New fellowship to unite ‘confessing Anglicans’ is born

by
03 July 2008

Paul Handley reports from GAFCON in Jerusalem

GAFCON participants pray at the Western Wall

GAFCON participants pray at the Western Wall

PARTICIPANTS in GAFCON stood and applauded for 57 seconds after the conference’s final statement, with the Jerusalem Declaration, was read out by the Primate of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, last Sunday.

There was concentrated silence as Archbishop Orombi read through the four-page statement. He paused only once, to repeat the line: “Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion.”

After the applause, the Primate of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, asked the participants: “Is this your mind?” There was a resounding “Yes,” which he asked the participants to repeat: “Not loud enough!” “Yes!”

After the applause, the Primate of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, asked the participants: “Is this your mind?” There was a resounding “Yes,” which he asked the participants to repeat: “Not loud enough!” “Yes!”

The five Primates present then signed the following statement:

The five Primates present then signed the following statement:

“We, the undersigned Primates of the Anglican Communion, have met with Anglicans from around the world at the Global Anglican Future Conference, June 22-29 2008, in Jerusalem.

“We have read and, on behalf of ourselves and those we lead, have agreed with the Conference Statement.

“We thank God for the encouragement of the Conference to form the Primates’ Council of the GAFCON Movement and to organise and expand the fellowship of confessing Anglicans.

“We accept the urging of the Conference ‘to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith’.

“We accept these responsibilities and challenges and ask for your prayer and support in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

There followed a spontaneous doxology and songs, until the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, asked participants to “stop enjoying yourselves” and prepare for the final eucharist.

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There followed a spontaneous doxology and songs, until the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, asked participants to “stop enjoying yourselves” and prepare for the final eucharist.

There are three components in the GAFCON final communiqué, which was formally released after the signing session on Sunday morning:

• the designation of GAFCON as a “fellowship of confessing Anglicans” (lower-case, we were told: participants are still calling it “the GAFCON movement”;

• a 14-point Jerusalem Declaration described as “the basis of that fellowship”;

• and a newly formed Primates’ Council, which is likely to meet in the next two months.

Each of the three suggestions is radical. The transformation from a conference to a fellowship makes GAFCON an enduring element in the Anglican Churches. The 14-point Declaration is largely doctrinal, although it contains a section on sexuality, and another on relations with more liberal dioceses. On sexuality, the document does not name homosexuality, and instead speaks of “marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy”, and it calls for “a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married”.

The other clause states: “We reject the authority of those Churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them, and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.”

By contrast, and with matters such as the ordination of women and liturgical difference looming, the Declaration says: “We celebrate the God-given diversity among us . . . and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters.”

The most radical structural change is the establishment of the Primates’ Council. This will arbitrate the membership of the fellowship, but as a first move it is urged in the statement to “authenticate” confessing Anglican jurisdictions, among them various breakaway Anglican Churches and irregular consecrations.

It is not known yet whether this will supersede the Primates’ Meeting for Primates in the Global South, such as the seven present at GAFCON. Its designation as a Council responds to GAFCON concerns that it must have enough teeth to discipline errant members.

More seriously, the communiqué states that the time is now ripe “for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as ‘Common Cause Partnership’”.

On the subject of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the communiqué states: “While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

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Elsewhere, the statement laments the refusal of the US and Canadian Churches to reform themselves, and the way the Lambeth Conference has been structured “so as to avoid any hard decisions”. This, it says, leads “to the devastating conclusion that ‘we are a global Communion with colonial structures.’”

IN A background briefing, the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, said: “This is not a parallel church structure. The document carefully says on several occasions that this is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. But what has happened in our Communion is that there has been already a breakdown of relationships between certain members within it. That’s the starting point. . .

“In 2003, the American revisionists, in a foolhardy way, did something that put a fact on the table [the consecration of a practising gay man as Bishop of New Hampshire], then dared us all to do something about it. Well, it’s happened, and they’ve got to live with the consequences.”

Asked if GAFCON had created a separate Church, to all intents and purposes, Dr Jensen said: “Does it lead to separate communions or denominations? No. The network is going to look a bit different, and clearly the Primates’ Council is going to operate as a new centre of authority within the Anglican Communion. But it doesn’t presume to have all authority.

Nor was it a “Church within a Church”: “I don’t like that expression,” Dr Jensen said, “because, first of all, I don’t think the Anglican Communion is a ‘Church’, and, secondly, because I don’t think what we’ve created here is a Church.”

A better parallel was with the Anglo-Catholic movement in the 19th century, or the Evangelical movement of the 18th. It was a “spiritual movement . . . a missionary movement”, he said.

A key indication for the future will be the relationship with those outside the new fellowship. Dr Jensen was adamant: in the Anglican Church of Australia, he said, “many of the other bishops would not sign this or be part of this movement. But am I out of fellowship with them? No. That would be a very serious thing for me, if any suggestion were made that I had somehow broken away from the Anglican Church of Australia. I certainly haven’t done so.”

Leader comment
Full statement
Jerusalem Declaration
Dr Williams's response
Giles Fraser
Paul Vallely

Letters

Leader comment
Full statement
Jerusalem Declaration
Dr Williams's response
Giles Fraser
Paul Vallely

Letters

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