GAFCON participants lay claim to Anglican orthodoxy

19 June 2018

STEPHEN NELSON/GAFCON PHOTO TEAM

Delegates gather at the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem

Delegates gather at the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem

CHURCH of England priests are among the participants at the third GAFCON meeting this week, estimated to number almost 2000.

The gathering has returned to Jerusalem, the site of the first Global Anglican Future Conference a decade ago, (News, 25 June 2008). It is reported that there are 1966 participants: 993 clergy and 973 laity, 333 bishops, 38 archbishops, ten active Primates and six retired Primates.

The figures were reported by the Revd Dr Esau McCaulley, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Northeastern seminary, a member of the Anglican Church in North America who is reporting from GAFCON for The Living Church.

The theme is: “Proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations”.

On Tuesday, the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Stanley Ntagli, reported that his province’s House of Bishops had confirmed that they would not be attending the Lambeth Conference in 2020, or other meetings to which they had been invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury, citing a 2010 moratorium on attending unless “godly order was returned to the Anglican Communion”.

Another condition had now been attached: the invitation must be extended to the Anglican Church in North America and the new Anglican Church in Brazil (News, 18 May). “We continue to proclaim the gospel of Christ to the nations uncompromisingly,” he said, to applause.

A plea for reconciliation was made by the Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, who spoke on hospitality, and warned that “brokenness is the failure to share Christ’s hospitality with one another,” according to an Anglican Ink report.

It is understood that three C of E Bishops are present at the meeting: the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas; the Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair; and a former Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

Also present is the Revd Rico Tice, an assistant curate at All Soul’s, Langham Place, who spoke during an online GAFCON interview of “the road to destruction in England”, defined by “tolerance and permissiveness — you can do what you please and you can think what you please. If we have church leaders who are putting people on that road to destruction, it’s a salvation issue, and that’s why we have to distance ourselves.”

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This was why he stepped down from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “Commission” [understood to be the evangelism task group], he said, a decision that had caused him to weep. It had been a “great honour” to be asked, but he had been asked to “submit to the leadership of a man who is contrary to scripture”. The task group was chaired by Archbishop of Canterbury, with the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, as Vice-Chair.

The Vicar of St John, Newland, in Hull, the Revd Melvyn Tinker, is due to give a seminar on Wednesday on the challenge of secularism. In another online GAFCON interview, he praised a talk by the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, which he interpreted as a challenged the “orthodox” members of the C of E. They were, Mr Tinker said, “failing to speak out . . .

“You are actually giving the impression that orthodoxy is simply an option, and eventually that’s going to disintegrate.” He described the C of E as a “corrupt and corrupting institution”, and argued that people should “stop kowtowing to this notion of mutual flourishing . . . We want orthodoxy to flourish.”

In his keynote address, Archbishop Okoh said: “We do not accept that the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury necessarily defines Anglican identity and belonging. Canterbury occupies a privileged position in the spread of the gospel around the world. She should not distort the gospel in order to take away offence, for the gospel without offence is an empty gospel.”

In a critique of the commitment to “walk together”, outlined in a communiqué issued by the Anglican Communion Primates (News, 13 October, 2017), he said: “If we walk together with those who deny the orthodox faith in word or deed, we have agreed that orthodoxy is optional.”

A list of threats to the gospel, reported by his “friends in different parts of the world” was extensive. In Asia, this included “inclusivism: the belief that all religions lead to God”. In North America, people needed to know that they were “alienated from God because of their sin”, manifest in “materialism, idolatry, obsessions with sports, sex, drugs, alcohol, religion, and success”. In South America, the spread of Pentecostalism “should be monitored, to avoid adoption of elements of another gospel: strands of Pentecostalism, especially Prosperity, can become a danger”.

In Africa, emphasis was laid on “the power of the Church to solve existential problems”, with churches emphasising “healing, exorcism, breaking of curses and protection from evil and even some forms of prosperity doing quite well, since these are things Africans respond to”. This, too, could become “another gospel”.

In the West, the Church of England had, historically, “tended to substitute moralism for the Biblical gospel of grace. When the morality of society broadly coincided with Judeo-Christian morality this problem was not so evident. But with the profound changes brought about by the sexual revolution in the 1960s, church leaders who see their role as articulating the moral consciousness of society found themselves increasingly distant from a Biblical understanding of morality, sin and human nature.”

Among nine networks being launched at the meeting is a “lawyers taskforce” led by Canon Phil Ashey, president of the American Anglican Council (a network seeking to “build up and defend Great Commission Anglican churches in North America and worldwide”), and Dr Robert Tong of the Province of South Australia.

In an online GAFCON interview, Canon Ashey said that there were “lots of legal issues we need to think about, as we’re in this great Anglican reformation and realignment. Issues of religious liberty, secularism, and how do we face sharia law. . . what about Anglican identity?”

It would be there to help “those who have to think about exit strategies”, drawing on lessons learned in North America. Asked whether it was necessary to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury in order to be part of the Anglican Communion, he replied: “No, unequivocally, no,” describing it as an “artefact of a colonial time, when Anglicanism was described geographically”. The Church in Nigeria had “deleted Canterbury entirely” from its constitution and canons in 2005, he said.

On Monday, Anglican Communion News Service reported that it had “applied for media accreditation to cover the conference, but organisers declined”. This account was disputed by the GAFCON communications director, Canon Andrew Gross, who said that the staff member who had requested access had “behaved in an unprofessional manner” at the Primates’ Meeting last October, and that the Anglican Communion Office had stopped returning emails attempting to “begin a dialogue”.

Writing in a blog on Monday, Dr McCaulley described, how walking into the lobby of the conference centre in Jerusalem, “It was so gloriously black and brown that I almost wept.”

He wrote: “I am grateful for the Nigerians, Kenyans, Ugandans, Australians, and Malawians gathered in Jerusalem for helping me remember that our struggle isn’t just against something. It is for something beautiful.

“When I became an Anglican, I was told that there was this global fellowship of believers from every tribe, tongue, and nation; but it was a concept, an idea. Now I have witnessed the nations gathered.”

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