Chairman’s November 2017 letter
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh
To the Faithful of the Gafcon movement and friends from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council.
My dear people of God,
I am writing on the 1st November, All Saints Day. It is an annual reminder of “the communion of the saints”, a biblical truth we affirm every time we say the Apostles Creed.
As Christians face rising persecution in many parts of the world and as we see the fabric of our own Anglican Communion torn by continuing theological and moral crisis, it is a great comfort to know that we are part of something much more glorious than we can see or even imagine.
The Collect for All Saints Day begins:
“Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord.”
This does not mean that we have to have a mystical experience to know that we are truly part of the Church, but that there is a wonderful spiritual reality of the Church which is visible to God, although not yet to us. This is the great Church Victorious, a communion of all the saints, living and departed, recognised and unrecognised. It includes all who have been born again into eternal life through faith in Jesus and it is in them that the prayer of Jesus in John 17:11, that the disciples should be one, is being truly fulfilled.
How does this vision of the invisible church help us now as members of what the Book of Common Prayer calls “Christ’s Church Militant here on earth”?
It reminds us what a wonderful privilege it is to belong to the Church of God and have a gospel of eternal life to proclaim to all nations. The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the Church Victorious at worship and it includes those from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9).
The Anglican Communion at its best gives us a foretaste of heaven as we gather from many different nations in Jesus’ name and our great five yearly Gafcon conferences, in Jerusalem in 2008 and Nairobi in 2013, have been a unique and unforgettable experience of what it really means to be Anglicans. As we come from our various cultures, with their strengths and weaknesses, we are able to encourage one another and learn from one another because there is a common mind to submit ourselves to the authority of Scripture.
Let us praise God that he is yet again calling us together in Jerusalem ten years after the Gafcon movement was born in that place. Our great theme will be “Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations”. Let us come “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) and ensure that leaders from as many nations as possible are included by generosity in providing bursaries for those unable to fully fund themselves.
The Collect for All Saints Day continues:
“Grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that we come at last to those inexpressible joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you.”
This is a prayer for joyful holiness and keeps us humble. We must not fall into the trap of presumption, thinking that we in the twenty-first century have a better understanding of ‘godly living’ than the Scriptures and generations of saints over two millennia. This is the problem at the root of the crisis in the Anglican Communion today as we find that those who are separating themselves from the communion of saints are still allowed to enjoy the unhindered communion of Canterbury.
True communion is given through God’s Word and sustained by his Spirit. All Saints Day is a call to joyful proclamation as we remember our true identity and our eternal destiny. Let us be strong in the Lord and serve the cause of the gospel faithfully as we look forward to the day when the Church Militant will finally be taken up into the glory of the Great Church Victorious.
Finally, we must continue to pray for peace for the nation and Church of Kenya, and Anambra State in Nigeria whose governorship election comes up on 18th November, 2017.
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council