Wednesday, October 30, 2013

GAFCON's gaffe (1)

The Nairobi Communique repays study. As a contribution I offer the following questions to which I see answers in the Communique.

Who is Anglican?

"we adopted The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which commits us to biblical faithfulness, and has since provided the framework for renewed Anglican orthodoxy to which we, in all our different traditions – Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics and Charismatics – are committed. ... Where, in taking a stand for biblical faithfulness, Anglicans have been marginalised or excluded from provincial or diocesan structures, the Primates’ Council has recognised and authenticated them as faithful Anglicans."

What step is required to heal divisions within global Anglicanism?

"Our willingness to submit to the written Word of God and our unwillingness to be in Christian fellowship with those who will not, is clearly expressed in The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. This means that the divisions in the Anglican Communion will not be healed without a change of heart from those promoting the false gospel, and to that end we pray."

Is an alternative Anglican Communion like structure being set up? Yes, but it is not clear whether this will turn out to be a separate or overlapping structure.

"First, we have resolved to be more than a network. We are an effective expression of faithful Anglicanism and therefore, recognising our responsibilities, we must organise ourselves in a way that demonstrates the seriousness of our objectives. These are threefold.
  • Proclaiming and contending for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Examples of work we wish to resource are the preparation of convincing theological rebuttals of any false gospel; supporting a network of theological colleges whose students are better oriented to ministry, whose faculties are well-trained, and whose curricula are built on the faithful reading of Scripture.  
  • Building the fellowship. We need to find new ways of supporting each other in mission and discipleship.
  • Authorising and affirming faithful Anglicans who have been excluded by their diocese or province. The main thrust of work here would be devoted to discerning the need for new provinces, dioceses and churches — and then authenticating their ministries and orders as Anglican.
Second, pursuing these objectives will require GFCA to operate on a more systematic basis and to that end we shall organise around a Primates’ Council, a Board of Trustees, an Executive Committee and regional liaison officers, who will be involved in fostering communication among FCAs."

Has GAFCON resolved a step which could undermine the existing Communion? Yes, because the following statement urges reconsideration of financial support for the Communion.

"Third, we recognise that moving the GFCA on to a new footing will involve making substantial new resources available. We must, therefore, invite provinces, dioceses, mission agencies, local congregations and individuals formally to become contributing members of the GFCA. In particular, we ask provinces to reconsider their support for those Anglican structures that are used to undermine biblical faithfulness and contribute instead, or additionally, to the financing of the GFCA’s on-going needs."

Will cross-jurisdictional episcopal activity cease now that ACNA has been firmly established? No.

"4. We commit ourselves to defend essential truths of the biblical faith even when this defence threatens existing structures of human authority (Acts 5:29).  For this reason, the bishops at GAFCON 2013 resolved ‘to affirm and endorse the position of the Primates’ Council in providing oversight in cases where provinces and dioceses compromise biblical faith, including the affirmation of a duly discerned call to ministry. This may involve ordination and consecration if the situation requires.’
5. We commit ourselves to the support and defence of those who in standing for apostolic truth are marginalized or excluded from formal communion with other Anglicans in their dioceses. We have therefore recognized the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) as an expression of authentic Anglicanism both for those within and outside the Church of England, and welcomed their intention to appoint a General Secretary of AMiE."

There are no gaffes here. Everything is carefully worked out. Alarm bells should be going off in Lambeth Palace about the decisive reshaping of the Communion going on via GAFCON. Wait, they went off and ++Welby hopped on a plane to Nairobi.

But should alarm bells be going off in the Church of England as there is a specific commitment to supporting the development of Anglican churches which are not Church of England churches? On reflection, I think not. The C of E has weathered the development of Anglican churches within England (Free Church of England etc). I wouldn't be worrying if I was part of the Australian Anglican church: their situation (e.g. with independent Bible churches aligned with Sydney) is what it is, irrespective of whether GAFCON came into existence or not. It is difficult to see any specific new development in North American Anglican/Episcopal life emerging from GAFCON II.

What about my own church? I do not see that GAFCON II makes our situation any more anxious than what it already is about how we go about our business, especially in respect of possible changes re human sexuality.

In general terms I think GAFCON is making considerable noise about the iniquities of aspects of Anglican life in Western countries which flows from a superficial, shallow analysis of the relationship between culture and gospel. In a subsequent post I will attempt to demonstrate why GAFCON's communique is simultaneously right and wrong about Anglican churches in the West. That is, GAFCON has made a significant gaffe, but it lies between the lines of the communique. GAFCON itself should be alarmed about the future of Anglican Christianity in the West.

PS No one from Kiwiland has arisen to my challenge at the end of a previous post re GAFCON!


Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter. I am glad of your critical assessment of the Gafcon II Statement, and its possible effect upon non-Gafcon Anglican Churches around the world. I think you rightly describe the 'gaffe' which may have been made by the Statement.

I have long considered - my own opinion - the whole Gafcon set-up to be gaffe-prone - if only in their haste to set up rival church plants within the territory of the existing Anglican provincial Churches in North America. And, more recently of couse, in the U.K. with the setting up of A.M.i.E.

Their obvious intent to further this dubious expansionist polity - which can only further distance them from the official 'Instruments of Unity' in the Anglican Communion (whether these are considered to be effective or not) will seriously challenge their claim to be 'Truly Anglican'.

Unlike like you, perhaps, I could see a whole ACANZP diocese deciding to along with another Gafcon diocese (across the Tasman), but I cannot see that affecting the rest of us in great measure - except that it would mean that another New Zealand Bishop might be needed to look after remaining Anglicans in the Nelson area.

I cannot, frankly, see too many Christchurch Diocesan Anglicans lining up with a secessionist Nelson Diocese. There would be a matter of stipendiary matters to be considered - a not insignificant factor in all of this.

As for Australia. Sydney Diocese could do its own thing. As you have rightly noted - this sort of thing has happened in England - where an 'intentionally-confessional' local congregation has decided to split off from the C.of E., with no great effect upon the national Church. I suspect that Sydney could become its own denomination, without too
much angst from the Provincial Australian Anglican Church.

There will, of course, be remaining local congregations that would not want to be part of the gafcon ethos, but who could easily be annexed to the Brisbane Diocese.And who knows, Christchurch Saint Laurence and Saint James parishes in central Sydney might then be allowed to wear the traditional chasuble for celebrating the Mass? Mind you, that would be just a peripheral benefit - nothing to do with Scriptural or doctrinal edict.

Bryden Black said...

Peter: “In general terms I think GAFCON is making considerable noise about the iniquities of aspects of Anglican life in Western countries which flows from a superficial, shallow analysis of the relationship between culture and gospel.”

I look forward indeed to such an analysis Peter. Not least as there was a time when I was a member of the founding Victorian Council of Churches Gospel and Cultures Commission, and therefore a contributor to their collection of articles/report edited by Randall Prior (1997). All this as a follower of Lesslie Newbigin’s great contribution to Western and indeed global Christian mission.

For the latest on all this, see Theology in Missionary Perspective: Lesslie Newbigin’s Legacy, ed. Mark Laing (Wipf & Stock, 2012), a copy of which I managed to get a loan of the other day.

hogsters said...

Re Ron "Their obvious intent to further this dubious expansionist polity"

Ron some of us might feel that the "expansionist policy" is not "dubious" but gospel.

Further, I was ordained in the Nelson Diocese and for a number of years prior to that has the joy and privilege of being a part of a church that went from 100 to 400 in a few years under the teaching and preaching of Derek Eaton. notable as well that the Nelson diocese was officially listed in a book on world mission as the fasted growing diocese in the Western world in the early years of Derek's ministry there.

Do the maths. In the final analysis no amount of Anglican positive self talk outweigh the deafening silence of an empty church.

History has, and will continue to show the truth of Jesus words "I will build my church and the very gates of hell" and might I add a gospel that is no gospel at all, will not stand up against it".


Father Ron Smith said...

Blessings to you, too, Hogster. Thanks for the history of your own attachment to the Con/Evo school of theology. That does explain your comments here.

Tell, me, was the 100 to 400 ratio happening in a parish or the whole of the Nelson Diocese? You have not made that clear. Numbers, as you know, are not always favoured in the scriptures! What God wants, is "Mercy - not sacrifice" - especially if that sacrifice is of a policy of natural justice to 'outsiders'.

Eric said...

Growing churches do not necessarily indicate faithfulness to the Gospel. I note that Joel Osteen's church tops the list of largest churches in the USA.

As for Australia, it is inaccurate to consider evangelicals as a fringe group within Anglicanism. The three distinctly evangelical dioceses account for over a third of the people. In some of the others, the evangelical parishes account for a large number of attenders too.

I can't see any major group breaking away, because there are not two camps, but a motley range with nowhere to make a clean break.

MichaelA said...

Peter, your argument would be much more compelling if supported by Venn diagrams.

MichaelA said...

Peter, the Free Church of England numbers about 20 congregations over the whole of England. It is not expansionary, taking decades on average to add a new congregation. To put this in perspective, the CofE has more than twice as many dioceses as the FCE has parishes.

My personal view is that AMiE has much more than that in mind. It also intends to work within the CofE - hardly surprising, since several CofE churches already practice what AMiE is talking about, and many of them had reps in Nairobi. These churches pay their ministry contributions to a trust fund instead of their diocese, ignore their bishop, and remain part of the CofE.

All of this will take time to develop, especially in a jurisdiction as large as England. If outsiders want to think.its all talk, then so much the better in my view. ;)

Peter Carrell said...

To clarify: I am not saying AMiE is "all talk".
I am well aware that there are already congregations in existence etc.
I am asking the question how far AMiE can grow and my Gaffe 2 post, when it happens, will attempt to say why I see limitation in growth.

Peter Carrell said...

re Venn diagrams
You are right. Jesus' own arguments were always more compelling when illustrated by parabolas.

hogsters said...

Hi Ron, sorry I was not clear. The church that grew from 100 to 400 was in Christchurch before Derek became the Bishop. i was a youth worker in that church. Unfortunately I have never had the skills or the joy of seeing that kind of growth. under my leadership.

I know numbers are not everything. Salvation and following the Lord Jesus Christ is everything. When Jesus is Lord one wold hope justice and mercy would follow.


Tom Downs said...

It sound as if you all are going through what we in the US have been going through for the last 40 years or so. The good news is that things have calmed down now. The courts are handling the property questions and attendance in the Episcopal Church has stabilized, if not grown.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just a matter of the Episcopal Church sharing territory with the Anglican Church in North America, there are dozens of “Anglican” denominations in the US. Fifteen years ago I had occasion to visit with the bishop of one of those denominations. He’d been ordained less than a year when the Presiding Bishop (the only other bishop) died suddenly and he found himself in charge. When he took over he was chagrined to discovered there was no there there. They looked good on paper, but the reality was much different. When it came to counting members and congregations, lying for the “sake of the Gospel” was a considered a useful tool. He was very discouraged. I told him that he wasn’t the first bishop or abbot who discovered to his dismay that he was being called by God to build from almost nothing. I tell that tale to remind us all that things are not always what they claim to be. About those “growing” conservative/evangelical/orthodox churches; they are often not what they seem. Best data in North America says that all Christian groups are declining, some faster than others. Some, like the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church just started declining sooner. It’s the Baptist and Pentecostal churches turn now. Those who claim to have the truth are mistaken. By our fractious nature we are doing to ourselves what the Eastern Church did to itself hundreds of years ago. Soon there will be no Christians left in Bethlehem.

Father Ron Smith said...

Greetings, Hogster. Thank you for your explanation - that the parish in question was in my own diocese of Christchurch - I can guess which one. Charismatic churches with charismatic leadership have a tendency to grow a strong youth congregation - built on young leadership, band skills and a distinct love of young people. Sadly, that is not always a strong point with some of our churches. How gracious of you to admit that you may not have the drawing power of some clergy. However, I'm sure your faithfulness to Christ, in the gospel, is what you are called to - with no need for apologies. We can't all be Pied Pipers!

As an older priest - now retired but still not tired, I feel a distinct ministry to older people and familiies - people who still deserve to be loved and cared for. God has no favourites among the age of his children. Jesus did say: "Suffer the little children......". And I do think a good record of child baptisms in the parish helps.


Father Ron Smith said...

"These churches pay their ministry contributions to a trust fund instead of their diocese, ignore their bishop, and remain part of the CofE."
- MichaelA -

With all due respect, Michael. If they ignore their bishop, that doesn't seem a good policy to me - and is certainly not typically Anglican!

And who pays their stipend? Are they self-funding for this? And if not, they are surely not acting in accordance with an easy conscience, they are just taking advantage of the generosity of other Anglicans.

If they are self-funding, I don't see how they are Anglican, either!

carl jacobs said...

Tom Downs

...attendance in the Episcopal Church has stabilized, if not grown.

Ummm, yeah. Sort of like the aft portion of RMS Titanic stabilized after the bow portion ripped off and sank.


Dr Edward Prebble said...

Peter, I am sure that you are not surprised that folk from Kiwiland have not been falling over themselves to respond to your challenge. As you pointed out, there are only a fairly small number of churches(but there are some) that would meet the criteria you spell out. The problem is that you are challenging us on a very complex and nuanced matter by posing a very simple, and even simplistic question.
I have privately sent you a copy of my thesis - all 100,000 words - where I do try to address these issues at some length.

From my PhD research, I suggest that in the Auckland Diocese, both St Andrews Pukekohe and St Andrews Kohimarama are doing pretty well. The numerical growth is perhaps not dramatic, but they are certainly not declining, and they are seeing a consistent lowering of the average age of worshippers. And some excellent community-facing ministry is happening in both places.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Edward
Thank you for responding to my challenge!
I am glad to hear about those churches.
It is certainly not the case that " only GAFCON" oriented churches grow.
But it is the case that some Anglicans seem strangely willing to contemplate cutting out such parishes despite the impoverishment of our church which it would lead to.

MichaelA said...

"With all due respect, Michael. If they ignore their bishop, that doesn't seem a good policy to me - and is certainly not typically Anglican!"

Of course its not typical - Anglicans don't typically indulge in apostasy. But when Anglican bishops do, the proper thing to do is ignore them.

"And who pays their stipend? Are they self-funding for this?"

I found this question quite startling - who else do you think would pay stipends and church expenses? A congregation should be capable of paying for all of that out of the tithes of the people.

MichaelA said...

Tom Downs wrote:

"The courts are handling the property questions and attendance in the Episcopal Church has stabilized, if not grown".

Hi Tom, I am sure you saw the recent court decision in Quincy, South Carolina and Fort Worth? Although I notice Jim Naughton's Episcopal Cafe blog maintains a stony silence about them! So yes, the courts certainly are "handling" the property questions.

Re Episcopal Church stabilising, yes, that is what happens in a year when Christmas falls on a Sunday - TEC stats show a big jump! But the *reality* seems to be the same as it has been for the past ten years - steady decline in TEC, with the usual trickle of parishes closing and dioceses seeking amalgamation.

"Unfortunately, it isn’t just a matter of the Episcopal Church sharing territory with the Anglican Church in North America, there are dozens of “Anglican” denominations in the US."

Quite true. Mind you, there are less of them since ACNA came into being. Anyway, I agree there is no future in ACNA just seeking legitimacy by existing, or by drawing in members of other Anglican groups (TEC or other). ACNA's future will only be assured by evangelism to the unchurched, and by planting new congregations.

Father Ron Smith said...

"I found this question quite startling - who else do you think would pay stipends and church expenses? A congregation should be capable of paying for all of that out of the tithes of the people."

- MichaelA -

Perhaps you are not familiar, michael, with the process of clergy stipend payment coming directly from the diocesan or national Church authority - like ours in ACANZP, and I'm sure in the U.K.

Parishes pay their 'parish share' to the diocese (or national Church), which includes the priestly stipend. This is then re-distributed to the clergy.

I'm not aware of any ACANZP parish that pays its own clergy. If there is one, perhaps our host knows about it and can enlighten us. It certainly is not general practice here. And, I would think, it would give some concern to the national Church - that a parish was asserting its own independence from established order.

Father Ron Smith said...

I see the shcismatic 'Quincy Diocese' has failed in its bid to withdraw funds from its TEC Account.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I do not know of any clergy person in our church stupid enough to rely on the parish directly paying him or her.

Tim Chesterton said...

When I was a priest in the Diocese of Athabasca (northern Alberta) clergy were on local payroll. If parishes needed assistance in paying their clergy they were inverted to apply for parish support grants. I think this is a very rare system in the Anglican Church of Canada, but I wanted to share with you that it did exist.

I have also seen the drawbacks of the more common system in England, where parishes generally have no idea what it costs to have a clergy person because everything gets paid centrally by the Diocese and then parishes are charged 'Parish Share', but, to the best of my knowledge, it is not clearly spelled out what portion of that is going to pay their local ministry expenses and what portion is going to diocesan and national program. How a parish could possibly know whether or not it was self-supporting under such a system is beyond me.

Our own parish is self-supporting, so we pay our assessment/apportionment to the diocesan of Edmonton, and also our payroll expenses, which, as Peter has indicated in NZ, the diocese then administers and does the actual issuing of cheques for payroll.

MichaelA said...

"And, I would think, it would give some concern to the national Church - that a parish was asserting its own independence from established order."

As it should - its a serious matter. But firstly, I think you will find that the CofE is not concerned about this much at all. I entirely agree that CofE is making a huge mistake. But they will find that out soon enough.

Secondly, what can CofE do about it anyway? It can't imprison people for not co-operating.

Anyway, are we clear now that your original question was misdirected? The orthodox Anglicans more than pay their own way, and that includes stipends and other expenses. What they decline to do is contribute to the ministry of liberals who, as they see it, believe in a different gospel.

MichaelA said...

"I see the shcismatic 'Quincy Diocese' has failed in its bid to withdraw funds from its TEC Account."

Ah, very cleverly put, Fr Ron. Now, what about the rest of the relevant detail that is missing from your post?

Let me assist: The judge in the Quincy trial has ruled against TEC (there have actually been many decisions in American courts contra TEC, but don't expect most liberals to tell you about them!) TEC has now appealed against that decision, and obtained a freezing order in the interim.

This is standard TEC tactics, trying to wear down the orthodox leavers by spending more on litigation.

TEC has actually won very few final cases (in fact I think it has lost more than it has won, e.g. in South Carolina). But it keeps the litigation going in as expensive a manner as it can, and many of the orthodox congregations have folded - the expense and pressure of litigation eventually prove too much.

Now, whilst I have great sympathy for those orthodox congregations who are oppressed by the schismatics in TEC in this way, I am glad they are putting up the fight they have - no orthodox congregation has ever been wiped out by TEC litigation. All they have lost is property, and once they move to new premises they are able to continue as before.

Meanwhile TEC is left with an empty building that costs it money to maintain, plus it spends far more on legal fees than its opponents, hence why TEC dioceses are eating into their trust funds.

It is a tragedy that so many beautiful church buildings up and down the length of the USA are crumbling into ruin, but that is TEC's doing. The faithful Christians are being reminded that people are far more important than buildings.

MichaelA said...

Tim, quite right, and similar systems apply in most countries. But the point is that the parish pays its own way, even in systems where the money goes first through a central system.

In Sydney, having full parish status depends on paying enough to cover clergy stipends, expenses and diocesan expenses. If you can't sustain that, then provisional status beckons, with the bishop exercising control over many aspects. Since the Average Sunday Attendance across Sydney Diocese is about 300, it is hardly surprising that most parishes can and do meet the required payments.

But the discussion was about England, and you are right that the Parish Share system is notorious for its opacity. Orthodox evangelicals are tired of contributing to a central system where they have little idea of how it is being spent. Hence why opting out has already started.

Many of the churches I am talking about largely have independent finances already, because they are plants by larger parish churches, in circumstances where the plant has never had an independent parish existence in CofE. They use rented premises, pay their clergy and expenses from congregational tithes, and any remaining funds are for ministry.

In future they can problem move to a system in appropriate cases where property is bought by a specially set up trust over which CofE has no influence.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Since the Average Sunday Attendance across Sydney Diocese is about 300"
- MichaelA -

I thought there were more Con/Evos in the whole diocese of Sydney on typical Sunday than 300! Ah well. Not too much to worry about then. Still, there's always Christchurch Saint Laurence and St. James to take up the slack, eh!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Your comment, edited below, strays into speculative territory ...

"MichaelA, I find it strange that you seem to know far more about Church affairs in the US than anyone on this blog who actually lives there. I think I would prefer to hear their story, and would tend to believe it. The reason being, I have trouble in believing one or two putative ' facts' you have given us hitherto. I may be wrong, though. ...

By the way, Michael, which particular part of God's vineyard do you strive in? It's not Orstraylier is it?"

Father Ron Smith said...

"A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At its core Jesus' gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man-centered, Jesus is God-centered". - Ted Schroeder -

apropos the current striving in the Anglican Communion; perhaps Ted Schroeder had it right!

Tim Chesterton said...

Ron says: 'I thought there were more Con/Evos in the whole diocese of Sydney on typical Sunday than 300! '

You know, Ron, I'm not usually one to take offence, as you know, but I have to say, as a person who grew up in the evangelical tribe and has many conservative evangelical friends, that I'm getting very tired of the dismissive term 'Con/Evos'. You use it a lot, you know, here and on other sites such as Thinking Anglicans, and every time I see you (and others, of course) using it, it grates on me.

I don't call Anglo-Catholics 'spikes', 'Anglo-Cats' etc. I think that whether or not they are respectful of me, I have a Christian obligation to speak respectfully of fellow-Christians and fellow-Anglicans.

Father Ron Smith said...

Please accept my profound apology, Tim. You're right. In the heat of the moment, some of us are constrained to say silly things.

However, the C/O word is only a contraction of the well-known term: Conservative Evangelical.

There are, and I know some of them, Evangelicals, who aren't Conservative so I used the term, I thought, suitably sparingly.

I certainly would not use the term of you, personally, because I am aware that you are less conservative than many.

By the way, I don't really mind what people call me. ("Sticks and stones......" etc.)

Agape, Ron

Tim Chesterton said...

No worries, Ron - we're good.

And you're right, I'm not a conservative evangelical. I do however have good friends who are, and I have a profound respect for some of the elder statesmen of the movement, especially the late Dr. John Stott. who it was my [privilege to get to know a little in the early 1990s.

The unhyphenated name 'evangelical', now, is one I'm quite content with. And if anyone's interested, I explain why I still use it for myself here:

Father Ron Smith said...

" Bishop Short replied “You don’t need to apologize for that; that’s a perfectly respectable Anglican position”." - Tim -

Dear Tim, I loved your story on the link you put in this thread. If only more Evangelical Christians were like you perhaps more would be my friends!

Make no mistake, I, too, love the Bible. But I, too, do not accept its inerrancy on every jot, tittle and iota! I believe that every time we hear the Word in Scripture (and I hear it daily, and several times every Sunday) the Holy Spirit is speaking to us - if we are listening.

The trouble is, so many of us have a fixed idea of what is being said - instead of really understanding the common injunction:

"Hear what The Spirit is 'SAYING' (not, 'has said in past times') to The Church".

Agape, Ron