A Single-Issue Group

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 01 July 2018.

Among the things I’ve learned over the last fortnight is a piece of British slang. The Archbishop of Canterbury, in answering a question about the GAFCON movement, described it as a ‘ginger group’. Apparently, this means a group within a larger group that seeks to energise the whole...or at least, that’s the dictionary meaning.

GAFCON 10What Archbishop Welby really meant was that GAFCON is a single-issue group. Sparked by the ongoing failure of the Anglican Communion to discipline those churches who were normalising immorality, GAFCON was formed a decade ago.

Being part of the conference last week made it abundantly clear that the charge of being a single-issue pressure group simply won’t stick. While we again called for repentance from various people and bodies, there was far more going on - including plans to support mission work, development work, and various targeted ministries. Basically, GAFCON is just getting on with things.

That said, I have realised there was a mistake in what I observed - for GAFCON is in fact determinedly a single-issue group. All through the week, in all the talks, all the seminars, all the conversations, all the prayers, the same issue kept coming through: how can we serve the Lord Jesus?

And I have absolutely no issue with that!

World Beaters

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 14 June 2018.

World Cup1Across the globe, there’s a common story. The World Cup is big news, because football is a globally popular sport. Kids grow up dreaming of playing for their country, and adults - they just dream of it. There will be plenty of TV screens operating at unusual hours, and there will be highlights reels running on a loop. If you’re not into soccer, it’s a great time to go camping. Well, in the northern hemisphere, at least.

No doubt reputations will be made and trashed by the fickle ebbs and flows of the different games. But usually, there’s at least one standout, one person of whom it is said that ‘nobody in the world can do that.’ They’ll be the champion of the tournament, regardless of team results.

Of course, there is at least one person in the world - the hero himself. It’s hyperbole, and we understand that. You can never say that nobody in the world...

Except we must. For there was nobody in the world who could win the greatest prize of all, the salvation of God’s people and the redemption of his world. There had been candidates, but they’d all come closer to swimming to the moon than to achieving that goal.

There was nobody in the world, so somebody had to come into the world. God entered his creation, with his Son being born a squalling, naked baby, and growing up to rescue us. We all want our team to be world beaters, but Jesus is the only world beater, and he calls us onto his team. ‘Take heart, I have overcome the world!’ (John 16:33)

The GAFCON Garden

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 09 June 2018.

GAFCONIn a week’s time, I’ll be staggering off a red-eye flight at Tel Aviv, headed for a gathering of two thousand delegates from Anglican churches around the world, from archbishops to regular church members. This will be the third GAFCON conference, and many have asked me what it’s all about.

I like the image of a garden: there will be some there who are like old trees, strong and well-established, providing shade for smaller plants. There will be saplings, perhaps relatively new to the faith but growing. I expect a riot of colour - not just different skin tones, but different attire as well, and a variety of expressions of church, and music, and prayer and so on. If there can be observable differences between two neighbouring parishes, imagine what it might be like on opposite sides of the planet!

But what is the conference for? Sadly, there are weeds in the Anglican garden - church leaders and administrators who have lost their grip on the gospel of Christ. In some places, they are actively oppressing those in their churches who have not abandoned the faith. In other places, genuinely Christian churches are so scarce, the area will need to be reseeded to promote growth. GAFCON as an organisation seeks the health of the whole garden: naming weediness for what it is, supporting the struggling, resourcing growth where it is needed. And the conference is about thinking how this can best be done on a global scale, and heartening one another that the fruit is of priceless value.

‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.’ Please pray for the faithful witness of all churches, across the globe.

Just a Minute Ago

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 02 June 2018.

CarlinThe best humour often works because it is bolstered by astute observations about the nature of life. A good joke has depths to it. The comedian George Carlin has been dead for ten years now, but was once asked what he wanted on his tombstone. His reply: “Jeez, he was just here a minute ago.”

It turns out he changed his mind. Instead of the joke, he went for political commentary, expressing the seven words that are banned on broadcast television. In ampersands, pound signs, and exclamation marks, reflecting the cartoon’s solution to how to represent swearing.

I think he got it right. Death isn’t funny.

But ‘just a minute ago’ has something to offer as well. How often we come across people who are planning to leave questions of ‘what comes next’ to the last minute. It’s like they’re playing a crazy game of chicken, where the stakes are high and the only possible outcome is a loss.

We know what comes after the last minute, though, don’t we? A minute too late. I don’t know about you, but I long ago lost count of the times I ran late on something, and I suspect I’m not alone. And that’s when I know when my deadline falls! When it’s something with an indeterminate deadline, I’m much worse...

And knowing that you’ll forgive yet another pun, can I just say: Don’t be late for your last minute!

An Unashamed Fool

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 26 May 2018.

AthanasiusFor those who keep track of such things, Sunday 27th is known as Trinity Sunday on the church calendar - an opportunity to reflect on how God reveals himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Perhaps just as significantly, in our sermon passage today, we are reminded that we are foolish, weak and lowly. Both of these details justify a brief introduction to Athanasius.  

Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria in the fourth century. He was also the bishop of Alexandria, then of Alexandria, Alexandria, Alexandria and finally, Alexandria. It was an era where church doctrine and imperial politics were mixed together in a toxic brew, and five times Athanasius was forced into exile from his post. On each occasion, Athanasius refused to bend on his theology, and went.

What was it that Athanasius held to so stubbornly? In his time, there was a powerful group of church and political leaders that were Arian in their theology: they believed that Jesus was not divine. And Athanasius was having none of it: if Jesus was not God, he was useless.

He was thought a fool for ignoring the prevailing winds of political opinion, but he couldn’t have cared less. Despite being exiled by four different emperors, and dodging another half-dozen assassination attempts, he stood firm, earning himself the nickname Athanasius Contra Mundum - Athanasius Against the World. And through his tenacity, God eventually brought the church back around to a true confidence in Jesus’ divinity.

It wasn’t the first time human foolishness had been a vehicle for God’s power and wisdom!

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