GAFCON conclusion and initial reactions

Yesterday, June 29th, the feast of the martyrdoms of St. Peter and St. Paul under Nero, and my birthday (hurah!), was also the final day of the GAFCON Conference in the Holy Land (see below for more info). Nearly 300 bishops and over 1100 Anglicans of all orders (so this was a very large affair) met in Jerusalem for a period of prayer, pilgrimage, and reflection together on the current crisis within the Anglican Communion. The leaders present represent a large majority of the Anglican Communion's total membership, and also its fastest-growing provinces.

On their final day, the participants issued their Final Statement on Global Anglican Future. This very interesting document lays out the development of the crisis that led to GAFCON's creation, and the proposed response by the GAFCON movement. Anyone intersted in Anglicanism in particular and, more generally, in the possible responses by the Church to the current cultural pressures and crises in which we find ourselves in this new and pluralistic age should definitely read the statement.

Some interesting (to me) highlights:

"GAFCON is not just a moment in time, but a movement in the Spirit, and we hereby:
launch the GAFCON movement as a fellowship of confessing Anglicans
publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of the fellowship
encourage GAFCON Primates to form a Council."

While it starts out sounding like they are going to form something like the caucus groups we have in The United Methodist Church, perhaps similar to The Confessing Movement, the last point of action, to form a council of GAFCON Primates is significant - this is a large number of the major archbishops of Anglicanism. It has (to my ear) a very "official" edge to it, which is interestingly due to the fact that the Traditional/Apostolic Succession Churches concieve of the Church not as an institution, but as a series of relationships among bishops, and the Christians who recieve Holy Communion through those bishops (that is, the Church as Communion). If a large group of bishops form a new relationship then it is part of the Church - the divide between 'official' and 'unofficial' or between 'formal' and 'informal' gets a bit hazy (contrast this to a more constitutional or legal document-centered approach that we have in the UMC).

The "three undeniable facts" that have necessitated GAFCON, according to the statement, are:

1) the promotion of a 'new gospel' within some parts of the Communion (whether this is an 'undeniable fact' will be debatable, I tend to agree that in some of the more radical stuff I have read about, we are looking at a worldview that is a pretty significant departure from that of the New Testament and of the Early Fathers).

2) The declaration of broken Communion by certain provinces with certain other provinces in the Communion (this is an undeniable fact)

and 3) the "manifest failure" of the instruments of unity (The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consutive Council, and the Primates meeting) to take action to alleviate the crisis.

Now to be fair, the various instruments of unity HAVE addressed the crisis (the beginning of the Windsor Process is certainly a part of their work in this area). Furthermore, the Lambeth Conference hasn't met since it began. But the point is well-taken: Gene Robinson was consecrated in violation of the catholic tradition and of the previous Lambeth Conference's guidelines in 2003. That was 5 years ago, and many orthodox Anglicans in the US are STILL waiting to discover what will become of the Church (this is especially difficult for many of my friends from seminary who are Anglicans in Texas and would certainly align themselves with the orthodox majority over against the actions of the Episcopal Church's leadership).

Very disturbing also is the accusation that the schedule of the Lambeth Conference has been orchestrated to prevent that body from addressing these issues in any decisive way (this is one reason why some bishops are boycotting). This accusation I have heard from other bloggers, but I do not know nearly enough about Lambeth to comment on its accuracy.

The statement concludes with "The Jerusalem Declaration" laying out 14 tenents of historic Anglican Christianity. Based on my limited knowledge (I have only taken one formal seminary class on Anglican history and theology, but have done much reading besides) I would concur that these points do represent the classical mainstream of Anglican theology, although I should expect that the Catholic wing of the Church might want to add to or expand a couple of these brief statements.

The Jerusalem declaration calls for the establishment of an on-going GAFCON movement that will, very explicitly, remain within Anglicanism. Provinces, Primates, bishops, dioceses, churches, and individual Anglicans are called to allign themselves with the GAFCON movement in support of Anglican orthodoxy. This movement will presumably develop its own structure of councils or other meetings that may - if they hold the sort of numerical superiority that everyone thinks they do - come to be a powerful influence over the official instruments of communion (I am thinking in particular of the sort of coordinated voting and caucusing that we see in my own Church, though I suspect it will go far beyond that).

I am very interested to see how this movement will grow or fizzle out in the comming years, and how it will be greeted by other Churches - the Vatican, the Orthodox, and the United Methodists in particular. I'm also interested to see how it will be greeted by other moderate, orthodox, and evangelical Anglicans, who did not attend GAFCON.

The GAFCON site also has Q&A from the final press release and some final interviews.



Pretense of Communion?

I have been (and still am) very critical of those orthodox bishops in the Anglican Communion who have decided to boycott the Lambeth Conference this year because I believe they are hurting the cause of unity in faith and love. So, to be fair, I'll let them have their say:

Bishop Benn of Lewes in the Church of England is one of the folks that has decided to skip out on the Lambeth Conference. According to an audio statement (click the play button) Bishop Benn said the decision was very difficult, but he felt that by attending Lambeth he would be colluding with a pretense of communion as if nothing has happened, when in fact there are serious breaks in Communion that need to be recognized.



Faith and Political Party statistics

GAFCON starts today

It's been a while since I wrote much on the goings on in world-wide Anglicanism. The once-a-decade Lambeth Conference is next month (July). Many conservative bishops, however, feel that their concerns will not be adequately addressed. For this reason, a number of key leaders decided to have their own conference in Jerusalem called the "Global Anglican Future Conference" (GAFCON), which starts today. The weblink is http://www.gafcon.org/, where you can watch streaming video starting at 2pm today (Central Time).

Now I must admit I am a bit fuzy about just what GAFCON represents (as are many others, I suspect), and for that reason I am not especially enthusiastic about it. Some of the participants, included the primary organizers, are boycotting Lambeth so that this looks like a schismatic event - an alternate Lambeth Conference. Others are attending both so that it also looks like a "prepare for Lambeth" conference (something quite different). While GAFCON is a gathering of many of the most traditionalist, conservative, evangelical, and charismatic bishops, it is also true that many prominent evangelical bishops refused to attend GAFCON, perhaps because they too were concerned about its being a force for further disunity.

As the conference has begun, the leaders have emphasized that they have no intention of breaking with world-wide Anglicanism (even though some may be boycotting this particular Lambeth Conference).

I for my part will pray for the bishops (present among them is my own local Anglican bishop, the Rt Rev Bruce MacPherson, along with several priests from this diocese), that their meeting will indeed be a force for renewal and unity-in-orthodoxy and love within the larger communion. I will pray that those planning to boycott Lambeth will reconsider and decide rather to come. It seems to me far better that they come to discuss and to pray about the difficult issues along with the bishops of the world-wide Church, since their absence or boycott will surely not strengthen the Lambeth Conference or the cause of traditional Anglicanism in any way.



Voting in "the year of 'change'"

I don't know if you've heard yet, but there is an election this year. A Presidential election...in about 6 months. The 2 major parties have basically ralied behind their candidates. On the one side we have Barak Obama the Democrat who could well be the first man of color elected president, and who seems to talk about nothing else but "change" (in the abstract, whatever that means).

On the other side we have John McCain, who isn't exactly a "straight-laced" party man either; McCain has made a career out of maverick politics, crossing the aisle to sponsor bills with Democrats, and being a thorn in the side of Republican leadership in general. All of these are reasons I've sort of liked him for a while, and I suppose it says something about the national mood that these candidates are both so unique.

So I predict it is going to be an interesting election and presidency no matter what happens. I expect it will be another close election, but not quite so close as the last two. (I hate to pick a winner at this early stage since, according to studies by political scientists, most voters actually make up their mind in the two weeks prior to the elections so that, all the polls you hear each day on the cable news channels are basically meaningless, except that they help create an "atmosphere of expectation").

Gloria Deo is not going to endorse a particular candidate (though I will most probably vote), but I do want my readers to consider making a real vote for change: abandon the two major parties for a third party!

I've been arguing for years that this country needs 4 or 5 major parties if our system is to become healthier, but the Dems and the GOP are deeply entrenched as the unassailable establishment as if there were no other way that it could be (note who gets all the coverage, who gets invited to the debates, etc.). So if everyone really wants change, then this election year presents us with a moment of opportunity for REAL change, far more significant than anything Obama OR McCain could possibly represent.

Now if you are like the vast majority of Americans, you may not even know the names of the major '3rd party' candidates. So here are their websites:

Charles Baldwin - Constitution Party

Bob Barr - Libertarian Party

Cynthia McKinny - Green Party

Brian Moore - Socialist Party

Ralph Nader (running as Independent)

Gloria La Riva - Party for Socialism and Liberation (I think some of my seminary professors were in this one...?)

And also, at the moment of this posting, Ron Paul is still in the Republican race (and many college students would love to see him run as an independent - if somehow he were to fail to gain the Republican nomination).

While I'm somewhat disappointed that there are no 'Constitutional Monarchy' candidates on the ballot this time around (actually, I am serious), I would nevertheless love to see a great swelling of support for all of these parties. I hope you will all take a break from the endless repitition of 24-hour election coverage on cable, and seriously investigate these other options that you will most likely not hear about on cable. We can do better politically. We can get past the cliches that have held our attention for decades. We can inject radically new voices into a stale noise that passes itself off for "debate." (To borrow a line from Obama), Yes we can. Yes we can!