April 17, 2023
GAFCON IV, Kigali, Rwanda
Right Honorable Prime Minister, Archbishop Mbanda, Mr. General Secretary, my fellow primates and bishops, and all delegates to this 4th Gafcon Conference, greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!.
As the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, and current chair of the Gafcon Primates Council, it is a joy to join others in welcoming you here to Kigali. I bring you greetings from my dear wife, Allison, and from laity, clergy, and bishops of the Anglican Church in North America.
Actually, we owe our existence to Gafcon. In 2008 Gafcon called for a new Province in North America, and in 2009 we were received into the Anglican Communion by the Gafcon Primates.
It has been an honor to have been selected by the Primates to serve in this capacity for the past five years. We have seen the Lord do some amazing things throughout the world to advance the Gospel of Jesus. But I have to admit it has been quite a challenge! We have had to face together a world-wide epidemic of COVID-19. Not only did we lose many people who were precious to us, but we literally had to shut down our ministries. We weren’t able to have church. We weren’t able to travel.
Many of us have faced persecution with the killing of fellow Christians in our villages. Many of us have faced famine and drought and flooding which caused all kinds of hardship, including starvation and sickness. Many of us have faced war and civil unrest, and many of us have had to face economic challenges. Frankly, I wondered if Gafcon would survive, but when God ordains something, he sees it through! Romans 8:28 tells us that God works out all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
Here we are, the largest gathering of Anglican leaders since Gafcon III in Jerusalem in 2018, and maybe, one of the most important Church gatherings in our life-time. God has had his hand on Gafcon –not because we have charismatic leaders, not because we have a great organization, and not because we are Anglicans. No, God has had his hand on Gafcon because we are honoring him by standing against those who conveniently and culturally disregard the Word of God.
We have stood firm in our biblical convictions summed up in the Jerusalem Declaration. He has been honoring our efforts to call the Anglican Communion to repentance, to renewal, and to reform. Jesus is our Lord and we are seeking to honor him as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I want to thank our General Secretary, Archbishop Ben Kwashi, who has been fighting serious health challenges. He has not compromised in his dedication to Gafcon and to serving us. He continues to be the evangelist God has called him to be, and to keep us focused on the mission Jesus gave to us all.
I want to thank my fellow primates: Archbishop Henry Ndukuba of the Church of All Nigeria, Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit of the Church of Kenya, Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba of the Church of Uganda, Archbishop Laurent Mbanda of the Church of Rwanda, Archbishop Stephen Than of the Church of Myanmar, Archbishop Miguel Uchoa of the Anglican Church of Brazil, Archbishop Tito Zavalla of the Church of Chile, Archbishop Justin Badi of the Church of South Sudan.
I want to thank our new primates: Archbishop Andre Titre of the Church of the Congo, Archbishop Samy Shehata, from the Province of Alexandria.
I want to thank our Advisors: Archbishop James Wong of the Province of the Indian Ocean, Archbishop Ezekiel Condo of the Province of Sudan, and Archbishop Kaniska Raffel from the Diocese of Sydney.
These men have stood tall amidst challenging events in their own Provinces, but they have also been tremendous leaders in facing the challenges laid down for all of us by the Anglican Establishment. They have each been a source of encouragement to me personally, but also examples of faithfulness to the Word of God! Thank you, my brothers!!
We are joined this week by some of the leaders of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches: Justin Badi, the Chairman, and Tito Zavala, the Vice Chairman, are also Gafcon Primates, and the General Secretary, the retired bishop of Singapore, Rennis Ponniah is also here. Welcome my brothers. I look forward to ways we can collaborate for the sake of the Gospel.
As we gather this week from all over the world, I want to encourage you to keep the following in mind as we travel together this week, and then return to our provinces.
I would like to share what I call the “Four Marks of Continuing a Spirit-filled Movement” or rather we could say, the “Four Marks of Modern Anglicanism.” You see, we could go on playing Church, being religious, and even making bold statements and make no spiritual impact in our world. What a tragedy this would be! No, we want to see true revival break out and spread to every part of the world.
The First Mark of Modern Anglicanism is that we must be a repenting Church. After all, this is the message we have received in the Gospel. Remember the message of John the Baptist: Repent. Matthew 3:2 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Remember the message of Jesus: Repent. Matthew 4:17 – “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
Remember the message of the Apostle Peter – at the end of his Pentecost sermon and the people were asking, “what must we do?” Acts 2:38 – “Repent and be baptized every one of you in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children.”
Remember the words of the Apostle Paul when he was addressing the people of Athens in Acts 17:22 – “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands people everywhere to repent.”
We are called to be a repenting Church. That is, we must call people to repent of their sins,
and also be a repenting people ourselves; a group of repenting followers of Jesus. When God shows us our sin, we must turn from it and return to the Lord. Isn’t this what repent means? Literally, to change your mind. Illustrate repentance.
St. John of Damascus said, “Repentance is returning from the unnatural to the natural state, from the devil to God, through discipline and effort.” I know…people will say that this is how you become a believer – and it is – we repent of our sins, believe, and follow Jesus.
Because of God’s love for us, because of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, and because of his resurrection and the promise of eternal life, we change our minds (repent) about living for me, myself, and I, and begin to live for Jesus. But this repentance doesn’t stop when one is born again or comes into a relationship with God through Jesus. It is a day by day, moment by moment reality.
When a person comes to faith in Jesus, God does a wonderful and amazing thing – he places within the person the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit begins to teach you, guide you, reveal to you the ways of God, and he begins to reveal to you your sin.
As God the Holy Spirit reveals to you your sin – usually through His Word, the Bible, – you then have a choice: continue in the sin or change your mind (repent). That is, begin to believe the behavior or attitude is a sin – and turn from it! This is repentance.
He is constantly showing me my sin and unless I repent I quench the Holy Spirit in my life and in my ministry. (1 Thess.5:19) As God shows us our sin, we must turn from it and return to the Lord.
St. Paul of the Cross said, “Should we fall into a sin, let us humble ourselves sorrowfully in his presence, and then, with an act of unbounded confidence, let us throw ourselves into the ocean of his goodness, where every failing will be cancelled and anxiety turned into love.”
We are called to be a repenting Church. In recent days, we have seen the Church of England, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and their bishops, walk away from the plain teaching of Scripture. We call on them to repent – to return to the teaching of the Word of God. We call on them to stop blessing sin, and return to the sanctity and holiness of Marriage.
We call on the Scottish Episcopal Church to repent. We call on the Church of Wales to repent. We call on the Episcopal Church in Brazil to repent. We call on the Anglican Church in New Zealand Church to repent. We call on the Church of Australia to repent. We call on the Anglican Church of Canada to repent. We call on the Episcopal Church to repent. Repent and return to the teaching of Holy Scripture!
Sadly, and with broken hearts, we must say that until the Archbishop of Canterbury repents, we can no longer recognize him as the “first among equals” and the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion. It is time for the whole Anglican Establishment to be reformed anyway. Why does a secular government of only one of the nations represented in the Anglican Communion still get to pick the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion? This makes no sense in today’s post-colonial world.
But let us not only call on those “out there” to repent. Some of United States need to repent of our sins – of our provincial sins, our church’s sins, and our personal sins. Sexual sins are not the only sins in the bible. Some of us have practices in our provinces, in our ministries, and in our lives which are not of God. We need to repent.
We Anglicans pray this prayer each time we pray confess the General Confession, “We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent…” (Or some version of this – depending on the liturgy.) As we confess our sins, we tell God that we are sorry, and that we humbly repent. Yet, do we? The question each of us must ask ourselves: “Is there something in my life which the Lord has shown me of which I must repent?” If we are going to be the people of God that the Lord wants us to be, we must be a repenting Church. If we want a true spiritual awakening, we must be a repenting Church.
The Second Mark of Modern Anglicanism is that we must be is a reconciling Church. When I speak of reconciliation, I am not talking about being reconciled with the world, or with sin, or with sinful behavior, or giving up one’s principles, or compromising Biblical Truth in order to be reconciled.
The Scriptures do tell us that we are all ministers of reconciliation and that we are to be reconciled with each other. This reconciliation is based on the cross of Jesus, on the Truth in the Scriptures, and on the tradition handed down to us by the Church Fathers, but this reconciliation does not compromise the teaching of Scripture.
To be reconciled means there was “once” a problem. The Australia Anglican scholar, Leon Morris, wrote “Reconciliation properly applies not to good relations in general but to the doing away of an enmity, the bridging over of a quarrel. It implies that the parties being reconciled were formerly hostile to one another.” This is true with us individually with The Lord.This is true with too many of God’s people with each other.
For real reconciliation to take place, you must remove the enmity, the source of the quarrel. We may apologize for our actions, we may pay back money we owe, we may return something which we borrowed, or we may make restitution for the damage we have done. In every situation, there must be a dealing with the root cause of the enmity. In other words, there is no true reconciliation without repentance.
Jesus died on the cross to put away our sin; he removed the enmity between humanity and God. He opened the door for all human beings to come back to God. He made it possible for us to be reconciled to God through faith. However, there is another aspect of reconciliation, and if this is not addressed in our lives and in our congregations, the Holy Spirit is grieved.
The Apostles John addresses this in 1 John in several ways. Here is one, I John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” God has called us to be a reconciling church; a people who are reconciled with God through Jesus Christ and who are reconciled with one another.
Doesn’t Jesus tell us that this is one of our biggest witnessing tools to unbelievers – our love for one another? And yet people wound us, people get mad and say bad things, family members hurt us, friends go back on their word. Godly people get out of the Spirit and in the flesh do things or say things which offend us. This happens in congregations, too. We are all human and too many times our sinfulness is brought into spiritual situations, and we can make a big mess of things. I know I have.
The biggest problem we have in being reconciled with others is our unwillingness to forgive. Unforgiveness sets in, resentment begins to grow, bitterness creeps in, and before long, unforgiveness has so grieved the Holy Spirit in your life that there is no joy or peace,
and it affects everything you do. Brother and sisters, this must not be! We are called to be a reconciling Church.
To be reconciled doesn’t mean you are going to agree about everything. To be reconciled doesn’t mean you necessarily even agree about the facts of what happened. To be reconciled means that you value the Lord and each other so much, that you are willing to acknowledge your own part in the situation, repent, and you are willing to forgive and move on.
This is what we confess each week. When we pass the peace each Sunday, what are we symbolizing? We are not just greeting our neighbor. I am visibly saying that before I come to the Table of the Lord, I am reconciled with my brother or sister to the best of my ability.
We are called to be a reconciling Church. If not, we grieve the Holy Spirit. You may not think it affects your life. You may not think it affects your relationships with others. You may not think it affects your ministry. But it does! Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”
So the question which must be asked: Is there someone or a “bunch of someones” with whom you need to be reconciled? God is calling us to be a reconciling Church.
A Third Mark of Modern Anglicanism is we are called to be a reproducing Church. Just as in the creation story when God told humanity to be fruitful and multiply, Jesus commissioned his disciples before he ascended to do the same. Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you to the end of the ages.”
We are called to be a reproducing church, a disciple-making church. This is the major reason God gives us the Holy Spirit. Remember his words after this in Acts 1, “Go into Jerusalem, and wait for the gift of My Father.” And then, says Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to end of the earth.”
The power of the Spirit is related to the commission to Go and make disciples. Do you think that God will continue to pour out his Spirit if we are not obeying his commission? Jesus says here that we are to GO. They will rarely come to us. We must go. We must get out of the four walls of our church and go. We must get out from in front of the television or the computer screen and go.
The theme of this conference is “To Whom Shall We Go?” And we will hear a lot of this, but please know that at this moment there are over 3 Billion people in our world who don’t know Jesus. You and I need to go.
We need to go to people in our world, our sphere of influence: the people we work with, the people we have fun with, the people down the street, the people in our villages, and the people in the next village or town. We are called to go share the Good News of Jesus and make disciples of ALL Nations. Brothers and Sisters, We are called to be a reproducing Church
The 4th Mark of Modern Anglicanism is that we are called to be a relentlessly compassionate Church. 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, “The love of Christ compels us!” 1 Timothy 1:5 says, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” Jesus, in the second Great Commandment, said “Love your neighbor as yourselves.”
Do you know what most unbelievers out there think we feel toward them? They think we hate them. They think we despise them. They think we judge them. They think we don’t care about them. Now, obviously, they don’t know us very well because that is not true. But this is our problem, not theirs. God calls us to be relentlessly compassionate to the people in our world.
Let me challenge you to pray a very dangerous prayer: “Lord, open my eyes to see the hurt and the pain in the people around me.” Don’t pray this unless you are ready to be compassionate. Don’t pray this unless you are ready to care. People all around us are suffering immensely. People have wounded family relationships People are living in sexual brokenness and misery.
People are financially burdened and overwhelmed. People are addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, and money. People are exhausted and can’t get off the merry-go-round, and the black-hole just gets deeper and deeper with no way out. People have medical conditions which sap all their strength and creativity. They are craving a little compassionate care. They are craving a better way.
We have the answer for their needs. We have the answer for the drug addict. We have the answer for the porn addict, the financially broken, emotionally and physically abused, those living a life of poverty. His name is Jesus.
He cares for them and desires to help them. He deeply wants a relationship with them and to lead them into meaningful life. However, this Jesus expects his body to be His Body in the towns, villages, cities, and neighborhoods in which we live. He expects us to be His arms, His legs, His voice, His ears, and His heart.
We are not and cannot be the Church as we have known it. We must be a living Body engaged with the people around us. We must be the Temple of the Holy Spirit exhibiting the fruit and gifts of the Spirit in all we do.
May it not be said that we did not pray and fast for our nations. May it not be said that we did not reach out to our neighbors in love. May it not be said that we did not love our enemies into the Kingdom of God. May it not be said that we did not do all we could do to reach our friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers with the transforming love of Jesus. We are to be a relentlessly compassionate Church.
As we go throughout the week with our theme, “To whom shall we go?,” and we eventually return back to our homes and ministries, let us remember that God calls us to be a repenting people, a reconciling people, a reproducing people, and a relentlessly compassionate people.
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.