BY JEFF GARRETY
Chancellor of the International Diocese, Vice Chancellor of the ACNA
As we took off from JFK heading to Tel Aviv, thoughts flooded over me again. The founding of All Saints. The place of All Saints in the founding of a new diocese and a new Province at the urging of the primates at GAFCON I Jerusalem in 2008. These are the same memories that accompany every flight out and every returning flight. Memories of many flights to Kenya for early diocesan meetings in Thika, Bishop Githiga’s retirement, back to Nairobi for GAFCON II, and now returning to Jerusalem again. I knew from 2008 that the encounters would be different in circumstance and type, but I knew that I would encounter Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God in the eyes and hearts of the attendees and around every corner in Jerusalem. Knowing that 1,950 other delegates were leaving their homes across the globe only added to the excitement and anticipation.
GAFCON, the Global Anglican Future Conference, representing the clear vast majority of active Anglicans globally, has absolutely come of age at this Jerusalem Conference. As at each of the other GAFCON meetings, the worship was powerful, joyous, thankful, and mission empowering. The teaching was outstanding as was the preaching. The breakout sessions were superb. Being a member of the GAFCON Lawyers Task Force, my sessions were limited to meetings centered around Anglican identity and religious freedom. I confess a holy jealously for those who were able to attend sessions such as Discipleship breakout sessions on Marriage, Love, and Intimacy; Growing the Gospel of Life in a Culture of Death; One-to-one Discipleship-the Marrow of the Church lead by Archbishop Miguel Uchoa of Brazil, Apologetics and the Future of the Christian Faith lead by the Rt. Rev. Dapo Asaju of Nigeria and your own Bishop Bill Atwood; and What are the limits of our church?: The practice of discipline in the church. Solid seminars on theology including Why we must insist on only one way to be saved: The uniqueness of Christ, and Can we really understand the Bible?: The Clarity of Scripture, lead by the Rev. Canon Dr. Mark Thompson, Principal, Moore Theological College in Sydney, who was my scriptural interpretation leader for four days at GAFCON I.
At the conference, we celebrated Morning Prayer daily and themes and Bible expositions were set out as sermons. All of the scripture was from Luke 22:66 straight through Luke 24:53. The Bible expositions were Jesus: Tried and rejected, Jesus: Crucified and Dead, Jesus: Buried and Risen, Jesus: Appeared and Revealed, and on Friday, Jesus: Believed and Ascended. On Monday, the GAFCON chairman, The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, spoke on God’s Gospel. On Tuesday, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali spoke and taught on God’s Church. On Wednesday, Archbishop Dr. Laurent Mbanda of Anglican Church of Rwanda expounded on God’s World. On Thursday, Rev. Canon David Short, from Vancouver, expounded on God’s Strategy using Titus as his expositional base.
Throughout the conference, there was tremendous praise and worship. A group of nine musicians and 40-50 singers from Uganda and they truly lived up to the job description of worship leaders. The sound of 2,000 people singing, occasionally in their native tongues, was truly God’s family in praise and prayer. During all of the formal services, the Lord’s prayer was recited in each person’s native tongue. For example, this meant for Kenya there might be 20-25 tribal tongues saying the Lord’s prayer along with all of those from all over the world. It was beautiful. Bishop John Guernsey of the ACNA Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic was responsible for planning all of the worship.
On Tuesday, all of the attendees could choose from various pilgrimages to the Dead Sea and Masada, or the Galilee sites, or Bethlehem, and the Church of the Nativity, or diggings at the site of the City of David. I chose the City of David which was fascinating and included the architectural and archeological sites of the cistern and water access pipe that was used by David and his army to invade Jerusalem. It also included Hezekiah’s tunnel and other diggings which had revealed neighborhoods in what was the fortified city of Jerusalem which is to the south of the Temple Mount. Very narrow passageways. Much of it well underground and the warnings to those who may be claustrophobic are well, just, inadequate.
Great food. I discovered some new places for dinner, including the Norte Dame Center. It was just north of the north wall of the city and if you were there at sunset you can watch the shadows move up the western side of the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives.
GAFCON I produced The Jerusalem Declaration and the GAFCON Declaration. These are the theological founding documents of GAFCON. GAFCON II in Nairobi produced the Nairobi Communique and Commitment. In 2018, again at Jerusalem, the conference vision was focused on a Letter to the Churches. It is a powerful letter with far-reaching Anglican Communion impact. In this “Jerusalem Letter”, the conference affirmed that, “We dedicate ourselves proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations, working together to guard the Gospel entrusted to us by our Lord and his Apostles”. This “Jerusalem Letter” is a joyful yet solemn covenant commitment for the renewal and reordering of the Anglican Communion. We are committed that the spreading of the gospel requires the authenticity of the gospel. We cannot separate mission from faithfulness. There is only one gospel (Gal. 1). GAFCON is reforming and will continue to reform by creating new global structures where necessary, such as the Synodical Council, and by commending biblically principled engagement with the old Anglican Communion structures. We are renewing by reaching out to the world with the good news Jesus Christ in word and deed and to facilitate this GAFCON III formed 9 global networks. GAFCON is putting in place structures that will enable faithful gospel proclamation throughout the world and we are adding new Provinces to the communion. In the words of The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, GAFCON chairman, “We are not leaving and we will not cease until the Anglican Communion has become fit for the great purpose of proclaiming God’s Gospel. We will fulfill our vow and covenant.”
To hear and learn more about my experience at GAFCON III and how it pertains to the life of All Saints, a dessert and share time is scheduled at the church on Wednesday, August 15 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.