Jerusalem 2018 and the Age Old Question: What's in Your Hand?

Written by Richard C. Baker - 

Last June, I had the privilege of joining nearly 2000 Anglicans from around the world in Jerusalem for the third Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). While you may not be an Anglican, GAFCON 2018 was a significant gathering and holds promise for all faithful followers of Jesus Christ, whether Anglican or not. In the end, as I found out, its challenge is to ask again the question that God once asked an aging and insecure Jewish refuge hiding out in the desert: what is in your hand? (Exodus 4:2)

First, a bit of background. This was the largest global gathering of Anglicans in 50 years! It was particularly encouraging to be in the presence of this global communion of Anglicans and see that the majority of Anglicans still uphold the historic, Biblical Christian faith, and have not bent the knee to the unbiblical teachings which have spread to so many of the mainline churches in the West. The lesson learned here for all believers who have lived through the secularization of our Western culture and the apostasy of great swaths of the Church, is to be encouraged: God is doing very powerful things throughout the world and we are not orphans, but part of a great and growing family of faithful Christians.

As with other mainline churches, it is also incredibly important that Christ-centered Anglicans collaborate in their effort to reform the Anglican Communion - and not only collaborate, but deepen their relationships. The more relational and meaningful the connections created between believers, the better off the Kingdom of God will be. Specifically, as a result of this GAFCON gathering, nine strategic “networks” were launched in order to strengthen the bonds of this movement of faithful Anglicans through the involvement of lay persons, offering their gifts and talents to strengthen the Church in her mission.

One of those networks is the Lawyers Network, of which I was asked to co-chair the Religious Freedom working group that is a part of it. The Lawyers Network is tasked with defending religious freedom, developing a new sense of Anglican Christian identity, and addressing the exit issues that GAFCON members may face when they must differentiate or leave from an unfaithful diocese or Province within the Anglican Communion. The Religious Freedom working group seeks to defend religious freedom worldwide from threats to the rights of freedom of worship and association, free speech, religious use of property, religious employment and other threats or punishment designed to intimidate and silence those who seek to live, witness and minister to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is no small task in that these threats may come in varying contexts from the assaults on religious liberty in the West, to actual physical assaults on Christians in places like Nigeria. And the threat to religious freedom, the intimidation and persecution of believers, and the need to “exit” from organizations that have strayed from the path are not unique to faithful Anglicans alone, but to all of God’s faithful people.

The take away from the formation of these networks of lay persons in general, and the Religious Freedom working group that I have been assigned to in particular, is that, not just the clergy and missionaries, but we all have a part in furthering the spread of the Gospel using the talents and treasures that God has given us. Yes, even the lawyers! And as for the part given me at GAFCON, I might ask: what do I know about religious freedom in the context of a country where churches are regularly bombed and believers kidnapped and executed? What do I know about the laws in Scotland, Brazil or New Zealand to help a church leaving its Anglican Diocese? What can I do to be of assistance? But then, I am confronted with the question that the Almighty God once asked an aging and insecure refuge hiding out in the desert named Moses: what’s in your hand?

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