GAFCON: What it does and why it matters

GAFCON began as a moment. A moment when Anglicans stood up for authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ.  As we saw in our first article, this stand was expressed as a conference held in Jerusalem in 2008. Five years after GAFCON 2008 a second conference was held in Nairobi. Again, Anglicans from all around the Communion gathered again to demonstrate a faithful witness to Christ and his saving Word.

You are not alone

At GAFCON 2013, Dr Peter Jensen (the General Secretary of GAFCON) moderated a session entitled We are not alone.  In this session Dr Jensen introduced and encouraged members of the Anglican Communion to share their experiences as Anglicans standing up for and promoting the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ. A constant refrain from those who presented was that the GAFCON movement had shown them that amidst severe persecution from governments or litigation by their own diocese they were not alone.  In the GAFCON movement they had brothers and sisters from around the world standing with them as they stood for Christ.  This session demonstrated that in its essence GAFCON is a movement standing for biblical truth.

Standing together

This stand for biblical truth is led by the Primates Council which oversees the work of GAFCON.  The Council is currently comprised of faithful bishops from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Sudan, South America, North America, Rwanda and the Congo.  Through their words and actions these men stand up for the authority of Scripture and promote the Lordship of Christ.  Sometimes this orthodoxy is expressed through their non-attendance of Anglican Communion meetings and gatherings.  Sometimes through the creation of new organisations and support structures.

In standing for biblical truth the GAFCON movement has encouraged the creation of a new province and mission organisations.  GAFCON encouraged the orthodox Anglican churches of North America to unite.  This resulted in the creation of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).  The ACNA has provided a home for over 110 000 Canadian and American Anglicans.  GAFCON has also established the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).  AMiE has already planted several new Anglican churches in England.

National branches of GAFCON have been created throughout the world.  In 2017 GAFCON branches can be found in the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. These branches exist to teach the gospel and make disciples in their own countries but also are ready to offer fellowship to Anglicans who may be forced to leave their diocese or church over matters of orthodoxy.  GAFCON branches echo the sentiment that you are not alone in your stand for biblical truth.

GAFCON not only unites Anglicans but also seeks to strengthen the promotion of biblical truth within the Communion.  This strengthening will be achieved through the creation of a bishops training program and the creation of networks of Anglicans, in areas such as theological education, so that we can assist each other as we seek to stand for Christ.

2017: The current challenges

In 2017 it has become ever more apparent that there is a real need to stand for biblical truth. In January 2016 the Archbishop of Canterbury attempted to reconcile those with different doctrinal commitments within the Anglican Communion.  The GAFCON Primates in attendance at this meeting called those who had strayed from scripture to repent.  Repentance has not been forthcoming and indeed some bishops have stated that no repentance is required.  The national synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has already, and the national synods of New Zealand and Canada are currently moving towards providing same sex marriages in the Anglican Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury has also indicated that all bishops of the Anglican Communion will be invited to the next Lambeth Conference in 2020 regardless of their stance on issues of human sexuality.

From all accounts it appears that the issue that led to the need for GAFCON 2008 is continuing to divide the Anglican Communion in 2017.  GAFCON and its stand for biblical truth is just as important in 2017 as it was in 2008.  In 2017 GAFCON needs Anglicans from all around the world to stand for the sake of Christ to guard and proclaim the unchanging, transforming gospel.

In my third and final article we will unpack the challenges GAFCON and orthodox Anglicans face as we seek to be a missional movement to win people for Christ