What a thrill it was for me to attend the recent Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) from June 17 to 22 with leaders from all over the world. I was able to do this because of the financial and prayer support from our San Diego deanery and many people at Holy Spirit Anglican Church. What follows is a brief report on the conference and my time in Israel.
The purpose of the GAFCON movement is to “to restore Anglican commitment to Biblical truth by uniting faithful Anglicans under Christ’s lordship and revitalizing authentic Gospel mission.” It was launched ten years ago at the first conference in Jerusalem, strengthened at a second conference five years ago in Nairobi, and continued at the conference last month whose goal was to “build networks of relationships and work on structures that will advance Gospel ministry around the world.” Personally, I returned from the conference both strengthened in my faith and renewed in my vision for Anglican mission throughout the world.
The place for this latest GAFCON was the holy city of Jerusalem where our Lord taught in the Temple, was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. Many of the participants in the conference either arrived early or stayed afterwards to see the biblical sites. I went a few days early with Fr. Russell Martin, rector of Christ the King Anglican Church in Poway and Ramona, so that I could take advantage of my first trip to Israel. Before the conference I visited Tel Aviv, old Jaffa (biblical Joppa where St. Peter had the vision described in Acts 10), the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. During the conference I took a scheduled trip to see the Jordan Riven (where Jesus was baptized), the Qumran ruins (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found), and the Dead Sea. The most moving time for me was our Thursday afternoon prayer service on the remaining steps of the Temple (destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans), where our preacher reminded us that St. Peter had preached his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2).
The program for the week at GAFCON was very ambitious: every morning our plenary session included Morning Prayer with music led by an incredible Nigerian choir, followed by a one-hour Bible study from the Gospel of Luke, prayer together in our assigned small groups of eight, and then a major address on the topic of the day (God’s Gospel, God’s Church, God’s World, and God’s Strategy). After lunch (except on Tuesday when we went on our scheduled tours), we had another plenary speaker, followed by workshops and network gatherings to further the work of the movement. I participated in the global missions network meetings because of my interest in the worldwide work of the church. Following dinner people could gather for prayer in their hotels or spend time making new friends and catching up with old ones from around the world. While I learned a great deal from the Bible studies and plenary talks, I really enjoyed the times of discussion and fellowship with so many Anglican leaders.
The people at GAFCON were the important thing for me. Almost 2,000 church leaders and representatives from more than fifty different countries attended. We had fifteen go from the Diocese of Western Anglicans, led by our Bishop Keith Andrews and our diocesan lay president Spencer Johnson. In my small group I got to know and pray with people from Australia, Nigerian, and Uganda. The Anglican Church of Nigeria had the largest delegation at GAFCON since it is the largest Anglican province with twenty-two million members. The Anglican Church in North America was well represented, especially by our Archbishop Foley Beach who will be the chairman of the GAFCON movement for the next five years. Probably the most interesting person I met in Jerusalem was a Messianic Jewish cab driver who invited us to attend his church on Saturday morning before the beginning of the Conference.
If you would like to learn more about GAFCON and the conference in Jerusalem last month, please go to the website www.gafcon.org, where you can read the statement, see pictures, and watch a video summarizing it.
Fr. David Montzingo