The third day of GAFCON began with Morning Prayer according to the usage of the Anglican Church in North America, with their Texts for Common Prayer, recently released. Following this, an Australian priest continued our study of Ephesians, talking about Chapter 2.
Tea, of course, was served. The Kenyans seem to place a large social emphasis on drinking tea together, and at least here at the conference, have been putting a large effort. There are no disposable cups in sight, and there are saucers and cookies (ahem… Biscuits) in abundance.
I spent Day 3 in the Islam seminar with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. There is much to say and much to think about. I plan on doing a separate post at the end of the conference about Nazir-Ali’s seminar.
Some general observations:
1-My own Anglican tradition, Anglo-Catholicism, isn’t a major player at GAFCON. The Anglican Church of Nigeria is High Church, and conservative with the Prayer Book, but Evangelical Anglicanism seems to be almost universal. Indeed, there was a small workshop on reconciling Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics on Monday, a fact to which much surprise was expressed by some delegates.
2- There is no agreed position on Women in Orders. Kenya ordains women. Nigeria does not. North America is still discerning this. Those of you who know me know my position.
3-Part of the East African Revival was holiness of life, particularly among clergy. One of the disciplines that clergy in this part of the world observe is complete abstinence from smoking and alcohol. Some of our delegations have observed this. Some have not.
Tomorrow, we visit Nairobi National Park. I am on assignment to bring back a picture of a giraffe and an Elephant for my son.
The second day of GAFCON continued with some very good speakers and presentations. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali started us off by discussing the three major things that GAFCON seeks to address. They are:
He noted that Aggressive Secularism likes to uphold certain values, such as human dignity, equality, and freedom, but that it doesn’t know why. These, of course, are all Christian values, instilled into Western Culture by Christianity. However, because the West now tries to ignore and suppress Christianity, these values have changed. When the West says that it like wants to uphold the value of human dignity, it now upholds radical autonomy. Likewise, equality is no longer the equality of all individuals but is rather the equality of all lifestyles.
This suppression of the core of Western Civilization has created a vacuum. Bishop Nazir-Ali noted that nature abhors a vacuum. He left us with the question of what would fill the vacuum.
Fr. Mike Ovie, the principal of Oak Hill Theological College in London spoke next, giving an address entitled, “The Grace of God or the World of the West?” Briefly, this address drew lines between the secularised world which the West is trying to create out of the old Christian West and life lived in Christ. He drew parallels between the Jerusalem Declaration and the Barmen Declaration.
I will post the text of his address if possible.
Bishop Nazir-Ali commented next that, “Anthropology without Theology will always go wrong.”
The director of the Barnabas fund spoke, commenting about Christian Persecution throughout the Middle East and Africa. He told us of events which were happening even as the conference met, of Syrian men being killed and Syrian women being raped and killed for not converting to Islam when they tried to escape the civil war. Hauntingly, he told us that the bishops of the Syrian Church believe that the ancient Syrian Church is finished. He estimates that within a year, this very ancient church will no longer exist.
Our next speaker was the Primate and Archbishop of the Anglican Church of South Sudan. He spoke of the war Sudanese Christians have been fighting for 55 years. He gave thanks to Jesus for giving the Sudanese Christians their country. What he said next was heartbreaking. The Archbishop said that they had not fought the war just for themselves, but to keep a barrier between the Islamic Middle East and East Africa, because, as he noted, the eventual goal of Islam was to extend all the way to Cape Town, at the southern end of Africa.
More addresses were given throughout the afternoon, speaking of the advancement of Islam and Secularism in England, North America, and here in Kenya.
We closed our day with dinner and a special guest, the governor of Nairobi County.
This is the first full day of GAFCON. I’m currently sitting off to the side in All Saints Cathedral, watching the delegates, volunteers, and Bishops gather for the opening Mass. I’m told that about three-fourths of the Anglican Communion is present . It certainly sounded so yesterday when they read off the countries with delegates present. If all goes to plan, all the bishops present will process in at the beginning of the Eucharist, which will be a very visual reminder of this. There are a number of North American Bishops present; I have personally seen Mark Lawrence, William Murdoch, Donald Harvey, Charlie Masters, John Guernsey, David Hicks, Jack Iker, Eric Menees, Ray Sutton, Robert Duncan (though the archbishop had to return to the states for emergency dental surgery, and will miss the conference) and others whom I recognize, but don’t know. At Mass on Sunday, Phil and I had a bishop sit next to us; he introduced himself as Archbishop Peter Jenson, Sydney, ret.
As we came onto the cathedral grounds this morning, we were informed of the various seminars which we have been placed into. I was happy to be placed into a seminar entitled, “The Challenge of Islam: The Gospel, Islam, and Freedom,” which will be taught by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali.
We’re on our way to GAFCON. The trip from Chicago was long, and to be honest, disorienting. We took off around 9pm CST and were served dinner probably an hour later. Afterwards, we were served tea and coffee. (More on the food later)Then, we sped off into the night, which became dawn somewhere over the Atlantic, west of Iceland. For most of us on the flight, this was night time and so the plane was dark and full of sleeping people. People generally started stirring (though some, like my traveling companion and fellow delegate and seminarian, Phil) were already awake and watching the in-flight entertainment, when breakfast was served somewhere over southern Turkey and Northern Iraq.
The disorienting aspect here is that soon after having breakfast, it started getting dark, and was completely dark by the time we landed and the flight attendants said “Good Night” as we climbed down to the shuttle buses.
Our next flight leaves at 2:30 am here in Doha, Qatar. That’s 6:30 pm in Wisconsin. We get into Nairobi at 5:30. At this point, I’m hoping to get into the hotel ASAP.
More to come.