Originally published on the GAFCON website October 9, 2018:
To the Faithful of the Gafcon movement and friends from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council:
My dear people of God,
Last week, the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) issued a communiqué in which it affirmed the unanimous decision of the House of Bishops not to attend Lambeth 2020 unless the Archbishop of Canterbury reverses his policy of inviting those who have rejected biblical teaching and not inviting those who remain faithful but have been forced to leave their traditional spiritual homes.
The communiqué also dealt with a wide range of current concerns in Nigeria, such as the welfare of Nigerian workers, security, the state of our roads and our public health system because proclaiming Christ faithfully is motivated by love. It is not loving to obscure or twist what the Bible teaches about sex and marriage and it is not loving to pass over suffering and injustice. We demonstrate the love of God by caring for one another, especially the distressed and the vulnerable.
We should therefore have a particular concern for the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. These brothers and sisters are no strangers to suffering, but last month they suffered a double tragedy. First, their National Youth Coordinator, Joseph Kiri, was killed on humanitarian mission at the beginning of September when his car was ambushed by gunmen, despite a peace deal signed just few days earlier which was intended to end hostilities. Then on 9th September, the Bishop of Yirol, Simon Adut Yuang, was among 20 killed when his plane crashed into a lake while attempting to land in bad weather.
We send our sincere condolences to the families of these men and pray that they will know the comfort of being heirs together with their loved ones and all God’s people of the great salvation which is to be revealed at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These tragedies underline the fact that the Episcopal Church of South Sudan is called to proclaim Christ in one of the most challenging contexts in the world. Since achieving independence in 2011, South Sudan has been blighted by fighting between armed factions, a series of failed ceasefires, inflation, famine and infrastructure breakdown.
I had the pleasure of meeting the Primate, Archbishop Justin Badi, at the Gafcon Primates Council in Entebbe earlier this year, just before his enthronement. He is gentle yet determined and committed to the gospel ministry of reconciliation in his war torn nation. The Anglican Church is well placed for this role. It is one of the few remaining national bodies which still manages to function. It is socially diverse, not aligned with any one tribe, and embraces those at the grassroots while also having nationally respected leadership.
However, to exercise this leadership, the bishops need to meet to coordinate a national response and Archbishop Badi is calling together his bishops for a special meeting next month to coordinate the Church’s work for lasting peace and reconciliation, but this is an expensive exercise because the roads are still too dangerous to use so nearly all must travel by air. The cost is estimated at US$40,000 and I hope the global family of Gafcon can contribute at least half of that amount. If you are able to assist, either as an individual, a local church, a diocese or any other organisation, please follow this link.
In our ‘Letter to the Churches’ from Gafcon 2018 we declared ‘In the world into which we go to proclaim the gospel, we shall encounter much which will need us to walk in paths of righteousness and mercy (Hosea 2:19; Micah 6:8)’. Here is an opportunity to do so. May the grace of Almighty God strengthen us in faithful prayer and generous giving.
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council