Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Remember I mentioned the Global Anglicans Future Conference (GAFCON) taking place in Jerusalem last week?

Well, there has been great rejoicing since the conference's culminating statement has been released!

Here (from Australian participant Tony Payne) is the best description I've read of what the statement means for the various groups represented: (HT to Barbara G.'s list-serve)

Four different kinds of people at GAFCON were holding their collective breath for different reasons.

The Americans, most of whom are at the more ‘churchy’ (in places Anglo-Catholic) end of the Anglican spectrum, were desperately hoping that something would be announced about a new province. What this means for the uninitiated is that most of the Americans at GAFCON have either left The Episcopal Church or are in the process of doing so, and have joined various networks of biblically orthodox Anglicans (such as the Anglican Mission in America). These various networks are working together under the banner of the ‘Common Cause Partnership’ to create a new structure for faithful Anglicans in North America. Their dream is a new province within the Anglican Communion, which has its own Archbishop and dioceses. As Stephen Noll read the Draft Statement, the Americans around me looked like bidders for the Olympic games waiting for the winning city to be announced. (Bold emphasis mine.)

Biblical Anglicans having a hard time in other places—such as the minority of evangelical Anglicans in places like New Zealand and Ireland—were waiting anxiously for other reasons. They were hoping for a strong statement of doctrinally-based Anglican unity that offered them legitimate ‘safe havens’. In other words, if their local bishop took up an untenable position (such as blessing same-sex unions), they wanted some simple and valid way of stepping out from under his oversight and authority into some other sort of orthodox fellowship within the Anglican Communion.

The Africans were bubbling with expectation for different reasons again. They wanted to see a vindication of the bold action that their archbishops had taken over the past five years—the strong and public rebuking of The Episcopal Church, the declaring of themselves out of communion with it, the ordination of their own missionary bishops to America to offer assistance, and their refusal en masse to go to the Lambeth Conference this year. Would the Statement be a strong affirmation of this action, or yet another damp squib? Was this the time when the post-colonial shackles would finally be shaken off, and the strong stand of the Africans be recognized as leadership?

And then there were the rest (including Sydney Anglicans like me), who were hoping for a strong statement around which biblical Anglicans could unite, and offer one another encouragement and practical help—one which made the classic Scriptural doctrine of Anglicanism the point of unity, and not secondary or historical matters (such as whether we wear robes, or use a particular form of service, and so on). We were also just a teeny bit nervous about how much new ‘structure’ would be proposed. Would there be a new centralized power structure that might in the future unhelpfully interfere in the ministry of particular dioceses or churches?

As the Statement was read, one group after another started to react with excitement, whoops of support, ovations, and at many places across the ballroom tears of relief and joy. Remarkably, amazingly, the Statement seemed like it was meeting the key hopes and expectations of each of the groups, while somehow managing to avoid the dangers as well.

For us Sydneysiders, who have watched the battles in Anglicanism somewhat from a distance, the level of emotion was important to witness. For those brothers who have been struggling and fighting against an aggressive liberal agenda, often at deep personal cost and for years, the GAFCON Statement was both a vindication and a hope for a better future.

And here, from Father Lee Nelson, is further explication of what the Jerusalem Statement means:

I think the statement represents a sea change in the Anglican Communion, from one in which traditionalists and reasserters beg the Archbishop of Canterbury for his gracious help to one in which we press on toward the future, paving the way that God has called us to pave.

[Secondly]...this document has huge teeth! Finally, no more ambiguity. We are no longer asking revisionists who peddle a cheap gospel to make themselves clear or to self-impose moratoria. This is a huge change. Instead, the Jerusalem Declaration states (Article 13): "We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord." So there it is. If you ordain those who practice homosexuality, if you refuse to cling to Christian orthodoxy, if you call evil good, we simply don't recognize you. Those bishops who fall into this category - their dioceses are now open territory. We will not apologize. This is where the document was most clear, and about that I'm thrilled.

The third thing that is really positive is that it encourages the formation of a new Anglican province for the Common Cause Partnership. We've been praying for this for some time, and now it has come to fruition. Hopefully, in the next year, we will see the Common Cause Partnership form this province. There is still much to be ironed out, but I think it is very near.

Fourthly, and lastly, this meeting promises to be really the last important meeting we'll have on the subject. If you're like me, you've grown weary of meeting after meeting, not really going anywhere. You're tired of waffling on the part of North American leadership, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury. Well, I happen to think that the Jerusalem meeting pretty much has sealed the deal for North America, and our struggles. It gives us primates committed to our aid, a strong identity, and the go-ahead for a province. I don't know if we could have asked for more.

If you're interested, you can read the whole statement here.

Washington Times religion correspondent George Conger summarizes:
The new “church within a church,” breaking with the liberal churches of North America that also have permitted the blessing of same-sex unions...will force the 80-million member Anglican Communion either to become a weak federation of independent churches or, in the unlikely event that Canterbury either kicked out the GAFCON churches or the North American churches, will produce one of the most far-reaching Christian schisms since the Protestant Reformation.

If the Episcopal Church “did not believe that there would be consequences” for consecrating an openly practicing homosexual as a bishop, “that was an arrogant thing,” Archbishop Jensen said, adding that the “consequences have been unfolding over the last five years. Now their church is divided.”

“All around the world, the sleeping giant that is evangelical Anglicanism and orthodox Anglicanism has been aroused” and will break with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, he said.

...The meeting also will announce new structures for parishes in the U.S. and Canada that no longer wish to be in communion with their national churches - an act made possible in church law and custom by the declaration that unity with the North American churches no longer exists. In addition, more than 600 Church of England clergy will reportedly swear allegiance to the new GAFCON body at a meeting next week in London.

GAFCON comes a month before the Anglican Communion summit in Lambeth, England. The Anglican churches of Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya are present here, but will boycott the once-per-decade Lambeth Conference.

It will also put forward a declaration of common doctrinal principles and lay out plans for a new Book of Common Prayer based on the historic Church of England 1662 prayer book. Nigerian Bishop John Akao said the GAFCON churches also will pursue a common way of reading and interpreting the Bible and work on a definitive catechism.

I know that many of my readers are not Anglican, but rejoice with us for the rise of this great united movement of orthodoxy within a desperately troubled denomination!


Heather said...

I'm glad to hear that the conference went well. I must admit that I've been curious about you and your family being Anglicans. Based on what I've heard about the Anglican/Episcopalian denominations recently, and what you've written, I was having trouble reconciling the two. I wanted to ask you about it, but I didn't want to seem critical or rude.

At A Hen's Pace said...


Ask away! We are part of AMIA, the Anglican Mission in America, one of the networks of Anglican churches who have left TEC, The Episcopal Church.

I used to have a link to them in my sidebar, but looks like I've lost it somehow. I know our church website links to them, though.

So we are in the "American" group described above!


stephseef said...

And Heather, there are a lot of faithful, Godly men and women who have chosen to remain in The Episcopal Church, who are called to be salt and light in a very troubled Church... our little Episcopal church in Racine is unashamedly preaching the gospel and people are coming to Christ... it's not always easy being in a denomination that swings so widely in every direction, but until our Bishop tells us we can no longer preach the gospel, we will stay - and we will preach! :)

Steph in Racine

At A Hen's Pace said...


Absolutely¡ A mission field if there ever was one!



stephseef said...

Indeed, Jeanne. Thanks for your great report --

Heather said...

Thanks for the info. I checked out the AMIA site, and was sad to find that the closest church to me is over 100 miles away. The picture of your church on your website is gorgeous, BTW. I know that the building is not the church, but a pretty building can sometimes help setting the church mood! My church moved from a 1950's building with stained glass to a new, more modern building with neutral colors and TV screens. :(