In what kind of landscape does the GAFCON movement now find itself? In what kind of environment do Orthodox Anglicans find themselves living day to day and doing ministry? To steal a phrase from the General Secretary of GAFCON, we find ourselves in the midst of a missional crisis. That is, in 2017 we are faced with a decision: how will we relate to the culture of our times and do mission within this culture? As Orthodox Anglicans, will we capitulate to the teaching and whims of the world or stay true to Scripture and preach Jesus as Lord? One way can be perceived by the world as ‘being on the right side of history’ while the alternative is seen as bigoted, close minded and outdated.
At face value this might feel too much like an arbitrary distinction. But within the context of the Anglican Communion it is a distinction almost as clear as black and white. It could be argued that one part of the Communion has capitulated to the culture of the day and reason and rationality have been elevated to a position of authority above Scripture. The culture in the developed world applauds this shift. On the other hand, Orthodox Anglicans have said to society we can’t support our culture’s rejection of the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture. We must stand up and not only critique culture but preach the gospel of the Bible to this culture.
In many ways the current crisis is an age-old crisis that Christians have always faced. The early church had to decide whether to capitulate to Rome or stand for the gospel? It is similar to the crisis faced by our brothers and sisters 500 years ago in Europe. The issue of human sexuality is the current battle ground of this missional crisis. But this crisis plays out in many other ways. The decision to preach the gospel faithfully affects all levels of our lives as believers. As individuals: at a BBQ with the neighbors will we say we can’t support same sex marriage? As local congregations: will we preach a message that says there is only one way to salvation? As provinces: if we are able, we will we say no to attending influential meetings and thereby expressing fellowship with those who are living contrary to the gospel are in positions of authority? As a Communion: will we call people to repentance? For the sake of the gospel we will have to put our heads above the parapet in all areas of our lives. As we stand for the gospel we will be maligned, taunted, even hated. But if we don’t stand for biblical authority and the Lordship of Christ what is the ultimate consequence? We are left with an empty gospel which affirms everything that the Bible condemns and only offers cheap grace in the form of self-improvement not resurrection. Ultimately it results in people going to hell. But if we do stand for Jesus, we get to stand for Christ who lay down his life for us!
Throughout the communion Orthodox Anglicans are taking a stand for the gospel. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) exists because people took a stand for the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ. Today approximately 110 000 biblical Anglicans gather in 983 congregations across 29 dioceses. St Thomas’s church in Scotland is currently putting its head above the parapet by committing to remain faithful to the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality while the Scottish Episcopal Church pushes for a redefinition of marriage.
While it sometimes may feel like a battle we must fight as people of grace, acting in love and with the utmost respect. If you want to see the Lordship of Christ and authority of Scripture upheld with grace, love and humility just watch some of the footage of our courageous brothers and sisters in England when they addressed the issue of Same Sex Marriage in the Church of England. As we face this crisis we must be as Jesus called us to be, the salt and light of the world.
It is because of this missional crisis that GAFCON is important. The GAFCON movement provides a place to belong for those who have been excluded because they stand for the gospel. It provides a network of support and prayer for those in the midst of battle and it provides a voice for the gospel in the midst of a world in chaos.