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Archbishop’s message to GAFCON 2013: seek holiness and unity

Wednesday 23rd October 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for the Church to be ‘holy’ and ‘in unity’ as it proclaims the gospel in challenging circumstances around the world.

Archbishop Justin sent a video greeting to the Second Global Anglican Future (GAFCON) Conference, which is taking place in Nairobi this week. He told them that it was his prayer that they would ‘meet Jesus afresh with elation and joy’.

The Archbishop was unable to attend the GAFCON meeting because of previous commitments, including the baptism of Prince George on Wednesday.

In his message, Archbishop Justin affirms the recent call by the Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, who chairs the GAFCON Primates Council, for the Church to proclaim the gospel confidently.

To do this, Archbishop Justin says, ‘we need to be a Church that is holy’. That is a ‘massive challenge’ to churches in different contexts around the world, but is ‘absolutely critical to our proclamation of the gospel’.

To proclaim the gospel effectively, the Church must also be ‘in unity’, the Archbishop says.  ‘It doesn’t mean being unanimous, all saying exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. It means that, as Jesus prays in John 17, that we demonstrate by our love for one another that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore people are drawn to believe in him. We’ve got to find ways of doing that and I don’t underestimate the challenge that is to all of us.’

Read a transcript of Archbishop Justin’s message below:

‘Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m so pleased to be able to send my greeting, even if it’s in this indirect way. Very regrettably, I had previous obligations which meant I can’t be with you this week, and then there’s the baptism of Prince George on Wednesday. But I’m delighted to have the privilege of speaking to you for three or four minutes.

I particularly want to congratulate Archbishop Eliud and all his team and all the people in the Anglican Church of Kenya who have worked so hard to get this gathering together. And I am so thrilled that you should be coming together to seek afresh the face of Jesus Christ, and for yourselves to have new vision in his service and bringing the gospel to an incredibly needy world.

As you meet this week – and I’ve been in Nairobi over the weekend – we of course all have in our minds the suffering of the people of Kenya and in particular those in Nairobi who were caught up in the terrorist attack of a few weeks ago. That was a terrible event in which innocent people were targeted in the most brutal and cruel way. And the main purpose of my visit was to come simply to offer my condolences and to say that we grieve with them in the losses that they have suffered. The bravery and determination of the people of Kenya is evident in the way they’re responding to this attack, and we weep with them and pray for them that they will find afresh the grace and strength of Jesus Christ.

As you may hear in the background, London’s a pretty busy place at the moment, and I am so glad that you’re meeting and taking time out from the business of life to meet together. It is so essential. Archbishop Eliud powerfully spoke a few weeks ago of confidence in the gospel, of a Church that is confident in the good news of Jesus Christ and does not hesitate to proclaim it. What’s happening is all around that, in what you’re saying and doing with each other.

To carry out the task of telling people about Jesus Christ, we need to be a Church that is holy. And for us as individuals and for us as churches right round the world that is always a massive challenge. We all live in different contexts and the challenge overlaps but is slightly different wherever we live. We are dealing with very rapid changes of culture in the Global North and the issue of sexuality is a very important one. How we respond rightly to that – in a way that is holy, truthful and gracious – is absolutely critical to our proclamation of the gospel.

Some churches are responding to challenges in their own context that are very very different. We have churches that are caught up in the midst of wars and violence and have to learn to proclaim the gospel in the midst of that. That’s really incredibly hard, and I’ve much experience of seeing it. There are other churches that are in countries where there are governments that are corrupt and it can be very hard to proclaim the gospel truly in those situations. Wherever we are, there’s a different context; but wherever we are, in our own context, in the right way, we have to live as a Church that is holy.

In addition, the gospel has to be proclaimed by a Church that is in unity. That’s really tough – I don’t underestimate the difficulty of that. It doesn’t mean being unanimous, all saying exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. It means that, as Jesus prays in John 17, that we demonstrate by our love for one another that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore people are drawn to believe in him. We’ve got to find ways of doing that and I don’t underestimate the challenge that is to all of us. And I’m so pleased, as I’ve said already several times, that you are meeting to be clear about where you stand.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to this message. I pray for you this week that you will meet Jesus afresh with elation and joy and celebration; that you will hear his voice; and that you will find the determination, together with all other Christians, in passionate unity and love for another, expressing disagreement graciously yet with powerful truth, to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and there is no other.’

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