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!


Ben Myers said...

To my mind, the most amazing part about GAFCON was that a group of bishops agreed to use "FOCA" as their key acronym. The jokes are almost irresistible... ("Which mother-FOCA is in charge around here anyway?", etc.)

Michael F. Bird said...

Yes, the jokes will be endless!

M Slater said...

I'm not Anglical, but do fit the Anglophile description pretty well and have kept up best I can on the current debate.
It saddens me to think of the communion splitting, starting as you phrased it a Anglican church in exile, but I understand their frustration at the 'tyrany of the minority' that the US church is engaged in.
If the US or European leaders do not step up and stand against these few supporters of an otherwise widely opposed practive the communion risks losing much of the universality and diversity that mkes it so vibrant and such an example.

Roger Pearse said...

Some of the stories of persecution of the faithful emerging from the Episcopal Church in the USA are pretty bad. Laud and the Court of High Commission would be right at home. The evils of "Religion", which we all loathe, have not gone away. As ever, it is the Christians who are the real victims of "Religion". Principle gets you persecuted; pliancy to fashionable vice gets you promoted. It is good to see some resistance to all this; and expect to see demonisation attempted in response.

It's worrying that the 21st century has begun by reintroducing secular religious persecution of various sorts too. It's almost a hallmark of oppressive and intrusive government that they cannot leave the churches alone but must interfere with them. The Canadian persecution of believers under guise of "Human Rights Commission" has been ably documented by Ezra Levant, who rightly showed the legal precedents in the records of the Court of the Star Chamber. If GAFCON encourages the victims of all this, it will have been more than worthwhile.

Geoff Hudson said...

Israel doesn't appear here:

Tunisia and Egypt do.

Geoff Hudson said...

Roger, one could argue the opposite that oppressive and intrusive religionists cannot leave others alone. We have an idiot of an Archbishop suggesting that Sharia law could be introduced to the UK, and another idiot, the Lord Chief Justice Phillips backing him up. They should both be given the sack. These men are traitors to what others have died for.

Evan said...

Some great thoughts, Michael. Regarding #4, your concern about authority and jurisdiction, I think that it's worth keeping an eye on as things progress but not a significant thing to worry about. While many observers have described the work of conservative Anglicans in disturbing terms of power politics, what's been going on is really quite the contrary. Whatever structures FOCA intends to set up, I think they've demonstrated in the past a very understanding approach to other Anglicans who are aiming towards the same thing though perhaps with some disagreements of principle or approach. There's generally been a recognition along the lines of "we consider ourselves in communion with dioceses, parishes, or individuals who have remained faithful to the teachings of scripture and historic doctrinal statements", without too much need to rule very strictly on what exactly that entails. I don't think they're trying to set up an alternative governmental structure, rather they're trying to lay down the confessional foundation for the time when a new governmental structure does come about, not simply of their creation but of the wider Anglican Communion in concert.

If you're interested, check out my recent article on related issues: