Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sorting Out the GAFCON Gaffes

The GAFCON story is getting a little complicated, so the following is an effort to sort out the various statements and subsequent gaffes (gaffe - a breach of sensibility and good taste, also a blatant mistake or misjudgment).

On Christmas Eve, a press release appeared entitled "Global Anglican Future Conference in Holy Land Announced by Orthodox Primates". Here's part of it:

...The event, which was agreed at a meeting of Primates in Nairobi last week, will be in the form of a pilgrimage back to the roots of the Church’s faith. The Holy Land is the planned venue. From 15-22 June 2008, Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings of the church will make pilgrimage to the Holy Land...

...Canon Chris Sugden added: "While this conference is not a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference, it will provide opportunities for fellowship and care for those who have decided not to attend Lambeth...
Note that, according to The Lead, the GAFCON website domain was registered by Canon Chris Sugden's organization, Anglican Mainstream, which identifies itself as "a network of organisations within the United Kingdom...committed to the traditional biblical teaching on marriage, the family and human sexuality."

According to GAFCON's FAQ page, The Jerusalem Conference is not intended to be an alternative to Lambeth. Mark Harris has some thoughts about that:

...The FAQ answer to the question of GAFCON being an alternative to Lambeth is 'NO." And of course they are right. It is not an alternative, it is a means of dismantling whatever role the Lambeth Conference has as one of the instruments of Communion. It is, in other words, an instrument of exclusion and breaking of communion.

GAFCON is about building an alternative Anglican Communion leadership, priorities, agenda and demands. They could care less about being an alternative to the Lambeth Conference.The salient point of this FAQ is this little notation: "there will be some who will attend both conferences and thus be able to consult with the Archbishop of Canterbury and others there."

The scenario is fairly obvious: GAFCON will meet, issue a communique, ramp up the power, and some of those attending GAFCON will put on their spiritual prophylactics and head off to Lambeth to "consult with the Archbishop of Canderbury and others there."

I have no doubt that those who go to Lambeth to consult will not go to participate but to demand. And their demands will look oh so Christian. After all they will have just been on a pilgrmage with like minded Anglicans from all over the world...

...GAFCON will go down in the history of the Anglican Communion as the foundational meeting of a new communion. Since the current one, the Anglican Communion is already peopled with a wide variety of church folk GAFCON will either have to take over, kicking the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and a wide variety of other churches out, or start a world-wide Church of its own...
It appears that even some of GAFCON's assumed allies were not pleased with the announcement of the Jerusalem conference. On December 29, Dr. Michael Poon,the Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia, Trinity Theological College, Singapore, and convenor of the Global South Anglican theological formation and education task force, asked some important questions about this new entity known as GAFCON. Here's part of it:

...The Global South represents a broad spectrum of Anglican churches that hold onto the historic faith and ecclesiology informed by the historic formularies. It does not answer to the dictates of the radical evangelical wings within the Communion. It is regrettable that Asia, West Indies, and Middle East are glaring omissions among the “conveners” of the proposed Conference. Have they been consulted? Have they rejected the proposal? In their place, we find names of colleagues (with due respect) from a particular strand in the Northern churches. Why was this Statement issued with such haste? And without broader representation?

4. Was the Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem of the Middle East consulted? After all the proposed Conference takes place in Jerusalem? Furthermore, by holding it in Jerusalem, it makes it quite impossible for orthodox Christians from Muslim countries to attend. And yet, what is that insignificant minority in the face of powerful numerical blocs...
The response to Dr. Poon's questions was a swift rebuke from "an esteemed Primate." Dr. Poon's posting of that rebuke was quickly removed from the comments of Global South Anglican website, but not before being caught by Thinking Anglicans. What is rather interesting is that it appears the "metadata" of the rebuke reveals it to have been written by an "equally esteemed new bishop in America." Since the "esteemed Primate" is assumed to be Abp. Akinola of Nigeria, speculation is that this rebuke was penned by either his former ghost writer Martyn Minns, or David ""I like a good fight" Anderson.

In the meantime, The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis, Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, wrote to Abp. Akinola, questioning the "timing and venue" of the GAFCON meeting. Instead of scheduling it a month before Lambeth Conference, he suggested it be held in the months following Lambeth. Akinola would not budge. The Jerusalem conference is on.

However, we now have yet another press release, this time from the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Bishop Suheil Dawani:

...Regrettably, I have not been consulted about this planned conference...The first I learned of it was through a press release.

I am aware that the post-Christmas announcement that this conference is to be held here has excited considerable interest around the Anglican Communion, and has become the subject of online discussion. Yet we Anglicans who minister here have been left out in the cold...

...I am deeply troubled that this meeting, of which we had no prior knowledge, will import inter-Anglican conflict into our diocese, which seeks to be a place of welcome for all Anglicans.

It could also have serious consequences for our ongoing ministry of reconciliation in this divided land. Indeed, it could further inflame tensions here. We who minister here know only too well what happens when two sides cease talking to each other. We do not want to see any further dividing walls!

I believe our Primate, Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis,is also concerned about this event. His advice to the organizers that this was not the right time or place for such a meeting was ignored.

I urge the organizers to reconsider this conference urgently.
So, there is the story, to date. I may have been remiss in not keeping you updated about this, but personally, right now I'm not terribly interested in the shenanigans of foreign Primates, as long as they stay out of TEC's business. We've got plenty of work to do in our own backyard. It is best if we don't become too distracted by these bungled attempts to promote schism.


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