Friday, November 1, 2013

Best ever reflection on GAFCON 2?

Andrew Atherstone is superb in this Fulcrum reflection on GAFCON 2. I suggest it repays careful reading whether you are a friend or critic of GAFCON.

Very good too is Lee Gatiss from the Church Society,


Father Ron Smith said...

This 'Fulcrum' article appeared in my in-box this morning Peter. Having skimmed through it (a very long article by Andrew Atherstone), it seems - at least on the surface - to be a much more objective view of what went on at GAFCON II than one could glean from other, more didactic, and biassed reportss. Will look forward to a more detailed reading after Mass this morning. Happy 'All Saints'.

Bryden Black said...

Good of Fulcrum to post this, and typical of their ethos: wise and charitable, with both affirmation and yet reasonable criticism.

Points I’d pick up on are:

1. Not surprisingly perhaps the centre of gravity of this meeting was among African delegates. Andrew raises the possibility of similar gatherings - in Latin America, and Asia?? And certainly the question of how other Global South leaders might relate to GAFCON, and vice versa, is important.

2. The theological diversity on display is not insignificant. Andrew’s own take on this, given his Latimer Trust provenance, I found intriguing, not least as my Alma Mater was once upon a time a diocese of the CPSA - i.e. positively spikey! That flavour continues in Zimbabwe, even as other shades of churchmanship flourish. The important thing to realise however is that African culture loves the resplendent; and so his comments re regalia etc. are slightly miscued. More important will be the manner in which GAFCON provides for real diversity of say sacramental practice, let alone the issue of women’s ministry generally (and by that I mean both lay and ordained persons).

3. The politics. One may speculate whether there will be another Lambeth or not till the cows come home. There’s much water to pass under the bridge before we reach say 2018. This factor aside, however, other features of the communiqué are more significant both in the shorter and longer terms. That is, GAFCON/GFCA’s going onto the front foot and engaging with ‘disenfranchised’ Anglicans will precipitate a real shift. Local contexts will determine what that actually means. But I’d not discount say ACANZ&P looking very different in 15 years time. How different and what form(s) that difference takes depends upon many factors, not least how points 1 & 2 pan out.

4. Lastly, I’d also accentuate the strong emphasis upon repentance and renewal, and therefore costly grace. And re this last we need not look especially to Ovey’s excellent address; one only has to recall the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer ... Frankly, the western churches have still to learn what it was that Bonhoeffer was actually riling against - the deep conforming of the Lutheran Church to the seemingly obvious cultural ways of its environment; ceteris paribus, ourselves ...?? And this at both the individual and the collective levels. Perhaps the Eqs in local Chch have a serious silver lining ... Depending upon whether and to what extent ACANZ&P heeds this serious and perennial call of God’s in face of the Gospel of Jesus itself, so too will 1-3 above actually pan out locally/regionally. GACON II should be seen as a helpful stimulant in these respects, even as we might discern some shortcomings.

Father Ron Smith said...

In his opening summary of who exactly attended GAFCON II, Andrew gave this helpful listing:

"By far the largest contingent was Nigeria with 470 delegates, including 150 bishops who were under a three line whip to attend. Second in size was Uganda with 176 delegates. There were 102 from the Church England (3 from the diocese of Europe), 19 from the Church of Ireland, only one from the Church in Wales, and zero from the Episcopal Church of Scotland."

My observation on these figures:

1: By far the largest delegations were from 2 provinces which have helped their local governments to effect punitive sanctions against know homosexuals, their friends and families - Nigeria & Uganda.

2: Nigeria had to 'whip' 150 of their bishops into line to attend.

3. There is absolutely no mention made by Andrew of any delegations from either Sydney or New Zealand. Were they not important enough - when even 1 solitary delegate from the Church in Wales was mentioned!

4. In the seemingly quite large delegation from 'The Church of England', I understand there were NO bishops among that number. There was one from A.M.i.E. - but that decidedly is not the C. of E.

I'm still reflecting on the tenor of the report.

Father Ron Smith said...

A rather telling comment from Andrew, on the composition and administrative responsibilities of various members was seen here:

"Thus the principal leaders of the movement are mostly African, though the secretariat (led by Bishops Peter Jensen and Martyn Minns) is predominantly Anglo-Saxon. English bishops, Michael Nazir-Ali and Wallace Benn, also advise the primates. .....Jensen also brought a crack team from Sydney to take charge of the organizational logistics and public relations. The MCs were both from Nairobi and other African leaders frequently spoke on the platform, though the longest lectures and expositions were reserved for non-Africans. The main teaching on Ephesians was given in turn by an Australian (of Sri Lankan heritage), an America, an Englishman and a Brazilian."

This shows the input, principally, of Jensen (Sydney) Minns (A.M.i.E)
& Nazir-Ali. Andrew goes on to say:

"The relationship between African and non-African leaders is of key significance if the GAFCON movement is to flourish."

To return to Andrew's text:

"That deceptive phrase ‘The West’ was sometimes heard at GAFCON 2 as a catch-all for any manner of idiocy or iniquity. The draft communiqué had to be toned down, to show that it is not only the West which needs to be evangelized, and it is not only Western governments which have passed foolish legislation."

This was an eirenical statement by Andrew, who was obviously concerned at the 'anti-West' rhetoric of some of the speakers.

While acknowledging a 'missionary' intent in the gathering - shown by the initial emphasis on corporate penance needed throughout the Anglican Communion - including the Gafcon delegates - the final day seemed to have been consumed with criticism of those provinces of the Communion that have failed to match up to the evangelistic goals of the assembled company.

What will eventually transpire from this meeting, no-one yet knows. However, the sheer cost of gathering together on this scale - matched only by the gatherings of Lambeth and ACC gatherings - must be detrimental to the needs of local mission in the very area that was host to this large conference.

MichaelA said...

I agree Peter, its not a bad article at all, from a forum (Fulcrum) which has been quite critical of the Gafcon movement in the past.

I am glad that Andrew Atherstone has laid due emphasis on the spiritual and ministry lectures and seminars at Gafcon. As best I can tell, these took up the vast majority of the time there. But they aren't as controversial as relations with CofE and TEC, so don't get as much attention.

A few things in the article require comment or correction:

1. "The Nairobi communiqué welcomes ‘all our different traditions’ (misleadingly caricatured as Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics, and Charismatics) as all committed to ‘a renewed Anglican orthodoxy’."

I think Andrew may have missed the point here. ++Welby had earlier spoken of different traditions in Anglicanism, and this wording was probably meant to clarify that Gafcon did not intend to include western liberals as one of the traditions.

2. "The convergence between these rival Anglican traditions was merely sartorial: bishops at GAFCON dispensed with their mitres for the sake of evangelical sensibilities, while some conservative evangelical clergy from England and Sydney were spotted in dog-collars, which they would be embarrassed to be caught wearing at home."

Andrew has definitely missed the point here. Bishops do not wear mitres at conferences, no matter how 'anglo-catholic' they may be. And even Sydney clergy do wear collars at formal conferences, in particular Lambeth.

3. In a couple of places Andrew has taken things to ridiculous extremes:

"The Jerusalem Declaration of 2008 famously affirms ‘justification by faith’ (as did the Council of Trent) but not ‘justification by faith alone’."

Is Andrew seriously suggesting that the JD is a secretly Roman Catholic document, and this somehow wasn't spotted by people like Gregory Venables and Peter Jensen? Seriously... ;o)

4. "Another obvious area of theological diversity is GAFCON’s attitude to the ordination and consecration of women. Contradictory viewpoints are encompassed by the movement."

I would be surprised if anyone at Gafcon agreed with the consecration of women as bishops. A small number support the ordination of women priests, and a greater number are prepared to tolerate being in the same organisation as those who ordain women priests. But yes, it is an issue, just as it is an ongoing issue among evangelical Anglicans generally.

5. "There was a good supply of women in dog-collars, some white, most black, but few stood on the platform"

Probably because most of them were deacons, not priests, let alone bishops. My understanding is that many of the women who stood up to speak at seminars or the main conference are not ordained at all, e.g. the Kenyan doctor who led the discussion on women and the family.

6. "Nevertheless, GAFCON will need to work harder to recruit and retain egalitarians if it is to enhance its appeal as a broad coalition."

I doubt that appealing to egalitarians is high on Gafcon's list of priorities. Most participants would be happy to deal with them, but not to make major concessions for the sake of getting them on board.

To be continued…

MichaelA said...

... continued from last post:

Andrew Atherstone wrote:

7. "Some of the North American delegates at the back were heard to call out, ‘No!’, but their voices were drowned out by the evangelical majority."

Given that the communiqué referred to permitting women as priests, that is hardly surprising. I would have been calling out 'No' to that part of the communiqué too, and I am in the "evangelical majority"!

8. "First, in what sense can it claim to be a truly ‘global’ movement within Anglicanism? ... A clash of style and personality between the African primates and Mouneer Anis (Bishop of Egypt) and John Chew (former Archbishop of South East Asia) has restricted GAFCON’s reach."

Almost correct. Gafcon, to put it bluntly, has always been the specialist organisation for those in the Global South who intend to get *practically* involved in reforming the western church. There is virtually no doctrinal difference between the Gafcon primates and their fellow Global South primates. The entire Global South has been at the forefront of stridently condemning the liberal apostasy of TEC and ACoC, and western churches generally – that includes ++Anis and former ++Chew. But neither of the latter can or will get actively involved in reforming the west. ++Chew in particular has always been focused on the outreach to the Chinese people, whether in the Asian diaspora or China itself.

9. "Second, in what sense do the GAFCON bishops represent their congregations? What voice will GAFCON give to the millions of lay people under its umbrella? …"

This is entirely misconceived (and actually comes across as rather mischievous). Who else is supposed to represent the millions of lay people at a conference of the various provinces? Do you seriously expect to squeeze millions of people into Nairobi Cathedral?

10. "While emphasising lay leadership, and trying to break free from old hierarchical models, GAFCON remains bishop heavy."

????? Who on earth suggested that Gafcon was "trying to break free from old hierarchical models"? It is certainly trying to break free from certain ways in which the Anglican Communion has been structured, but most of those are not "old" anyway, in some cases only a few decades or even just a few years. See e.g. the "Standing committee of the Anglican Communion" which was only invented about two years ago, and has never been authorised by anyone.

And "lay leadership?" I would have thought Gafcon emphasises lay *ministry*, but episcopal *leadership*. That is the whole point.

11. "It is a political game, in recognition that these numbers count at Lambeth and in the councils of the church."

Again, Andrew seems to have lost the plot here. Numbers certainly do NOT count at Lambeth or in the official Anglican Communion generally – just look at the representation on the Anglican Consultative Council and then compare it with the actual sizes of the provinces. The whole Global South are well aware of that - not just Gafcon.

12. "When in England or Australia, many evangelicals have scant regard for bishops, as if Anglicanism could manage perfectly well without them: but their attitude mysteriously changes when they reach East Africa, where they enthusiastically embrace the episcopate as of key significance for the mission and purity of the church."

Nothing mysterious about it, Andrew, because your premise is incorrect: Evangelicals have scant regard for *liberal* bishops.

13. "Third ... But from where will the future GAFCON leadership arise?"

Same place it has in the past – the vast array of orthodox laity and clergy in many countries.

John Sandeman said...

Another Gafcon report woth looking at - from a Church Society rep. It helpfully addresses one of the Lib Rad (to use Kurt's category) criticisms of Gafcon - the issue of anti-gay laws in certain nations.
"At the same time, I was becoming aware from stories and anecdotes that some African attitudes towards homosexuality can be less than biblically helpful; there is a social conservatism against same-sex attracted people in many African societies which can often be mistaken for biblical godliness, but which expresses itself in violent language and sometimes violent behaviour, which is out of place for followers of the Prince of Peace and friend of sinners. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, for example, recently compared gay people (unfavourably) to “pigs and dogs”, whereas surely we would want to affirm that though the gay lifestyle is by no means compatible with Christian faith, people with same-sex attraction are made in the image of God and therefore worthy of the same respect, dignity, freedom, and protection as everyone else who falls short of the glory of God, i.e. all of us."

Bryden Black said...

Thank you John Sandeman: two wrongs do not make a right.

As for RGM: his opponents are regularly termed "cockroaches", the term used in the Rwanda and Burundi genocides ...

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
I am not going to publish comments which allege Christians hate one another (without specific incontrovertible evidence that this is so) or that one group o Christians are 'self-righteous' (which is always going to be a value judgement, often lazily made by those who do like the way in which the other group are right about things... Thus it is also a judge easily made against those who allege self-righteousness is another's besetting sin ...).

I particularly object to you declaring that a group of Christians who view the traditional teaching of the church about sexuality constitutes a 'hatred' state of affairs. On that basis all canon abiding Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, along with many conservative Anglicans/Protestants are hateful people.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, on this All Souls Day, I unconditionally apologise if I have maligned good people undeservedly in my previous post. It is not seemly for a preacher of the Gospel to focus on another's weaknesses. WEe all fall short of that to which God calls us.

Mea Culpa, mea maxima culpa!

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.