GAFCON plans to touch more Anglican lives

17 April 2015

AP

Address: Archbishop Welby preaches at All Saints' Cathedral, Nairobi, on Sunday 

Address: Archbishop Welby preaches at All Saints' Cathedral, Nairobi, on Sunday 

GAFCON is receiving increasing calls for affiliation from Anglicans who feel they are regarded as "pariahs" and want to "know we are not alone", one of its leading figures said on Friday.

The Revd Dr Peter Jensen, a former Archbishop of Sydney, was speaking at the end of a five-day GAFCON conference in London. A communiqué  issued by seven Primates at the conclusion of the meeting was energetic in tone: a conference is planned for 2018 and a fellowship in Australia has been launched.

"We have planned for the expansion of our movement in order to touch the lives of many more Anglicans with gospel fellowship," it says. "As part of this we have identified a clear need for theological education and the training of leaders, especially bishops, and we have started work on both of these priorities."

Dr Jensen said that he had to be "discreet" about where the enquiries about affiliation came from. But they fell into two camps, he said. One was the "cultural West", where "people are saying to us: 'We need help. We haven't changed. But we are now being regarded as pariahs." They were looking to GAFCON "so we know we are not alone".

Other requests came from outside the West, "where the Church is vigorous and evangelism is occurring at a great rate, but disciple-making is lagging behind".

Dr Jensen dismissed any suggestion that GAFCON was made up of "schismatics". The communiqué states that: "We are not leaving the Anglican Communion. The members of our Churches stand at the heart of the Communion, which is why we are committed to its renewal. We belong to the mainstream, and we are moving forward."

It was "those who bring in new teachings that are creating the schisms", Dr Jensen said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged that it may not be possible to hold the Anglican Communion together. Last November, he spoke of  "enormous problems" in the Communion, including "deep divisions" about sexuality, which might prove "too much to manage" ( News, 17 November).

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GAFCON's communiqué refers to its presence in the UK through the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).

"We are particularly concerned about the Church of England and the drift of many from the biblical faith," it states.

The use of St John's, Waterloo for Muslim prayers (News, 20 March) is singled out as cause for concern, as is the response of the Bishop of Salisbury to the establishment of a new church in the dioceses (News, 20 February).

Representatives of AMiE were "deeply concerned about the state of British society, which does not know God", Dr Jensen said. "They are not anti the Church: they are deeply concerned about the mission field that exists in Britain today. . . They see the need to work inside and outside the existing structures to preach the Gospel."

This week, Professor Linda Woodhead described GAFCON in the Independent newspaper as "paper tigers, who love to roar and get a reaction but there is no substance to them. . . They don't have money to set up here and pay clergy."

Dr Jensen described these comments as "ludicrous" and said that, rather than AMiE or GAFCON, it would be the people who attended AMiE churches who would fund them. 

"It is not a resource thing, but a spiritual thing of prayer and preaching of God's word, and resources will follow that," he said.

At a conference part-organised by AMiE last year, there was a commitment to investigating "the opportunities to revitalise an existing Church of England church and/or plant with or without diocesan approval" (News, 3 October).

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