GAFCON Primates hear of ‘two religions’ in the United States

by
16 April 2009

by Paul Handley

Had rug pulled: Bishop Bob Duncan PA

Had rug pulled: Bishop Bob Duncan PA

THE GAFCON Primates have recognised the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), they announced in London yesterday.

The move is hardly a surprise. When conservative Anglicans met in Jerusalem last May for the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), they called for the formation of an “orthodox” Church in the United States, in parallel with (or opposition to) the Episcopal Church there. The ACNA was formed late in the summer, uniting conservative groups in the United States and Canada.

The leader of the new Church, the Rt Revd Bob Duncan, joined the GAFCON Primates for their second meeting, this time held at the Renaissance Hotel next to Heathrow Airport. Bishop Duncan was formerly the Bishop of Pittsburgh, but was deposed by the Episcopal Church’s leadership at the time the ACNA was formed.

He said that he had given a progress report to the GAFCON Primates. His Church had 100,000 members in 700 congregations in 28 dioceses. On any given Sunday, there were about 80,000 worshippers, about ten per cent of the numbers in the Episcopal Church, “and growing all the time”. The previous arrangement for conservatives who dissented from what they saw as the liberal leadership of the Episcopal Church had been to join one of the five “protectorates” run by the Provinces of the Southern Cone, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, or Rwanda. Now all were united in the ACNA.

As well as being united, Bishop Duncan had told the Primates, his Church was “ready”, having prepared a constitution and canons “that look recognisably Anglican” and which he had amended after consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was also “focused” on its task of “reaching North America with the transforming love of Christ”, after a decade of division.

Bishop Duncan echoed the insistence of the Primates that theirs was not a breakaway movement. “I’m a cradle Anglican. My grandfather was a boy chorister. . . My theological views haven’t changed. The problem is that folks who have become the leadership of the Episcopal Church  in the United States have pulled the rug out from under me. The person who is our Presiding Bishop, she didn’t begin as an Anglican. I did. She represents something very different. I don’t think I’m a breakaway.

“I don’t believe I have divided the Church. I believe the innovators are the ones who are dividing the Church. I love them, and I want to behave in a godly way towards them, and I will do everything I can to convince them about the truth that’s been delivered; but my focus now has to be on those who don’t know Jesus.”

The creation of the ACNA had meant that the United States now had two parallel Anglican provinces, Bishop Duncan said, and this was “not altogether comfortable”, as the meeting of all the Primates in Alexandria had admitted. But the purpose of the GAFCON Primates had not been to create a second Church. “For the Communion as a whole, we have not talked about two parallel Churches. The majority of the Anglican Communion is saying that where the Communion has always been is where the Communion needs to be, and this group represents that view. We are the Communion. Who has the right to take the Communion from us?”

It was clear that Bishop Duncan thought that Anglicans in the United States were more sharply divided than elsewhere. “You really have two religions. You have one that believes as Anglicans always have believed, that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and you have another led by our Presiding Bishop of TEC [the Episcopal Church], who says ‘That would be to put God into a small box.’ One is classic Christianity. One is actually not Christianity, at least not in the way that classic Protestantism, classic orthodoxy, or classic Catholicism would recognise it.

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Easter Week Communiqué from the GAFCON/FCA Primates’ Council

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

We meet in the week after Easter, rejoicing again in the power of the risen Lord Jesus to transform lives and situations. We continue to experience his active work in our lives and the lives of our churches and we rejoice in the gospel of hope. From its inception, the GAFCON movement hascentered on the power of Christ to make all things new. We have heard this week of the great progress
made in North America towards the creation of a new Province basing itself on this same biblicalgospel of transformation and hope. We have also envisioned the future of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans as a movement for defending and promoting the biblical gospel of the risen Christ.

Yet we are saddened that little progress seems to have been made in resolving the present crisis in theAnglican Communion of which we are a part. The recent primatial meeting in Alexandria served onlyto demonstrate how deep and intractable the divisions are and to encourage us to sustain the important work of GAFCON.

The GAFCON Primates’ Council has responsibility of recognizing and authenticating orthodox Anglicans who have had to leave their original churches, and promoting the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) as a bulwark against this false teaching and a rallying point for orthodoxy. It is our
aim not to divide the Communion further, but to provide a way in which faithful Anglicans many ofwhom are suffering much loss, can remain as Anglicans within the Communion while distancingthemselves from false teaching.

At this meeting highly significant progress was made on both fronts.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)
We met with Bishop Bob Duncan and a number of the Episcopal leaders of the proposed new Province. Careful consideration was given to the new ‘Province in formation’ in North America. This is made upso far of approximately 100,000 Anglican Christians in Canada and the US who wish to be known as Anglicans and to be in fellowship with the Anglican Communion world-wide. We have asked whether we can recognize and authenticate this movement as truly Anglican.

As a result of this process, we celebrate the organization and official formation of ACNA around the same principles that gave rise to the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) and now the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA). Though many Provinces have expressed impaired or broken communion with TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, our fellowship with faithful Anglicans in North America has remained steadfast.

The FCA Primates’ Council recognizes the Anglican Church in North America as genuinely Anglican and recommends that Anglican Provinces affirm full communion with the ACNA.

Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) – The membership of the FCA in its initial stages has attracted a membership by individuals, churches, dioceses, provinces and organizations which involve over a million Anglicans. We are heartened by the numbers of Anglicans who share a commitment to the theological formularies of Anglicanism that provide a firm foundation of our faith. Clearly FCA is a much needed fellowship of those committed to the defense and proclamation of the gospel.

We have therefore reviewed the strategy and structures of the FCA. to better reflect the demands now made on it. We were glad to receive from the FCA Theological Group their Commentary on the Jerusalem Declaration. We note with pleasure the establishment of the FCA web-site, www.fca.net.
Likewise reports were received from those involved in partnership development work in the Sudan and elsewhere. We see an inexorable link between practical physical care and spiritual health. FCA is addressing this through the proposed establishment of an FCA Economic Development Council.

The FCA provides means to pursue our common mission through the establishment of regional FCA chapters and through networks of Anglicans who will strengthen and assist each other. We heard about the development in the United Kingdom of an active branch of the FCA and the proposed launch on
July 6th in Westminster Hall. In addition The Advisory Board of bishops, clergy, and other Anglican leaders from around the world reflects the growing breadth of support and our shared commitment to pursue Gospel mission to serve and extend Christ's Kingdom together.

Anglican Covenant– It is too soon for us to comment at depth on the latest version of the Covenant. While we support the concept of an Anglican Covenant, we understand that its adequacy depends on the willingness to address the crisis that has “torn the fabric” of the Communion. If those who have left
the standards of the Bible are able to enter the covenant with a good conscience, it seems to be of little use. This is one of the questions to be resolved. It is also important to recognize the reality that the success of a covenant is related to genuine accountability.

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Relationships –We value our relationships within the Anglican Communion and those with our ecumenical friends beyond. Already, regional chapters and links are forming in many parts of the world of those who share the commitments expressed in GAFCON and FCA. We look forward in real hope to a positive response amongst the Churches and Diocese and Provinces of the Communion to our call to enter into communion with the new Anglican Church in North America. Only in this way, we believe will the need for the so-called ‘cross border incursions’ come to an end and a measure of peace be restored.

Great contributions have been made in the three previous gatherings of the Global South and the clarion sound of the “Trumpets.” We look forward to sharing in gatherings in the future.

Conclusion

We remain committed to the Anglican Communion and to being a faithful and creative voice within it to recapture focus on mission. Conscious of our frailties, nevertheless in the light of Christ’s resurrection power, we speak with confidence and seek only to serve the Lord and the people of the Anglican Communion. We are aware that millions of Anglicans look to the leadership which was recognized at GAFCON, especially given that the institutional structures as yet have not provided adequate response to the crises in the Communion and the world.

We are encouraged by the Word of the Lord: The Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ is our only hope and our focus. We continue steadfastly in our commitment to share the fullness of the Gospel in our nations and around the world.

The Lord is risen: He is risen indeed!

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