Monday, October 28, 2013

GAFCON and the future shape of the Anglican Communion

As a first take on GAFCON's objective result, its communique and what it may (or may not) be signalling for the future, here are some Venn diagrams, for the geometrically minded.

First up, in the first diagram (not intended to measure actual proportions) the general situation is described. There are GAFCON churches in the Communion (actually nearly all the GAFCON churches, which are a significant proportion of the whole Communion) and outside of the Communion (principally ACNA). There are GAFCON participants (e.g. our Kiwi contingent) who are in the Anglican Communion because of membership of ACANZP (which is not a GAFCON church) and there are participants (e.g. from Recife) who are neither in a 'church' belonging to GAFCON nor to the Communion but are participants in GAFCON. If I am wrong re Recife, I am pretty sure this would be a fair description of Anglicans in AMiE (corrected from earlier AMiA since America and England are not the same) in England who are not within the Church of England.

Now some immediate discussion arises from the communique as to whether GAFCON is a serious player in the renewal of the Communion (with a side support for Anglicans struggling on the fringes of the Communion or just outside of it) or a movement trying to be committed to the renewal of the Communion but really harbouring huge doubts about whether anything will really come of this and out of those doubts putting in some pretty strong work in supporting Anglicans struggling on the fringes of the Communion or just outside of it.

If the latter and to take a case in point, support for Anglicans in England not of the Church of England, will GAFCON effectively undermine its own stated commitment to renewal because its effective energies will go into supporting Anglican churches and mission movements which operate against existing Anglican structures?

I use the word 'against' advisedly: if I am running an evangelical parish in (say) Durham, UK and then up the road a 'new independent Anglican' church starts up because my parish is 'not evangelical enough', it looks like one church is working against the other! One interpretation of GAFCON's communique is that in that situation they won't be supporting my parish but will be supporting the neighbouring one!

Now the question of anxiety for the Communion at this point concerns whether the momentum of the Spirit is with GAFCON or not. If the future of global Anglicanism is going to look like the following Venn diagram, then the Communion powers should be anxious about the future!

Of course I bet fervent supporters of the Anglican Communion who do not like what they see and read about GAFCON hope that the future turns out more like this:

But the last diagram will only happen if the non-GAFCON part of the Communion is renewed. Will that happen in the present state of capture of Anglican churches by Western culture? Can the tide of declining statistics in many Anglican churches not connected to GAFCON be reversed?

Incidentally, this Reuters article says that 331 of the 700 or so bishops of the Anglican Communion were present at GAFCON. That is a pretty impressive attendance and belies any sense that GAFCON is some kind of Anglican fringe dwellers movement or gathering of the crazies on the edge of the Communion's life.

About half the Kiwi attendees at GAFCON came from my own diocese. By my reckoning the vicars of three of our six largest parishes were among the contingent. Other vicars from other dioceses were from some of the largest parishes in ACANZP.

My challenge to fellow Kiwis unhappy about our colleagues' participation in GAFCON is this: tell us in comments here about your strategic vision and plan for the renewal of congregational life in our church. Please give illustrative examples of parishes growing in numbers through the preaching of a gospel which is distinctively different in tone and content from the gospel preached by our GAFCON clergy.

Remember dear potential Kiwi commenter: I know our church pretty well so your examples will need to be good ones! There are a few ... but they are difficult to find!


Father Ron Smith said...

"But the last diagram (synthesis) will only happen if the non-GAFCON part of the Communion is renewed. Will that happen in the present state of capture of Anglican churches by Western culture? Can the tide of declining statistics in many Anglican churches not connected to GAFCON be reversed?"
- Dr. Peter Carrell -

I've long thought that 'small is beautiful', Peter.

If, in your estimation, the non-Gafcon Churches need to be
'renewed' - does that mean radical retrenchment to 'sola scriptura' Christianity, as is evidently the trajectory in Gafcon, Peter? Or do you mean real Reformanda - into the exciting theatre of the modern world in which the Church becomes inclusive of all humanity, and not just a mausoleum for the holy and the good? (Luke 18: 9-14)

I'm not in the habit of trying to forecast which 'side' the Spirit is intentionally working for, I leave that entirely up to God. I just trust in God that, when the angel-dust of the Gafcon excitement settles, some via media will emerge which allows for a more eirenic understanding of the world as it is - not as we might like it to be, that will facilitate a set of common goals that are worthy of the redemptive ethos of the Gospel of OLJC. God is definitely in charge - not human beings with big ideas. Thanks be to God! However, one does understand the itchy feet syndrome.

The split, if it happens, will not be the first schismatic breakaway from an established ecclesial body.

But if Gafcon can no longer work with the rest of us, perhaps they need to find some degree of comfort with each other; while we just carry on - as the Spirit leads us - with our task of bringing 'the great love of God as revealed in the Son' - in situ.

I don't worry about the size of the conglomerates. For me, our ACANZP provincial Church is where the Gospel can be preached - personally - to those whom God gives us to care for and share with.

I guess if you live in the ethos of 'Western culture' - apparently anathema to Sydney, Nelson and the Gafcon Ptimates - there is still a mission of God's love to be brought to the locals. Anyone who believes that Gafcon has something better are free to go. We certainly won't hold them back from their special pilgrim journey.

And they won't need to 'put the lights out before they go' - as someone on this blog has suggested. as the Paschal Candle will still be kept alight in Aotearoa/N.Z.& Polynesia. Deo gratias!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
Your comment is charming and I wish you and ACANZP well on the trajectory you have in mind.

Small is indeed beautiful and our church is rapidly heading towards a place of great beauty indeed. Only to be bettered by the ethereal darkness when the last member turns the lights off.

Meantime I would like to do my bit for growing the church, refilling our churches with swelling congregations, beating a drum that 'big is good' and looking for blazing lights shining out around NZ and the world. To that end I hope to keep working with my GAFCON colleagues even if I do not agree with them on all matters. Just so I am not misunderstood, I will work with all who wish to see God's church grow, who worry like heck that we are in irreversible decline, and who will pray for revival, renewal and reformation of our seemingly moribund church!

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
As a non-Kiwi I won't comment on ACANZP at all, but rather on the strategy for the path ahead. As well as the work of God's Spirit, GFCA needs a strategy if they want the movement to grow among the Anglican Communion so it looks like your 1st diagram. Churches like TEC and ACC are never going to be part of it, but other national churches and dioceses may be persuaded if GFCA shows it isn't just an exclusive evangelicals club with schismatic inclincations, but an Anglican movement for the renewal of the church based on solid Anglican Scriptural foundations.
The communique seems to me to be about providing a lifeboat for faithful churches in faithless dioceses/national churches, strengthening the faith of those within the GAFCON circle and growing the GAFCON circle through evangelism and church planting - all great things. It would also be useful to invest some time in persuading orthodox churches and dioceses within the Communion not yet in the GAFCON fold that the movement will help them experience renewal and guard the future of the Communion.
I'm also a little concerned that the staffing and funding they are proposing for GFCA intimates a move towards a third Venn diagram, where the GAFCON and Communion circles are entirely separate.

MichaelA said...

The Society for Venn Diagram Appreciation has just made you a life member.

liturgy said...

With the removal of content from most of the NZ Curriculum (let's not get sidetracked with the effect of this philosophy on the church's teaching, study, and formation here!) and specifically the more than halving of the content in mathematics and the removal of understanding of Venn Diagrams as part of that (NB MichaelA) it is understandable why only one Kiwi has picked up Peter's challenge to comment.



MichaelA said...

"I'm also a little concerned that the staffing and funding they are proposing for GFCA intimates a move towards a third Venn diagram, where the GAFCON and Communion circles are entirely separate."

I think you can be confident that the Anglican Communion Office will be permitted no input or participation in Gafcon finances whatsoever.

But that does not affect whether Gafcon members are also members of the Anglican Communion - most are, and they clearly intend to remain so.

MichaelA said...

Peter Ould is an activist in UK who has long urged evangelicals to remain in the Church of England, even when he sympathises with their disagreements with liberal influences in the church hierarchy. Peter has now for the first time advocated realignment, and foreshadowed that it should be with Gafcon, if the CofE proceeds with plans to bless same sex relationships. See his leading article, "The Path after Pilling":

Julian Mann is another evangelical who up until recently has maintained that orthodox evangelicals should remain under the oversight of CofE bishops. However, he has now openly advocated realignment under Gafcon:

Realignment under Gafcon won't necessarily mean leaving the CofE. The way it is structured, congregations could remain part of CofE for decades or generations, whilst having nothing to do with the local CofE bishop, and indeed accepting oversight from a non-CofE bishop.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
I am not posting a comment by you which (a) mixes up Julian Mann a north of England CofE cleric with Julian Dobbs a bishop in CANA/ACNA/Nigeria; (b) makes a judgement about a commenter here.

Bryden Black said...

First there was Henry Venn the elder (1725-97), founder of the Clapham sect, and father of John Venn the elder, who himself was the father of another Henry Venn, the father of the final John Venn, popularizer of the diagrams that eventually bore his name (he did not exactly invent them; at least, so claimed my maths teacher at school when we were introduced to set theory).

Does your post Peter therefore convey a subtext about how GAFCON might renew both Christian mission and Anglican church life in the 21st C?!

Peter Carrell said...

Precisely, Bryden!

The vennerable life of the dear old Communion could well be reconvenned by the use of simple Venn diagrams charting the way forward for the wayward.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for your courtesy in saving me from an embarrassing mis-identification of the two Julians - one from the UK, and the other from ACNA - both gafocnites, but from different Western countries.

Father Ron Smith said...

I guess you will never get unity from eccentric - rather than concentric - circles in any case.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi MichaelA
Peter Ould is a good writer and careful thinker. However his website is really, really annoying: slow, and leaves traces of widgets on my 'history.' Does he have no many devices on the site? Are they deterrents to hackers targeting him?

I don't know the answers to these questions but I gave up today trying to read the whole of the article you pointed to!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter; if it's Peter Ould's commentary on the Gafcon Communique you are after; you can see it, uncluttered, on kiwianglo - together with my own comments.

Peter Carrell said...


Bryden Black said...

What is most interesting even insightful, Ron, about your posting this Ould link are not only your comments but what you choose to omit - Viz:

"For any Bishop who privately supports LGB clergy like myself living lives of Biblical holiness not to speak out publicly against the Church of England endorsing same-sex blessings is for them to betray us. They will be saying to each and every one of us that our choices, our struggles, were not necessary, that in fact we could have given in a long time ago and sought a same-sex relationship. It will be the moment when they, willingly or unwillingly, abandon us and cast us to the edges."

What do we have to conclude from such an approach?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
In your reply to Bryden I am prepared to publish the following,

"You'll pardon me, Bryden, I'm sure, when I tell you that this was probably the paragraph that had been taken off Ould's link before I took my copy. When I see the text of this paragraph now, I can quite see why!"

I appreciate one can then make a point that Mr Ould writes (nevertheless) as a married man, which is a matter of public fact. I think you are also saying other things which speculate too much on a state of mind/personal situation/experience of life which I think inappropriate to publish. (Note, I am not describing what you say as 'ad hominem', just too speculative).

Father Ron Smith said...

"What do we have to conclude from such an approach?" - Bryden Black -

I'll try, once more, Bryden, ro answer your question -hopefully with our host's approval this time:

A matter of public record is the fact the Peter Ould makes the public claim that, in his own experience, homosexuals can be 'cured' of their condition by some sort of spiritual 'therapy'.

What I am saying is that, the former head of a high-profile organisation in the USA, that claimed to have 'cracked it', not so long ago recanted his insistence on a 'cure' for homosexuality.

What responsible psychotherapists have discovered, is that bi-sexual people (like Mr Ould) can sometimes be encouraged to choose to direct their activity towards exclusively heterosexual expression - by dint of marrying and having children.

For many bi-sexuals, anyway, this has always been an option. It does not mean that they are 'cured' of their homosexual inclinations, it may mean that they have been able to sublimate them, by restricting their sexual activity to the opposite gender.

An intrinsically homosexual person
has very little incentive or even the chance of sexual congress with a person of the opposite gender. When heterosexual marriage is attempted by such persons, there is a very high failure rate in the marriage, causing distress to all parties - not to mention any children born of that union.

This reality is borne out research into human sexuality, and by the general acceptance of the fact that human sexuality is not strictly binary. rather, it is a matter of conformation to a place on a wide continuum - extending from extreme femininity to extreme masculinity.

No-one is exclusively masculine or feminine. People most threatened by this reality, are those whose own sexuality in threatened by self-discovery - of a trait in their own make-up that does not fit with their own understanding of themselves.

The biological facts herein stated were totally unknown to writers of the Scriptures. This means that people today are wary of being bound by scriptural norms that do not - because they could not - take note of the reality of the human condition as has been revealed in today's world.

This reality - of greater human understanding - is not confined to human sexuality. It also explains why the 'flat earth' theory had to be overcome - in order to explore the facts revealed by progressive knowledge, and understanding, of the cosmos.

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron,
Two responses. I cannot follow your chronological explanation since I accessed Ould AFTER you.

Then secondly. Thanks for explaining to me how you explain the current understanding of same-sex attraction. It parallels - until towards the end when you stray into Biblical hermeneutics - what I already well appreciate. Where you and I might seriously differ is as follows.
Current interpretation - and I deliberately use that word versus your “facts”; all ‘facts’ are just that soley by means of some heuristic ‘explanatory frame of reference’ or ‘theory’ - of human sexuality may stand for what it attempts to be, an understanding, for better or worse. Where Scripture comes in however is where behaviour comes into play - irrespective of attempts at explanatory causation. And I am firmly of the view that same-sex attraction’s causation is multifactorial; it may not be explained by any reductionist theory; the best science to date confirms this.
So back to “behaviour”: all our contemporary ‘science’ has done is to proffer something re ‘the way things appear to be’. Where the Christian Scriptures come in is at a different level: where certain forms of behaviour are concerned - and there are many such human acts enumerated in the tangled tale of Scripture - these are proscribed, some for reasons that are obvious (at all times and places) and others for reasons that might be more or less obscure - until we start digging via a hermeneutical process. Such a process then reveals certain acts - “seething a kid in its mother’s milk” for example - pertain to fertility rites among the Canaanites (rather than being a promotional means of selling twin-drawer Fisher & Paykel dishwashers to kosher minded Jews in America), and so may be ignored (except if one is a kosher minded Jewess). Other acts - like homosexual behaviour - irrespective of deemed causation are nonetheless still taboo.
Sure; I’m fully aware some today, derived from apparent ‘new science’, try to couch some forms of this activity as kosher, given certain situations as opposed to others, like seeming ‘monogamy’ versus promiscuity. But this merely assumes a hermeneutic that dismisses all mention of NT references to same-sex activity as being their observations of such activity in different situations than the now presumed ‘monogamous’. How can you know this? How can you presume to know Paul did not observe the full gambit of homosexualities (NB Plural), the full gambit of forms of homosex activity? The entire Graeco-Roman culture knew of a staggering range ... Of course, such folks as Scroggs and Haller try to do this - but the exegetical evidence just isn’t there. What’s there is a classic form of eisegesis that precludes what they wish to avoid - on other grounds entirely. Frankly, the ‘new science’ aetiology is a hermeneutical furfie! The only way to embrace it fully is to discount entirely the Fall, and to claim the natural world as it currently appears is very good. Fine; but doing that simply opens a can of worms that leaves you without the need for any saviour figure ... Do you want to do this?

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryden, if I did not believe in the need of a Saviour, I certinaly would never have lived my live in the way it has unfolded. It is the very basis of my existence. I am a sinner. I know it. I acknowledge my need, every day, of redemption, and Jesus Christ truly is "My way, my truth my life"

Paraphrasing St. Paul's assurance"

"There is nothing in all creation - not even Bryden Black's theology - that can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Deo gratias

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Ron for advancing the discussion a step. Perhaps we might now advance it another step further again.

Given that both you and I confess the need of a saviour, which very confession is an integral part of that salvation beyond profession, perhaps we could also say that those who find themselves burdened with same-sex attraction (for whatever reasons, due to whatever aetiology) are similarly needful - specifically now re their sexuality. And if not, why not?

Janice said...

The idea that Columbus proved that the earth is a sphere (or, rather, an oblate spheroid) is a fiction made up by Washington Irving (author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and, I think, Rumpelstiltskin). What he proved is that those were correct who told him, before he set out, that the diameter of the world is larger than he thought it was. Google flat earth myth.

Father Ron Smith said...

"...perhaps we could also say that those who find themselves burdened with same-sex attraction (for whatever reasons, due to whatever aetiology) are similarly needful - specifically now re their sexuality. And if not, why not?" - Bryden Black

I'm not aware, Bryden, of having suggested anything other - than that all of us; heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, trans-gender and a-sexual; we all of us need salvation. My point is that not one of those categories is any more (or any less)in need of salvation than any other.

You seem to suggest that, in some way, gay people are in greater need of salvation than straights. I do not believe that. Full stop.

In any event; salvation is God's business - not ours. As Saint Paul says, when he agonises about the fact that he often chooses the wrong path: 'But, thanks be to God for the victory IN CHRIST JESUS!

I really do recommend to you Father Faber's wonderful hymn: "There's a wideness in God's mercy" -
then, maybe, you wouldn't worry so much about your need to take responsibility for the salvation of other people - or even your own.

I sometimes think that professional theologians feel they have all the world and her husband hanging on their diagnosis of what is wrong with the world. Just 'Trust and Obey, there is no other way".

Really, Bryden, its all about "You in your small corner and I in mine. We, pray. Then we do what we can, personally, to be obedient to
God's call on our lives.

There was lovely piece of scripture for the Gospel at Mass this morning" "I will lose nothing of all that the Father has given to me, and I WILL raise it up on the last day" - Jesus. When were we given to Christ by the Father? -In our Baptism. Our Baptism is kept alive in us by the work of the Holy Spirit and through our frequent reception of Christ in the Mass. It's all pretty simple, really. No amount of theologising will make it any easier - simply because, God sent His Only-Begotten Son into the world so that none should perish, but have eternal life. I reckon God is generous enough to deal with our petty concerns - about angels and pinheads. He is more concerned about the lack of love in the world. And one way of helping that situation is for us not demonise others, in the Name of Christ.

Bryden Black said...

Actually Ron, there is a distinction, one that has been made for centuries by the Church. The institution of marriage has been sanctified precisely as a means of our own human sanctification - but formally for that relationship which is between a man and a woman. Other means are precisely offered others - should they so choose/feel called. You seem unable or unwilling to discern this important and vital distinction.

By seeming to grant gay men and lesbian women this means of sanctification, as a means that is of their actual lives lived here unto salvation, you are actually thereby creating a "fowler's snare".

And while surely salvation is supremely God's business, as you say, yet your very own tradition wld state of the Church two vital things: that she formally encourage her children in their lives leading to salvation; and that she formally do not lay any obstacle upon them that would hinder such lives.

Frankly Ron your position is self-contradictory.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am omitting bits of the comment below for which there is no justification on the basis of what Bryden has written:

""By seeming to grant gay men and lesbian women this means of sanctification, as a means that is of their actual lives lived here unto salvation, you are actually thereby creating a "fowler's snare". - B.B.

May I respectfully suggest, Bryden, that it might be you who may be "creating a fowler's snare" - [what you are saying runs the risk of being understood as demonising a group within humanity]!

Where in all of this is "The great love of God as revealed in the Son" I wonder? My job as a priest, is to help people to find the way to heaven, not to condemn them to hell. [Your theological stance appears to point in a different direction].

I struggle to find the Gospel in [what you are saying re homosexuality].

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Ron for the engagement yet again, and for not giving up on me - just as I too now try to reciprocate.

Well; what IS the Gospel, Ron? For any of us? While it is most certainly Good News, I have also to conclude it involves as well what is aptly termed bad news too. The references are just too many to count! See only a recent post of mine on another thread re Baptism and the NT Catechism. Today’s Gospel was an aspect of this even; and our preacher took the line of summing it up as “transformation”, a word I’ve used myself often. You might have also.

Where the line is drawn between what may be continued after “repentance and belief” (Mk 1:15), what necessarily given up, and what might be adiaphora (but depending upon circumstances perhaps: giving up alcohol for a while while working with alcoholics, say; wearing ceremonious vestments, etc.) is the heart of your and my disagreement. “My Gospel” (and cf. Romans 1:25 for the expression) is certainly full of joy and fresh new wine and fresh praise and confession; that is why I love St Augustine’s Confessions, a glorious testimony but far more than that! I love too Luke’s constant reference to “joy” in his Gospel and Acts: it rings true!

The reason I might be coming across to you all “hell-bent” is a complex business: you have never actually argued your position cogently or coherently enough re homosexual persons not having to “give up” their expressing their orientation in homoerotic behaviour; and moreover you are doing this precisely - or rather, not doing this - as a priest and teacher in the Church - my own church furthermore! People listen to you; as they do myself. We cannot both be correct on this one ... and the issue is not one of adiaphora ... So; I persist in ‘calling you out’. What might stop the seeming negativity is probably a serious hermeneutical engagement by yourself that goes beyond 13 second sound bytes ... And while of course none of us are ‘saved’ by our ‘theology’, as priests in Christ’s Church we are beholden NOT to lead “little ones” astray (Matt 18) - which warning of course is addressed to all us “teachers”; just so James 3:1 ...

Bryden Black said...

Oops; apologies - (and cf. Romans 16:25 for the expression) - a typo in haste ...