Friday, October 6, 2017

GAFCON: not its finest hour? [UPDATED]

As a French diplomat once said, allegedly, urban mythically, "It shall have to be another occasion when I praise your country and its deeds." And, indeed, this applies to GAFCON this week, responding to matters at the Primates Meeting in Canterbury, England. [For various links to which, see Thinking Anglicans.] [The official communique from the event is here].

Not able to praise GAFCON occasion #1: ALTERNATIVELY: Not ACNS' finest hour?

Near beginning of the Primates Meeting this week in Canterbury, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was asked to lead prayers responding to the tragedy in Las Vegas. But that upset GAFCON according to a communique issued.

"This afternoon (Tuesday), the Revd Canon Andrew Gross, Canon for Communications and Media Relations for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), speaking on behalf of Gafcon, said that the decision to invite Michael Curry to lead the congregation in prayer at the Evensong service “put the Gafcon primates in a difficult spot.” Speaking at a press conference in a hotel near Canterbury Cathedral, he said that they were “forced to look like they are walking together when they are not walking together.”"
UPDATE: a bit confusing now as to who said what, when, and in what context of communication. See now Archbishop Cranmer disputing the above.

Not able to praise GAFCON occasion #2:

At the end of the meeting GAFCON issued this communique:

"The persistent assertions that the Primates of the Anglican Communion are 'walking together', do not reflect the reality.
Three of the leading Primates of the Communion are absent from the meeting in Canterbury on firmly stated principle. 
Archbishop Okoh, Primate of Nigeria, and Gafcon Chairman, has said, 'I have concluded that attendance at Canterbury would be to give credibility to a pattern of behaviour which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and unity'. 
Archbishop Ntagali, the Primate of Uganda and Vice-Chairman of Gafcon has said, 'if we are not walking in the same direction, how can we walk together?'
In no way can these leaders, with the Archbishop of Rwanda, be said to be 'walking together.'  They have chosen to witness to the truth by their absence. 
The presence of the Primates from Canada and the United States and the absence of Archbishop Foley Beach whose Church is recognised by Anglicans around the world, is a further testimony to a Communion in which the leaders are not walking together.
Several of the other primates who are attending the meeting are equally concerned about the divisions over the authority of scripture within the Communion, but intend to remain in defence of the Gospel. The Primates are not walking together. At best, they say, “they are walking at a distance.” At worst, they are walking in different directions.
Surely public statements need to reflect reality rather than mere wishfulness."

Now, this statement responds to some statements stating that the Primates of the Communion are walking together. The facts are pretty straightforward: some primates did not attend, some primates wish a primate of a network of Anglican churches which is not a member province of the Communion could have been at the meeting, some primates were there under a kind of sufferance. Quite arguably the primates are not walking together. Except ...

Clearly the primates are on the same page on some matters (as communicated this week).

Clearly the primates at the Primates Meeting prayed together (even if they did not commune together).

Clearly most of the primates of the Communion did not stay away from the meeting in protest.

So, two questions from me to GAFCON:

(1) Why focus on the negative (not walking together) and not strike a note of celebration that on many matters the primates agreed and that the primates were able to pray together?

(2) What is the world to understand GAFCON is witnessing to when a statement is made that the primates are not walking together and yet most of them are meeting together? What distinction is the world going to make between walking and meeting together?

[now omitted]

[now omitted]

[now omitted]

Not GAFCON's finest hour #3: Andy Lines has a statement here which I find confusing (while noting that it has nothing much good to find in what was a meeting full of much goodness, see below). My confusion is this: how can this statement accept that the Anglican Communion is divided on matters to do with That Topic and then berate the same for not speaking out against "false teaching"?

Here is something very worthwhile at the Primates Meeting and I hope we can all celebrate it:

"A discussion about evangelism and discipleship strategies amongst the leaders of the Anglican Communion’s 39 independent provinces was so lively, it continued through the lunch break, the Archbishop of South East Asia said this evening (Wednesday). Archbishop Moon Hing, the bishop of West Malaysia, led a Bible study at the start of this morning’s session of the 2017 Primates’ Meeting before a general discussion on witness and evangelism. The Archbishop chairs the international Anglican Witness group of mission leaders and practitioners, said that he was “very happy and very glad” about the discussions, saying: “I am really uplifted because we come back to the core issue and core subject of our existence: that is to make disciples for Jesus.”
In an interview for ACNS, Archbishop Moon Hing said that his Bible study was about “Jesus, the bread of life, who provides all our needs.” He said that people who knew what it was to be a disciple “must be intentional to do it ourselves and to make it available and help others to walk with him. Even though we have this intention we need to have some ways to do it,” he said.
In what he described as “the best response” so far during this year’s Primates’ Meeting, “everybody contributed and shared how different facets of evangelism and discipleship can be done.” There was not just one method of evangelism, he said, “there are many ways, directly [and] indirectly to bring the message of Christ, that he is the bread of life, and that he is the answer,” to the world.
“There was a very lively atmosphere and everybody enjoyed it,” he said. “Even during lunchtime everybody talked about it. One of the primates said: ‘We should not be issue driven, we should be discipleship driven.’”"
I had the privilege of meeting Archbishop Moon Hing in 2015 (just before he became Primate of his church). He is a lovely man with a wonderful testimony.


Anonymous said...

But see this--

Let bishops be bishops, and a fortiori, let primates be primates. Given the history, I am shocked that something like PC rules (ie Privy Council rules) are not observed in meetings of the latter. When they meet in Canterbury, press officers should be on holiday someplace in the South Pacific. One can go to hell for sins of the tongue.


Anonymous said...

A question for Peter and Sam:

Apart from disagreeing with the way northern churches handle sex, what would a Good Hour for GAFCON look like?

Originally presented as an alternative to the Anglican Communion itself, they seem to have shrunk to a single issue protest group within the Communion. Some lessening of primatial ambition is probably a work of grace on the hearts of the proud, for which we should praise the Lord.

But the old GAFCON also had two consequential theological initiatives-- (a) the Jerusalem Declaration, which read like a serious attempt to identify an organic Anglican tradition from the Holy Spirit; (b) Peter Jenson's re-re-revival of the old Reformed system which still has a lousy pneumatology. From afar, these have seemed to me to be in tension, twin elaborations of the tension in England between the BCP and the 39A. And indeed, GAFCON Primates have seemed to walk a crooked path on ecclesiology because of that tension: somehow global koinonia matters to them enough to warrant starting ACNA in America, but not enough to warrant regularly receiving communion in Canterbury.

I have hoped that GAFCON, free of the peculiar English reception of Calvinism, would do something truly independent. Perhaps it would even explore the possibilities of its own Jerusalem Declaration until those finally dissolved the last bit of re-re-re-Reformed confessionalism. Then from within their own context, GAFCONians could become traditional Protestant Anglicans and begin to lead the rest of us on the several theological questions that have been neglected during the mania for That Topic. But instead, GAFCON itself clings to That Topic for dear life, and its theology appears to have sunk beneath the waves. All that remains of the dream in Jerusalem is a habit of surly defiance of Canterbury and disdain for New York, and that is a great disappointment.

Is there any hope for GAFCON?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
There are questions about GAFCON and what it stands for and where it is heading.
If (perchance) it wants to complete the Puritanization of the Church of England [as some in Sydney, in my experience, have wanted to do] but on a global Anglican scale, perhaps it could clearly make that decision and breakaway.

However, GAFCON's most repeated aim has been, in my words, to renew and reform the Anglican Communion from within, with no thought of breaking away, but with the hope that ACNA might be added into the Communion. It is precisely in connection with that aim that I feel things are confusing - as you note above - because it appears in some instances, but particularly this year in a series of communications - that That Topic is the main point of dispute with the Communion. Which is not, in my view, a sufficient theological ground to embark on renewal and reform.

Father Ron Smith said...

" GAFCON Primates have seemed to walk a crooked path on ecclesiology because of that tension: somehow global koinonia matters to them enough to warrant starting ACNA in America, but not enough to warrant regularly receiving communion in Canterbury." - B.W. -

Very clearly enunciated, Bowman. Also, inescapably descriptive of GAFCON's unwillingness to meet under the discipline of Christ at the Eucharist. As our fellowship is identified by Jesus as being One with Him in the Sacrament of His body and Blood, any reluctance to receive these Elements in communion with one another must be deleterious to the concept of Unity in the Body of Christ

My question of the GAFON Primates is this: Do you not regard your fellow bishops as members of the Body of Christ - regardless of their potential sinful nature - which is common to us all?

Sam Anderson said...

Hi Peter and Bowman,

I am purely a spectator, and may be well off in my assessment of things.

However, from my point of view, GAFCON exists as a relational meeting point for those who are orthodox theologically and doctrinally; for those who wish to hold to the historic documents of our church. It is a diverse group, for sure, who gather against a common enemy: repeated, trenchant, unfaithfulness to scripture within the church.

I have not understood GAFCON's goal to be that ACNA be included in the Communion (although it may be). Nor do I care if they are recognised by Canterbury or not. As far as I'm concerned, they are already within the communion of those with whom I would break bread. The same goes for Michael Hewitt and his congregation here in New Zealand. It matters not one whit to me how the bishops of our ACANZ view him, nor how Canterbury views ACNA.

I think we expect too much of GAFCON if we require it to be a completely coherent, or fully formed organisation, after so few years.

We need to remember that the progressives brought the issue to the table and, by repeatedly ignoring pleas of the communion, are responsible for GAFCON's existence. But while revisions on sexuality are the presenting issue, they really only clarify and expose the much deeper and more significant problems within the western church of unfaithfulness to the scriptures. Our church has been struck with this malaise for so long, but without a persistent and presenting symptom. Now, we see in the symptom the cancer that lies beneath, and now the orthodox are in a position to take action.

On this issue--not on women, not on the role or gifts of the Spirit, not on vestments, not on high-church practice--we see clearly where people's doctrine of scripture lies. This issue marks out the dividing line: orthodox, and not.

I don't think GAFCON need, nor should, 'break away', Peter. It doesn't need to. It simply needs to walk at a great distance from those who persist in unorthodox doctrines. The trajectory is set. The futures of the two paths is pretty clear: one involves strength, growth, and life; the other weakness, decline, and eventual death. As the power once shifted from Rome to Constantinople, so too, it now shifts from Canterbury to Jerusalem.

This is exactly what we see happening in the latest communique from GAFCON--your second point of concern, Peter. I thought it was wonderfully clear. And I was encouraged that they had the confidence to realise such a statement. Yes, they talked about evangelism together, and probably other things too. But, as this makes clear, there is great division within the church to the point that there are groups who may be 'walking in different directions.'

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Sam,
I appreciate a number of explanatory aspects of your comment re GAFCON. This para helpfully sets out the core issue:
"On this issue--not on women, not on the role or gifts of the Spirit, not on vestments, not on high-church practice--we see clearly where people's doctrine of scripture lies. This issue marks out the dividing line: orthodox, and not."

However it does have a secretariat/communication office and it is led by Primates who, presumably, have some expertise in leadership to be Primates, so I think it reasonable to expect some quality of leadership and communication from GAFCON [which mostly it does have].

I don't want GAFCON to breakaway but I wonder (following your analysis above) whether they ought to breakaway because it is going to be a long time of tension in the Communion, of meeting together but not walking together, of wanting ACNA to b a full member of the Communion [am pretty sure that is so, otherwise why bewail the lack of the presence of Foley Beach at the PM this week?]. BUT ...

An alternative scenario - not breaking away, and not living in so much tension - is that GAFCON continues to stand for what it stands for while also finding a bit more appreciation for good things happening in the Communion. An appreciation I do not find in this week's GAFCON communiques.

Peter Carrell said...

PS Sam,
Continuing membership of the Communion (seemingly valued by you above) and supporting the possibility of dismembering our church (mentioned by you recently) strike me as more than slightly incompatible!

Sam Anderson said...

Thanks for your response, Peter.

While I find your final paragraph appealing at first blush, as I muse on it, I can't agree. I think the tension is good. It has been brought to the table by those who have disregarded the concerns of the wider Communion. And the discipline of Canterbury under this and the previous archbishops has been far too light and inconsequential.

The tension may not feel good, and perhaps reflects badly on our church, but I think it is right and godly.

Regarding your postscript comment, you misread my use of the (lowercase) communion, by which I was referring to the communion of saints of the faithful and orthodox churches around the world (a description which, to me, does not to apply to the official position of some provinces within the Anglican Communion).

Dismemberment of the ACANZP, with one group aligning itself with the GAFCON primates, would simply be formalising that which, from my perspective, is already the reality.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sam, I look forward to your further comments on GAFCON as future events occasion them.

The Anglican Communion needs to be more decentralised. An ABC presiding lightly over a multi-polar Communion would be more natural than what we have today. Some prospective poles-- Canterbury, Nairobi, Capetown, Cairo, Chennai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Santiago, Los Angeles, New York.

In places, the *national principle* is obsolete, as are some missionary jurisdictions. TEC should merge with the ACC, and liberate its colonies south of the US border and in Europe. Bishops in the Western Hemisphere (TEC, ACC, ACNA, etc) should participate in the Communion by their 13 provinces.

St Paul does not separate the embodiment of Christ into different compartments for sex and eucharistic fellowship. The compartments themselves are a modern imposition on the scriptures. So while I can be pleased by any serious retrieval of the traditional practise on sex, I can only be perplexed if the traditional practise of catholic order is sacrificed to do it. It would be better if GAFCON and the whole Communion could achieve greater consistency between these two aspects of the *totus Christus*.

It is less clear to me than to you that the present conflict will stretch on out to the foreseeable future. My comment above explains why.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, my Dear Friends, the Primates' Meeting has issued its final communique. NO SCHISM from these Primates - the most stirring speeches on the need for Gospel Unity coming from Global South Primates. A determination to continue 'In Communion' has been agreed by the Primates present. There was a general sense of koinonia (a Gospel sense of togetherness) at Canterbury. Those Primates absenting themselves on grounds of differentiation were probably not pleased. May God's Holy Name be praised!

Churches of the Anglican Communion that are determined to work together on issues of importance to the Mission of Christ to a needy world will go forward - in Peace.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, contrary to the tenor of many comments on this thread, today we have this video from the final day of the Anglican Primates' Meeting in Canterbury, U.K., which - in its 'earnest looking forward' - must be the direct antithesis of what was probably hoped for by GAFCON, ACNA, AMIA and FOCA people around the Anglican world who expected the meeting to end in schism. The 3 primates from the GAFCON who absented themselves must by now be kicking themselves for not 'discerning' the Spirit's work in the A.C.

It is worth a look and a listen to the Holy Spirit's wisdom at work:

Bryden Black said...

One feature is lacking from this discussion, IMHO: FCA. This newer network is either another version of "immediacy", or it is a form of replacement, superceding GAFCON. We shall see ...

Either way however, there was some real slander going on ... Sad! And naughty!

Anonymous said...

"FCA. This newer network is either another version of "immediacy", or it is a form of replacement, superceding GAFCON."

Bryden, some online sources present FCA as either prior to and convening GAFCON, or else as founded at GAFCON, so I was at first puzzled by your comment. Then I was intrigued.

I am guessing that you are referring to the more recent formation of an FCA in NZ and implying that it has some local impetus distinct from the original agitation. That must in some sense be true, since a movement acquiring local chapters must also acquire local personalities and concerns along with them. Has FCA changed in organising in ACANZP?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
I am not happy with your submitted comment as it makes a poor judgment call against your own sisters and brothers in Christ. I am redacting it to demonstrate to you the kind of standard of comment I wish to see here - a standard that I hope fosters discussion in a Christian spirit! CAPS where I am redacting ..

"Dear Bowman,

You have sussed out the fact that FOCANZ is the fairly newly-formed local branch of the FOCA ('Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans') - originally founded in the U.K. under the encouragement of all in the Communion who have problems with Same-Sex Relationships. Their relationship to GAFCON is that of affinity on matters of ORTHODOXY and a shared understanding of the biblical texts that outlaw S/S intimate relationships.

FOCANZ was formed by New Zealanders who were present at a conference in Australia, of people who have been fired up by the GAFCON tendency to REFORM the original Anglican Communion centred around Lambeth. FOCANZ are the people in New Zealand SEEKING TO CHALLENGE ACANZP TO BE FAITHFUL TO ITS OWN CONSTITUTION AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST on the prospect of Same-Sex Blessings here. Leading FOCANZ people have attended the GAFCON Meetings

Peter Carrell said...

ps Ron
Please remember that you have many fellow Anglicans who do not share your views and who are NOT members of or associated with FCANZ!

Bryden Black said...

Well Bowman; looks like Ron via Peter has more or less addressed your curiosity!

I'd add only this, via the Jerusalem document and our own formularies. That FCA local and international seeks to return the Anglican Church to its original roots, which are both Reformed and Catholic. That therefore the Church's supreme authority in all matters of faith and morals is to be found in and founded upon the Holy Scriptures. That such sources of guidance as may be offered by the likes of tradition, reason and experience are always lesser lights than the singular Word, which is ever a light unto our path in this life. Enough! You get the gist!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I accept your power - being the owner - to change the substance of comments on your blog. However, I do question your interpolation of the terms 'ORTHODOXY' and 'REFORM', in the context where you have inserted them. Most of your readers, I know, would agree with you. However, I did rather want to provide some challenges to the tenor of comments you accept on your blog.

In response to Bryden's last comment, I would question the use of his word 'catholic' in the context into which he inserts it. I would have thought the word 'protestant' might have more truly been utilised - especially in the context of FOCANZ's links with the Australian diocese of Sydney. There is nothing 'catholic' about the tendency to schism - on whatever pretext.

Father Ron Smith said...

" the absence of Archbishop Foley Beach whose Church is recognised by Anglicans around the world, is a further testimony to a Communion in which the leaders are not walking together." - Dr.Peter Carrell -

Peter, in view of the fact that ACNA is NOT a part of the world-wide Anglican Communion, he cannot be considered what you are pleased to call ' Leader' of the Anglican Communion.

Yes, he may have been recognised by the GAFCON Leaders, who have sponsored his role in ACNA I believe he may even have been given a seat on the 'GAFCON Primates Council', which is not a recognised body of the Anglican Communion, but which has its own PRIMATES' COUNCIL' - unconnected to Gafcon. None of this makes Foley Beach a Primate of the Anglican Communion.
he is the GAFCON-sponsored primate of a sectarian North American Church.

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

I am not a member of FOCANZ, but share with them,the hope that General Synod will bring the leadership of the ACANZP back within Her Constitutional 1857 boundaries. I can not see how a Church which will not meet Her legal obligations, according to the laws of N.Z.; ie.,that the assets and monies collected under one purpose are used for the purpose for which they are collected;has any right to speak on matters moral.In this case,for the furtherance of MARRIAGE AS DEFINED IN THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF THE DOCTRINE [Constitution 1857.

Peter, this is a case of when "your own obedience is fulfilled, then look around you". I would respectfully suggest that all those who are voting in the next G.S.,should seek the advise of someone versed in the Decision of the House of Lords,1904 regarding the Free Church Of Scotland.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron (12.29 pm)
I realise that you might not use the wording I have used! But I am trying to steer you away from wording which - frankly - does not do justice to the facts of the situation (no matter how strongly you feel!) For instance, one word you used concerned "gender" but as far as I know GAFCON/FCANZ do not have a gender policy (e.g. against ordination of women). So, not fear to imply such a policy.

Hi Ron (12.43 pm)
The words you attribute to me come from a GAFCON communique.

I know that Archbishop Foley Beach is not a leader within the Anglican Communion as measured by status of member provinces and extra- provincial dioceses. He is a leader, nevertheless, of many Anglicans, and is recognised as an Anglican primate by many bishops and primates of the Anglican Communion.

I hesitate to dismiss the recognised leadership of someone who is otherwise not an official leader.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
Can you tell us more - briefly - about that decision?

Bryden Black said...

Kia Ora Ron! If FCANZ is seeking a return to Anglican roots then my description is entirely accurate. From 16th C onwards, we've always seen ourselves as a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. It's in our formularies too! When compared with other Protestant groupings, it is also customary to use both Reformed and Catholic as descriptors. Even the Wesleys knew their Augustine - well!

Secondly, when nearly 500 folk attend the two inaugurating conferences of FCANZ, one in Chc and one in Akl, and they come from a broad spectrum of churches, then I sense you've got the flavour as you describe it entirely wrong.

Anonymous said...

Glen is talking about the Wee Frees. Fundamentally, the House of Lords held on civil legal principles that a church's doctrine cannot change in the absence of an explicit constitutional mechanism for changing doctrine. A minority that retained their church's original doctrine sued a majority that believed in organic change of doctrine over time.for control of the church's assets. When the holding was applied to these facts, the minority, known as the Wee Frees, won.

Bowman Walton

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

The Free Church of Scotland wished to amalgamate with another denomination, which had as lesser canon.The Free Church had to accept the lesser canon.A minority of Free Church resisted the amalgamation. From memory,in 1904 the case was heard by the Law Lords who decided in favor of the minority group; on the basis that all the property and assets including the pension scheme, belonged to the Doctrine under which they accumulated.

I sense that if General Synod moves too far from the status quo,it opens itself up to litigation.I can not remember whether we sent you a copy of our submission to Ma Whea,or not? We looked at the matter in some detail in it.

Peter Carrell said...

And, in a related comment, I understand that the Presbyterian settlement of Otago (lower South Island, NZ) eventually brought the reunitement of the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland in NZ ... thus reminding us that schisms can be reverted!

Peter Carrell said...

I think you did send it, Glen, and from memory it was very detailed.