This week, I have been privileged to share with younger Anglican leaders at Uganda Christian University in both theology and law. Uganda Christian University (UCU) is an authentic Christian institution established by the Church of Uganda in 1997 in response to a call for high-quality university education from a Christian perspective.
I was invited by the Bishop Tucker School of Theology at UCU to lecture on the Crisis of False Teaching in the Anglican Communion, the New Anglican Reformation, GAFCON, and the way forward. During my time here, I was invited to preach to the whole student body and faculty of UCU at their Community Worship from Hebrews 11 (How can confidence in the heavenly city shape Gospel ministry to our own cities?), to address and answer questions from the faculty and students of Bishop Tucker, and to share with a small cohort of law students on the practice of law as a Gospel vocation—to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
During my time here, I’ve listened to and engaged with theological students, ordinands (those soon to be ordained as Anglican clergy), clergy and bishops from all over East Africa, professors and lecturers, law students, and two members of the Ugandan Parliament. I have been privileged to pray with more than a few! This visit introduced me to the next generation of Anglican leaders in the Church, business, and government of Uganda. Here are a few of the “take-aways” that I observed from our time together:
They asked great questions
- “Are law and morality brother and sister, or are they completely separate?”
- “How do we as Christian attorneys maintain the connection between law and morality?”
- “What are the motives of Church leaders who persist in teaching that contradicts the Bible?”
- “How should Christians in Africa respond to the secularization of the Western Churches?”
- “What is the strategy of GAFCON?”
- “When will the GAFCON movement move ‘down’ from Primates and Bishops to dioceses, clergy and local congregations?” (asked multiple times).
They want to see the pieces put together into a coherent picture with a vision for the way forward for Anglicans in Gospel mission
Younger leaders are already aware of the secularization of Western culture and its impact on Western Churches. They recognize the need for GAFCON, but many do not see the “global picture” of what is happening to the Anglican Communion and how deeply such secularization has penetrated some Anglican Churches. Time and again, I heard from both students and faculty that the presentations I gave brought together “for the first time” current events, Church history, the theological issues at stake in the disputes over human sexuality and the Bible, the nature of Anglican identity, and the trajectory of secular utopian visions that replace the Biblical, Christian vision into a coherent picture of the crisis we face as a Communion. The recognition of the challenge of responding to both false teaching (“the Gospel deficit”) and no discipline (“the ecclesial deficit”) and its cost stirred up both interest in GAFCON and a sense of global mission for African Christians to re-evangelize the West.
These younger leaders have a passion for Jesus Christ, expressed in exuberant worship and sacrificial service
Yes, they are Anglican. Yes, they have a Book of Common Prayer (a new, Ugandan Book of Common Prayer!) that they use reverently. But they also lift their hands in praise during the hymns, they dance, and they verbally and spontaneously express their love for Jesus Christ freely. They are forsaking more lucrative vocations for the call to follow Jesus into full-time parish ministry in villages where they will be fortunate to receive the equivalent of $50 USD monthly. I heard stories from the faculty about how these younger leaders have the heart of the Good Shepherd Himself, sometimes dropping everything mid-term to get on a bus for hours to take a funeral back home or for some other emergency pastoral visit, to comfort and heal in the name of Jesus.
These younger leaders have a passion for and conviction of the truth of the Scriptures
They have memorized large portions of the Bible. They anchor their declarations in Scripture. During the Daily Office this morning, I listened to the young officiant shape his prayers for the people according to the lesson from Leviticus, and then after a few minutes do the same with the New Testament reading, all without any notes and without any hesitations. Clearly, these leaders have taken both the clarity and the authority of God’s word deep into their hearts as well as their minds (Romans 12:2).
These younger leaders have a passion for evangelism, discipleship and mission.
I listened to one young leader who described how he leads an evangelistic ministry in Northern Uganda that reaches hundreds of youth. He solicited from the Christians in his area a donation of 10 acres of land, and then invited them to join him in planting and harvesting onions whose sale provides all the funding for this ministry! Later, he emailed me and said, “I want to stand firm for the Gospel like Athanasius, Augustine and Cranmer, just like you told us…and to engage right now in global evangelism and mission!” How can we encourage and support such passionate young leaders? Many younger leaders pinpointed the danger of having a church that is “a mile wide and an inch deep,” because people have not been discipled. More than a few described their dissertations around the challenge and the need for discipleship. Another dear friend took a bus for four hours to visit me from a diocese in the north, to share about his new posting and how he plans to address the need for discipleship by personally discipling the lay readers (the lay pastors who lead the satellite congregations of his parish) as well as the leaders of the youth, Mothers and Fathers Union, and train them to disciple others.
Is this not the same challenge we are facing here in North America? To ensure that we will not be “a mile wide and an inch deep,” and to make disciples who will make disciples?
The mission of the American Anglican Council is to develop faithful leaders and renew Anglicanism worldwide. This visit was a way of bringing the GAFCON movement and the new Anglican reformation “down” from the primates and bishops to the seminaries where we can reach and equip the next generation of global Anglican leaders.
The Dean of Bishop Tucker with the faculty have invited me to come back next year to lead the annual retreat for ordinands and their spouses, and for the staff as well.
God willing, I’ll be there!
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.