My dear people of God,
In times of anxiety and distress, I am sure many of us have found this promise to be a great comfort:
‘For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11).
This is the word that came from the Lord to his exiled people many centuries ago and it remains a promise we can apply to the Church as the people of God today.
In the book of Jeremiah, the Word of the Lord is the power that ultimately shapes events. In a time of national apostasy, when hearts were hardened, it became a word of judgement that was fulfilled in the exile and destruction of Jerusalem, but in judgement God remembers mercy. A faithful remnant will return and God’s purposes will not be defeated.
In our time, God is still active through his Word, the Scriptures. The Anglican Communion is a wonderful gift of God, but we see its witness degraded and confused by false teaching. What is more, the Communion’s traditional leadership responds by accommodating it. There is no hope in that direction, but at the same time, we see a new future unfolding. This is the Gafcon vision and it is being demonstrated very clearly in North America.
Last month, under the inspired and courageous leadership of Bishop Mark Lawrence, the former TEC Diocese of South Carolina voted unanimously to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). South Carolina will be its largest diocese and already has a global reach. Its annual ‘Mere Christianity’ conferences are highly regarded and its Anglican Leadership Institute is devoted to developing faithful leaders throughout the Communion. This is a very significant moment in the global realignment of the Communion. Here we see the power of the Word of the Lord: TEC recedes into history while faithful Anglican witness grows.
Commitment to growth will be much in evidence at the ACNA’s Provincial Assembly as it meets in Chicago from 27th to 30th June this year. Gafcon leaders from around the world will join Archbishop Foley Beach as over 1,000 members come together around the theme of ‘Mission on our Doorstep’; a vision for local mission which is greatly strengthened by partnerships that span the continents. I encourage all who can to make the most of this opportunity to work together and be equipped for the vital task of gospel proclamation.
The restoration we have seen in North America after the devastation unleashed when church leaders substitute their word for God’s Word should be a strong encouragement to faithful Anglicans on the other side of the Atlantic, as we see the Church of England and other Provinces moving at varying speeds in the same direction as TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada to institutionalise the rejection of God’s Word in matters of sexuality morality and human identity. As this season of Lent reminds us, we are called to walk the way of the cross, but sacrifice for the sake of the gospel will never be in vain.
Finally my brothers and sisters, please pray for us as the Gafcon Primates Council meets in Lagos from 24th to 28th April. We are called to shoulder heavy burdens and many of us are deeply involved with issues of famine relief, insecurity and governance in our nations as well as the need to contend for the truth of the gospel in the wider Communion. Pray for our fellowship together and that our deliberations may be guided by the Holy Spirit, to the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and the extension of the Kingdom of God.
The Most Revd Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop,Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman,the GAFCON Primates Council