Not me. But fourteen, maybe fifteen respected colleagues and friends are going from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia to the second Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Nairobi, 21-26 October 2013. They will be led by Bishop Richard Ellena, Bishop of Nelson. I have been told who is going but cannot remember all the names. I think five dioceses are represented (Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch). Nearly half those going are in ministry in my diocese. One or two I have spoken with have assured me that 'the issue' hardly features on the programme for the conference, which is focused on mission and renewal of the church.
GAFCON is an important event in the life of the Anglican Communion. It will gather many keen, committed Anglican leaders from around the churches of the Communion. Their fellowship together will build relationships, networks and shared commitments in mission and renewal in years to come. Other Anglicans will come, notably from the Anglican Church of North America. Together these Anglicans will be greeted by Archbishop Justin Welby via a video link. ++Justin is, of course, engaged in welcoming the next but two Governor of the Church of England into his church when he baptises baby George on 23rd October!
Not all are happy with GAFCON. For a different approach to GAFCON and summary of differing views on it, read my colleague Bosco Peters' post on GAFCON here (and the comments which follow it). For the record, and previously signalled some time back on ADU, I am not terrifically cheerful about the Jerusalem Declaration (from GAFCON I).* But that doesn't mean we cannot be otherwise happy about GAFCON
These are my reasons to be happy with GAFCON:
1. It is a forum which gathers up Anglicans from around the globe in a more inclusive way than the Anglican Communion itself does. ACNA is not yet welcome into the Communion but it is welcome to GAFCON. I am happy about that: many fine Anglicans have left the North American Anglican/Episcopal churches in good 'Protesting' conscience while yet wishing to remain part of a formal Anglican church. ACNA fulfils that wish and I am glad that it exists. (I am also glad that TEC exists as many American Episcopalians could not in good conscience belong to ACNA).
2. GAFCON is a gathering of Anglicans keen to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. There will be no hesitation, deviation or waffle about this keenness, proclamation or content of the gospel. Not every Anglican gathering (in my experience) is thus and so. GAFCON sets us all a good example.
3. GAFCON offers hope for the future of global Anglicanism. Let's face it. Many attendees will be pondering the future of global Anglicanism. Many will be concerned about the future of their own Anglican churches. I know some (I guess all) of our Kiwi attendees wonder where ACANZP is going, who is going to be part of it when it finds out its destination. But note a simple fact about GAFCON. It is not GPFCON or GEOFCON or GRCFCON. A stands for Anglican (not Presbyterian, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic). Everyone going to GAFCON is choosing to commit to the future of Anglicanism. No one has to. Life savers stand on the other sides of the Tiber, Bosphorous and Firth of Forth. But no attendee is putting on their swimming togs. Our hope for future global Anglicanism is the better for having a bunch of key leaders who choose to remain Anglican, to resist alternatives and to conference together as Anglicans.
Sure: it would be just fine if all Anglicans were 'in' the official Communion, if none had left over these past decades, and all disagreeable issues yielded happy 'agree to disagree' conclusions. But that is a pipe dream for the time being. We must make the best of an unhappy situation. GAFCON is a contribution to that making do.
*Reservations about the Jerusalem Declaration
(a) Language such as "We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils" and "the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today" is imprecise. Which "four" Ecumenical Councils (and why four and not one, two, three, five, six or seven) are meant? Are the Thirty-Nine Articles generally authoritative or is each and every article authoritative? Just one other example: this statement begs many questions, "We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships." Is GAFCON actively working on unity with Rome, with TEC, with (say) Pentecostal churches, for in those churches are many Christians who 'know and love Christ'?
(b) Statements such as "we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture" seem unworkable and unreal. Fine modern Anglican liturgies, well used and appreciated by many attendees at GAFCON are not translations and adaptations of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (though they may be theologically coherent with the same). Further, there will be Anglican ministers at GAFCON who prepare and lead services of worship which do not work from the 1662 BCP as 'standard of worship' but owe much more to a general Protestant conception of worship services as some songs, some prayers, a Scripture reading and a sermon.
In sum, I suggest GAFCON and the associated Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, has missed the theological mark. Addendum: even though there is this document to refer to, here, the theological mustard is not cut by the JD at certain points.