GAFCON IV Mission & Future

GAFCON Calls Missions & Evangelism Its Path Forward

American Pastor Bill Atwood was broken over the lack of biblical fidelity in his diocese of the Episcopal Church. Scripture was not regarded as the inerrant Word of God, homosexuality was celebrated, and orthodoxy was dismissed as naïve. As he cried in his office, the Holy Spirit led him in a new direction. 

“Not with an audible voice, but with real clarity, He said, ‘Stop going to leaders who are making the church look like the world. Get on a plane and go to those places where archbishops and bishops are making the world look more like the Kingdom of God,’” Atwood recalled. 

That was thirty years ago. Atwood, now regional secretary for the Americans of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON), responded by going to Kenya, Uganda, the West Indies, Singapore, and South America to seek the help of faithful Anglicans there. He discovered a joyful network of cooperative missions and evangelism, not weighed down by the doctrinal infidelity in his own diocese. Atwood has now reaped the benefits of that worldwide network for three decades. 

At last month’s GAFCON IV in Kigali, Rwanda, he urged fellow orthodox Anglicans around the world to embrace that network and experience similar joy. The conference included 1,302 delegates from 52 countries, including 315 bishops. 


Resetting the Anglican Communion 

Most media coverage of the April 17-21 GAFCON IV meeting focused on the group’s opposition to recent LGBTQ-affirming decisions by the Church of England and its leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  

Primates convening at GAFCON said the Church of England’s decision in February “to enable same-sex couples to receive God’s blessing” from clergy is the latest episode in a 25-year string of “refusal to follow the biblical teaching” on marriage. Consequently, the GAFCON Primates agreed with a February 20 statement by the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches that “they can no longer recognise the Archbishop of Canterbury as an Instrument of Communion, the ‘first among equals’ of the Primates.” 

GAFCON, which represents 85 percent of the world’s 85 million Anglicans, called for a “resetting and reordering” of the Anglican Communion to provide a “global spiritual home” for orthodox Anglicans. 

But the conference entailed much more than opposition. It focused on a joyful way forward in missions and evangelism. 

But the conference entailed much more than opposition. It focused on a joyful way forward in missions and evangelism. 

Foley Beach, outgoing chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council, said GAFCON is well positioned to provide an answer for the world’s spiritual hunger. 

“The power of the Holy 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?” Beach asked in his chairman’s address. Currently, “there are over 3 billion people in our world who do not know Jesus. You and I need to go. We need to go and be the people that He has called us to be.” 

“Authentic Anglicanism” in the years ahead, Beach said, must be: 

  • “A repenting church” that is quick to turn from its own sins and that calls for repentance among wayward branches of the Anglican family across the world;
  •  “A reconciling church” that helps people overcome hostility with God and one another;
  • “A reproducing church” committed to missions and evangelism; and
  • “A relentlessly compassionate church” that meets the world’s pain with ministry. 


World Missions 

An array of global ministries was featured in the conference’s evening sessions, underscoring GAFCON’s commitment to a positive way forward for orthodox Anglicans. Bishop Andy Lyons, regional secretary for Europe, reported April 18 that GAFCON has a two-pronged strategy on the continent. 

Orthodox Anglicans are “contending for God’s authority within … the Canterbury alliance structures, but also providing an alternative for those who need it,” Lyons said. He added that both ministries are needed because of the vast lostness in Europe. Of the continent’s 730 million residents, 71 percent self-identify as Christians. Yet less than 3 percent have an active, evangelical faith. 

Church planting and church revitalization by GAFCON-related clergy help confront that lostness. “God is at work in Europe,” Lyons said. It’s not what we deserve, but we praise Him and we praise Him for His grace.” 

The twenty-two nations of eastern Africa likewise are experiencing God’s grace through GAFCON ministries. That was the focus of an April 19 report. Church planting and Christian education are among the focus in nations like Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique. 

The Asia Pacific region of the world has 45 percent of the world’s population, including India, China, and Russia, said Glenn Davies, Bishop of the Diocese of the Southern Cross and GAFCON regional secretary for the Asia Pacific region. That underscores the importance of blossoming ministries in Myanmar, New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere in the region. Davies reported on Asia Pacific ministries April 19. 

The Americas were the focus of an April 20 report. GAFCON participants heard about church planting and theological education in Chile, Brazil, and Mexico among other locations. In Juarez, Mexico, several faculty members at a seminary have become Anglicans and graduates are planting an Anglican church in the city. Further south in Chile, orthodox Anglicans have established a seminary that is evangelical and entirely in Spanish. They invited other Anglican provinces to send their students there for training. 

Dennis Greeson, dean of the BibleMesh Institute who attended the conference to help connect GAFCON participants with theological education resources, said the enthusiasm for missions was evident. BibleMesh was among the conference’s sponsors. 

As a non-Anglican observer attending my first GAFCON, I was not sure what to expect,” Greeson said. “Anticipating the business of the church to predominate the schedule, I was struck by the energy and focus on celebrating stories of what God has done throughout the communion. What really illustrated this was the amount of time in the plenary sessions dedicated to reports on the growth of the church, where evangelism and missions had been successful, and how Christians were persevering in astonishing persecution.It seems that the GAFCON churches are more than ever looking to the future and pursuing the Spirit’s guidance on where and how to share the Gospel.”


‘Hope of the Anglican Church’ 

All GAFCON’s progress in the world is grounded in its bedrock commitments to the “primacy of Scripture” and the “power of the Gospel,” GAFCON general secretary Ben Kwashi said in this report. He outlined GAFCON’s seven-point vision for the next five years, approved by the Primates: 

  • Advance evangelism and missions;
  • Develop the next generation of leaders;
  • Minister to youth (especially in South America and Africa, where a huge percentage of the population is under 20 years old);
  • Establish more women’s ministry;
  • Confront the world’s manmade and natural disasters through mercy ministry;
  • Provide more theological training for bishops; and
  • Urge Primates to visit other provinces to exchange ideas and encouragement. 

“We are in troubled times, yet those who continue to be obedient to God’s Word, those who stand firm and hold the line will be blessed as they proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos in the Church of Nigeria. GAFCON “is the hope of the Anglican Church. We have no reason to lose hope because He has seated a people who are determined to hold firm the Word of Truth. And we are in a land of revival.” 

That hope is evident in Puebla, Mexico, where orthodox Anglicans confirmed 50 people earlier this year, according to Steven Tighe, Bishop of the Southwest in the Anglican Church in North America. He told GAFCON attendees that faithful believers in other denominations are starting to notice the work of orthodox Anglicans, and they want to join. 

“Ten of the people we confirmed [in Puebla] were the pastors of Pentecostal churches who want to bring their churches into the Anglican Church,” Tighe said. “Praise God! You could not make this stuff happen.” 


David Roach is pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Saraland, Alabama. He is a church historian and journalist, and teaches across the theological disciplines at several Christians colleges and seminaries. His writing has appeared in Christianity Today and Baptist Press among other outlets.