“I will fulfil my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD - in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.” Psalm 116:18,19
My dear people of God,
Like the psalmist of old, we came to Jerusalem in the presence of God’s people with great thanksgiving. Since our first gathering in 2008 we have seen the Almighty God powerfully at work. By his grace, we have provided a home for the spiritually homeless and hope for orthodox Anglicans around the world who longed to see the reform and renewal of our beloved Communion.
We expressed our thanksgiving not only in joyful worship, but also by committing to a shared vision and shared action. The psalmist said ‘I will fulfil my vows to the LORD’ and that is our determination too. Building on the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration of 2008 and the Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment of 2013, we focussed our vision in a Letter to the Churches.
In this ‘Jerusalem Letter’ we affirmed that ‘we dedicate ourselves afresh to proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations, working together to guard the gospel entrusted to us by our Lord and his apostles’. We also set out how this commitment will be demonstrated. We are reforming by creating new global structures where necessary, such as the Synodical Council, and by commending biblically principled engagement with the old structures. We are also renewing by reaching out to the world with the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed, and to facilitate this we have formed nine global networks.
In making these commitments, Gafcon claims no global jurisdiction. That is not the Anglican way. We are a family of independent Provinces, but we are not independent of the Lordship of Christ and we came together to seek the mind of Christ as we heard the Scriptures taught, as we prayed and as we worshipped. So although the commitments of the Jerusalem Letter do not have juridical force, they do have moral and spiritual authority. We have vowed to proclaim Christ faithfully. That is why we came to Jerusalem and ‘in the presence of all his people’ we have renewed our resolve to act together.
So I want to urge you to see the ‘Jerusalem Letter’ as a joyful yet solemn covenant commitment for the renewal and the reordering of the Anglican Communion. Our critics accuse of us of being schismatic and seeking to leave the Communion. Nothing could be further from the truth. The question is not staying or leaving, but will the leadership of the Anglican Communion be self-serving or gospel-serving? The spread of the gospel requires the authenticity of the gospel. We cannot separate mission from faithfulness. As I noted in my Chairman’s address to the conference, when I ask people around the world to tell me what the gospel is, I do not find different gospels, but the same gospel meeting different challenges in different contexts.
It has been said that at our Jerusalem Conference, Gafcon has come of age. I believe that is true. This was the largest Anglican gathering for over fifty years, we represent the clear majority of active Anglicans globally, we are putting in place the structures that will enable faithful gospel proclamation throughout the world and we are adding new Provinces to the Communion. We are not leaving and we will not cease until the Anglican Communion has become fit for the great purpose of proclaiming God’s gospel. We will fulfil our vow and covenant.
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council
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