In late September 2016, bishops from five African countries gathered together in Kenya for the inaugural GAFCON Bishop Training Institute Conference (BTI1). Elisabeth Carter reports on the highlights of this event.
Dozens of bishops came together in September for the first GAFCON Bishop Training Institute Conference. Even though some of these bishops had only been serving in their roles for a few weeks, all were enthusiastic about receiving training and enjoying fellowship with one another.
Many bishops from African nations face difficulties in their ministries. Some of the attendees at the conference were originally from South Sudan, though now live in Nairobi due instability in the region. Another bishop shared that 121 members of his diocese were attacked and killed in one day by Islamic militants. Many bishops mentioned financial pressures and a lack of resources as challenges in their work.
CMS missionary Paul Sampson had the honour of serving as BTI Executive Assistant. Paul has seen the issues facing African church leaders firsthand, having taught at Carlile College in Kenya (finishing this role in November 2016). He says that the BTI Conference was created to: “build and strengthen networks between biblically-minded bishops within the Anglican Communion; to enhance bishops’ understanding of some of the challenges facing the Church as it seeks to stand firm on the teaching of the Bible; to encourage and equip bishops to stand against the tide of secularism, liberalism and postmodernism; and to allow them to have a rich time of Christian fellowship.”
During each day of the conference the bishops gathered for chapel services, presentations and ‘Q & A’ sessions with speakers. Topics covered included the threat of liberalism; the deceit of the prosperity gospel; the importance of theological education; the growth and relevance of Anglicanism in the 21st Century; and mission and evangelism.
The delegates also enjoyed some downtime, when they had the chance to get to know one another and even take part in an early-morning safari in Nairobi National Park.
Following the conference, several bishops shared with Paul their thoughts on the event and how it had encouraged them. Bishop Dan Zoreka of Uganda wrote the following to Paul: “Thank you and Bishop Samson Mwaluda for organising BTI1 conference. It was a great moment for me personally. Sharing critical issues that threaten the unity of the Anglican communion was educating and an eye-opener to the leaders of the Church today as custodians of the Christian faith.”
Praise God for the great blessing of this conference, and pray that he would continue to strengthen and equip bishops across Africa with the grace and confidence to stand firm and lead their dioceses in the face of many challenges.