This is part two in a two-part summary of my experience travelling to and then attending GAFCON in Nairobi in October. You might like to read part one first, if you haven't already...they kind of go together.
Our first moments in Nairobi were not chaotic. Although we were told that Chaos would meet us at the airport, he was a no-show. That is not to say that he was not there. He seemed to always be just around the corner in Nairobi. He was just not the first thing that met us. We were met instead by Kindness. By warm, generous human kindness. The kindness of strangers. Over and over again as I was ill. On the plane. In the airport. On the 2-hour drive on the Mombasa Road. I lost each one of my carefully curated ‘don’ts’. One blew away out as I rolled down the window. Another slipped out of my pocket as I got out of the car. And still another fell out of my unclenched fist as I stood on the side of the road.
Here is what I gained. Two phrases were given to me again and again by people I met. A liturgy of hospitality: ‘It is okay,’ and ‘You are welcome here.’ Such simple, beautiful, comforting words.
At GAFCON2 there was real variance, not just the apparent difference of dress and speech, but deeper differences of thought and practice. It was the kind of variety and diversity that you would hope to find in a delegation representing so many tribes and nations.
The number and variety of mini-conferences that ran through the week reminded us of the many different issues and concerns for Anglicanism around the globe, some more pertinent and pressing than others, depending on where you were from, but all of them important for our communion as a whole.
All of this variety made me realise that whatever can hold so much difference, whatever can draw all these very different people together must be very strong, and very real. Because based on the surface of things, there wouldn’t appear to be a type of glue strong enough to enable us to stick together.
The daily church service and bible study in Ephesians drew us together, and we were reminded each day of our one, true centre. The very core of our belief, the only thing that can hold us together, so long as it remains our centre: the death and resurrection of Christ. We were reminded daily to cling to the cross, to wonder at emptiness of the tomb. And daily, to practice a faith that leads to real repentance. Heart and mind and life changing repentance.
It would be possible in a gathering like GAFCON to spend endless amounts of time talking about the issues that confront us, that swirl over our world like weather. I was heartened that while we had an eye on the weather, it did not define our time together. The focus of the week was on the word of God, and the cornerstone of our faith, the risen Christ, who remains true, no matter the weather.
And there is weather. There are storms in the larger Anglican communion that buffet and accost us, some of us more than others. Three main ones were defined. There is myopic secularism that doles out a paltry, mealy-mouthed grace, particularly in the wealthier, Western nations. It, like Pilate, scoffs and questions the truth of Jesus. There are radical expressions of other religions like Islam, which directly confronts some Christians with burn, and raze, and kill. And there is a limpid syncretism, which just shrugs its shoulders at the claims of Christ, lumping Christ and Christianity with any other god or religion.
There is weather. There are storms that rage and blow and crack their cheeks. There always has been, and there always will be. And we are not promised an easy journey. We are promised a turbulent one. A rocky, jolting, turbulent journey, which can be disheartening at times.
We are told to be ready for it. To wear our faith like armor. And to pray, but not for ease. Our prayer should be, with every bump, with every burn, with every break, with every blow, and with every groan, in praise, in thanks: Allelujah. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. And through him we arrive. Allelujah.