Saturday, May 4, 2013

GAFCON's Second Coming

With the Covenant pretty much a dead duck, with the recent ACC in Auckland doing little or nothing to foster cohesiveness in the Anglican Communion, it is of interest to read the official announcement of the second GAFCON (from here).


The Second Global Anglican Future Conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, 21st-26th October 2013. The focus will be on our shared Anglican future, as we engage with the missionary theme, ‘Making Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.’
The first conference, GAFCON 2008, was held in Jerusalem. GAFCON gave birth to a movement, the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. The aims of the GFCA are to proclaim and defend the apostolic gospel within and beyond the Anglican Communion and to recognise and share fellowship with orthodox Anglicans globally, especially those who have been disaffiliated by false teaching and behaviour.
We continue to face the triple challenge of sceptical secularism, militant religion and compromised Christianity. GAFCON 2013 has been summoned so that GFCA can help both plan for and experience the future of the Communion of which we, with many others, are part.
The invited delegates, laity, clergy and bishops, are united by their commitment to the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement as well as the aims of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. They will assemble to listen to God, to pray, to deliberate, and to plan about the Anglican future, seeing it as a great spiritual and missionary fellowship, energised by the defence and proclamation of the gospel. 
The General Secretary of the GFCA, Archbishop Peter Jensen said, ‘God is establishing new churches creating new believers and transforming lives. Our hope for the future is in him. Our aim is to move forward confidently, to plan and experience in fellowship a future for Anglicans in which his Word is honoured and our witness is clear. We are looking forward with great expectation to seeing God at work as we meet in Nairobi.’
I like the confident sense of 'the Anglican future' and feel challenged by the announcement defining that as 'a great spiritual and missionary fellowship, energised by the defence and proclamation of the gospel.'
Every Anglican future needs to be similarly defined!

22 comments:

Chris Hynde said...

While you feel hopeful I feel saddened. The rupture continues to spread and I can see no other end than the complete split between GAFCON affiliates and the rest of the Anglican communion, something Christianity has mastered all too well over the last couple of thousand years. Yes, there is great appeal in thinking about achieving a "pure" Anglican Future where those problematic gays and feminist women and liberal brothers and sisters are no longer needed but I wonder if GAFCON will be happy with that in the end? History says that happiness is not likely and that further purifications will tend to follow. Rome, under Benedict XIV, declared working for a smaller, leaner, more "pure" church as well. When all the groups of real and pure Christians have managed to separate themselves from the rest of us, what happens then? I pray for something other but wish you well.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris
I see what you are saying but disagree with an implied assumption in the way you say it, that GAFCON are responsible for spreading the rupture. Do "problematic gays and feminist women and liberal brothers and sisters" bear any responsibility in the matter? Perhaps they do not, but if that is so, I suggest you smuggle into your comment an alternative vision of "pure" Anglicanism, one where it matters little what "problematic gays and feminist women and liberal brothers and sisters" do or say as their vision is always correct and never responsible for division!

I think all Anglicans, of all shades and sexualities need to work harder, better and less divisively on what an Anglican future 'together' might look like. I am not at all likely to be part of GAFCON but I will be an interested observer from afar.

Chris Hynde said...

Peter, thank you for your reply. I will gladly attribute blame to the "others" when I can find the announcement of their international convention calling for total separation from and excommunication for the members of GAFCON. Where is that being held? What is their declaration so I may read and study it? Where are their public statements calling for condemnation and declaring heresy against GAFCON and refusing to stand at the altar of God alongside GAFCON's primates and priests? Which of their bishops and primates are setting up alternative provinces within their countries to offer alternative episcopal and priestly oversight without permission?

Yes, I understand that the differences are real and serious but the responses are not in any way equivalent. How can you imply that they are?

I truly did not intend to reply no fault on either side and I see little profit in assigning blame or measuring whose blame is greatest. How will that mend the rift? I see the "others" willing to meet, talk, and debate and I see GAFCON refusing to even be within seeing distance so their announcement saddened me. You seem to be delighted by it. Different perceptions, obviously.

I agree with you that we all need to do better and try harder. God's blessings!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris,
You make good points. To take just one. To the extent that GAFCON (or parts of GAFCON) have previously called for "total separation from and excommunication" re Anglicans disagreeing with them, then that has been both unhelpful (in my view) and also lacking equivalence in respect of "others" who have not called (at official, formal levels) for the expulsion of GAFCON from the Communion.

(I would observe, as an aside, that over time here at ADU, some commenters, however, have been particularly scathing of GAFCON in ways which do not foster a spirit of dialogue).

Nevertheless I take seriously those voices associated with GAFCON which seek the renewal of global Anglicanism rather than its rupture (or further rupturing). In my own experience of GAFCON support within my own church, the support for GAFCON is associated with a longing for renewal of the true spirit of Anglicanism within the Communion.

Father Ron Smith said...

" The aims of the GFCA are to proclaim and defend the apostolic gospel within and beyond the Anglican Communion and to recognise and share fellowship with orthodox Anglicans globally, especially those who have been disaffiliated by false teaching and behaviour." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

I suppose it all depends on what you mean by 'orthodox' in this situation. would you consider ACANZP to be 'orthodox' - in the way YOU would like it to be, Peter?

Or do you think we might be erring on the side of apostacy? It might be as well for you to get this sorted out quite quickly - esp. considering your position as a theological educator in our diocese

I'm pretty sure you wouldn't want to remain in an apostate Church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I think 'orthodox' is about (at least) two elements of doctrinal life of a church.

Element 1 is what the official, formal, legal documents of the church say. I am not aware of any change to the documents at the heart of ACANZP in the years since I was ordained (1986) which cause me any concern.

Element 2 is the way in which theological discourse is carried out in the day to day, Sunday to Sunday, publication to publication, blogpost to blogpost, SJC lectures to SJC lectures life of the church. In that life, almost inevitably, there are things said which are either by wide agreement, or at least in my own mind, at variance with orthodoxy. Save for the most egregious variances (for which one might consider a formal Title D complaint) I accept that they are part and parcel of being a 'broad' church, one whose breadth I have been aware of since I was, say, 14 years old, c. 1974 and I remember a certain bishop of the day preaching sociology more than theology. Again, currently I cannot think of any variance which causes me more concern now than in the past. In this aspect of the life of the church I hope I might contribute to discussion and where possible steer it towards orthodoxy. I would hope that in my formal educational role such steering would be appreciated. (I mostly think it is!).

carl jacobs said...

The arguments made by Chris Hynde & FRS simply don't matter anymore. They can repeat the endless litany of charges about schism and border-crossing and irregular ordinations. No one is listening who isn't already convinced. No one outside the liberal remnant will even pay attention to their complaints. GAFCON is going to proceed on its course.

The factions don't even see the need to converse anymore. The arguments have become formulaic. Endlessly repeated points contend with endlessly repeated counterpoints, and all of it is driven by a conflict of mutually-exclusive religions. It's become all so pointless that people are finally moving on. The two religions in the AC are separating. It cannot be stopped. Nor should it be stopped.

Twenty years from now there will still be a GAFCON in some form. But the dessicated Anglican churches of the post-modern West will be hardly recognizable. Or even noticable. They will have become ghosts that haunt the margins of religious life - non-corporeal apparitions of institutions that died unlamented deaths and so find themselves traversing the land of the living in a vain and hopeless attempt to find succor and release. But they will not find it.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I think you over-simplify the situation. There is, for instance, movement across Anglican spectrum both ways(e.g. conservatives today become tomorrow's liberals).

But I nevertheless have some considerable foreboding about the future of Anglicanism in the post-modern West. If our churches are not "dessicated" I sense they are going to be "diminished" compared to today unless we embrace some (re)new(ed) gospel thinking, strategy and commitments.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

What am I simplifying?

1. That conversation across the theological fault line has virtually disappeared?

2. That arguments across that fault line have become so endlessly repetitious that there is no further point in continuing to engage?

3. That Liberal accusations against GAFCON really don't matter to anyone beside other Liberals in the AC?

4. That GAFCON is moving on precisely because 1 & 2 & 3 are all true?

I am also not sure what you think will remain of Anglican churches in (say) the US, and Canada, and England in 20 years time. TEC is a church of 60-somethings that in 20 years time will be a church of 80-somethings. It will have spent down its capital to keep itself alive. Even so, whole dioceses will have gone bankrupt. You will be able to drive hundreds of miles in any direction and not find an Episcopal church. It will have a still-declining ASA of 300,000 and exist primarily on the coasts. How much more dessicated can you get?

Or are you suggesting that there aren't two separate and distinct religions in the AC? Yes, people move between them. But that doesn't mean the two different religions are compatible or capable of being contained within the same organization. It doesn't mean those two religions are of like kind.

carl

Anonymous said...

I agree that (some of) today's conservatives may become tomorrow's liberals. Much will depend on the quality of teaching and spiritual formation people receive, in being able to swim against the tide. This much is certainly understood by the leaders of Gafcon. But today's liberals will as likely become tomorrow's agnostics or dropouts from church. Ex-Christian Richard Holloway should serve as a warning. Churches can grow only though conversion or natural growth. Those who don't evangelise or have children (or who lack ways of keeping the children they have) may linger on as aging, inward-looking company, but things can rapidly catalyse and a wave of closures follows.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl/Martin
The oversimplification refers to the dessication of the liberal churches; not to the analysis of the breakdown of relationships in the Communion.

We should always remember that the Unitarian Church still exists!

carl jacobs said...

Peter

We should always remember that the Unitarian Church still exists!

Yes, and in the US it has about 100,000 members. You are making my point for me. The UUC doesn't establish a bright or sustainable future for liberal religion. It establishes its marginal character. The UUC is the kind of church that most liberals think 'people who need that kind of thing' should attend.

So, yes. There will always be a small number of liberals who desire something of organized religion. The important word however is 'small.' TEC and UUC and the other liberal churches are all competing for this same small market. There is after all no real theological differentiation between to be found between liberal Anglicanism and UUC. Unfortunately, there aren't enough religious liberals to sustain all these liberal churches. Decline, consolidation, and closure are all inevitable.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

I must say that the obvious triumphalism of bloggers like Martin and carl leave me a little puzzled - as to their actual purpose and agenda, when lauding the conservatism of GAFCON.

Are they at all regretful that the elitism of the GAFCON Provinces will in all probability set up just another brand of Anglicanism, whose fundamental beginnings were brought about by opposition to what was seen as the dictatorship of ecclesial conservatism in the Church?

"Where charity and love are - there is God". Still not a bad parameter of God's mission in God's world.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I do not read 'obvious triumphalism' in what Martin and Carl say. Rather a proposal for a sober and somewhat sad estimate of where things are heading.

As I look around our own local Anglican situation in these South Pacific islands, there are worrying signs of diminishing congregations in attendance figures compounded by increases in the average age of those who remain! There are signs of hope (Deo gratia) but what do they amount to?

Can we Anglicans here say that the long-term future of the church in these islands is going to involve many Anglicans? It is other churches whose attendance is on the rise!

Shawn Herles said...

The Anglican Church was not founded in opposition to "conservatism" but in opposition to Romanism, opposition based on the Reformation rallying cry of Sola Scriptura.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

Rather a proposal for a sober and somewhat sad estimate of where things are heading.

Sober, yes. Sad, no. There is no sadness to be found in separating Liberalism from the Church.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

I am obviously triumphant, Carl, that we should agree on at least 50% of something :)

carl jacobs said...

FRS

"obvious triumphalism"

I did nothing but state the obvious. Pointing out the obvious demographic decline of liberal Protestantism is not "triumphalism." It's an empirically observable fact. You are free to try to disprove my statements if you like.

carl

Rosemary Behan said...

Reading this is very sad for me. Perhaps we ALL need to realise ‘in depth’ that we are not in charge, Our Father is. We may none of us like the way things are going, but the fact it that they ARE, and He has a purpose. There seems to be a need every few hundred years, for God to renew His church because it’s got so off beam .. yes Peter, so unorthodox despite your inability to see it .. that He must bring these sort of things about to achieve His purpose. Gafcon [and I’m not ashamed to be part of that organisation] came about because there is so much sheer frustration among those of us who yes Ron, think of ourselves as orthodox. Who hold to the faith as it has been understood for two thousand years, who hold to the doctrines and formularies as they were set up by those who founded the Anglican communion. Who feel like Rugby players who are being tackled by members of their own team. I know that personally of course because of the WO situation. Although I am the most pro woman I know, I am considered by my own team to be the opposite. In fact the church that has made these ‘unorthodox’ decisions, would rather get rid of me so that they can, as both sides say, ‘keep the church pure.’ How silly, there is no such thing, but the doctrines and formularies used to keep us that way, but we’ve either changed them, or no longer believe them. The SS issue is going to make this a bit clearer, but the end is inevitable. I suspect it will be a bit like it was for the Methodists, the Liberals will force us out, we don’t fit. We’re not enlightened, we’re not tolerant, we’re not loving .. whereas those who will force us out ARE!!!!!

A few decades ago, Martyn Lloyd Jones urged those who could see the ‘slip’ starting to slide .. to leave the Anglican communion. John Stott remained firm that we must stay in and continue to serve. That is what we are doing right at this moment. But the end is still inevitable until we ALL recognise His authority rather than our own. How sad that people still feel the need to ‘fight’ for their position rather than allowing God to lead and to have stated once and for all how things are. Rather than not being God, and therefore not knowing that one day people would accuse Him of unloving intolerance. Or that people know better than He does. No, we continue to believe that WE know best don’t we? It is only justice that women should be in charge of men, it is only justice that practising homosexuals should declare that God made them that way, [as He made me a sinner] but their sin is good because God made it, not mine unfortunately!!!!

I think maybe He has run out of patience with us!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
Are we not in an endless tension as Christians between trusting in God and God's sovereignty that all will work for good according to his plan and working the work of an evangelist, fighting the fights of a defender of the faith and so forth?

I very much hope that God has not run out of patience!

Rosemary Behan said...

Hmm, thoughtless words. Of course He hasn't run out of patience with us individually, but with us as a body, a church, He may well have done so and decided that we need re-forming. The situation shows there is every evidence to that effect.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
In my own mind I am very clear that God owes Anglicans nothing and has no obligation to keep us going per se. His commitment is to build the (universal) church!