Saturday, July 05, 2008
Baptist Anglophile Reflections on GAFCON
Given my number of Anglican friends, I'm always interested in events in the worldwide Anglican communion. So I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on the GAFCON statement from a Baptist Anglophile perspective (but for a less sanguine observation from a similar background see Sean the Baptist):
1. I really wish I was there at GAFCON just to see an international gathering of orthodox Christians united in a common worship. What a joy to join with Asians, African, Americans, and Australians all united in Christ Jesus and gathered to share in eucharistic fellowship.
2. Yet I have to question the rationale of holding the conference in Jerusalem. Yes, I understand the symbolic value of Jerusalem, but the place is expensive, hard to get to, dangerous, Anglicans from Pakistan and Sudan cannot even get in, and the local bishop was not exactly supportive. Next time I say hold it in Africa, somewhere like Carthage or Alexandria, cradles of African Theology!
3. The statement is a wonderful and succinct summary of orthodoxy that is acceptable to both evangelicals, moderates, and anglo-catholics. Some observers are probably wondering why the word "inerrancy" is not used, well, they're Anglican not SBC or PCA and not given to parochial North American matters. Also, it does not flatten out Anglican distinctives and reaffirms the 39 Articles and 1662 Prayer Book. I also agree with the need for a new Anglican Province in North America.
4. The biggest reservation I have is that the Primates council intends to assume authority to "authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions". What does that mean in practice? Does it mean assenting to the GAFCON/FOCA doctrinal statements and accepting the pastoral authority of the primates council? If a Diocese or Bishop upholds Lambeth resolution 1.10 but is not necessarily in with GAFCON/FOCA, what status do they have? The problem is, does the Primates council see itself as the leadership of an Anglican renewal organisation akin to the Good News Network in the UMC or the New Wine Skins Network in the PCUSA, OR, do they see themselves as, or function like, a kind of Anglican government in exile. The links to Canterbury are treated as historic rather than essential. I understand reservations about the "instruments of unity" in being able to uphold discipline and orthodoxy in the communion. Call me cynical, but I've been following this story long enough to learn that the will of the Primates are ignored, the ABC (Archbishop of Canterbury) won't lift a finger against the Americans, the Anglican Communion Council is a puppet of TEC, and the Lambeth conference will be nothing more than a bitch-n-winge fest and propaganda campaign for the pro-pansexuals; but the Anglican Covenant is the last ditch effort to save the communion and Rowan Williams has to retire one day! So nobody has to leave Brigadoon just yet. Don't forget that it took nearly fifty years to fully resolve the Arian controversy and patience is needed. GAFCON/FOCA is a good mechanism to promote gospel renewal in Anglican churches across the world and to remind the ABC that everybody's patience has a limit. As such I can appreciate Tom Wright's sympathetic but concerning response to GAFCON. Yes to the new network, but give peace a chance!
5. The biggest danger for GAFCON/FOCA is keeping all the folk together. With the recognition of "diversity" and "freedom in secondary matters" is the question of how much diversity and what is secondary? Let me give two examples: While the Reformed Evangelicals want lay presidency the Anglo-Catholics will fume over it. While the Reformed Evangelical and Anglo-Catholics reject women's ordination to the priesthood, Moderate Evangelicals strenuously promote it. Will the centre of gravity, the evangel, hold these conservative groups together. I hope so!