Friday, August 29, 2008

GAFCON Primates Council Releases Communiqué from London

BB NOTE: via e-mail. We also received a letter from the U.S. GAFCON Bishops regarding their reflections on the Windsor Continuation Group (that made an important presentation at Lambeth) that was sent to the GAFCON Primates Council for their deliberations in London. We'll have some commentary shortly. One of the major questions to ask as we read this important document is this: Who is the targeted-audience of this document?

COMMENTARY: It seems to me that this document is quite clear on what the issues are, but the tone is moderate. That's a major clue as to who this document is aimed at. One of the major objects for the charm offensive at Lambeth was to the Global South bishops that did not attend GAFCON. There was a consistent attempt by Lambeth organizers to paint those who went to GAFCON in less than favorable light - the worse being that they were off to start their own communion. It was nearly humorous since there's far more evidence that if anyone is off to start their own Communion its the province that has decided its a communion-unto-itself, The Episcopal Church. No, the targeted audience for Rowan Williams final pastoral address is the same audience as this document is particular aimed at - those orthodox Anglicans who are orthodox but not, by nature, reformers. The tone of the Communique strikes a balance between outlining the issues in a realistic manner - no hedging here at all - but does it in a way as to offer an olive branch to those orthodox who are no as inclined to upset the apple cart - both both political and theological reasons. The convictions stated in this communique are shared by the majority of the Anglican Communion, but being Anglican in the Commonwealth also means observing a certain decorum (which we Americans find frustrating - our ancestors left that decorum at the waters edge for a reason) but if we're going to belong to the Anglican Communion we must acknowledge that it includes at least observing if not always understanding (though understanding helps) that it is infused with cultural English manners. Those manners are present in this document.

This is written by those that Canterbury can talk to - but no one should expect that they are going to give in to a charm offensive or to an appeal to be granted an insider-track to equality. Hardly. But it does not prohibit them from writing in a style that is frank, but also thoughtful. This document illustrates that the door is wide open - we know their convictions, we know where they stand - while the gracious hand of fellowship is extended to those who also share their deep concerns about the Anglican Communion and may be open to exploring the
Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

But there is another audience of one for whom this document is addressed and if anyone doubts that, they didn't read his last presidential address well. He extended an olive branch out to the authors of this document at the end of the Lambeth Conference and in this document, they also extend the olive branch back. They could have called for a new province but they did not, they held back, though clearly recognizing that such a province is needed for the long-term health of the Anglican Communion (it's first priority). But again, the Communique is written in a tone and style that reflects valuing the conversation and not deliver ultimatums. We may expect that there will be frustrations about this from those who want us to leave, but that will reveals to us more about them then it does about the authors of the Communique - and that will be duly noted.

Remember, the FCA reaches far beyond the Global South into the Church of England itself. TEC leaders may forget that, but the Archbishop of Canterbury will not.


Setting up the Council and the Fellowship

The first meeting of the GAFCON Primates' Council has taken place in London on Wednesday 20th to Friday 22nd August. The twofold task of the Council is 'to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith.' The Primates have therefore laid the basis for the future work of both the Council and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA). The GAFCON movement continues its advance.

The Council will consist of Primates assisted by an Advisory Board which will work with them on fulfilling the aims of the movement. In addition, a Secretariat has been created. We are very grateful to God for his guidance and blessing on the Jerusalem Conference. We believe that the Jerusalem Declaration provides for a viable way of helping to deal with the crisis in the Anglican Communion brought about through the disobedience to Scripture by some in North America and elsewhere.

The present reality

We maintain that three new facts of the Anglican Communion must be faced. We are past the time when they can be reversed.

First, some Anglicans have sanctified sinful practices and will continue to do so whatever others may think. Second, churches and even dioceses affected by this disobedience have rightly withdrawn fellowship while wishing to remain authentic Anglicans. So-called 'border-crossing' is another way of describing the provision of recognition and care for those who have been faithful to the teachings of Holy Scripture. Third, there is widespread impaired and broken sacramental communion amongst Anglicans with far-reaching global implications. The hope that we may somehow return to the state of affairs before 2003 is an illusion.

Any sound strategy must accommodate itself to these facts.

Developing the GAFCON movement

GAFCON remains a gospel movement. It is far from saying that its membership are the only true Anglicans or the only gospel people in the Anglican Communion. We thank God that this is not the case. But the movement recognises the acute spiritual dangers of a compromised theology and aims to be a resource and inspiration for those who wish to defend and promote the biblical gospel.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans will function as a means of sharing in this great task. We invite individuals, churches, dioceses, provinces and parachurch organisations who assent to the Jerusalem Declaration to signify their desire to become members of the Fellowship via the GAFCON web-site or written communication with the Secretariat. The Fellowship will develop networks, commissions and publications intended to defend and promote the biblical gospel in ways which support one another.

At the same time, the Council and its Advisory Board will seek to deal with the problems of those who have confessed the biblical faith in the face of hostility and found the need on grounds of conscience and in matters of great significance to break the normal bonds of fellowship in the name of the gospel. For the sake of the Anglican Communion this is an effort to bring order out of the chaos of the present time and to make sure as far as possible that some of the most faithful Anglican Christians are not lost to the Communion. It is expected that priority will be given to the possible formation of a province in North America for the Common Cause Partnership.

Lambeth 2008

Noting the reference to building bridges with GAFCON in the Archbishop of Canterbury's concluding Presidential Address at Lambeth, and that the Lambeth Conference itself made no decisions about the future of the Communion, we are grateful that there is an acknowledgement that Lambeth 1.10 of 1998 remains an authentic expression of the mind of the Communion. We also note the renewed call for moratoria on the consecration of bishops who are homosexually partnered and the blessing of same-sex unions as well so-called 'border-crossing'. Likewise there is mention of the creation of a 'Pastoral Forum' to look after disaffected parishes or dioceses and continued work on an Anglican Covenant.

We hope in due course to offer a longer response to Lambeth. Meanwhile we are saddened that the Conference did not offer a more effective way forward than what is proposed. Our immediate difficulty is that the voice of Lambeth 2008 is seriously weakened because it merely repeated what has been said by the Primates' Meeting (in Gramada early 2003, Lambeth October 2003, Dromantine, February 2005 and Dar es Salaam, February 2007) and which has proved to change nothing. Indeed the Windsor Continuation Group itself made the same point, 'The three moratoria have been requested several times: Windsor (2004); Dromantine (2005); Dar es Salaam (2007) and the requests have been less than wholeheartedly embraced on all sides… The failure to respond presents us with a situation where if the three moratoria are not observed the Communion is likely to fracture.'

But the Communion fractured in 2003, when our fellowship was 'torn at its deepest level.' It seems that the facts which we have identified as the new reality have not yet been recognised as such, and we are therefore continually offered the same strategies which mean further delay and unlikely results. Indeed, delay itself seems to be a strategy employed by some in order to resolve the issue through weariness. The Anglican Covenant will take a long time to be widely accepted and may have no particular force when it does. The idea of 'moratoria' has never dealt with the underlying problem as is shown by the equivalence of cross-border care and protection with the sexual sins which have caused the problems.

In any case, some North American Bishops appear to have indicated already that they will not keep to them. It appears that people living in a homosexual unions continue to be ordained in some dioceses in contravention to Lambeth 1.10. In principle, this is no different from consecrating a bishop who adopts the same pattern of life, or indeed, of blessing same-sex unions. The idea of the Pastoral Forum has only now emerged but has never been discussed with those actually affected by the innovations which have created the problems with which we are trying to deal (see appended letter). If the Panel of Reference did not work, it is unclear how the Pastoral Forum will succeed.

Given that some esteemed colleagues from the Global South have strongly commended the Windsor Process to us, we are reluctant to say that it cannot work. But there is nothing new here such as to make us hesitate from the course we are taking, given the urgency of the situations with which we are dealing and the realities already on the ground. As they themselves remark, 'the Anglican Communion as a communion of ordered churches is at the probable brink of collapse'. We warmly appreciate the good words which they have written about GAFCON and look forward to co-operation with them in the future as we ourselves try to avoid that collapse and renew the Communion.

The Most Rev Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria
The Most Rev Gregory Venables, Primate of The Southern Cone
The Most Rev Emmanuel Kolini, Primate of Rwanda
The Most Rev Valentino Mokiwa, Primate of Tanzania
The Most Rev Benjamin Nzmibi, Primate of Kenya
The Most Rev Henry Orombi, Primate of Uganda

For more details on membership of the FCA/GAFCON movement - please email

or write to the

GAFCON Secretariat
PO Box Q190,
QVB Post Office, NSW, Australia, 1230

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Letter from US bishops to GAFCON

Reflections from North American bishops about the Windsor Continuation Group. The following is the text of a letter referred to in the GAFCON Primates Council communiqué.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

The Most Rev'd Peter J. Akinola
Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council

Your Grace:

These reflections are presented to you for the consideration of the Primates Council.

We are bishops who serve in North America, under the canonical authority of the Primates of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Anglican Church of Rwanda, the Province of the Southern Cone and the Anglican Church of Uganda. We represent approximately 300 congregations, with more than 450 clergy and an Average Sunday Attendance of 50,000.

We are profoundly grateful for the privilege of serving as Bishops during this critical time in the life of the Anglican Communion. We have been blessed by the encouragement that we have each received from our Primates and the House of Bishops of our respective Provinces. We have experienced God's favor through their prayers and fellowship.

As requested we have carefully studied the Reflections of the Windsor Continuation Group – in particular the section that refers to our ministry within the North America. We offer these comments:

1. While we appreciate the sincerity and work of those who took part in the Windsor Continuation Group, we were grieved to note that the carefully balanced recommendations proposed by the Primates at their meetings in Dromantine and Dar es Salaam have been abandoned in favor of these new proposals without acknowledgement that the primary reason for their failure was their unilateral rejection by The Episcopal Church.

2. We note that the Pastoral Forum proposal has been developed without any consultation with those most directly affected in North America. This had led to a number of serious misunderstandings with regard to the situation at the local level and the relationship between the bishops, clergy and congregations and their sponsoring provinces.

3. We would also observe that the various analogies offered, for example, that we are disaffected children being reunited with our parents or that we are being placed in a holding bay before being restored to our "proper province" are both demeaning and unacceptable.

4. As was also the case with the statements from Dromantine and Dar es Salaam we reject the moral equivalence that is now explicitly asserted between those who continue to support the blessing of same sex unions and the ordination of persons involved in same gender unions in deliberate violation of the teaching of the Communion and those who are offering pastoral oversight for those alienated by these actions.

5. We have consistently observed that the current leadership of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have embraced a theological and doctrinal stance that is diametrically opposed to the teaching of the Communion and more specifically that of our host provinces and our individual bishops, clergy and congregations. Consequently we can envision no way in which we could be part of Pastoral Forum in which either Church exercises any leadership role.

6. While we welcomed the comments of the Windsor Continuation Group that "ways of halting litigation must be explored," those of us who are the subject of pernicious litigation initiated by The Episcopal Church find these rather tentative comments fall far short of what is needed for us to even consider any serious engagement with the proposed structures. Until the litigation is halted and a settlement achieved there is no possibility that we can enter into any formal agreements with any representatives of The Episcopal Church.

We are grateful for the opportunity to respond to your request and are more than ready to elaborate on these comments. We have discussed them with the leadership of the Common Cause Partnership and assure you that they come with their unanimous support.

In Christ's service:

The Rt. Rev'd Bill Atwood, Anglican Church of Kenya
The Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey, Anglican Church of Uganda
The Rt. Rev'd Don Harvey, Anglican Province of the Southern Cone
The Rt. Rev'd Martyn Minns, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
The Rt. Rev'd Chuck Murphy, Anglican Church of Rwanda

Photo: Attendees observe Dr Jim Packer being interviewed on stage during the Global Anglicanism and English Orthodoxy Local Church Briefing Conference at the All Souls Church on July 1, 2008 in central London, England. Key Anglican figures met at the Global Anglicanism and English Orthodoxy Local Church Briefing Conference to discuss the direction of the Anglican Church. The three archbishops have been involved heavily at the Gafcon (Global Anglican Future) Conference of Anglican traditionalists held in Jerusalem last week and have been at the forefront of introducing the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans as a unifying voice in the Anglican Communion. NOTE: All Souls is the home parish of John Stott who was its long-time vicar.

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