The military coup of February 2021 has resulted in a brutal dictatorship in the South East Asian country. The clampdown on freedoms has resulted in thousands being killed, imprisoned and tortured; many others have fled the country and are now in exile. The waves of Covid coming at the same time have taken many more lives and exacerbated an already fragile economy, with the result that millions now live in poverty and fear.
While Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist, the growth of the church there has been an amazing story over the past decades, especially among the minority ethnic groups. In particular the Anglican Province of Myanmar has grown to eight Dioceses, and is orthodox in theology. Led by courageous Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo, the church has been at the forefront of bringing material relief with meagre resources, and the hope of the gospel amid the suffering across the country.
In an interview with Bishop Andy Lines, Rev Dr Paul Myint Htet, Principal of Holy Cross Theological College, explains how the work of training clergy continues despite the challenges. Students make huge sacrifices to attend the residential centre, which embarked on a building programme before the crisis began. The hope and faith displayed is amazing: a good training centre is not seen as a luxury, but essential to the future of the church. The continuation of this work and the plans for expansion in such terrible circumstances is testimony to God’s faithfulness.
Gafcon GBE endorses and supports Anglican Mainstream’s Christmas Appeal, through which donations can be given to support students at Holy Cross College facing hardship. Please see here for details and give generously if you are able.
Bishop Andy says:
‘As we in Europe await the impact of another wave of Covid from the Omicron variant we are reminded of so many in this continent who are vulnerable in many ways. Add a military coup and subsequent repression, being a minority and marginalised on ethnic and religious grounds, continuing civil wars and economic decline, then we have some idea what the Church of the Province of Myanmar under Archbishop Stephen is facing. I have long links stretching back almost 20 years with the CPM and Archbishop Stephen. It would be lovely to encourage the brothers and sisters of CPM in generous giving to this cause.’
Visit of Archbishop Foley Beach
Archbishop Foley was forced to cancel (for the second time) his planned brief visit to the UK because of Covid travel restrictions. However he was able to visit a number of groups ‘virtually’. Meeting with members of Evangelical Fellowship of the Church in Wales and Anglican Essentials Wales via Zoom, Archbishop Foley told his personal story of how he came to Christ from a difficult family background, ministered as a youth worker and then Episcopalian pastor, and led his congregation into what became the new jurisdiction of ACNA after the crisis of 2003. Speaking with reference to the Letter of Jude, he warned of basic tenets of Christian faith being under attack in the global church, especially in areas of sex, gender and marriage, the uniqueness of Christ, and the distinction between God and his creation. He commended Anglicans in Wales determined to remain faithful to the truth. (Since Archbishop Foley’s visit, EFCW have produced a statement following their meeting with the House of Bishops about blessing of same sex relationships.)
In this and in subsequent meetings with Gafcon-aligned Anglicans from Britain and Europe, Archbishop Foley listened to a range of reports from around the branch, with some difficulties but also exciting initiatives in evangelism, contending for biblical truth, and church planting. He commended Gafcon as a multicultural global Anglican movement united around commitment to renew the church around biblical teaching and holy lifestyle. As faithful Anglicans in the UK and Europe are making different decisions about whether to remain in Canterbury-aligned jurisdictions or to seek alternative oversight and spiritual homes, he urged mutual respect and continued unity. He also answered questions on the perceived image of Gafcon in some quarters, policies on women in leadership, and the responses to Michael Nazir-Ali’s move to Rome.
Archbishop Foley has said:
I came away SO ENCOURAGED by our time together. To see how, even during the pandemic, Gafcon GBE has been on mission and has structure in place to enhance the sharing of the Gospel and proclamation of the Word of God. Bishop Andy and the team have laid a great foundation for the ministry ahead.
We give thanks for the life of Melvin Tinker, who passed away in the early hours of 23rd November; we mourn his passing and send condolences to his wife Heather, sons and grandchildren. He was Vicar of St John’s Newland, Hull, for 26 years, and known more widely as a speaker and author. In recent years he developed a unique prophetic analysis of Western secularism, saw its influence on the church, and expressed the urgent need for renewed faithfulness and commitment to biblical truth. He was a supporter of Gafcon, and spoke at the 2018 conference in Jerusalem. A collection of tributes can be found here.
Archbishop Ben Kwashi, General Secretary of Gafcon, is hoping to visit the UK in March 2022, during which time he would meet with a number of church leaders and speak at regional Gafcon GBE meetings. More details will be sent out in the New Year.
The fourth international Gafcon gathering is scheduled to take place in Kigali Rwanda, 21-28 May 2023. Rwanda’s Anglican leaders have been at the forefront of the clear stand for biblical orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion since Archbishop Kolini took on oversight of some faithful Anglicans in the US and Canada in 2000 and was a prominent figure at the first conference in Jerusalem in 2008. , and look forward to hosting faithful Anglicans from all over the world in Kigali’s excellent hotels and conference centre. The process for convening of delegations from GB and Europe, and Ireland (a separate Gafcon branch) will begin in the spring of 2022.
Some useful and interesting articles:
Cottrell backs plan for 2000 new church groups in poorest areas, reports Madeleine Davies in the Church Times. Meanwhile the 'Save the Parish' campaign asks why more money can't be spent on existing churches? Julian Mann interviews Marcus Walker, but points out that debate over whether to focus on church plants or the traditional parish ministry seems to ignore "the spiritual and moral elephant in the CofE's room".
Church Ministers prepared to break law over conversion therapy ban, by Donna Birrell, Premier:
Reverend Graham Nicholls, Director of Affinity, says he is prepared to go to prison if necessary to defend his traditional Christian beliefs. In an interview he sets out his concerns. An excellent open letter addressed to government minister Liz Truss can be viewed and signed here.
‘Just Preach the Gospel’? It’s Complicated. By Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition:
“The gospel of Christ crucified and raised is the power of God unto salvation... Don’t rely on ‘gospel preaching’ as a way of staying silent on matters of controversy. The gospel leaves no idol untouched. And as you preach, make sure you lay out the gospel’s implications, which ripple out into all spheres of life.”
He really was little, weak and helpless, by Stephen Kneale, Building Jerusalem
“In his humanity, Jesus took on all that means to be a human. That includes being little, weak and helpless. If we want to have a go at the carols, ‘no crying he makes’ is a better candidate...”