I am on the way home from a week in Kenya, where I was invited to teach at the GAFCON Bishops Training Institute (BTI). This new initiative from GAFCON came out of work that the American Anglican Council presented to the GAFCON Primates Council two years ago following the 2013 GAFCON gathering in Nairobi. Like our own ACNA Bishops Leadership Summit, it is designed to help Bishops share their challenges in episcopal ministry, the “best practices” and habits of heart (spiritual disciplines) that will sustain them through episcopal ministry, and to recognize the challenges before us in the global Anglican realignment.
The Director of the GAFCON BTI is the Right Rev. Samson Mwaluda (retired, Kenya), whom I came to know years ago when I was a rector in McKeesport, PA and +Samson was studying at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. Bishop Samson is a Godly, experienced, wise and pastoral leader who leads this institute with committed and prayerful vision—and brings his wife Agatha as an on-site intercessor! They were assisted by the Rev. Paul Sampson (Sydney), whose great administrative gifts were evident throughout the week.
I was asked to give a presentation about the crisis of unbiblical teaching within the Anglican Communion, the failure of the current structures (the “Instruments of Communion”) to deal with this crisis, and the way forward through a recovery of “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) through the GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration and classic conciliar structures which we find everywhere else in the Anglican Communion except at the global level of decision making. This presentation is based on the work the American Anglican Council has done for the last 20 years documenting the failures of the Anglican status quo to deal with the loss of Biblical truth in churches like TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, and on the work I have done at Cardiff University in renewing “Anglican Conciliarism.”
Almost every bishop came up to me and expressed thanks for the presentation. For many, this was the first time they had heard the complete history of the failure of leadership from Canterbury and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion in dealing with false teaching and unbiblical practices with regards to same-sex marriage, same-sex partnerships, the promotion of sexual immorality by churches within the Anglican Communion, and the ordination and even consecration of same-sex partnered men and women for leadership within the Church. This reinforced in a very practical way the essential need for the Jerusalem Declaration, GAFCON, and the theological and missional unity of GAFCON and the Global South. I believe this is evidence of the continuing strategic leadership the American Anglican Council brings to the GAFCON and Global South leadership of our current Anglican realignment.
But in addition to this, I was also invited to share about a very concrete need that bishops everywhere experience: namely, the challenge of revitalizing, remissioning and growing new Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) churches. So I also presented on “The life-cycle of your diocese and how to experience a new season of growth” and “How to receive godly vision for your Diocese and share it with others.”
Let me say how blessed I was by these Anglican bishops from all over the world: North America (Recife, Brazil and ACNA), Austral-Asia (Papua New Guinea) and Africa (Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and DCR). I was deeply moved by their warm welcome and Christian hospitality, their transparency, their zeal for Christ and the Gospel and their fervent prayers. Not only did they receive the teaching with enthusiasm and conviction, they received me in the same way. I think I may have received more from them than they did from me! But our time together reinforced my conviction that healthy Bishops will make healthy clergy, who will develop healthy missional congregations who will make disciple of Christ of all nations. Yes, it’s that important.
On Sunday all of us went out and preached at churches within the Anglican Church of Kenya. I was privileged to be on a team with Bishop Paul Naimanhye (Uganda) and Aladekugbe Williams (Nigeria) who visited St James Cathedral in Mt. Kenya South Diocese (Kenya). St James has 2700 faithful worshipers at nine services every Sunday morning! I was honored to preach at the joint Youth service where I found 500-600 exuberant youth from middle school, high school and up, all worshipping together in their own annex while adults were worshipping in the traditional cathedral. It was 1662 BCP Communion, but it was incredibly youth-friendly and missional. This reminds me, and reminds all of us, how Anglicans are flourishing in the Global South where they are faithfully preaching the Gospel and making disciples of Jesus Christ.
I’m reflecting on how we, the American Anglican Council, can open our Bishops Leadership Summits to others in the Global South, partnering with GAFCON to carry their good work even further and deeper here in North America as we bring ACNA bishops together with other faithful bishops from across the Communion. Please keep us in your prayers as we seek to implement this strategic vision for Bishops’ leadership development!
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.
Editors note: Canon Ashey will be leading a workshop Wednesday, June 28 at the ACNA Provincial Assembly called “The Anglican realignment today: GAFCON and the way forward.” The description is as follows:
Featuring the Rev. Canon Phil Ashey, author of Anglican Conciliarism. We are in the midst of a global Anglican Realignment as profound as the Reformation itself. The presence of the GAFCON Primates with us at this Provincial Assembly is a witness to the implications of this global realignment today. But here is the missional question: How, in the midst of the pressures of time and context, does the Church both remain faithful to the teaching and practice of the apostles and yet witness relevantly and in context to the truth of the Gospel among these changes and chances of history? The Anglican status quo has failed. Come and discover how GAFCON, through the recovery of a common confession and Biblical principles for decision making in Councils, can restore the global Anglican Communion in both faithfulness and mission.