Mission in mainland Europe today
Croatia: The Reformed Episcopal Church (linked to Gafcon and Free Church of England) held a special service in which Bishop Jasmin Milić received a special award from the municipality of Tordinci for his contribution to church and community life. Read more about the ministry of the REC in Croatia and Serbia here.
Report on the recent European Leadership Forum conference in Poland. Encouraging to see evangelicals from different denominations sharing the same vision to preach the gospel in Europe.
“many people had their first or new encounter with Jesus. Many have been touched by the Holy Spirit and tasted the love of God.”
Young Christians to share the Gospel all around Europe this summer: OM initiative ‘Race Across Europe’ will take young Christians to cities in 15 different countries where they will attend local churches and work alongside them in evangelism and social action projects.
Uganda anti homosexuality laws
New anti-homosexuality laws passed by the Ugandan Parliament have come in for severe criticism from Western governments, human rights groups and some church leaders. Media narratives continue to make links between conservative Christianity and persecution of gay people.
The Archbishop of Uganda’s initial statement expresses broad support for the legal suppression of the promotion of LGBT ideology and stricter penalties for coercive gay sex (homosexual practice was already outlawed, as in many countries in the world) but not the imposition of the death penalty. He also opposes and warns against all sexual immorality endemic in African communities, and hypocrisy. “Many of the people loudly protesting against homosexuality are quietly fornicating or betraying their spouse through Gender-Based Violence, adultery, or defiling their own children”, he says. He advocates the gospel setting people free from all sexual sin, and the development of ministries of healing and restoration.
Can we pray that these laws do not prevent the exercise of pastoral care which the church is called to?
The Kigali Commitment states,
We affirm that every person is loved by God and we are determined to love as God loves. As [Lambeth Conference 1998] Resolution I.10 affirms, we oppose the vilification or demeaning of any person including those who do not follow God’s ways, since all human beings are created in God’s image.
The Archbishop of Sydney, in a statement, has said "We do not believe that criminalisation of consensual sexual activity between adults is appropriate”. In fact Uganda politician the Hon Asuman Basalirwa seemed to agree, telling the BBC, "It does not bother anybody if two adults are engaged in gay sex in private”.
We recognise that the responses of the Ugandan church and Gafcon are not directed against individuals in this way, but are attempts to resist the immense power of the LGBT lobby, its effect on the values or young people, its damage to family life and orthodox Christian faith, and its promotion in Africa, seen as a new market for financial gain, and ideological dominance from the West, a modern form of colonialism. Meanwhile, many of our own governments in Europe are seeking to impose bans on ‘conversion therapy’ (see below), which lobbyists hope would criminalise conversations about LGBT identity which don’t conform to the ‘pride’ agenda, and which may even suppress the public expression of the church’s biblical teaching.
In response to Archbishop Justin Welby’s intervention, severely criticising the Church of Uganda, the Chairman of Gafcon has issued a strong statement pointing out that Canterbury is no longer recognised as having moral authority in many Anglican Provinces, because “he [Justin Welby] did not express any grief or sorrow over the crisis that has torn apart the Anglican Communion under his watch” and is himself complicit in a situation where the Lambeth Resolution I:10 has been “flagrantly and repeatedly violated by Canterbury and allied western revisionist churches”. Lambeth I:10 calls for “a normal pastoral approach and the responsibility of Church ministers to offer care and counsel to sinners of all categories”, not “an endorsement of the sinful act”. For further reading, an article in Anglican Futures gives a detailed analysis of the Church of Uganda’s position and Archbishop Justin Welby’s response.
We are grateful for the opportunities that the Gafcon fellowship brings to engage in dialogue with our brothers and sisters of different cultures, especially in Africa, as we seek righteousness with compassion in our own lives and in our nations, each aware of our own cultural biases, and we pray for Gafcon leaders as they seek to address this issue with wisdom.
These issues are complex, and are linked to increasing tension across the world as the West becomes more secular, and the global South and East are seeking new political and ideological alignments. We need to spend some time listening, learning, and praying, with biblical discernment and compassion, not rushing to join in the groupthink and public signalling.
‘Conversion therapy bans’
From Premier: new poll suggests that most people in the UK are not in favour of a ban on counselling for issues of sexuality and gender identity. A spokesman from Whitestone Insight, who conducted the poll, said that we need to “take heed of the public's desire for the freedom of professionals and the freedom of patients to seek help.”
A recent email to the signatories of the ‘Greater Love Declaration’ warns about threats to aspects of Christian pastoral care and parenting through a ‘conversion therapy’ ban, and the need for orthodox Christians of all denominations to unite around a biblical view of marriage as the leadership of prominent church groups capitulate to secular thinking.
Pride month: Can an employer require employees to conform? A report from Christian Concern.
Young people, mental health, lack of meaning and purpose
Nathaniel Peters, writing in Public Discourse, suggests that much contemporary education does not give young people the skills “to think in practical moral categories of judgment and action. This leaves them ill-equipped to navigate the decisions they face, making far too many wonder how life can be lived well and whether it is worth living at all… teachers, parents, and professors should be unafraid to propose authoritative accounts of human life and its goods [eg, the bible], and encourage students to judge and decide as free moral actors.”
Meanwhile, commentators and even governments are increasingly alarmed about the effect of the social media platform TikTok. Is it too much to suggest that the addictive Chinese-owned app is deliberately designed to affect the cognitive capacities of Western youth? Just as Western colonial powers introduced opium to China in the 19thcentury, is this something similar happening in reverse? Is TikTok a neutral communication medium which can be used for the gospel, or a "weapon of civilisation warfare" which Christians should not use? Other studies suggest that it is profit-driven social media itself, not just who owns the platform, which is the problem.
Persecution of Christians around the world
A new report estimates that over 52,000 Christians have been killed in northern Nigeria since 2009. Nigerian security forces are implicated in the slaughter. “jihadists are fervently trying to cleanse Nigeria of any Christian presence”. But many news outlets fail to identify the religions of either the murdered or their murderers, constantly excusing Islamic extremism and blaming poverty, inequality and climate change. More detail in this article from Gatestone Institute.
See also this report from Release International, featuring an interview with Archbishop Ben Kwashi.
A petition from Aid to the Church in Need has been presented to the UK government, urging more action.
Meanwhile according to Premier Christian News, historic conflict between tribal groups is being used to stoke anti-Christian sentiment, resulting in the burning of hundreds of churches in Manipur state in the north-eastern part of India.
Let’s continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who face intense persecution for their faith every day.
Tributes have poured in to express appreciation for the life of the New York-based preacher, writer and mission leader who passed away last month after a long battle with cancer. The Gospel Coalition website has compiled a list of pieces honouring God’s work in this humble saint. An example:
“The Reason for God … offered a vision of Christianity that I could imagine myself actually believing and defending, and it helped me learn how to talk about Jesus and Christianity with other people like me who hadn’t yet encountered Jesus in the ways I had.”
We give thanks for this man of God and pray for the emergence of similar ministries, successfully explaining the bible to contemporary society.