Despite this change, the Diocese of South Carolina continues to affirm the historic position of the Christian Church: that God has ordained two states of life for His people, singleness or Holy Matrimony – the joining together of one man and one woman into a holy union. By affirming this position, we stand firmly under the authority of Holy Scripture, in continuity with the two thousand year history of the church, and in accord with the vast majority of Christians around the world. Therefore, it is clear that while the Supreme Court may be changing the civil definition of marriage, it has no authority over Holy Matrimony and the Church’s blessing of the union between husband and wife.

The Bible envisions Holy Matrimony as the life long, exclusive union of one man and one woman. While Christians, like others, experience failure in realizing this vision, it is nevertheless the standard we profess and toward which we strive. We believe that marriage, like all areas of life, can be redeemed, and that by God’s grace all married people can be enabled to live into its unique calling.

The full consequences of the Supreme Court’s cultural and legal innovation have yet to be seen, and will be tested over time. It is our strong belief that this same Constitution, to which they have appealed, must protect the rights of all people to the free exercise of religion. In the light of this conviction, the Diocese of South Carolina will faithfully conduct its ministry in accordance with our beliefs, trusting that this freedom will be upheld.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

GAFCON chairman's June 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


June 2015

‘For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus sake.’
2 Corinthians 4:5

My dear brothers and sisters,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our only Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

It is a strange thing that in the Church we can see both extraordinary strength and extraordinary weakness at the same time.

The strength of Christian faith has been revealed in a most profound way by members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston following the shooting of nine of its members during a bible study by a gunman obsessed with white supremacist ideas. The true Christlikeness of this historic church, which has been no stranger to persecution in its past, was summed up by a victim's relative who faced the gunman in court and said, “I forgive you and my family forgives you. Repent and give your life to Christ”.

In a different way, but also in the face of adversity, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has noted the strength of Christians who have gone through terrible suffering at the hands of the Islamic State. During his recent fact finding visit to Iraqi refugee camps at the invitation of the Chaldean Catholic Church he found surprisingly high morale and that, despite great poverty, the church run camps have worship, medical and educational provision and these are open to all.

Let us not neglect to pray for these communities and all our brothers and sisters who are seeking to follow Christ faithfully despite deep trauma.

In contrast, there are too many examples in the Church of weakness in the face of the subtle challenges of cultural and financial pressure. In Africa we are still too dependent in our thinking on outside agencies. This makes us vulnerable to relationships designed to buy influence and damages the integrity of our witness, while in the more economically developed world there is too often a fear of being out of step with secular culture. In this context I cannot avoid mentioning a very disturbing event in England. On Saturday 20th June, a Canon of York Minster blessed a ‘Gay Pride’ march of homosexual activists from the Minster steps, causing a senior clergyman in the Diocese of York to say “York Minster’s leading the way in the Gay Pride march is symbolic of what the Church of England’s leadership is doing generally on this issue – leading people away from the clear teaching of the Bible and the Gospel.”

In the face of such challenges, GAFCON exists to encourage work that will strengthen the Anglican Communion to be true to its biblical calling. One very promising initiative to help restore biblical truth in the life of the Church is the Anglican Church in North America’s recently announced Symposium on the ‘Domestic Church: Family Catechesis in Contemporary Society (October 15-17 2015 at Christ Church, Plano). I am sure they are right in their conviction that the renewal of the Church in the twenty-first century will not be deep and lasting unless the spiritual significance of the family unit is recognized and it is given its proper place as a means of discipleship, teaching and growth in the Christian life.

Also in North America, next month our GAFCON Ambassador Bishop Bill Atwood will be speaking at the International Congress of Catholic Anglicans. The GAFCON leadership is pleased to support this gathering recognizing we all need each other. Our Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters enrich our fellowship and strengthen our stand.

We too in Kenya are seeking to equip our Christians with another Divine Conference hosted by All Saints Cathedral Nairobi 28th-30th August 2015 taking the theme ‘A Call to Holy Living’ (1 Thessalonians 4:7) and international visitors will be most welcome. One of our main speakers will be fellow GAFCON Primate Archbishop Foley Beach from North America.

GAFCON is also seeking to strengthen the life of its growing number of branches and last week our General Secretary, Archbishop Peter Jensen, was the main speaker at a well attended meeting in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the invitation of Irish members of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK and Ireland. Many present became GAFCON members.

Archbishop Jensen took the theme ‘What GAFCON means to me’. He reminded the meeting of the way that GAFCON had stepped in to stand with orthodox Anglicans as the Communion began to break apart and recognized the sacrifices made by many of those who now form the Anglican Church in North America.

He also praised the Church of Ireland House of Bishops for their courage in reaffirming the biblical teaching that marriage is by definition between a man and a woman, following the referendum result in the Irish Republic in favour of so called ‘gay marriage’. He contrasted their decision with that of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod earlier this month to remove the biblical definition of marriage from the canons of their Church and added that the cost of trying to hold both views together is to obscure the teaching of the Bible when it is in fact very clear, just at a time when a new spiritual darkness is falling on the Western world.

The partnership and encouragement that GAFCON offers as a global fellowship is therefore going to be needed more than ever as we commit to the re-evangelization of the West and develop new wineskins for the task. So let me give the last words of this letter to an extract from Archbishop Jensen’s address:

“…liberal Christianity has little appeal to non-believers. The ancient world did not heed Christian idol worshippers: it was won over by those who preached and lived the biblical gospel with passion. It was the difference which made a difference; the difference with real content. It was the message that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he rules through the Scriptures, the word of God. The ancient Christians out-lived, out-thought and out-loved their contemporaries. They did not do this by doubting the faith or changing it to suit the times. They did it by confessing the truth, even to death.”

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council