‘...the time is short…’ 1 Corinthians 7:29
My dear people of God,
Next month we are expecting almost 2,000 delegates to gather in Jerusalem for our third Global Anglican Future Conference. I know that those working so hard to organise this great undertaking are very much aware that ‘the time is short’, but as the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian church, this should always be our perspective. Jerusalem is the place where Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, events which make the promise of his return sure and certain, and we shall gather as those who always live in the expectation of our Lord’s second appearing as King, Judge and Saviour.
To know that ‘the time is short’ helps to keep us from being distracted and to concentrate on what really matters.
Firstly, it means that the gospel is at the heart of all that we do. Our conference theme is ‘Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations’ and we shall celebrate the gospel in all its richness as the demonstration of the love and saving power of God in Jesus Christ. We shall be reminding one another that the gospel is not a message of merely human wisdom but the ‘gospel of God’ (Romans 1:1) which we have received. It is the work of God’s grace from beginning to end, but he has entrusted that task to us and we must press on to fulfil the apostolic mandate of the risen Christ to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).
Secondly, knowing that the time is short keeps us focused on the purpose of the Church. Ecclesiastical institutions must serve the gospel. The gospel is not a brand to be adapted to serve institutions. We will therefore continue to endorse new missionary initiatives and jurisdictions where necessary to take forward the work of the gospel.
Accordingly, we shall recognise the Anglican Church in Brazil, currently the Anglican Diocese of Recife, as a Province in the Anglican Communion when it is inaugurated on May 21st and in Jerusalem we shall welcome Archbishop-elect Miguel Uchoa as the first Primate. This new Province will provide for orthodox Anglicans in Brazil just as the Anglican Church in North America provided for orthodox Anglicans in the United States and Canada ten years ago.
Thirdly, knowing that the time is short means that we aim to please God, to whom we shall have to give account, rather than people. We must be men and women of courage who chose to be friends of God rather than friends of the world. It is tempting to think that there can be a middle way, but we cannot compromise the gospel. To have integrity, this conviction must be expressed in action as well as words which is why Clause 13 of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration of 2008 (to which we ask all participants in next month’s conference to subscribe as a condition of attendance) affirms that ‘We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord’.
The Anglican Communion has been mightily used by God as a means of spreading the gospel around the globe and in Jerusalem we shall continue the great purpose we set out in 2008 to work for ‘a clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ’. The time is short, but we thank God that he has raised up the Gafcon movement and this gives us hope that the best years of our beloved Anglican Communion are yet to come.
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council