Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is God Indifferent to the FCA/GAFCON Agenda?

We are now a few days away from a much heralded event, the formation of the UK branch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (aka an expression of GAFCON). Over at Fulcrum on not one but two threads a bit of lather is being worked up about it all. (Incidentally, down here in the former colonies we cherish the fact that FCA does not seem able to start up without the assistance of the Archbishop of Sydney!!)

What these matters require, of course, are some very level heads offering some clear rational thinking. One such wise person is Andrew Goddard. He offers a judicious reflection with penetrative questions here ... and I offer this paragraph as an excerpt:

"Second, and related to the first question, what will FCA do in practice and is it schismatic?

FCA have emphatically denied they are schismatic. Paul Perkin has said “It is not a separatist party” and I believe this assurance and hope others will also accept it in good faith. There remain, however, two concerns related to issues spoken of in terms of schism and separation.

The first concern is that Chris Sugden at NEAC clearly stated, ‘We will keep formal administrative links with the formal Church of England, but our real identity is with Global Anglicanism as defined by the Jerusalem statement and declaration. GAFCON is our connection to the Global Anglican Communion’. This suggests that aligning with FCA is self-consciously to distance oneself from the structures of the Church of the England and the Instruments and to view FCA as one’s primary ecclesial identity. Is this FCA’s stance towards the Church of England and the Communion and what does such a distinction between “formal administrative links” and “real identity” means in practice?

The second concern is that although FCA as a fellowship may not be a separatist party it is clear that it includes and is supportive of some who have already separated (people such as Charles Raven in Kidderminster and Tony Jones in Durham) and others such as Richard Coekin who have come very close to doing so in the past and may well push the envelope further in the future. It appears likely that these people will want FCA to distance itself from at least parts of the Church of England and will seek to move FCA in a more separatist direction. The danger is that FCA - even if it as a whole does not officially follow a “separatist” path - will give legitimacy and provide cover for any of its members who do effectively separate. It remains unclear to what extent FCA wishes to provide a forum for genuine discussion and discernment among the broadest coalition of the orthodox in situations of conflict. Does it seek to act as a wider fellowship to which those who are most discontent will be able to bring their concerns and from which they will receive fellowship and support but to which they also will in some sense be accountable? The concern is that it will simply support those who sign up to it however they conduct themselves in relation to the authority structures of the Church of England and the separatist tail will end up wagging the officially non-separatist dog."

Read the whole here.

Rachel Marszalek rightly draws attention to the question Andrew Goddard raises of FCA and ordained women here.

My question in the heading above is a little tongue-in-cheek! I am sure God is not indifferent to the needs, concerns and anxieties of Christ's church. But whether God would share the felt need for FCA at this time, or whether God would endorse a strategy which works with such little reference to the episcopal hierarchies of the Anglican churches of the UK ... that is something I am less sure about.

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