by Christian Ruch
I was very honored to be able to attend the Global Anglican Future Conference in Nairobi last month as a delegate from our Diocese of the Upper Midwest. I was thankful that among the 1300 Anglicans who gathered in Nairobi, Minnesota was represented. I tried my best not to embarrass you– for instance, no loud yelling of “Whereʼs the tater tot hotdish!?” when served traditional African food.
This gathering was called GAFCON 2 because five years earlier Anglicans had gathered together in Jerusalem for the first conference of its type. It was at that gathering that the commission was given by Anglican leaders from Africa, Asia, and South America to the leaders of North America to form the ACNA (Anglican Church of North America). So our being part of a diocese in the ACNA is a direct outgrowth of the first GAFCON gathering. At this gathering Anglican delegates continued to discuss the current state of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the desire and plans to remain faithful to the mission of Christ in our specific Anglican context.
The time at GAFCON was both challenging and encouraging. It was challenging to hear of the ongoing persecution that many fellow Anglicans are experiencing around the world. While their stories of Godʼs provision and faithfulness in the midst of great trials was inspiring; I was also, quite honestly, shook up by the immense hardships that are faced by brothers and sisters in Christ. It is one thing to speak of the suffering that is a part of following Christ, but to hear about it from those experiencing it firsthand showed me just how sheltered I am and how much I can grow in a vision for how God advances His Kingdom through the suffering church.
It was also challenging to be reminded of the significant difficulties the Western church faces as well. While we donʼt suffer from persecution (or at least nowhere near the level of those in the global south), the resistance of our secular culture to the claims and mission of Christ is very real. Seeing first hand the openness of Kenyans and other Africans in talking about issues of faith and belief in comparison to the discomfort many Westerners feel in addressing faith issues was striking. I think it was helpful for African leaders to learn from church leaders in the West that while we have a level of material comfort that is foreign to many of them, that comfort presents a big barrier to church planting and evangelism.
Even with those challenges though, the joy and encouragement of worshipping and learning with Christians from all over the world was life-giving. A major theme of the gathering was that we are not alone. A growing vision of how Anglicans across the world can partner together in mission, training, and mutual support was communicated throughout the conference. It made me excited to build on the international connections our church has with Anglicans in Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania (as well as the many other places where GoodWord ministries, a supported mission of Church of the Cross, is involved). There are resources we have to share with Global South churches, and there is much we need to learn and receive from them.
If you would like to read more about GAFCON you can go to Gafcon.org. There you will find more extensive reports on the topics covered in the conference, videos of some of the talks and worship times, and updates on happenings in the Anglican Communion. Thank you for your prayers for me while I was there–to represent our church and our diocese was a great privilege and blessing.