The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) is a movement not just calling attention to a dysfunction, but building for the future, according to a trio of leaders fielding questions from the press at the Nairobi, Kenya gathering on Friday.
“That [GAFCON] has come to the soil of Africa has been historic,” noted Nigerian Archbishop Ben Kwashi, calling the conference “a blessing.” Praising the depth of Bible teaching at the event, the leader of Jos diocese highlighted conference concerns such as care of the oppressed and sharing of one another’s burdens.
“As an African, I’m tired of hearing all the bad news about Africa,” Kwashi candidly stated. “GAFCON has given good news.”
Kwashi, whose diocese in Nigeria’s middle belt has been hard hit by Islamist violence, noted that “militants are as merciless to Christians as they are to peaceful Muslims.”
“We love and are called to love — in this many Christians have lost their lives. In time, militancy will be defeated, but we have to communicate with those who do not love us — that isn’t easy.”
Kwashi was joined by Dr. Ruth Senyonyi of Uganda who co-led one of GAFCON’s nine mini-conferences. Senyonyi identified a “strong foundation on the Bible” in discussions on marriage and families.
“We continue to preach the Word of God to Muslims,” Senyonyi shared. “We continue to love and that does not stop us — we should still preach the Word.”
Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) General Secretary Peter Jensen fielded questions about the movement’s scope. Asked about an earlier comment discussing the GFCA connection of the independent Brazilian diocese of Recife to the broader Anglican Communion, the Sydney Archbishop was reflective.
“Is it [GFCA] a province?” Jensen mused. “Not in a legal sense … but as a fraternal fellowship.” Jensen noted that the power of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office had been “seriously reduced” when 300 bishops declined an invitation to the 2008 Lambeth conference, citing the invitation of U.S. Episcopal Church bishops who participated in the consecration of openly partnered homosexual bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
“Canterbury has been somewhat diminished ever since,” observed Jensen, qualifying that there was still “respect for the office” and that Canterbury would remain “the first among equals” but acknowledged “in new ways.”
Asked about the place of social justice at the conference, leaders responded that the marriage and family mini-conference and the empowering of the local churches were directly linked to social justice concerns. A draft communique from the GAFCON conference set to be released Saturday includes statements on human trafficking, abortion, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and other social concerns. There was, however, a ranking of immediate priorities.
“We believe the integrity of scripture and authority of the Gospel is fundamental,” Jensen explained. “If you go wrong with them, everything will go wrong in the end.”
Jensen noted that the Gospel has been at the center of major social change, but that there must be a correct order first of “proper theological basis.”