Gafcon and the equipping of gospel ministers

Reliable leaders competent to teach others.

 "Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen!—to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others.  2 Timothy 2:2, The Message translation

2.   We will devote ourselves to raising up the next generation of leaders in Gafcon through Bible-based theological education that will equip them to be Christ-centred and servant-hearted. The Kigali Commitment

For most of us in Western countries, when we receive a service from a professional person, perhaps a lawyer or a doctor or a schoolteacher for our children, we don’t often think about where and how they were trained. We assume that they know how to do their job, and that other people – the government, the university, the various professional bodies  – are responsible for the delivery of the curriculum and the assessment of whether they have the knowledge and skills necessary to do the work.

This attitude is often carried into our view of the training of our church leaders, especially if we have been part of a denomination where future clergy are selected and their training delivered and funded by bodies remote from our local churches. If we describe this as the “professionalisation” of the clergy, it’s a good thing if that means that training has proper academic and practical components, is rigorous and properly accredited. But it is not a good thing if the academic study denies the gospel and inculcates a secular world view. And it’s not good if the lay Christians regard their leaders in the same way as they see anyone providing a professional service from outside, and not as a spiritual gift for the church and a fellow member of the body of Christ.

Open Bible

Gafcon was formed because of the crisis in the Anglican Communion caused by leaders openly and repeatedly turning away from the basic teaching of Scripture, and appearing to be more aligned with the worldviews of the secular world than authentic Christian faith. In the acclaimed statement which came out of the recent conference in Kigali, Gafcon committed itself to being intentionally “hands-on” in the training of clergy and other leaders, to ensure that ministers of the future are not only “professional” but faithful:

We will devote ourselves to raising up the next generation of leaders in Gafcon through Bible-based theological education that will equip them to be Christ-centred and servant-hearted.

 Let’s look at this statement in a bit more detail.

 •            “Raising up the next generation”. The church needs to be thinking about its future, and like any organisation it needs to have leaders who maintain the right values and vision, and pass on the teachings of the faith. We can’t assume that leaders of God’s people will just emerge, and then trust in some denominational system to identify them and in remote academic courses to train them. Rather, as Paul said to Timothy, the faithful leaders of today need to identify “reliable” people who will be suitably “competent” or “qualified” to teach others, and intentionally entrust the apostolic message that has been handed down to us, to this new generation.

two people

   •           “In Gafcon”, means the global movement which God has raised up to protect and be a witness for orthodox Anglicanism. There has been an acceptance for many decades among bible-believing Anglicans in England, and perhaps in other countries,  that excellent ministry training inherently goes against the grain of the beliefs of the senior Anglican leadership. Gafcon hopes for something more positive which is seen increasingly around the world: excellent spiritual, academic, practical ministry training to be encouraged from the top, working for the gospel and not against it, and embedded in the church systems.

 •             “Bible-based”. Many powerful narratives in today’s culture have infiltrated the church, subtly using Christian language and ideas to confuse and deceive. Also, in academic theological study, the bible is often not seen as true or authoritative, but one of many sources of information about what Christians believe or should believe. Instead, leaders need to base understandings of the world and Christian ministry on submission to the authority and divine authorship of Scripture.

Studying Bible together

 •             “Theological education” is vital for a healthy church. Leaders should be taught not just to repeat “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9) but to think it through and communicate it in clear and fresh ways in the light of the context Christians are living in. There is a body of knowledge to be grasped and understood, based on reading and writing, which needs academic study. But there are dangers here: a focus on the academic at the expense of the practical; seeking status (degrees, promotion to senior position for its own sake); and relying on a system of colleges, buildings and libraries separate from church and ministry. Healthy church movements use different models of training, starting with discipleship at local church level to more specialised training for specific ministries according to gifts and calling. And while some may achieve degrees and doctorates, there should never be a “one size fits all”. The development of creative “non-formal” training courses, appropriate for low financial inputs but properly accredited by the wider church, is a major factor in ensuring stability for rapidly growing Diocese in the global south.

 •             “Equip” has the sense of providing tools and other resources to be able to do a job effectively. Ephesians 4:11-12 explains how God’s people are prepared for ministry by the leaders God provides as gifts to the church.

 •             “Christ-centred”. When an Archbishop can say that calling God ‘Father’ might be “problematic”, that is an example of a departure from Christ-centredness which needs to be corrected by better theological education! Good ministry training will begin with focus on Christ in prayer and worship, and will always ask the question how is this glorifying to Christ and promoting his gospel?

Preach Christ

•             “Servant- hearted”. Recent scandals have shown the importance of humble character, avoidance of pride and always looking to the good of others, as well as dynamic leadership skills and sound doctrine. Godly character, and the ministry of caring for the sheep can’t be taught just through lectures and essays. It needs to be identified and helped to put into practice in homes and workplace before being “raised up” to the role of leadership in the church.

Do we take our current church leaders for granted? Can we get more involved in the investment of the next generation, through prayer, mentoring, and perhaps finance? Can effective, low cost methods of training be developed in our context, given fears about declining resources? Answering these questions is a priority for Gafcon in the process of re-setting Anglicanism as a vehicle for God’s kingdom in the years to come. Just take a look at the Gafcon website’s daily prayer items from around the world, and we can see the vital link between the growth of the church and support for good training of those entrusted with leadership, pastoral care and proclaiming of the gospel.