MORE than 1100 Anglican bishops, clergy, and lay people from
around the Anglican Communion will be meeting at GAFCON 2013 in
Nairobi next week, to develop partnerships and mutual support in
their gospel mission (News, 11
They have been invited by the Primates' Council of the Global
Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA), which includes the
Primates of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, the Southern Cone,
Nigeria, and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), who
represent more than 40 million Anglicans.
The council says that acceptance of its invitation is taken to
assume that participants are willing to be known to affirm the
Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, which were issued at the first
GAFCON conference in Jerusalem in 2008.
The council has set its invitations to reflect the balance of
numbers in the Anglican Communion. So the Church of Nigeria (26
million) is sending 480 participants, the Church of Kenya 120, and
100 are going from the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK and
A COMMENTARY on the Jerusalem Statement, Being
Faithful, by the Theological Resource Group of GAFCON (edited
by Nicholas Okoh, Vinay Samuel, and Chris Sugden; Latimer Trust,
2009), says that GAFCON met in 2008 after the persistent failure of
the Communion to deal with the divergent understandings within
Anglicanism of what the Christian faith actually is.
When asked recently what had changed since 2008, the secretary
of the GAFCON Primates' Council, the Rt Revd Dr Peter Jensen (until
recently Archbishop of Sydney), said: "The birth of ACNA, with its
active church-planting programme, has saved tens of thousands of
Anglicans for the Communion. The fact of GFCA is helping the
Communion to mature in partnerships which include but transcend the
old relationships. The crisis of 2008 means that the Communion will
never be the same again, but that it has energised a new level of
Anglican co-operation, biblically based and Christ-focused. GFCA is
a force for unity."
But the crisis in Anglicanism remains. One of the leadership
team at Jerusalem in 2008, Canon Vinay Samuel, from India,
identifies that the challenge that GAFCON 2013 faces is that which
faces the whole Communion: "How is it possible to affirm the
integrity of the local without the identity of the local being
derived from the universal? And how is it possible to affirm the
universal without being seen as a mere collective of local
He answers: "Unity flows from the gift of the Spirit, and lies
in the identity of the Church in acknowledging one Lord, one faith,
and one baptism. Unity is recognising this identity in each
"GAFCON 2013 has not been triggered by any particular event,"
the Revd Paul Perkin, the chairman of FCA (UK and Ireland), says.
"We have moved beyond reacting, to developing and building
spiritual fellowship and orthodox coalitions and partnerships
across the Communion. The orthodox Anglican movement, which existed
prior to GAFCON 2008 and met in Jerusalem to address a crisis,
continues to grow."
People are attending the meeting in Nairobi, the FCA (UK and
Ireland) says, "to address current challenges to the faith
(persecution and poverty, militant Islamism, aggressive
secularism); to listen to each other and support the most
vulnerable among us (physically that's the Africans, spiritually
that's us); to make plans and decisions together, praise and mourn
together, pray and resolve together; and to return to our churches
stimulated, encouraged and resourced for mission."
SOME have asked whether the conference represents a breaking
away from the Church. What is meant by the Church in this question?
This raises again the issue of the local and the universal, and
what constitutes the universal. The Anglican Communion is not
defined by any particular bureaucracy. Those attending from UK and
Ireland provinces are affirming their commitment both to their own
provinces and to the wider Communion.
The FCA (UK and Ireland) believes that "the Anglican Communion
is worth preserving. The Communion's best days could still be in
the future. FCA will be at the heart of them. We are committed to
serve the Anglican Communion with its wonderful history and its
self-governing provinces, held together by a common Christian faith
and deep bonds of spiritual fellowship, shared mission, and
exchange of ministry across the world.
"GFCA offers the strongest, some would say the only, effective
remaining glue that holds this precious unity intact, now that the
structural four instruments [the Archbishop of Canterbury, the
Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting, and the
Lambeth Conference] no longer do the job, promotes a dynamic
mission, and counters inauthentic expressions that depart from a
biblically ordered faith."
The Archbishop of Canterbury was invited by the Primate of
Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, who chairs the GAFCON Primates' Council,
to bring greetings in person to the conference. He declined because
he was scheduled to chair the meeting of the Porvoo Churches in
Iceland in the same week, but said he would send greetings by
Later, Archbishop Welby is understood to have suggested to Dr
Wabukala that he preach at the cathedral in Nairobi, and meet the
Primates before the conference. Bishop Jensen has warmly welcomed
his initiative: "The Archbishop's decision to come to the Primates'
meeting is a recognition of the importance of such a significant
gathering of Anglicans."
At GAFCON, we look forward to a strengthening of spiritual
fellowship across the majority of the Communion of those who
recognise authentic and biblically faithful Anglicanism in one
another. This can mean only a stronger, more vibrant, more united
Communion, ready to share the good news of Jesus with the world of
the 21st century.
Canon Chris Sugden is the secretary of the Fellowship of
Confessing Anglicans (UK and Ireland).