October 19th—It is the feast day of Henry Martyn and we are waiting in Boston’s Logan Airport as I scrawl these sentences on our way to GAFCON II. The next leg is Amsterdam and then on to Nairobi, Kenya. There are four of us representing the Diocese of South Carolina at the GAFCON II gathering in Nairobi: The Rev. Dr. Greg Snyder, President of the Standing Committee; The Rev. Robert Lawrence (no bloodlines that we know of), Chairman of the Anglican Communion Development Committee and Executive Director of St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center; Allison Lawrence, who will be attending the Bishop’s wives track; and, of course, I as Bishop. I have overheard my traveling companions commenting about the long series of flights ahead of us tonight. I may even have made a comment or two. But when one considers that we are flying on the feast day of an early 19th century British missionary to India it is rather ridiculous to mumble any complaints about long flights or potential discomforts which may come our way in our short travels abroad.
When Henry Martyn’s journals returned to England after his untimely death, having labored tirelessly translating the New Testament into Persian, the Rev. Charles Simeon, his pastor and mentor during his studies at Cambridge, the Rev. Mr. John Sargent, Simeon’s curate, and Mrs. Thomason gathered to read the pages of his journals. The trio soon found themselves weeping quietly over his words. They had always known Martyn as a man joyful, characterized by a spirit of gaiety and hope. But as they read through the pages of his journals they were stunned to encounter the depths of soul-struggle and pain that wore upon his inner life in the midst of his herculean labors for Christ’s Kingdom. May some of his missional and self-sacrificial spirit characterize our journey, this Global Anglican Futures Conference and its aftermath, not least because this year’s theme is Jesus’ Great Commandment: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 28:19).
After the flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi we went through customs and were bused to the hotel with some 30 fellow GAFCON attendees. We checked into our room close to 11:00 p.m. after 26 hours of travel—a little tired and ready for some sleep.
October 21st—after a night’s sleep I awake more tired than I went to bed and in need of some coffee! We spend the late morning and early afternoon getting a feel for the city of Nairobi and a SIM card for my cell phone along with waiting in various lines.
Clearly one of the chief joys of such a gathering as this is seeing fellow believers from different times in one’s life in Christ and who weave in and out of one’s Christian journey. The Rev. Sammy Morrison from Chile; The Very Rev. Canon Jim Snell from the Diocese of San Joaquin; John MacDonald from Pittsburgh days and Trinity School for Ministry; Bishop Richard Ellena from Australia and Bishop Alapayo from the Southern Sudan both of whom I met at Lambeth 2008…and so many others—too many to list here. And then there are the new relationships or God-appointments which his Holy Spirit no doubt has for us. One never knows where or to what these divine appointments will lead.
This evening’s gathering at All Saint’s Cathedral after tea on the grounds was an Opening worship freely flowing with hymns brought by Western missionaries yet touched by an African vigor and sway. It also brought various speakers to the podium to focus our attention on the East African Revival of the 1920s and 30s and which had a second or renewed out pouring of the Holy Spirit in the 1970s. Indeed as the Chancellor of Uganda Christian University reminded us in a stirring address—“We speak of the East Africa Revival as if it is a relic of history. It is not just a relic…not just a movement in history; it is a living movement today.” (Paraphrased from my jotted notes from his address) This movement which has as its center the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the call of the Holy Spirit for believers to “Walk in the Light” and the necessity of repentance, public confession of sins and putting of wrongs right in the believer’s life, as well as a corresponding call for humility and brokenness, was and remains a mighty presence in the Church in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. This revival like so many great revivals in history was predominately a lay movement. It calls every man to be a Bible student, responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, transcending denominational boundaries yet seeking to keep (in the phrase I remember from several decades ago in the Renewal Movement of the 1970s and 80s) “the fire in the fireplace.” Indeed as the Chancellor noted, from the heart of this living movement today’s Church is presented with some probing questions:
- What is the cause of coldness and deadness in our churches?
- Why are people allowed to come to the Lord’s Table who are living in known sin?
- What can be done to bring revival to the Church?
I left this Opening session this evening reflecting upon my own experience in the revival of the 1970s which influenced my early life as a Christian after my conversion during college and ready for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit today, remembering those words from St. Augustine of Hippo—“Revive thy Church, Oh Lord, beginning with me.”
Well, it is almost 11:00 p.m. I am still more than a little under the sway of jet-lag and 5:30 a.m. comes early. Don’t know when I’ll have an opportunity to blog next but will do so as I am able.
South Carolina XIV