"The conference will deliberately be inviting bishops and clergy, laity and future leaders," one of the conference organizers told me today. "Women and laity and youth will be very present." That is good news, indeed!
The conference reminds me a lot of this one in November 2005. While that was an American conference, specifically aimed at the situation in the United States and Canada, this conference in Jerusalem is focused internationally.
I do have some issues about it, including that the bishops are the ones doing the inviting and it will be important to see how that process works out. It is not clear how the bishops will determine what laity (men and women) and clergy (men and women) will be invited. We put that on the top of the prayer list. It could be that they don't know either! So this is a time to pray, that the Lord will be clear not only on who should be invited, but how they should be invited. It is important that such a conference has the confidence of the laity.
One of the hallmarks of renewal is the turning upside down of traditional structures while standing firm for the faith of Jesus Christ (in direct opposition to the progressive view of turning the faith upside down while standing firm for traditional structures). The DNA of our parent Church is in us and to decide at this point to raise up leadership from the bottom up rather than the top down must be intentional (and done with prayer and discernment, not just because it's provocative). The history of "continuing Anglicans" is fraught with bishop-centered organizations. The Anglican faith is not centered on bishops for its identity - at least not in Virginia. This is an important juncture in this journey.
That being said, this list of bishops is filled with men who have put their lives on the line for the Gospel. This is a crucial time for prayer and discernment, to pause to pray, and then pray again. And then again. This is the Lord's work.
We'll be getting more info on Jerusalem 2008 so stay tuned.
Here's the news release:
Orthodox Primates with other leading bishops from across the globe are to invite fellow Bishops, senior clergy and laity from every province of the Anglican Communion to a unique eight-day event, to be known as the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) 2008.
The event, which was agreed at a meeting of Primates in Nairobi last week, will be in the form of a pilgrimage back to the roots of the Church’s faith. The Holy Land is the planned venue. From 15–22 June 2008, Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-catholic wings of the church will make pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where Christ was born, ministered, died, rose again, ascended into heaven, sent his Holy Spirit, and where the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out, to strengthen them for what they believe will be difficult days ahead.
At the meeting were Archbishops Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Henry Orombi (Uganda), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Donald Mtetemela (Tanzania), Peter Jensen (Sydney), Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria); Bishop Don Harvey (Canada), Bishop Bill Atwood (Kenya) representing Archbishop Greg Venables (Southern Cone) , Bishop Bob Duncan (Anglican Communion Network), Bishop Martyn Minns (Convocation of Anglicans in North America ), Canon Dr Vinay Samuel (India and England) and Canon Dr Chris Sugden (England). Bishops Michael Nazir-Ali (Rochester, England), Bishop Wallace Benn (Lewes, England) were consulted by telephone. These leaders represent over 30 million of the 55 million active Anglicans in the world.
Southern Cone Primate Gregory Venables said: “While there are many calls for shared mission, it clearly must rise from common shared faith. Our pastoral responsibility to the people that we lead is now to provide the opportunity to come together around the central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging historic Anglican faith. Rather than being subject to the continued chaos and compromise that have dramatically impeded Anglican mission, GAFCON will seek to clarify God’s call at this time and build a network of cooperation for Global mission.”
The gathering set in motion a Global Anglican Future Conference: A Gospel of Power and Transformation. The vision, according to Archbishop Nzimbi is to inform and inspire invited leaders “to seek transformation in our own lives and help impact communities and societies through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Bishops and their wives, clergy and laity, including the next generation of young leaders will attend GAFCON. The GAFCON website is www.gafcon.org.
Canon Chris Sugden added: “While this conference is not a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference, it will provide opportunities for fellowship and care for those who have decided not to attend Lambeth. There was no other place to meet at this critical time for the future of the Church than in the Holy Land.”