by Archhbishop Peter J. Akinola, Chairman of Global South
Tues 25th October 2005
I welcome all the delegates from the Global South to this historic third gathering of ours. I also welcome all our invited guests and friends from all over the Anglican Communion to Egypt the land replete with much history regarding our faith and particularly to the land on where early Christian Theology was fashioned.
May I also extend my appreciation and gratitude to my brothers in the working committee who all the years have laboured very hard on behalf of us all to make this day happen. I thank in particular the Abp. Yong Ping Chung of S.E. Asia, Abp. Drexel Gomez of West Indies, Abp. Greg Venables of the Southern Cone, Rt. Rev Dr. John Chew of Singapore and Bp. Anis Mouneer of Egypt, and of course several other people who worked with us in different ways to actualize the plans of this 3rd Encounter.
While the 1st encounter was held in Nairobi Kenya in 1994, the second was held in Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia in 1997, a three year gap. The third one is taking place now after eight years! Reasons for that shall be explored during the course of this encounter.
Why are we here? The world out there seems to know why you are here better than we ourselves. They will do everything they can to place us into their box. They want us to do what they think we should do but they have failed. We are not here on their terms and we are not here for their agenda. I want to say emphatically that we are not here to execute any hidden agenda. We are not here to split the Anglican Communion neither are we here to set up any parallel jurisdiction. That is not our business.
People of God, We are here as leaders of the Church in the Global South to pray together, to be in fellowship, to read God’s word together to engage in Holy conversations around the subject of ‘One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.’ And thereby re-establish our true identity in this Church. We are here to gain strength through simulating lectures and group work on what should be our responsibility and how to discharge that responsibility faithfully to honour God and be a blessing to the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Coming to this encounter has been strictly by invitation and since we are not here for business sessions, we will not be talking to the press about what we want to do. By the time we are through with our consultations, the outcome of the sessions will be released at the same time to the world.
Again, our theme for this 3rd encounter is One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – How we may be faithful as a Church in a time such as we are in.
• A time when historical formularies are not only being distorted, they are being denied. The great creeds are being mutilated and destroyed. Rejected, they are being replaced with half truths and sometimes with whole untruths.
• A time in which God-given freedom is being turned into permissiveness that allows people to do whatever they want to do with impunity.
• A time when “might is right” is the attitude as we see lots of military adventurism and killings without regret all over the world.
• A time of various natural and technological disasters of great proportions e.g the recent Tsunami, floods and earthquakes in S.E. Asia, Hurricanes in the Americas, Drought and famine in Africa etc., all taking huge tolls on humanity.
• A time of strange deadly diseases and ailments such as HIV/AIDS, Bird flu, and the church is infected or at least affected.
• A time of Terrorism in alarming proportions. Innocents are killed for things they know nothing about.
• A time of Commercialization of Religion with mega-churches and the Pastor Superstar Syndrome all of which seems designed for self-glorification and gratification and has nothing to do with the Church of the Lord. These have become the roots of the proliferation of churches in our time.
In a time like this, how may we be faithful to our calling, our responsibility?
My dear People of God, come with me to the Epistle earlier read; 1st Peter 2: 9,
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
That is your identity. That is my identity – A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. Is that who you are? I can’t answer that for you. You can search your conscience and determine whether that describes who you are as a Christian.
This verse has its own unique history - usually called the Salvation History.
a.) Abraham in Genesis 12:1 3, was called out after the creation history and repeated failure of man. “Abraham was called to GO to a place where I will show you.” He was chosen to be the patriarch of a nation belonging to God. “In you shall all the nations of the world be blessed” Abraham obeyed and his son Isaac was confirmed into that blessing and later his grandson, Jacob.
b.) The entire nation of Israel was chosen at the Sinai experience and confirmed not only into the calling but also into that great blessing. In Exodus 19:5,6, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” Notice that ‘provided you obey me fully’ was the condition for the confirmation.
Every choice, every election, every preference carries with it a great deal of responsibility. When a country elects its President he is expected to carry out certain functions. A priest is ordained to carry out certain duties in the church. No one is chosen for the fun of it. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob all had to obey but Israel would rather glory in the awareness of being the chosen ones – not in being faithful as was required of them.
They failed woefully in doing what was required and though Prophet after prophet warned them and tried to make them turn back to obey, they indulged themselves in Temple prostitution, sexual orgies, ecstasy, drunkenness, and the very popular religion of their time – just like some do in our time.
It is very easy to claim that we are the ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH but are we faithful in what we have been called upon to do? What makes some think the God who did not spare Israel for disobedience will spare the Church?
Israel was unfaithful to its calling, to its choice, It thus ended up in EXILE!
Amos 3:2 “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.”
Hence the need for a new beginning. God never fails. He never gives up on us. Alleluia!
Through the mediation and sacrifice of His Son Jesus the Christ, he has called up a new people, made a new choice out of the entire human race – What a privilege! What an honour! But let us not forget that this choice, this election, this divine preferential favour comes with a HUGE RESPONSIBILITY that calls for our faithful response.
Today are we ready to obey, or are we going to continue finding excuses in the name of our culture and modernity which we say are more important. These same excuses appealed to Israel before us and the end result was Exile!
1Peter 2: 9
You are the new church, the new ecclesia of God. You are a
a) Chosen People: - Chosen by God, totally undeserving and unmerited, we are called out of many to do his holy will in his world.
b) Royal priesthood: - Chaplain to the Divine Monarchy, serving before the very presence of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords – Serving royally, majestically and victoriously - not as slaves to any one, institution, structure or practice.
c) Holy Nation: - Set apart, distinct, special, wholly different people. Totally different, doing the things of God not the things of the world. Is that true today? Does anyone notice any difference between us - and the world, are we holy?
d) Belonging to God – Very Special People belonging to God not the world nor are they allowed to conform to worldly standards. We must beware and be very careful of theological hooligans who seek to hijack the church and make it their own. They twist the word of God to suit their fancy and they are everywhere. God knows and will deliver us from the impact of their work.
e) Brought out of Darkness: - Out to his marvelous light- Alleluia! Brought out of the sinful, unholy darkness to be a light to the world. Are the things of darkness not still appealing to us and being secretly practiced? When there is Light darkness disperses. Are you a light in the world?
f) Reason for Call: - Chosen, made priests, sanctified and made holy, belonging to God – all for the purpose of mission. ‘so that we may declare’, to proclaim the praises of him who has called us out of darkness and what has been done in our lives.
Dear Friends, Let us be clear about this: - Our election, choice, preferment is all about mission to the world around us. This week, we are going to seek ways by which our church can be faithful doing the work of mission. Different scholars, skilled and faithful theologians will present papers on this topic; One holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We will also be in groups to think about this: A church that fails to do mission for God ceases to be the church chosen by God.
Finally, if you forget anything about this sermon, please remember this. Israel had a covenant with God which had a responsibility attached to it. Israel failed to play its part, end result - EXILE!
The Church is also in covenant with God, our baptismal Covenant is sealed with the words:
“… sign you with the sign of the Cross in token that hereafter you shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified and manfully to fight against sin, the world, and the devil and to continue as Christ faithful soldier and servant unto your life’s end.”
Now, how do we, members of this our great holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, chosen people, royal priests, holy nation brought out of darkness to God’s marvelous light to beam radiance, to proclaim his purposes – do all these faithfully?
The Lord is waiting, The Church is waiting, the whole world is waiting for the outcome of this great Encounter in Egypt.
God Bless You.