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A Glimpse of a Hoped-For Future: Reflections on GAFCON IV

April 21, 2023
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I was honored to attend the fourth Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Kigali, Rwanda. A team of delegates from the Gulf Atlantic Diocese arrived April 16 and as I write this we are now en route home.

Many people have tried to describe what the experience of attending a conference of 1300 global Anglicans was like. Parts of it felt like home: greeting familiar faces from around the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), workshops from gifted presenters, singing songs we knew and loved, and of course, worshiping through shared liturgy. Other parts, however, provided a unique glimpse into the hoped-for vision of heavenly worship–brothers and sisters from every tribe and tongue, praying earnestly together, singing alongside one another, repenting together, and rejoicing together (see Revelation 7:9). Here are two clips from the many moving moments of worship we had together.

The week was filled with opportunities to learn, to worship, to pray, and to chart a course forward for orthodox Anglicans who are no longer able to recognize Canterbury as the seat of Anglicanism. Though this division was palpable throughout the week, the tone was still optimistic, especially perhaps, for those of us in the ACNA who faced our own division from The Episcopal Church nearly twenty years ago. We spent much of the time discussing what we hoped for the Anglican Communion in the next ten years.

Groups of delegates submitted these hopes, and the Gulf Atlantic Diocese produced the following:

  1. That we would be a growing global fellowship of mutually accountable followers of Jesus under the authority of Scripture who spread the Gospel of Jesus
  2. That we would live together within good and godly synodical structures with provisions for discipline for Provinces and Dioceses that fail to uphold orthodoxy
  3. That we would be known by what we are for, rather than what we are against.

Part of the charge to Gafcon and the Global South partners will be to determine how to make our hoped-for plans a reality. The Chairman of Gafcon offered seven key strategic initiatives to move this partnership forward (these seven strategies can be found at the end of the Kigali Commitment). I was particularly encouraged to see overlap between those strategic initiatives and the work we are already committed to here in the Gulf Atlantic Diocese. Of note was the second item regarding raising up leaders, the third regarding prioritizing the discipleship and leadership of children/youth, and the fourth item regarding the full support of leadership of women in family, church and society. Seeing similar initiatives to our ongoing work reminded me that we are not alone in this. In fact, though the contexts vary greatly, I found it encouraging that we face similar challenges; thus, we should weep with our global siblings when they weep, rejoice when they rejoice, but also come together to overcome our current ministry challenges.

It is our desire that the work we accomplished this week continue with fervency and remain covered in prayer. As the team from our diocese heads home, we will, no doubt, use this experience to help us in our strategic planning event (May 15-17, 2023) as we consider where we hope the diocese will be in the next few years. The leadership of GAD is committed to becoming a growing Anglican network of healthy congregations, and we leave Rwanda encouraged in that vision, knowing we are part of this growing Anglican fellowship. Please join us in praying for the future of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese, of the Anglican Church in North America, and of the provinces represented at this Global Anglican Future Conference.