GAFCON: Saving the Church one Acronym at a time?
For those of you who may not know, or may not care, what GAFCON is: It is an acronym for "Global Anglican Futures CONference". It is another in a long line of acronym-agencies (such as the AMiA, the AAC, CANA, and others) which were put together to separate "orthodox" Anglicans from the "apostate" Episcopal Church of the USA.
It was a conference consisting of over 1000 Anglicans, with 250+ bishops, from around the Anglican Communion, which was held in Jerusalem. Its purpose was to put together a plan for the Re-formation of the Anglican Communion, centering around Anglican bishops from the Global South, and their unique Anglo-Protestant brand of Christian "orthodoxy".
I put "orthodoxy" in quotes, not because I doubt that GAFCON is Biblical or Christian, but because their version of "orthodox" differs in significant ways from older Christian communions which have a better claim to "orthodoxy" (notably the Roman Catholic and/or Eastern Orthodox churches). It would be an interesting theological project for the members of GAFCON to provide a theological justification for how they can significantly revise older versions of Christian Orthodoxy, while at the same time claiming to be more "orthodox" than those who would seek to revise the Anglo-Protestant "orthodoxy" represented by GAFCON.
For instance, think about how points 3, 4, 6, and 7 of the "Jerusalem Declaration" below conflict with both Rome and the Eastern churches in fundamental ways (I will talk more about this later). On the face of it, it seems like a hard project to "freeze" one's definition of orthodoxy in a early 1900's Anglo-Protestant vision of the Church, which is a revision of Anglo-Protestant scholastic orthodoxy from the 17-1800's, which is a revision of the Elizabethan compromise of the mid-1600's, which is a revision of the Henrician-Cranmerian reformation of the mid-1500's, which is a serious revision of late Medieval Roman Catholic orthodoxy, which in turn is a serious revision of the Apostolic faith represented by the early Fathers and Church councils.
So, it just seems interesting that a group claiming to be the true upholders of Biblical orthodoxy would choose one form of revisionism as their "orthodoxy", while denying others forms of revisionism as "orthodox".
But, theological inconsistencies aside, I will grant that GAFCON represents a form of right-wing revisionism which is more in line with God's self-revelation in Scripture, and ultimately in Christ, than many left-wing revisionists who would relativize both Scripture and Christ, and put them on the same level as other claims to revelation. In their essential "creedal orthodoxy", I affirm the vision of GAFCON, and pray fervently that the rest of the Anglican Communion- especially The Episcopal Church- would regain this vision.
However, in terms of a viable solution to maintaining or restoring the Church, I have grave reservations about the efficacy of GAFCON. Instead of merely talking about the GAFCON statement and plan, I will here quote it in full, and add my own comments. My comments will be in double brackets with numbers, and I will comment after each paragraph in which I insert [[brackets]]. So, without further adieu...
THE GAFCON STATEMENT ON THE GLOBAL ANGLICAN FUTURE
Praise the LORD! It is good to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. (Psalm 147:1-2)
Brothers and Sisters in Christ: We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, send you greetings from Jerusalem!
SECTION 1: INTRODUCTIONThe Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which was held in Jerusalem from 22-29 June 2008, is a spiritual movement to preserve and promote the truth and power of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ as we Anglicans have received it []. The movement is global: it has mobilised Anglicans from around the world. We are Anglican: 1148 lay and clergy participants, including 291 bishops representing millions of faithful Anglican Christians. We cherish our Anglican heritage and the Anglican Communion and have no intention of departing from it. And we believe that, in God’s providence, Anglicanism has a bright future in obedience to our Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all nations and to build up the church on the foundation of biblical truth (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 2:20).
[[1. "As we Anglicans have received it". I personally like this language. It shows that Anglicans have a unique way of following Jesus and interpreting His Gospel. However, it opens the door to relativistic interpretations: What is to stop anyone from declaring themselves orthodox "as their group has received" the Gospel? To use relativistic language such as this is to betray the very spirit of GAFCON, which is to cement "THE" way, and not merely "A" way, in which to interpret the Gospel. It is almost as if GAFCON is trying to be absolutist in a relativist way, which is simply a contradiction.]]
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. []
[[2. Note that Anglicans ALREADY have a "confession" which is supposed to form the basis of fellowship: The 39 Articles. Yet, this confession has rarely been enforced as the basis of fellowship (i.e. no one has threatened to defrock or excommunicate Anglicans who teach against the 39 Articles in centuries). The reason for this is simple: The 39 Articles, like all other forms of Reformed Protestant confessionalism, are both too sectarian, and too open to interpretation, to be the basis of a Church. You can never get the more "liberal" Anglicans to agree with the more "reformed" Anglicans over the Articles, and neither can agree with the more "catholic" Anglicans. So, if the 39 Articles have failed as a source of unity, how do they expect the Jerusalem Declaration to succeed, especially since it both includes, and ADDS TO the 39 Articles?]]
[[3. The Lambeth conference was formed in 1867 as an instrument of unity to discipline errant Anglican bishops (such as Bishop Colenso). As such, it should be the place where all Anglican primates and bishops gather to vote and discipline the errant. If the conciliar plan of Lambeth is failing to discipline errant bishops, then why plan ANOTHER conference of bishops? What will happen in two decades (or less!) when ideological rifts begin to occur in the GAFCON structure? Will Anglicans have to create a new conference, to reform the conference, that reformed the conference? And then a couple of decades after this, create a conference to reform the conference, that reformed the conference, that reformed the conference? Where does the infinite regress stop? Instead, why not make use of what is already there, and reform Lambeth BY TAKING PART IN IT!]]
SECTION 2: THE GLOBAL ANGLICAN CONTEXTThe future of the Anglican Communion is but a piece of the wider scenario of opportunities and challenges for the gospel in 21st century global culture. We rejoice in the way God has opened doors for gospel mission among many peoples, but we grieve for the spiritual decline in the most economically developed nations, where the forces of militant secularism and pluralism are eating away the fabric of society and churches are compromised and enfeebled in their witness []. The vacuum left by them is readily filled by other faiths and deceptive cults []. To meet these challenges will require Christians to work together to understand and oppose these forces and to liberate those under their sway. It will entail the planting of new churches among unreached peoples and also committed action to restore authentic Christianity to compromised churches [].
[[4. And yet, Anglicans in the Global South routinely send their best clergy to get advanced degrees in the West. If the West is as ransacked by these forces as GAFCON claims, then why send clergy to be educated at the most respected educational institutions in the West?]]
[[5. The Global South is home to Islam (the fastest growing religion in the world right now), as well as all manner of cults and semi-Christian sects. I do not think the "us" versus "them" rhetoric here is helpful, since both cultures- Western and Global South- struggle mightily with non-Christian and semi-Christian challenges to the Church.]]
[[6. So, what is "authentic" Christianity? Are they really claiming GAFCON to be more "authentic" than Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches that are older than the Anglican Church? But, let's say that "creedal orthodoxy" is what they mean by "authentic" Christianity (in sort of a CS Lewis "Mere Christianity" kind of way). Why then are many of the GAFCON schismatic groups operating in Episcopal Dioceses where the bishops ARE authentically creedally orthodox? If this statement were really true, and not propaganda, would it not be true that the majority of money and effort from GAFCON groups goes to plant churches in Dioceses that are creedally apostate? But this, sadly, does not seem to be the case. Instead, it seems that many of these GAFCON Anglican splinter groups spend most of their effort leeching congregations from creedally orthodox bishops, such as my own. In light of this, it becomes hard to take this statement seriously.]]
The Anglican Communion, present in six continents, is well positioned to address this challenge, but currently it is divided and distracted. The Global Anglican Future Conference emerged in response to a crisis within the Anglican Communion, a crisis involving three undeniable facts concerning world Anglicanism.
The first fact is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel. This false gospel undermines the authority of God’s Word written and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the author of salvation from sin, death and judgement []. Many of its proponents claim that all religions offer equal access to God and that Jesus is only a way, not the way, the truth and the life []. It promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony []. In 2003 this false gospel led to the consecration of a bishop living in a homosexual relationship [].
[[8. Agreed again.]]
[[9. I do not side with the "left wing" of The Episcopal Church on this issue. However, I do believe in accurately assessing the position of your opponent. And I think that the wording "over against" does not accurately reflect the left-wing revisionist teaching. It is not that same-sex unions are seen as superior to marriage, or against marriage. Rather, they see such unions as having the same status as marriage, and they also see unions and marriage as standing against promiscuity, infidelity, and adultery. They do not question the normativeness or goodness of heterosexual marriage, but rather question whether those who cannot be married because of lack of desire for the opposite sex can at least share in some aspects of what it means to be married through a union. They would question whether the prohibitions against same-sex sexual activity in Scripture have in mind the type of lifelong union proposed for homosexual couples. Furthermore, I think they would agree that sexuality is not a "right", but a Divine gift, a privilege, and a responsibility not to be taken lightly. The big question which GAFCON leaders and pro-homosexual leaders disagree on is WHO gets to exercise the privilege and responsibility of sexuality, and HOW can they exercise it.]]
[[10. Agreed. This was a schismatic step which crossed a line that no one was ready for. Those bishops who participated in this consecration should be disciplined BY THE LAMBETH CONFERENCE.]]
The second fact is the declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel. These declarations have resulted in a realignment whereby faithful Anglican Christians have left existing territorial parishes [], dioceses and provinces in certain Western churches and become members of other dioceses and provinces, all within the Anglican Communion. These actions have also led to the appointment of new Anglican bishops set over geographic areas already occupied by other Anglican bishops []. A major realignment has occurred and will continue to unfold.
[[11. Notice the revisionist overtone here: For the entire history of the Church, bishops have been the head pastors of "territorial" geographically-defined areas (usually called Dioceses). This is the clear pattern set up by Paul's appointment of Timothy and Titus over regional jurisdictions, and this pattern is displayed by every Church father and council which speaks on the issue. Now GAFCON is putting together the revisionist idea that dioceses are not necessarily "territorial", but can, in effect, be ideological. This is Ecclesial revisionism on par with anything the Episcopal Church has done.]]
[[12. This action of one bishop invading another bishop's jurisdiction is REPEATEDLY condemned by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church, as well as numerous local Councils in the ancient Church. Now GAFCON is putting it forward as a normative practice. This is surely as schismatic as the consecration of a gay bishop! The way to correct an apostate bishop is to excommunicate him, not invade his diocese.]]
The third fact is the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy. [] The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming this false gospel, have consistently defied the 1998 Lambeth statement of biblical moral principle (Resolution 1.10). Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ‘Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008 []. To make matters worse, there has been a failure to honour promises of discipline, the authority of the Primates’ Meeting has been undermined [] and the Lambeth Conference has been structured so as to avoid any hard decisions. We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ‘we are a global Communion with a colonial structure’ [[15a]].
[[13. There simply is NO manifest failure. The instrument with which to discipline errant bishops is the LAMBETH CONFERENCE. This conference meets EVERY 10 YEARS. The GAFCON folk have simply been too impatient to let the course of discipline work the way it should! If they would just wait for the appointed time, show up en masse, and vote to discipline the apostate bishops at the Lambeth Conference, everything would be fine. As it is, they do not have the patience. Or rather, after waiting FIVE YEARS since 2003 to discipline the errant bishops of the Episcopal Church, they cannot wait FIVE MORE MONTHS to discipline them in the right way, at the right time, using the right means (which is Lambeth). Rather, they have to make a schismatic move NOW to do it. It sounds more like impatient, spoiled kids making sure they get their way than people who really want to guard and protect the Church.]]
[[14. At the Council of Nicea (325 AD), and at the Council of Constantinople (381 AD) the heretical Arians and Semi-Arians were present along with the Orthodox. And the heretics left those Councils either defrocked or excommunicated. This is because the Councils functioned AS THE MEANS BY WHICH ORTHODOXY WAS DISCERNED! To do that, you cannot pre-decide the discernment process by excluding those you disagree with. All bishops must come to the table, where issues are debated, and actions are then taken. GAFCON instead wants to pre-decide the Lambeth Conference before it can meet. They want to decide for Lambeth if indeed some of the members of Lambeth have violated the decisions of Lambeth 1998. Yet, isn't this backwards and presumptive? Shouldn't Lambeth itself decide who has broken Lambeth? And, in order for Lambeth to decide this, doesn't Lambeth actually have to meet? And in order for Lambeth to meet, shouldn't everyone involved in Lambeth actually WAIT for the time that is appointed to meet? Or, are we really to believe that the consecration of one gay bishop is such an emergency crisis that the Church has to meet NOW to decide it (especially in light of the fact that neither the crisis of WWI nor WWII nor any other theological crisis since 1867 has made it necessary for an emergency convention of Lambeth).]]
[[15. I agree that the Primate's meeting should have some binding authority to enact emergency discipline in between Lambeth Conferences. The problem is that this "primatial authority" has NEVER BEEN DEFINED. In order to define it, so that the Primate's CAN act, Lambeth would have to meet again and decide that the Primates do indeed have authority, and determine how much authority that is. Yet, GAFCON wants to short circuit the whole process and determine "primatial authority" without meeting together at Lambeth. The whole thing smacks of a power grab, not a sincere attempt to save the Anglican Communion from apostasy.]]
[[15a. I know there is much resentment and even injustice associated with Western colonialism, and a fervent desire to move into a "post-colonial" phase of the Church. But that is EVEN MORE reason to come to Lambeth. If the post-colonial global south desires a non-Canterburian moderator of the Anglican communion, then come to Lambeth and vote it so! Do not go around the instruments of unity, because that will lead to only more Protestant-style anarchy as we go forward in history, with schism upon schism upon schism. Going around the instruments of unity is, in fact, EXACTLY what GAFCON is protesting against in the way that the left-wing revisionists have gone about consecration of a gay bishop, and the authorization of gay unions. The old saying is that "two wrongs don't make a right". If the left-wing has gone around the instruments of unity and fractured communion, the solution is NOT found by the right-wing doing the same thing. If we are going to move into a post-colonial phase of Anglicanism, then let's do it TOGETHER using the instruments of unity that the Spirit has led us to thus far.]]
Sadly, this crisis has torn the fabric of the Communion in such a way that it cannot simply be patched back together []. At the same time, it has brought together many Anglicans across the globe into personal and pastoral relationships in a fellowship which is faithful to biblical teaching [], more representative of the demographic distribution of global Anglicanism [] today and stronger as an instrument of effective mission, ministry and social involvement.
[[16. Especially if right-wing revisionists like GAFCON keep making moves that are as schismatic as the left-wing revisionists of The Episcopal Church!]]
[[17. Faithful to Biblical teaching? Certainly not the Biblical teaching on the unity of the Church (cf. John 17; Eph 4; 1Co 12). Certainly not the Biblical example of Acts 15, where ALL SIDES were brought to the ORIGINAL Jerusalem Council to decide the thorny issue of Gentile inclusion. So, exactly which Biblical texts ARE they being faithful to?]]
[[18. Aha! The real issue: Equal representation! Those with the most people behind them should decide the issue, eh? How democratic this is. What if the "majority" of Anglicans wanted to affirm that the Bible, the Quran, and the Tao Te Ching are equal revelations of God? Would that make it right? Of course not! Why then does it make it right for GAFCON to claim it's rightness on the basis of demographic representation? This smacks of "might makes right" and power by numbers. It also places two forces alien to Scripture- democracy and sociology- square in the middle of the Church's decision making process (something the left-wing revisionists are guilty of as well!). When all is said, the Church is not a democracy. The Church should do things because they are right, not because they have the most support. And issues should be decided on the basis of what is right, not who can claim more followers.]]
SECTION 3: A FELLOWSHIP OF CONFESSING ANGLICANS
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, are a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission. We are a fellowship of people united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit and committed to work and pray together in the common mission of Christ. It is a confessing fellowship in that its members confess the faith of Christ crucified, stand firm for the gospel in the global and Anglican context, and affirm a contemporary rule, the Jerusalem Declaration, to guide the movement for the future []. We are a fellowship of Anglicans, including provinces, dioceses, churches, missionary jurisdictions, para-church organisations and individual Anglican Christians whose goal is to reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion [] and expand its mission to the world.
[[19. Again, if the old "rule" of the 39 Articles, and the "Rule of Prayer" found in the Prayer Book has not been sufficient over the last 500 years to ensure the kind of Anglicanism that GAFCON desires, how do they think their "rule" will do any better over time? You simply cannot legislate Church unity by making people sign on dotted lines.]]
[[20. So you are going to accomplish this mission of reformation and healing by precipitating schismatic actions, and ignoring or avoiding the instruments of unity that are already available? That is simply contradictory.]]
Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion []. We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. [] We intend to remain faithful to this standard [], and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it. While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury []. Building on the above doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity [], we hereby publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship.
[[21. Yes you are. By going around Lambeth and supplanting the Archbishop of Canterbury by the authority of GAFCON, you are in deed breaking away from the Anglican Communion, even if you do not claim to in word. If I claim to be someone's friend, and then keep on ignoring them completely, then I am IN FACT not a friend, no matter what my words may say. The same is true for Church Communions. NOTE: I am NOT saying that The Episcopal Church has been faithful to the Anglican Communion. The actions of 2003 have shown that. But I AM saying that GAFCON is at least as unfaithful as the actions of The Episcopal Church.]]
[[22. Again, we have had EACH of these things for at least 340 years, and in that time they have not ensured unity nor uniformity. If they have failed so miserably to obtain unity (as have all forms of Protestantism) how then can they be suitable candidates for Anglican "Core Identity"?]]
[[23. Should we remain faithful to a "standard" or faithful to Jesus Christ our Lord? GAFCON is subtly replacing allegiance to a living Person with allegiance to a set of dead propositions. Propositions cannot secure the unity or mission of the Church. Only the Person of Jesus Christ can. Furthermore, to take this confessional route to Church unity is to make Church primarily a set of epistemic issues (i.e. What do we know? What can we agree on? How do we know for sure?). But Church is not primarily concerned with epistemology. It is primarily concerned with people: Connecting lost, sinful people with the only Person who can heal them and make them whole, Jesus Christ our Lord. ]]
[[24. But SURELY this is as revisionist to the ethos of Anglicanism as ANYTHING anyone else has done! Remember the relativistic statement that started this whole GAFCON article? We follow the Gospel "as Anglicans have received it". Well, Anglicans have ALWAYS received the Gospel with the Archbishop of Canterbury as the focal point for our communion together. To alter that is to alter the very DNA of Anglicanism and change it into something else. If that is what GAFCON wants to do, then fine: Let's vote that in at Lambeth according to the instruments of unity we have already agreed on. But, if you want to oust the Archbishop in an ecclesial coup outside of Lambeth, just be honest about it and do not call it "Anglican". But, if you do persist in radical revisionism of this nature, and continue to call it "Anglican", you do not have the moral ground to stand on to complain that other groups are revising the Anglican faith.]]
[[25. What is the FOUNDATION of the Anglican Communion, really? I argue, with the Windsor Report, that the Communion is fundamentally relational, pastoral, and organic. To oversimplify: It is fundamentally a relationship of bishops who look at the Archbishop of Canterbury and say "I am in Communion with you!", and to whom the Archbishop replies "And I am in communion with you to!". GAFCON is instead advocating a communion that is foundationally LEGALISTIC, rather than relational and organic. They are proposing a deep revision in the DNA of Anglicanism, whereby our communion is determined by whether we adhere to the letter of a certain "law" which is called the "Jerusalem Declaration" (along with all the sundry documents it refers to and draws from). Is it really a step forward to move from relational unity to legalistic unity? It is certainly "cleaner" and "less messy". It would be easier to tell who is "in" and who is "out". It would be easier to kick out people you disagree with, or just don't like. But is it BETTER, more CHRISTLIKE? I argue that it is not, for the many of the same reasons that it is not better to trade a messy marriage for a legally-defined contract with a concubine.]]
SECTION 4: THE JERUSALEM DECLARATION
In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference [], have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus []. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land []. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all []. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity [].
[[26. The participants of this conference were SELF selected. They did not represent the whole scope of all those who consider themselves "Anglicans" today. By their own estimate, they represented about 35 million of Anglicanism's 77 million adherents. Does this mean that the other 35+ million Anglicans do not matter? Or are they not "real" Anglicans? By what authority was this determined? Does the entire GAFCON movement devolve down into self-selection by people who read the Bible in a certain way? How is this any better than "enlightened" left-wing revisionist Episcopalians who gather together on the basis of a certain reading of Scripture? Both the right and the left seem to be involved with highly individualistic, culturally-relative revisions of the Anglican faith.]]
[[27. How do you express loyalty to Jesus as Lord if you ignore the very leadership structures (i.e. Lambeth and the Archbishop of Canterbury) which you solemnly agreed to work within upon your consecration to be a bishop? I believe that the clear expectation of the standards of unity referred to in #6 and #7 below require a bishop to work within certain structures to maintain unity and discipline. These structures include the Lambeth Conference and the Archbishop of Canterbury. If one flouts those authorities ordained by King Jesus (cf. Romans 13), how are they not also flouting he Kingship of Jesus Himself?]]
[[29. Amen again!!!]]
[[30. Again, whose orthodoxy? A central tenet of Roman orthodoxy is the primacy of the Pope. Shall GAFCON declare that tenet? A central tenet of Eastern orthodoxy is acceptance of all seven Ecumenical Councils. GAFCON only accepts four of them (see #3 below). Both Rome and the East include- and have always included- certain books in the Old Testament that GAFCON excludes (see the 39 Articles). So, GAFCON's claim to uphold all of the central tenets of "orthodoxy" is problematic at best. GAFCON seems to deny aspects of other communions that have a better claim to "orthodoxy", and they seriously revise any standard definition of what it means to be an "Anglican" communion. Perhaps GAFCON should drop the words "orthodox" and "Anglican", and replace them with a more fitting adjective: GAFCONish. They are advocating the GAFCONish faith, and a GAFCONish communion, for all adherents of GAFCONism.]]
1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things [].
2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading [].
[[32. Pray tell: What is the "plain and canonical" sense of the book of Revelation, or even Genesis 1-3? Or, better yet: Let's lock five classically orthodox scholars from the Lutheran, Calvinist, Arminian, Anglican, and Roman Catholic traditions in a room, and get them to agree on the "church's historic and consensual reading" of Paul's letter to the Romans. These words are propaganda, not an actual definition. GAFCON should re-write this to say "We believe the Holy Scriptures as interpreted by GAFCON".]]
3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils [] and the three historic Creeds [] as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
[[33.Which ones? The Eastern Orthodox have seven. The Romans have 21. Do you pick only the first four, or any four that suits you? And why not the first seven? The undivided Church agreed on all of them? By what authority do you delete councils 5-7?]]
[[34. That is, the Nicene, Apostles, and Athanasian Creeds. Yet, only the Nicene Creed was accepted by the whole Church. On what authority does GAFCON include the other two?]]
4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today [].
[[35. More beating a dead horse: When has the 39 Articles either been agreed on by Anglicans, or actually worked as an instrument of unity?]]
5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve []. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith [].
[[36. Amen! The phrase "who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve" is beautiful.]]
[[37. Amen again! But please, don't leave out baptism!]]
6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer [] as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.
[[38. So, we are going to flush the entire liturgical renewal movement of the 20th century down the toilet, and opt for a Prayer Book which clearly draws on liturgical traditions which are not the most ancient, nor the most universal, nor the most apostolic? Again, by what authority does GAFCON freeze liturgical orthodoxy at the year 1662?]]
7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders [].
[[39. The classic Anglican Ordinal? Which one? 1549? 1552? 1559? 1662? All of these ordinals have caused untold difficulties in getting Anglican orders recognized as valid by the Roman and Eastern churches. Are these ordinals not part of the PROBLEM of Church schism? Again: By what authority does GAFCON insist that THIS is the most valid way to ordain people?]]
8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married [].
9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity [].
10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy [].
11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships []. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration [].
[[43. A willingness to build ecumenical relationships while AT THE SAME TIME taking precipitous schismatic action in your own communion, by ignoring your own authoritative instruments of unity. Hmmm. That makes no sense. It is like a fireman who advocates fire safety by burning down his own house.]]
[[44. This is simply a lie. This is false witness. This is breaking the 8th commandment. My bishop is orthodox and biblical in precisely the terms which GAFCON defines. And yet, there are at least a half-dozen GAFCON related churches that operate in, or which have splintered from, this Diocese. Their GAFCON bishops are NOT respecting my bishop's jurisdiction. And this has happened all over orthodox Episcopal Dioceses in the USA. In this statement GAFCON is simply lying through its teeth.]]
12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us [].
[[45. But the fact that GAFCON has flouted Lambeth, flouted the Archbishop, and flouted the jurisdiction of orthodox bishops says that they in fact WILL NOT work together to seek the mind of Christ. This is simply and obviously an empty statement. Perhaps GAFCON is more a child of the Western Church than they want to admit: Just like The Episcopal Church, they want what they want when they want it, and if they cannot get it, they will mandate it by their own conference called together by their own authority.]]
13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed []. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.
[[46. Does this statement go back only to a gay bishop in 2003? Or does it go back to 1537 when Henry VIII used a legal fiction to split the Church of England from Roman orthodoxy? By what authority does GAFCON have the right to determine who is orthodox?]]
14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history [], we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives.
[[47. Because it is only Jesus who can untangle this screwed up mess!!!]]
SECTION 5: THE ROAD AHEAD
We believe the Holy Spirit has led us during this week in Jerusalem to begin a new work []. There are many important decisions for the development of this fellowship which will take more time, prayer and deliberation. Among other matters, we shall seek to expand participation in this fellowship beyond those who have come to Jerusalem, including cooperation with the Global South and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. We can, however, discern certain milestones on the road ahead.
[[48. Was it also the Holy Spirit who led you to all of the contradictions and mis-statements I have pointed out thus far, or was some other spirit involved as well?]]
SECTION 6: PRIMATES’ COUNCIL
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, do hereby acknowledge the participating Primates of GAFCON who have called us together, and encourage them to form the initial Council of the GAFCON movement []. We look forward to the enlargement of the Council and entreat the Primates to organise and expand the fellowship of confessing Anglicans.
[[49. A schismatic action which will produce an instrument of unity for a schismatic communion, which will turn on itself within a generation, and split into more and more warring rival communions, all bearing the name "Anglican". For the Love of Christ, do not go this route. Please, please, repent and come to Lambeth. Use Lambeth as the place of discipline, and the instrument of unity. Use Lambeth to give the Primates authority to discipline errant bishops. Don't do this and repeat the misery or Protestantism all over again.]]
We urge the Primates’ Council to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith.
We recognise the desirability of territorial jurisdiction for provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, except in those areas where churches and leaders are denying the orthodox faith or are preventing its spread, and in a few areas for which overlapping jurisdictions are beneficial for historical or cultural reasons.
We thank God for the courageous actions of those Primates and provinces who have offered orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership, especially in North and South America. The actions of these Primates have been a positive response to pastoral necessities and mission opportunities. We believe that such actions will continue to be necessary and we support them in offering help around the world.
We believe this is a critical moment when the Primates’ Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church. In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council [].
[[50. Again, I beg you: Use Lambeth for this purpose. Vote at Lambeth to declare errant bishops apostate. Vote at Lambeth to give the Primates emergency powers. Even vote at Lambeth for another archbishop to be the center of Anglican unity if you must. Then you may have the right to enter those defunct dioceses and plant new churches. But, without that authoritative Council to enact church discipline, you are merely invading the dioceses of duly ordained bishops, thereby acting contrary to the earliest councils of the Church and the Spirit of the New Testament.]]
SECTION 7: CONCLUSION: MESSAGE FROM JERUSALEM
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, were summoned by the Primates’ leadership team to Jerusalem in June 2008 to deliberate on the crisis that has divided the Anglican Communion for the past decade and to seek direction for the future. We have visited holy sites, prayed together, listened to God’s Word preached and expounded, learned from various speakers and teachers, and shared our thoughts and hopes with each other.
The meeting in Jerusalem this week was called in a sense of urgency that a false gospel has so paralysed the Anglican Communion that this crisis must be addressed. The chief threat of this dispute involves the compromising of the integrity of the church’s worldwide mission. The primary reason we have come to Jerusalem and issued this declaration is to free our churches to give clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ.
It is our hope that this Statement on the Global Anglican Future will be received with comfort and joy by many Anglicans around the world who have been distressed about the direction of the Communion. We believe the Anglican Communion should and will be reformed around the biblical gospel and mandate to go into all the world and present Christ to the nations [].
[[51. The Anglican Communion needs reformation, but not this way. You cannot heal the patient by cutting her in half. The instruments of unity are already there to reform the Communion. We must be patient and make use of them, and reform them so they can reform the Church. Creating an alternate Anglican Communion is not the solution. History has shown that this never works. It merely creates an unceasing succession of reforming groups: Each smaller, weaker, and more narrow than the one before it. The weariness generated by generations of sectarian "conservative" schisms always leads to a liberal revisionism which rebels from the schismatics. To go this GAFCON route is to condemn our children and our theological heirs to repeat every misstep of the last two centuries. Please, before you step over the brink: Think about it. Don’t do it. I beg you. You cannot save the Church one acronym at a time.]]
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.