Saturday, November 1, 2008

Is Sydney pulling the plug on GAFCON?

The more I think about the extraordinary decision of the Sydney Synod recently to affirm the principle of diaconal presidency AND to assert the right to implement the principle in practice on a point of grammar (albeit with precedent within the Oz Anglican context), the more I think they will pull the plug on GAFCON if they proceed.

GAFCON's pretext or presupposition for existing as an Anglican body with some punch and some power, so that, for example, it has arranged its life to be led by a 'Primate's Council', and it is party to talk of promulgating a new province, is that it represents 'orthodox Anglicanism'. But what is 'orthodox Anglicanism'? It is a mixture of Scripturally sound theology in tune with the ancient creeds, the decisions of the first four ecumenical councils, and expressed through the BCP, the Ordinal, and the 39 Articles, and of traditional Anglican practice in harmony with the mainstream of Anglican practice stemming from ancient apostolic times, reformed through the 16th and 17th centuries, developed in the anglo-catholic movement of the 19th century (itself, however distant from the intent of the reformers, a desire to re-find and renew ancient practice), and, if it recognises one modern innovation, or at least professes (as GAFCON does) to be indifferent to one new thing, that is the ordination of women. But even that ordination of women introduces no difference into the usual understanding of the ministry of deacons, priests, and bishops.

Now there are some variances in understanding of the precise nature of Anglican ministry, mostly around the ministry of deacons (church facing or world facing? temporary apprenticeship before priesthood or permanent state?), but there is no variance of normative Anglican orthodox around eucharistic presidency: this is the ministry of priests/presbyters and bishops.

Sydney's decision, should they not realise the impact and implications of it and revoke it forthwith, is a departure from Anglican orthodoxy. It may be the right decision according to Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and pragmatic needs of the Diocese, but that is not the point here! The point here in this age of GAFCON is that there is Anglican orthodoxy and there are those charged with revisions of it to the point that there is a feeling that the Anglican Communion would be better off without the revisionists. But for one of the leading players of GAFCON to itself embark on revising Anglican orthodoxy at this time is to undermine the very foundations on which GAFCON stands as it makes its judgement call on Anglican revisionists.

Is Sydney pulling the plug on GAFCON? If it denies that it is doing so, on what grounds is GAFCON to argue that revision should not take place within the Anglican Communion? It certainly cannot be on the grounds that local bishops and synods ought to consult the wider body of Anglicanism before instituting an innovation in doctrine or practice, for that is precisely what one of its key players has itself just done!

There are times when one admires Australian independence and insularity, but this may not be one of them!


Rosemary Behan said...

It's a motion Peter, just a motion. It restates a very well known fact that the Sydney Diocese hold this opinion. It was not in any way shape or form, legislation .. so nothing has changed, nothing at all. Sydney are exactly as they were before the Gafcon meeting .. so how could they be said to be 'pulling the plug on Gafcon' .. or FCA as we should now refer to them. I'm glad folk are thinking about the issue, but what a lot of exageration there is around!!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
I am afraid I do not agree that it is 'just a motion'. Every piece of press coverage has recorded the fact that the movers of the motion believe there is no actual canonical or licensing impediment to deacons presiding. If this is true and deacons start presiding then a fact is placed on the ground by Sydney which is a 'revision'. Even the intent to allow that this might happen is a 'pulling the plug' on GAFCON because it undermines all us who are conservative and seek to argue that 'revision' of Anglican orthodoxy should not take place.

If there is any exaggeration going on it is in the minds of those Sydney promoters who believe this motion and its consequences make no difference to GAFCON and its future.