Gafcon’s foundational document from 2008 remains powerful, prophetic and relevant today as faithful Anglicans seek to “proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations”
The root of the crisis in the Western church is different views on the reality of God and his plans for the cosmos. Keeping in mind the future return of Christ, and the present miracle of the real, faithful, spiritual (rather than institutional) Church, is an important antidote to secularism.
A frequently heard testimony from many white, Western Anglicans attending previous global Gafcon gatherings, is a discovery for the first time of a rich diversity of cultural expression within a shared unity based on a biblical world view and agreed understanding of the gospel.
Regardless of whether one likes football the 2022 World Cup in Qatar cannot have gone unnoticed. While some Christians, concerned about social justice issues, chose to personally boycott the tournament, others saw it as an opportunity for evangelism. The Jerusalem Declaration recognises the vital importance of both evangelism and social justice in the Church’s mission.
This is a book for our times when the church is confronted by the pressures of a secular society as it examines its affirmation of the truths of the Bible.
Our teaching and our lives must reflect that:  “…we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church”. Ephesians 5:30-31. At Advent we remember how Christ comes as Saviour to deal with our unfaithfulness which causes separation; he will come again as the bridegroom to claim his bride.
What is an Anglican? The Jerusalem Declaration focusses on affirming bible-based Christian faith shared with all true churches but in clauses 6 and 7 sets out concisely some Anglican distinctives.
The church must proclaim the reality of the unique Christian world view. Reading and listening to many of the comments about the late Queen Elizabeth, it was noticeable that her Christian faith was mentioned repeatedly – and by the secular media, not just evangelical churches.
The Anglican Church has always reflected the character of the early church. A movement with mission in its DNA, creative in methods and adaptive to different cultures around the world. And yet, settled and at home in shared faith in Christ based on the Scriptures and shared traditions of order and polity – where the church has come from and how it is governed.
Authentic Anglican faith affirms the inspiration, authority and sufficiency of Scripture, and notes the need in every generation to interpret and proclaim its message of salvation faithfully and carefully.
Gafcon aims to “make disciples of all nations and to build up the church on the foundation of biblical truth". The energy that drove the formation of Gafcon in 2008 came from a protest of righteous anger against injustice and wrongdoing, and against a lie originating in human philosophy infiltrating and endangering the church. The Jerusalem Statement, of which the Declaration forms the main part, talks about the crisis facing world Anglicanism.
The raising of the dead is a demonstration of a principle or pattern by which God operates in and through his people in a sinful world under judgement. God wants us to trust him for a turnaround in our circumstances and those we are praying for, practical as well as spiritual: something of the final glorious salvation of the future coming through to the present.
The greatest, most important miracle in history is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The truth claims and credibility of Christianity down the ages, as well as the personal faith of millions in a risen Saviour, depend on the fact that Jesus really died, was buried, his tomb sealed and guarded securely, but then by God’s power, broke free, and was seen, heard and touched physically by hundreds of people
“Difficulties are going to come…we must go through a time of weeping and seeking the Lord…we have an apostolic commission to take the gospel to the world…the gospel is not just a statement, it is God’s promises of what has happened and what will happen for the salvation of the world…”
Sing…because the days are evil. Standing firmly on God’s word, we can turn to praise and thanksgiving with music, rejoicing in our fellowship with brothers and sisters around the world who are pursuing the wisdom of God’s revealed will and praising him, even in difficult circumstances.
Turning back to the source of life. A saying famously attributed to GK Chesterton, says that when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.
The writers of Scripture, like the news editors of today, tell the story of the human condition honestly. There is joy, beauty, love and much else to be thankful for. But there is also pain – we are in a messed-up world. Some have concluded that there is no God, and we must look to ourselves and human ingenuity and power to solve the problems; others turn to a myriad of deities and idols. But for thousands of years the faithful have cried out to their creator: “Please come and help us! Bring change! Get rid of our enemies – the things that cause us pain! Make things better!”
Conversion is a central, and treasured, part of the Christian gospel. What Augustine of Hippo realised in that garden in Milan was this: human beings are not designed or intended to be centred on self but centred on God. “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you”, he later wrote. True humanity is found not by looking inwards but by looking upwards; not from following your heart but following the Son of God. Jesus’ mission was and is to “convert” us from the former to the latter.
For Western Christians, the call to “go into all the world and make disciples” is still relevant, and the comparatively few who hear and act on this should continue to be encouraged in what God has put on their heart. But now the situation has changed. We in the West can no longer see ourselves as the senior partners in world mission. As the spiritual situation in the West deteriorates, a plea is going out to the materially under-resourced but spiritually rich global south church: “come over to Macedonia and help us”.
Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. But what if we don’t know the past, or only those stories which those who control the culture choose to tell us about, to reinforce their preferred narratives? It is ironic that we live in an age where information about almost everything in our past is available at the touch of a button to almost everyone in our society, and yet so many have little knowledge of the most important foundation, Christian faith.