A PLAN by GAFCON Australia to form a diocese for disaffected Anglicans “feels like the life of our Church is being undermined from within”, the Australian Primate, the Most Revd Geoffrey Smith, has said.
Announcing its plans last week (News, 23 July), GAFCON Australia said that “many faithful Anglican clergy and lay people” would not be able to remain members of the Australian Anglican Church if blessings for same-sex marriages occurred in their dioceses. A decision last year of the Church’s highest court, the Appellate Tribunal, permitted such blessings (News, 13 November 2020).
Although GAFCON has no structural connection to the Anglican Church of Australia, and “in many ways it doesn’t matter what Gafcon does”, Archbishop Smith, who is the Archbishop of Adelaide, has pointed out in a letter to Australia’s bishops that some leaders in the Australian Church are leaders in GAFCON and its board. (The chair of the GAFCON Australia board is the Bishop of Tasmania, Dr Richard Condie; the former Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, was deputy chair, and his successor, the Most Revd Kanishka Raffel, is a board member.)
In his letter, Archbishop Smith said that it was his expectation that people “who say they are committed to the Anglican Church, and who have made oaths and promises upholding its constitution” should be “committed to keeping it strong, united and effective”. It was difficult to see this in GAFCON’s proposed actions.
Archbishop Smith criticised the board of GAFCON for not showing restraint until the Australian Church had had an opportunity to discuss the Appellate Tribunal’s decision. Instead, GAFCON’s decision was “ramping up the tensions among us”, he said. GAFCON’s move, he continued, was in contrast to the “very significant restraint . . . shown by people who might want to see movement toward the blessing of same-sex couples”.
Despite the forecasts, there had not been a “flood” of blessings of same-sex unions after the tribunal decision, he said, “Not a flood, not a trickle, not a drip”; so “faithful, orthodox Anglicans can continue with confidence as members of the Anglican Church of Australia. To suggest or insinuate otherwise is to not speak the truth.”
He continued: “We haven’t even had the conversation yet, and the GAFCON boat out of the Anglican Church of Australia is being readied for departure.”