Chairman’s Advent Letter 2014
To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends
from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council
‘We look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ (2 Corinthians 4:18)
My dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’.
During this Advent Season we shall be preparing for the joyful celebration of the first coming of our Lord Jesus, but let us also rejoice that we have the promise of his second coming in glorious majesty as Lord, Saviour and Judge, and be willing to stake our lives on what we do not yet see, the fulfilment of the promises of God.
It was this confidence that kept the Apostle Paul from despair despite all the setbacks and suffering of his apostolic ministry and with deep insight he cuts right through earth bound ways of thinking when he writes ‘For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:18).
This is a truly radical perspective. It brings our lives into line with what is ultimately real and gives us a hope that is not defeated by immediate challenges and loss. This is true whatever the crisis that confronts us and we must continue to pray for those whose lives have been devastated by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, but the difference biblical hope makes is seen most clearly when persecution and violence are unleashed.
As I write these letters, I find that very often I need to emphasise the need to pray for and stand with our bothers and sisters who are experiencing heart-rending suffering as radical Islamic influence grows in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Here in Kenya, al-Shabab gunmen have just murdered twenty-eight non-Muslim passengers from a bus they ambushed in northern Kenya. In some parts of the world Christian communities now live with the constant threat of violent death. One of the most shocking attacks in recent weeks was the burning alive of a young Pakistani Christian man Sajjeed Mashah and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi in a brick kiln near Lahore. How do Christian communities manage to carry on in such circumstances unless they look to ‘the things that are unseen’? As we pray for those who suffer, let us resolve to be of the same mind and to be faithful to Christ wherever he has placed us.
The threat of atrocity is now truly global. Following the jihadist killing of a young soldier on duty at Canada’s national war memorial in Ottawa, I was moved by the gentle yet bold response of Bishop Charlie Masters, recently appointed Moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). He spoke of shock and grief, but also how the founding fathers had named the country and he said “they called it the Dominion of Canada, based on Psalm 72:8 ‘he shall have dominion from sea to sea…’ and that was speaking about the Lord Jesus, that he has dominion in this country”. For Bishop Charlie, part of the response to this murder was national repentance to bring the country back to its founders’ vision. The dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ is a reality unrecognized by many, but one day all creation will bow the knee and the greatest service we can do for our nations is to win them for Jesus Christ by the proclamation of the glorious gospel of the Prince of Peace.
The Anglican Network in Canada is part of the Anglican Church in North America which was formed following our first Global Anglican Future Conference in 2008. Such steps of radical faith demonstrate our trust in the Advent hope of the ultimate triumph of the gospel. For the New Testament writers, the expectation of Christ’s return was an encouragement not to waver from sound doctrine or godly living, but on crucial issues such as sexual morality and the uniqueness of Jesus as Saviour and Son of God we are in a Communion where there is no longer a common mind.
Some say this does not matter. For instance, the ‘Bishops in Dialogue’ group after their Coventry meeting earlier this year claimed that we must maintain visible unity despite everything because ‘now we see through a glass, darkly’ (1 Corinthians 13:12). In other words, things will only become clear in heaven. This is a bad mistake. It is true that there is much about our future state that we do not yet understand, but God has given us the inspired Scriptures as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps.119:105). Our future hope cannot be turned into an excuse for compromise or silence when Scripture is clear. For Anglicans the collegial mind of the Communion on sexuality and Scripture remains the orthodox position as strongly reaffirmed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference which continues to call us to obedience and pastoral responsibility. Dialogue is no substitute for doctrine.
Despite these challenges, I am confident that our efforts are not in vain. The crucial contribution of GAFCON to the future is that in an increasingly confused Communion it has a clear confessional basis in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which keeps the gospel at its heart. And where the gospel is, there will be life.
So may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ establish your hearts in all that is good, make you strong and courageous in his service and bring us all with great joy to that day when the Church Militant here on earth shall become the great Church Victorious.
Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council