That’s me, 34th from the right

russell powell
That’s me, 34th from the right image

I am a 2008er. That is, I was probably one of the first Australians to know about the Global Anglican Future Conference and one of the first to register in 2008. I went to the London leadership conference in 2012, GAFCON II in Nairobi in 2013 and I have just returned from GAFCON III in Jerusalem. As a member of the media team at all three GAFCONS, I have been privileged to see things up close.

Aussie ushers at the Temple steps (Photo: Stephen Nelson)I have never been prouder to be an Aussie - given the way my brothers and sisters from Anglican churches across Australia got stuck in to help in Jerusalem. You have to consider the size of this thing - it was twice as big as 2008. It was great to see the breadth of representation from across the Anglican Communion - especially from Asia. The choir was Nigerian, one of the hosts was Kenyan, the media team was run by an American, there was an Englishman running the organisation office, the Ugandans more than pulled their weight, there were South Americans everywhere (especially among the #hipstersofgafcon). A big shout-out to my American colleagues on the GAFCON Photo Team, Jessie Parks and Stephen Nelson. Admire their work at bit.ly/gafconphotos.

Who's on drums? Melbourne Rector John Forsyth

But more than ever, Aussies shone. The General Secretary Dr Peter Jensen and Conference Director, Canon Daniel Willis formed a great Aussie partnership and lead players of our contingent came from Victoria, South Australia, Tassie and elsewhere. Many of the ushers who jumped forward to put on the yellow t-shirt were from places like Armidale and North-West Australia. When the Nigerian Choir had to leave early to catch a plane - guess who jumped up? Sydney on lead vocals and Melbourne on drums - an Aussie dominated band (with a ring-in Aussie missionary on keyboards)!

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The photo on the Temple steps was a logistical nightmare. The Temple Steps service was the highlight of 2008 for me but looking at the size of the crowd, I wondered how we would all fit this time. Organisers hired extra seating and extended the area sideways. It took almost an hour to get everyone up the side of the hill and seated. A huge boom arm with a remote control wide-angle camera was required to squeeze everyone in - but it worked! The high-def camera meant you could see everyone’s faces clearly - that photo is going straight to the pool room. (That's me in the conference photo above - bottom row, 34th from the right)

Peter and Christine Jensen amid the standing ovation (Photo: Jessie Parks)There was not a dry eye in the house on Friday as we farewelled Peter Jensen. The deadpan humour of the Chairman and Primate of All-Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh showed he might have a future in stand-up when he hands over the reigns to Archbishop Foley Beach. His impression of Peter marching across the stage was a classic sight-gag. I was not surprised by the standing ovation - but by the length of it. At least two minutes of applause with everyone on their feet. Peter just wanted it to end, but the crowd was determined to give him his due.

Ben Kwashi and Foley Beach (centre)

The warm embrace of incoming secretary Archbishop Ben Kwashi and Foley Beach shows the unity of this new team. But it was the Letter to the Churches that glued the conference together. A gracious, firm and Godly statement that was worked out at the conference and passed without dissent. This is not some conference where the statement is worked out beforehand and the participants are window dressing.

I’m even considering introducing the African call and response when I next lead church. What do you think - too much? Cultural appropriation, perhaps?

Even so, I just loved it when Nicholas Okoh called out - ‘We shall proclaim’ and the crowd thundered back ‘Christ to the Nations!’. (Repeat x 3)

The Spirit of God moved at GAFCON. Hallelujah and Amen!