frgavin on October 28th, 2010

Chris Sugden reports:

October 27th, 2010

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (Southern Africa) opened its second annual conference at St Saviour’s Church in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday October 27th. The Diocesan Bishop, Bethlehem Nopece welcomed participants from the Dioceses of Cape Town, False Bay, Durban, Natal, and George, along with Bishop P.J.Lawrence, Bishop of Nandyal in the Church of South India, Bishop Glenn Davies, Bishop of North Sydney, Australia, Bishop Desmond Inglesby, the newly elected Presiding Bishop of the Church of England in South Africa, and Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America, officiating for the first time in Southern Africa – Bishop John Guernsey of the Diocese of the Holy Spirit and Bishop Bill Murdoch of the Anglican Diocese of New England. Greetings were received from Archbishop Valentine Mokiwa from Tanzania who was prevented from attending by ill-health.

Standing with Diocesan Bishop Bethlehem Nopece (Centre) are (left to right) Bishops Glenn Davies (North Sydney), P.J.Lawrence (Nandyal, Church of South India), Bill Murdoch (ACNA) and John Guernsey (ACNA)

Bishop John Guernsey preached and began by noting that at the urging of the GAFCON movement the new province of the Anglican Church in North America was formed in North America. “We have seen a great deal of persecution. Churches have lost their property, clergy have lost their positions, given up medical insurance and pension benefits and been sued by their own bishops,” he said.

He noted that it took persecution to get the apostles out as the Lord had commanded them. “There is no evidence they went beyond Jerusalem until they were forced to do so by the persecution that broke out at Jesus’ death.”, he said. He then traced 6 passages in the book of Acts where Luke offers statements about the growth of the church, the crises that preceded the particular instance of growth, and the practice of prayer that went along with it.

These passages were

1, Acts 5 12ff . The dishonesty and corruption of Ananias and Sapphira threatened to undermine order in the church. They dropped dead and people were afraid. There was growth in numbers and greater release of supernatural power for healing and deliverance.

2. Acts 6.7 The word of God spread. The disciples in Jerusalem increased and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. This follows the crisis of the distribution of food to the Greek and Hebrew speaking widows.

3. Acts 9.31 Then the church throughout Jerusalem, Galilee and Judea grew in numbers. This follows the crisis over Saul who had been trying to kill the church.

4. Acts 11. 19 Those who had been scattered – some of them went to Antioch and went to speak to Greeks also. The Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed. This followed the crisis following preaching to Cornelius and other Gentiles in Caesarea. The proclamation was directly linked to the experience of suffering that the church knew through the martyrdom of Stephen

5. Acts 12.24. The Word of God continued to increase and spread following Herod’s persecution.

6. Acts 16: 4-5. Delivered the decision reached in Jerusalem for the people to obey. Follows the crisis over the status of Gentiles believers

Bishop John urged that the Lord desires to use hardship to bring forth the fruit of character in us – to forge in us true holiness, a godly humility, a merciful and forgiving spirit and unquenchable joy. We cannot develop endurance without suffering. We cannot develop a virtue without circumstances to provide. We cannot become patient without having to wait.

Faith is purified and shown to be genuine so we bring forth praise and glory and honour when Jesus is revealed.

“The crisis in the Anglican Communion is not the last challenge we are going to face. In the USA we are facing an increasingly hostile culture. The current situation is a training camp to prepare us for greater battles.” he noted.

Prayer is central to the work of the kingdom and the accomplishment of God’s purposes in suffering. Prayer figures in these passages in a significant way.

The Lord uses crisis in someone else’s life to be uplifting. But my crises are not nearly as inspiring. Allow the Lord to use this adversity to drive me to renewed passion for prayer and obedient faith. Use the pressure we are under to propel us out with a new zeal for mission. To build confident faith as we face more challenges.

Bishop Guernsey closed by quoting from 1 Peter 4.12 Do not be surprised at the pajnful trial you are suffering. Rejoice that you participate in the suffering of Christ. The Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

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