Vaughan Roberts had told me that when you get to the Gafcon conference you’ll realise it’s all a lot more charismatic that people in the UK would imagine. That made sense from my travels in the Global South and I’ll come back to that later in the week, but I’ve also found some wonderful charismatics based in the Global North today, some of whom I wasn’t expecting.
As I draft this I am sitting in the arena next to a former SOMA USA trustee listening to ACNA Primate Foley Beech challenge the conference to repent, be reconciled to each other, reproduce through disciple making and be relentlessly compassionate. The trustee, Fr Richard, tells me all sorts of SOMA stories from Cairo, Zimbabwe and Singapore where a Michael Harper visit led to his filling with the Spirit.
SOMA Ireland ND Henry Blair has told me a wonderful story about a healing from arthritis in one of his recent ministry visits back home where his hands burned with the Spirit before laying them on a minister who’d had 15 years of pain.
Now former SOMA International Chair and GAFCON Gen Sec Ben Kwashi is rousing the crowd with a charismatic, vibrant address to the 53 nations represented in the room. He promises God’s blessings for those who stand firm in troubled times – something he knows about personally as he testifies that he’s been healed twice from stage 4 cancer through prayers of saints and God’s grace.
I found out today his influence stretches to the UK. My SOMA predecessor Stephen Dinsmore is particularly keen to send him greetings and thanks; but beyond that I discovered a new group to me of charismatic Anglican Church Planters in Europe and UK mainly made up of bi-vocational doctors who have been ordained and plant churches in their spare time – inspired and authorised by Ben Kwashi. They’re planning 13 new church plants in 2023.
[The biggest stumbling block to UK charismatics from what Ben Kwashi says is regarding GAFCON women. He talks about them ‘not limited to home, backbone of mission involving hospitality, evangelism and behind the scenes ministry’ but nothing on them being released / needed in leadership at all. I’ll come back to that later in the week as it is key. Interestingly I pick up this theme with ordained women from ACNA in the dinner queue and they do not see it as an issue – although they’re keen for more recognition of women in leadership in Gafcon. One of them has been on SOMA missions too – so another charismatic has been found]. Plenty to reflect on more in a later blog – not least as key provinces like Uganda have some incredible ordained women, others have ordained women as Bishops and even in Nigeria several people describe Ben Kwashi’s wife to me as the powerhouse of his ministry (she’s also adopted 60+ kids and they’ve done ministry on the edge often at genuine risk of their lives)].
Closer to home I was blessed to talk to a London clergyman who grew up conservative but is also a closet charismatic(!), and to other who’d been reading my blog and keen to see word and spirit come together. A lay member of All Souls Langham Place tells me about his background in the charismatic house church movement (including newfrontiers), and key complementarians tell me how they long for a structural solution in the CoE that brings them together with orthodox egalitarian charismatics united by the Gospel with informal agreements based on trust. So although the UK delegation may seem the least charismatic of all the delegations here it’s actually drawing from some common wells of Holy Spirit ministry. Among the Northern Irish delegates are some passionate New Winers. All in all it is a warm welcome for those of us here from Renewal/New Wine/HTB backgrounds and across the conference centre you hear conversations going on about Alpha around the room. A Tim Hughes worship song now strikes up and the room is full of hand raising praise filled charismatics!
Hoping and praying for a ‘Spirit breakout’ as I finish this reflection as worship is beginning for Day Two. An African choir, joins the worship band singing ‘I surrender all to you…’ – it’s a beautiful moment to worship the Lord.
My biggest concern about GAFCON is the perceived complementarian, cessationist and Protestant ethos. So I’m glad that you are there to represent egalitarian charismatic reformed Catholics! If there is to be a realignment in world Anglicanism, it has to include those of us who would self-identify as the latter. So I’m watching and praying with interest.