The first Global Anglican Future Conference was held in Jerusalem in 2008. From it emerged the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, a strong confession of the Anglican and Christian Faith. As well, the Conference gave birth to a movement, called Gafcon, which has gone from strength to strength ever since. It has held three other world-wide conferences and is planning for another one next year.
At the last conference, also held in Jerusalem, 2000 Anglicans from over 50 countries gathered, prayed, sang, listened to God’s word, and gladly committed once more to world mission in accordance with Matthew 28:16-20. It was a stirring and memorable occasion. Of course, what motivated the existence of Gafcon in the first instance was a profound conflict in worldwide Anglicanism over the authority of the Bible. God’s word sets out for us a mode of life, especially family and sexual life, which is God’s will for our good.
Increasingly, however, biblical teaching is at odds with the reigning ideologies of our world. The biblical way is ‘a better story’ which leads to human happiness and fulfilment. The world’s way leads to anxiety, loneliness, and unfulfillment.
Many of the participants in Gafcon come from parts of the world where it is dangerous to be a Christian. They represent faith and courage in a way which we can scarcely imagine. But they also represent churches which are multiplying with great speed. Western decline is met with Global South growth.
But whatever part of the Anglican (or Christian) world you come from, it is the case that sound theological education is vital for the present and future health of the churches.
Where the Christian faith is in numerical decline, as is the case in so much of the west, the exception is largely where we see biblical Christianity flourishing, where the Bible is taught from the pulpit, and where both adults and young people have additional instruction in the biblical faith outside of church. One of the features of a healthy Christian community is well-informed lay people, able to live and speak for Christ in the world in which they serve.
Humanly speaking, as goes the Pastor so goes the church. Humanly speaking, as goes the theological education, so goes the Diocese or denomination. We need training at least equivalent to that provided by local secondary school teachers if we are to pastor and sustain the churches.
Gafcon has set up a Theological Education Network (TEN) numbering so far about 45 colleges and institutions from around the world, committed to praying for each other, and to serving each other with biblical insights and practical help. I am notionally in charge of this, but Dr Bill Salier, formerly Principal of Youthworks College and Vice Principal of Moore, is my full-time colleague in this work.
One of the absolutely key things we can do, is to help with the training of Theologians and ministers of the gospel from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. We already do this through our Preliminary Theological Certificate (PTC) course material which continues to have an immense influence in many places around the world.
But we must also have the capacity to invite some people to Sydney for further training, whether at undergraduate or post-graduate level. It is hard to exaggerate the potential impact of this on those who come, and the key roles they are likely to assume on their return home. I have seen this happen and I can assure you that the influence of the College for the gospel in such circumstances leads to great and enduring results. But the cost of coming to Sydney and staying for several years is well beyond many of the people who will benefit.
This is where we must show our hospitality and welcome. A special fund has been set up at Moore College to support students within the Gafcon fellowship—the GAFCON Fellowship Scholarship. When we show our loving hospitality by greeting our friends in this way, we are multiplying the work of the College in its impact for the gospel in ways which are astonishing.
A few years ago, I attended a Gafcon conference on theological education. While I was there, the Principal of an Asian theological college said to me that doing the Moore PTC course transformed his understanding of the Bible, and was the basis of what he was doing. A little later, the Primate of a large African Anglican Province said exactly the same thing to me about the impact of our PTC course material on him.
Imagine the possibilities for good if some leaders and potential leaders could come to the College in person and be trained here?
You can help that happen by extending the right hand of fellowship to our friends who are standing for the same gospel, and have a commitment to the same Scriptures as us.