Where is the Elijah?
An Anglican leader from outside the UK once told me how he used to view the Church of England. The problem, he thought, was loss of confidence of God’s word in the church, partly as a result of secularism in the culture. The solution would be a strong, inspiring individual to lead recovery of gospel and revival in the church, and/or to establish a new faithful church, and then, a strong, inspiring individual to protect the Judaeo-Christian world view in the nation, and restrict the influence of the secular progressive agenda. Where is that hoped-for ‘Elijah’ figure?
This investment of hope in the individual human leader to stand up against evil, gather the righteous and establish peace and security with “our side” as the winners, seems to be hardwired in us. We always seem to want a personality, a face, a contemporary ‘king’ to inspire us and lead us. That person can become the embodiment of our faith, obscuring Christ himself, so that when things are going well, we defer to these leaders as the fount of all spiritual power and wisdom. But when the leaders turn out to have feet of clay, we are devastated, and sometimes, influenced by the jeering of others, we are tempted to question the faith that these fallen ‘Elijahs’ preached. We need to remember the lesson of 1 Samuel 8, where the people insisted on a king so they could be “like all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8:20); to teach them a lesson God gave them one, and it was Saul.
The leader who asked ‘where is the Elijah?’ realised that this was the wrong question. Or at least, he was looking in the wrong place - for a person rather than a vision. The answer to the problem of secularism in society and turning away from the truth in the church, is not another charismatic human leader. We already have one for all time - the man Christ Jesus. Nor is the answer to be found in an institution, as if the New Testament shows God setting up his kingdom through respected political, technological and educational establishments.
A vision is something more than an idea. We can see it; it’s tangible - communities being established around the world, of ordinary people whose lives are changed by encounter with the crucified and risen Lord, who quietly and humbly resist the deluge of lies fed to them by false teachers in church and culture, build their lives on the Rock, and proclaim his salvation and his values to those around them, to others in their nation, and to the ends of the earth. They know they are not starting from scratch, but stand on the shoulders of godly men and women before them; they use trusted forms of governance to ensure accountability and liturgical worship to align with the Scriptures and the wider movement.
Among Anglicans, it is Gafcon which articulates and guards this vision of global, faithful Christian life and witness. While we give thanks for the courageous and wise leaders of the movement, our faith is not in them or in the respectability of the institutions they represent, but in the vision summarised in the Jerusalem Declaration, and lived out in thousands of parishes in different countries: ethnically and culturally diverse, united in the Lord and his truth. So if a leader fails, or the movement faces a problem, we are saddened and moved again to pray for the Lord’s mercy, but our faith in God and in his gospel is not shaken. We need a focus to inspire, to point out what’s wrong, to show the right path, to encourage us to walk in it. The Elijah for our time is not a contemporary leader, but the Gafcon vision.
Gafcon UK News
Anglican Network in Europe:
As reported in our December issue, the formation of ANiE was approved by the Gafcon Primates in December. This means that existing and new Anglican congregations which join the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) or Anglican Convocation Europe (ACE) are recognised as authentically Anglican by the majority of the Communion, and come under accountable episcopal oversight. The official launch of AMiE took place online on 14th December, and the launch of ACE is planned for February. Please pray for Bishop Andy Lines and for the congregations of ANiE as they share in gospel mission.
See the ANiE website here and an interview with Andy Lines and others here.
Dave McCarthy of St Thomas, Edinburgh, writes:
All places of worship are currently closed but gathering continues online. Westhill Community Church in Aberdeen continues to negotiate with the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) over property - pray for a swift resolution of this so that they can make decisions about their future. St Thomas’, Edinburgh and Christ Church, Harris (Western Isles) have recently voted to confirm affiliation to the new Anglican Convocation in Europe - praise God for this. Pray also for St Silas’, Glasgow (ACE) - for fruitfulness in ministries to students and families at a time when physical meeting is impossible.
For those faithful Anglicans remaining in the Scottish Episcopal Church - there are several clergy and lay people who have raised complaints of bullying by bishops. Pray that these will be taken seriously and that a just process of investigation will be followed.
Our correspondent from the Evangelical Fellowship of the Church in Wales (EFCW) sent this report:
In September 2021 the Governing Body of the Church in Wales will consider a bill to allow the use of a liturgy that will ‘bless’ Same Sex Marriage. Should the Bill be passed, the Bench of Bishops will ask the Doctrinal Commission to begin work on redefining marriage. 2021 will be a challenging year for faithful Anglicans in Wales. There is a feeling amongst orthodox Anglicans of being under threat at the moment, and of the continuing growth of the liberal agenda at all levels of the Province.
The Archbishop of Wales has announced his retirement in May. It is unlikely a new Archbishop will be appointed in 2021 in the current circumstances. This raises questions over the leadership, and gives a feeling of uncertainty. We rejoice, though, that God is at work in Wales. We praise God particularly for a new generation of leaders being raised within Evangelicalism. We praise God for conversations taking place across churchmanships amongst orthodox Anglicans, and we praise God for the growth of lay membership and involvement in EFCW.
Please hold us in your prayers, and we particularly ask for strength, courage and wisdom as we face a difficult year.
The annual meeting of the Church of England Evangelical Council took place on 12-13 January. It is a gathering of evangelical Bishops, clergy and lay people representing different networks, some of which are supporters of Gafcon.. There is determination to remain united in commitment to biblical truth despite differences on secondary issues. Discussions included how to best use the Beautiful Story video, how to ensure that biblical teaching on sexuality and marriage generally is disseminated through the Diocesan Evangelical Fellowships, and how to prepare for General Synod later in the year by ensuring that good evangelical candidates stand for election. Also, new resources on how to engage biblically with issues of race and ethnicity were unveiled. See the CEEC website here.
We want to encourage our readers to follow the Gafcon Global site, which has now been re-designed so regular news updates, items for prayer for the church around the world, and daily devotionals can be easily accessed. In particular, let’s remember the ministry of the key Networks - recently we’ve been asked to remember those places where the church is under persecution, and also the development of effective theological education and training of pastors which is appropriate for local contexts.