The future of evangelicalism

With the recent appointment of a lesbian bishop in The Episcopal Church, Global Anglican affairs are in the news once again.

Almost 20 years ago I remember being in a meeting where our current Sydney Anglican leaders foresaw the appointment of openly homosexual people to such positions. To all others present at that meeting, it seemed unthinkable. Almost 20 years on, it is humbling and disturbing to see this come to reality, and a powerful reminder that we must hold firmly to the authority of the Scriptures. This is where the battle is being played out.

More locally, the trial of ‘ethics’ lessons began this week in some Primary schools. Our society has seen in the last 30 years how the marginalization of God has been paralleled by a decline in morals. Yet, our politicians are spinning the issue to further marginalize Christians, while at the same time maintaining that Australia is a Christian country.

My question has been: what difference can I make?

Herein lies the reason that I have recently decided to return to Uganda later this year, to lead the KCC team that will once again run NextGen Uganda.

We can help with theological education. Whilst we can take what we have for granted, the evangelical world is craving it, and craving it from Sydney Evangelicals.

My time in Uganda last year was an extraordinary experience. Yes, the physical conditions were different. And yes, it was eye opening to see another culture. But it was nothing short of overwhelming to see how the young people in Uganda had such a hunger for the Word of God. They had such a zeal for Jesus and had countless questions (see the video report here). It is in Africa that the future of Evangelical Christianity is looking the brightest.

It is such a privilege to be invited to return to Uganda. They would like this year's conference more than twice as big as last years.

Already the youth of Sydney at the recent KYCK Conventions have dug deep to help make this a reality, exceeding their fundraising target by some considerable margin.

Once again we will be proud partners with the Anglican Diocese of Armidale. And there is scope for others to be involved. Maybe you look at the state of Evangelical Christianity and wish to make a difference. Maybe for a while you have wanted to make a contribution to less fortunate brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.  Maybe you realise how much biblical knowledge you have been blessed with, and want to use it to help others. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact me through the kcc office.

But for now, and the purposes of this blog: given the state of Christianity around the world, how else can we make a difference?

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The Rev Raj Gupta is the senior minister of Toongabbie Anglican Church, member of Standing Committee, and Mission Area Leader of the Parramatta Mission Area. He is also a partner with the 'Exploring Effective Ministry under God' team, and currently undertaking a Doctor of Ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDs).

Comments (13)

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  • Michael Jensen
    May 19, 10 - 4:39am
    Thanks Raj....

    it's not the evangelical world so much as the Anglican evangelical world that you are describing though, isn't it? That's an important adjective to add, I would have thought.
  • Jeremy Halcrow
    May 19, 10 - 5:15am
    sshhh Michael, KCC are listening...

    ;)

    The point here is that Sydney evangelicals (Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptist) are partnering via inter-denominational organisation KCC to help African Anglicans.
  • Mike Doyle
    May 19, 10 - 11:09am
    It's worthwhile acknowledging the debt Evangelical Anglicanism owes to KCC, and debt all Sydney Evangelicals owe.

    May KCC also help the African Anglicans. It's great stuff.
  • Pete Sholl
    May 19, 10 - 5:19pm
    Michael J,

    I take your point, but can I offer a guarded correction. The influence Sydney evangelicals have in the world goes far beyond the borders of Anglicanism. As I type this I am supervising an 'Introduction to the Bible' exam in a Presbyterian church in Mexico, with students from Mexico, Bolivia and Costa Rica - none of whom have every been, or probably will ever be a member of an Anglican church.

    The thing that impresses them (and other non-Anglican students I teach throughout Latin America) is the thorough and serious study of the Bible that the PTC courses offer. Something which is not available in other courses in Spanish. That is a great thing to offer - and they are looking to us for it.

    Raj - can I offer (with all appropriate 'cash for comment' clauses ticked) this advice on people who want to continue supporting gospel work around the world?

    http://www.cms.org.au/one-life
  • Michael Jensen
    May 20, 10 - 4:23am
    Pete Sholl: thanks for that. It's just so brilliant to hear it.

    My point is rather that I wouldn't want us Sydney Evangelicals who are Anglicans to be blind to the opportunities for mission and training that are afforded by our being Anglican. Sometimes (and perhaps rightly) we speak as though we are rather embarassed about being Anglican!
  • Luke Stevens
    May 20, 10 - 10:05am
    Raj, Jeremy and others: What's the Sydney/GAFCON response to Uganda's proposed extreme anti-homosexuality laws, which include the death penalty for 'serial offenders'? (E.g. today from the BBC: Uganda plans death penalty for homosexuals )

    Isn't it a bit weird that we write about the 'disturbing' nature of homosexual leaders, and not the disturbing, evil nature of people like Martin Ssempa? Does GAFCON/Sydney support the laws? Has there been any reporting on the proposed laws here?
  • Pete Sholl
    May 20, 10 - 2:55pm
    Michael - agreed.

    I guess the issue for us here in this part of the world is that the influence of the US is so great, that when people hear Anglican, they hear 'Episcopal', so that usually leads to a whole new conversation. Having said that, the conversation is usually productive because it pretty quickly comes around to issues like the authority of the Bible and the place of the church - so those are good things to be talking about. So I usually use the label 'Anglican' of myself if I know I have time for a conversation!

    OT1 intensive starting today (this time with students from Mexico, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Ecuador!)
  • Michael Jensen
    May 20, 10 - 10:56pm
    @Luke - it is scurrilous to suggest that 'Sydney' or 'Gafcon' endorses the bill in Uganda. When I looked into this issue some months ago, it was certainly the case that, as a matter of official policy, the Anglican Church in Uganda was not supporting the death penalty for homosexual offenders, either.

    I would not for a second endorse a bill like that. It appalls me. But it is unfortunately typical of the Western mindset that we still think we can assume a posture of moral superiority over countries who are still reaping the devastating consequences of colonialism and its aftermath.
  • Luke Stevens
    May 21, 10 - 2:11am
    My point is the silence makes it hard to know. Here's the CoU's Official Position on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (pdf) -- hardly a stinging rebuke of the bill; they seem to want the laws tightened up in other ways, and don't apparently support executing gays, which is nice, but their general support for the 'concerns' raised by nutters like Ssempa should be a source of great sadness. The CoU hardly seem 'appalled' if the official statement is anything to go by.

    One member of the CoU, Canon Gideon Byamugisha, has spoken out though, suggesting the laws would amount to state sponsored genocide of the Ugandan gay community. Those two responses make an interesting study in contrast.

    As for moral superiority, the story originally broke because it was suggested Americans were stirring it up, so no, I don't think it's some kind of neocolonial mindset at work.

    I simply would have thought that while Sydney was supporting the UoC's stance on homosexuality, it would be worth knowing if that included standing against people who show hardcore gay pornography to their congregations to ferment hate towards gay people and agitate for laws which include the death penalty -- laws which may well become a reality.

    So far, silence...
  • Michael Jensen
    May 21, 10 - 2:22am
    !!
  • Luke Stevens
    May 21, 10 - 2:29am
    With all the talk about homosexuality, Uganda, recent comments from Orombi, the reporting of the proposed Ugandan laws in our media, and this issue doesn't even rate a mention? Ok then.

    Glad we've got our priorities straight :\
  • Luke Stevens
    May 21, 10 - 4:52am
    For those interested, here are a couple of reports on the laws from ABC America:
    - Africa’s Culture War: The Fight Over Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill (Dec 09)
    - & this longer piece from March (nb. graphic descriptions at the start): Anti-Homosexual Bill In Uganda Causes Global Uproar (video here)

    The longer piece (and video) includes comments from the American evangelicals who, with Ssempa, ran their now-infamous conference. Brundidge, who wrote a book "The Pink Swastika" claiming the Nazi Party was really a homosexual movement, has distanced himself from the laws, but says:

    "I'm proud of that, and I hope that the nuclear bomb [his visit] spreads across the whole world, against the gay movement " he said. "Against this attempt to overthrow the family-based society and replace it with sexual anarchy. That's harmful to everyone. That doesn't mean I hate homosexuals. That doesn't mean I want everyone to be thrown in jail."

    Nevertheless, given the prevailing anti-gay sentiment (as the first piece explains), and the CoU's response to the bill, it makes you wonder where the homophobia stops and the theology starts.

    You guys are aware of what's been going on there, right?
  • Raj Gupta
    May 22, 10 - 12:54am
    Interesting discussion, but I am interested in the question: what can we do to make a difference?

    Someone from Uganda said to me: 'in Sydney you are very good at talking. We in Uganda are good at doing'. What can we do?