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Disclaimer: I have not been invited to attend the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) to be held in Nairobi from October 21 – 26, 2013. Nor did I did get an invitation to attend the last GAFCON held in Jerusalem from 22 to 29 June 2008.

As I understand it, Bishop Richard Ellena (Nelson, New Zealand) is the one who invites delegates in this province. I gather that there are 14 delegates going from our province, half of them from the Christchurch Diocese. It seems what is sought are influential evangelical leaders and younger rising leaders. Certainly, from our diocese, there are diocesan nominators, general synod rep, and a newly-appointed canon. Although GAFCON asserts that anglo-catholics are welcome, I wonder how many anglo-catholics are going from this province? [I reserve the right to continue to find these categories unhelpful…] I also wonder how many women clergy are going from our province? How many delegates from Tikanga Maori or Tikanga Polynesia?

The first GAFCON conference (2008) was a month before the ten-yearly gathering of all Anglican bishops, the Lambeth Conference. This time GAFCON has no such meeting in sight. Last time there was some disquiet about the meeting (read about that in the secular media here).

There have long been communities who claim the title “Anglican” but are not part of the Anglican Communion. I understand that at GAFCON there will be delegates from the (not-a-member-of-the-Anglican-Communion) Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). So the “A” in GAFCON does not equate to “member of the Anglican Communion”. I know others are much better at keeping up with the Anglican alphabet scrabble game options (GAFCON, FCA, FiFNA, MDAS, APA, MSJ, AMIA, ACA, REC, UAC, CANA,).

GAFCON stated the movement rose because a “false gospel” is being promoted within the Anglican Communion, which denies the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and “promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right”. But let’s be honest that the Anglican Communion became impaired not by the ordination of Gene Robinson as a bishop in 2003. It was the ordination of women as priests and bishops that impaired the communion, as the validity of orders became questionable across the what-I-will-now-call Anglican Commnon. It will be interesting to know how many women bishops will attend GAFCON 2013. The complexity of “communion” is well illustrated by Bishop Richard being willing to receive communion with those with whom he is “technically” not in full communion, but explicitly publicise that he would not take communion at the Lambeth Conference opening service with those with whom (again technically) he is in full communion.

I understand there are several competing views of GAFCON: “it’s rebellion”; “helpful fellowship in a testing time”; “it’s nutjob conservatives”; “support for Anglican orthodoxy”; writing a blog post is “feeding its folie de grandeur”;…

The “Global South” Anglican Primates have just met – they also have a mixed relationship with GAFCON – some will go, others will not.

A self-professing evangelical friend of mine insists there is nothing that excludes me from being invited as a delegate to GAFCON. I do not know if one has to sign up to the Jerusalem Declaration. Unlike some people, I do not collect lists of beliefs to sign up to. I note that, without any specification, they “uphold the four Ecumenical Councils” [Do they mean Nicaea, The Fourth Council of the Lateran, Trent, and Vatican I?!]

A recent FiFNA declaration has “seven councils” rather than GAFCON’s “four”. A FiFNA member explains this as rather than “the usual” four. He continues, “The standard Anglican line (also ensconced in the Jerusalem Declaration) has been Four Councils, largely because (historically speaking) Councils 5-7 were received somewhat unevenly in the West.” I’m not sure where he gets this “standard Anglican line”?! And if he had even a cursory look at church history he would/should have noticed that the first four councils were “received somewhat unevenly” as well!!! As for “Scripture remains the ultimate guide to receiving Counciliar (sic) authority.” – I would have thought that it was the councils that are the ultimate guide to what constitutes scripture, and provide the lens through which we read the scriptures. Five minutes spent looking at those who claim “scripture alone” and one will end up with a list of conflicting-with-each-other denominations that will make the above alphabet soup look distinctly brief (start with Adventists, Amish, and Anabaptists, move through Christadelphians, and continue on via Jehovah’s Witnesses, through the Salvation Army, all the way to the Zion Christian Church).

For those heading to GAFCON, there will be consciousness of the recent terrorism in Kenya. The NZ Government advises “a high degree of caution”. The USA has a similar warning.

In conclusion: there is also another GAFCON.

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41 thoughts on “GAFCON”

  1. I, for whatever the opinion of a random lay numpty might be worth, would not sign the Jerusalem declaration. There is some good in it – and the remaining ~75% is riddled with bad, tribal separatism and holier-than-thou hypocrisy. No dice.

  2. Hi Bosco
    I do not know whether one has to sign to the Jerusalem Declaration or not, in order to go to GAFCON, but general agreement with the JD would (presumably) be a useful starting point for attending a conference whose contents (presumably) will line up with the JD.

    On that presumption, I wonder how many ‘Anglo-Catholics’ in our church would find themselves in general agreement with the JD?

  3. As a Mexican Anglican who is now also an Episcopalian because I am residing in the USA, I had all but forgotten about GAFCON, ACNA, etc. They have become irrelevant in this part of the world.

    Oh, there is the occasional mention of one of it’s less-than-colorful characters in the secular press as they strive to keep themselves relevant and “in the news” by inserting themselves into a divisive situation. But beyond that, ACNA has been unsuccessful in replacing the ACoC and/or TEC as two of the 5 North American members of the Anglican Communion. And the property disputes are slowly and expensively winding their way through the local, state and likely one day the federal court levels here in the USA.

    And they continue to try to “get the word out.” Usually under false pretenses! This is the webpage of All Saints Church, Dallas, the ACNA plant from Christ Church Plano which is in the neighborhood that is the heart of the Dallas GLBT community; http://www.allsaintschurchdallas.org

    Would you consider a church that teaches what GAFCON and ACNA teach about GLBT folks “radically inclusive”?

  4. Anglican reception of the early general councils is a fascinating subject.

    When Elizabeth I was faced with the problem of how to identify heretics in a national Church that officially accepted only the authority of Scripture, her act of 1559 creating the Court of High Commission said that this new court would “not have authority to adjudge any matter or cause to be heresy, but only such as heretofore have been adjudged to be heresy by the authority of the canonical Scriptures, or by the first four general Councils, or by any other general Council, where the same was declared heresy by the express and plain words of the said canonical Scriptures, or such as hereafter shall be adjudged heresy by the high court of Parliament of this realm, with the assent of the clergy in their convocation.” [Stat. 1 Elizabeth, c. i, s. 36, quoted in Hobbes’s Behemoth]

    However, the Second Book of Homilies (1571), published at Elizabeth’s command, refers to “those sixe councels which were allowed and receiued of all men” (Homily II, On the Peril of Idolatry). And a chaplain of Elizabeth I, Richard Field (1561-1616), wrote that these first six councils were indeed “all the lawful General Councils (lawful I say both in their beginning, and proceeding, and continuance) that ever were holden in the Christian Church touching matters of faith.” [Of the Church, vol. IV (1852), p. 61]

    The rejection of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicaea II) was, I am led to believe by my reading, mainly the result of misunderstanding — the same sort of misunderstanding that led to its rejection by the Council of Frankfurt in 794. But Richard Field’s reservations about it had to do with what followed after it, namely that “it may seem to have given some occasion and have opened up the way unto that gross idolatry which afterwards entered into the Church.” [Ibid.] The late Peter Toon felt that Anglican principles could never justify reception of Nicaea II. [http://pbs1928.blogspot.ca/2006/07/why-current-fascination-with-dogma-of.html]

    Personally, I am with the then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who wrote, in his The Spirit of the Liturgy, “The Church in the West … must achieve a real reception of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicaea II, which affirmed the fundamental importance and theological status of the image in the Church.” [pp. 133-4] I came across the same insistence in one of the letters of the celebrated Anglican Philorthodox W. J. Birkbeck. [Life and Letters (1922), p. 79]

    There remain, however, many references to the first four councils as the “definitive” series recognized by Anglicans, no doubt partly deriving from Elizabeth’s identification of these as especially authoritative. (And it’s perhaps significant that a great many Anglican seminaries end their Church History courses in 451.)

    For example, the famous summary of Anglicanism offered by Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) includes the first four councils: “Nobis Canon unus in Scripta relatus a Deo, Duo Testamenta, Tria Symbola, QUATUOR PRIORA CONCILIA, Quinque saecula, Patrumque per ea series, trecentos ante Constantinum annos, ducentos a Constantino, regulam nobis Religionis figunt.” [Opuscula quaedam posthuma (1852), p. 91)] (I.e. one Canon, two testaments, three creeds, four councils, five centuries and the writings of the Fathers in those centuries: three hundred years before Constantine and two hundred after him.)

    Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) wrote, “The Church of England receives the four first Generals as of highest regard, not that they are infallible, but that they have determined wisely and holily.” [Works, vol. VI (1852), p. 360]

    I do wonder if the ultimate source might not be Pope Gregory I (590-604), who affirmed only the first four councils even though the Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople II, 553), had been held almost forty years before he became bishop of Rome. Anglican pride has always held, after all, that corruption began to set into the Catholic Church shortly after Gregory sent Augustine of Canterbury and his companions on their mission to convert the English! Here is what he said in a letter (my rough translation from Patrologia Latina 77, col. 478):

    “Moreover, since with the heart we believe unto justice, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:10, I profess that, just as I receive and venerate the four books of the Gospel, so I receive and venerate the four Councils. That is to say, of Nicaea (325), in which the perverse teaching of Arius was destroyed; also of Constantinople (381), in which the error of Eunomius and Macedonius was convicted; likewise the First of Ephesus (431), in which the impiety of Nestorius was judged; and finally of Chalcedon (451), in which the depravity of Eutyches and Dioscorus was reproved. I embrace these with all devotion, and I defend them with complete approval. For on these councils, as on a four-square stone, the edifice of our holy faith is built. And if there is anyone who by his life or action does not hold to their solidity, even if he seems to be a stone, in fact he lies outside the building.”

  5. Bosco, I actually know quite a lot about Anabaptism (I spent a sabbatical leave studying it in 2007), and I think it’s a bit simplistic to classify Anabaptism as a ‘scripture-alone’ tradition. That’s because the final authority in Anabaptism isn’t the Bible, it’s Jesus, and everything else in the Bible is to be interpreted according to his words in the gospels.

    I grant you, this is not a ‘scripture/tradition/reason’ approach. But I do think that it is helpful, nonetheless. I have watched arguments going on between ‘catholic’ and ‘evangelical’ Anglicans about whether the Bible or the Church is the final authority, and I’ve found myself shaking my head and asking myself why they can’t see that the answer is ‘neither’.

  6. The phrase “promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right” is very interesting. Did Jesus not say divorce/remarriage was immoral?

    Yet if divorce and remarriage is not allowed how humane is that in the face of the circumstances which dictate it? Divorce is both necessary and humane- a human right- and an accepted part of the modern world. ‘But it’s not “biblical teaching”…’

    These circular arguments are what hold the church back from becoming eternally new and relevant, ‘springs of living waters’. As Bro David says ‘Would you consider a church that teaches what GAFCON and ACNA teach about GLBT folks “radically inclusive”?’

    We are not Levite Jews. I am not as a woman in 2013 going to accept a man as my owner or keeper or whatever else might have been seen as morality 2000 years ago.

    I watched part of a documentary on Zimbabwe earlier this week where ‘traditional village priests’ had been encouraging men to cure HIV/AIDS by raping a virgin. One man had raped a baby- he described that he had total faith in his religion and trusted the priest and he had no attraction to infants as an abhorrant part of his sexuality, he was just looking for an answer and a cure. Now he was disgusted with himself- as he should be. He knew it was wrong yet he did it anyway…and no surprise those kids who get raped are then rejected and ostracised by their society for being now ‘impure’.

    I couldn’t watch any more without vomiting by that point, but it did highlight to me how letting superstition, tradition, or a simple lack of humanity in any situation is not what we should be about, anyone seeking a just social system and the higher good.

    Every time we wreck someone else’s life with irrational and fearful and cruel judgements- I just don’t see how it equates to a useful interpretation of religion or a moral code.

    It doesn’t rein in the minority people who act out immorally; but it makes others behave immorally who otherwise probably would not.

    Is our religion just a superstition?

  7. Christopher Nimmo

    So, a question…

    How is it any more arbitrary to base your morality on the (secular) (Western) (constantly-shifting) (seldom held in common by more than one person) human rights doctrine of 2013 than on what was seen as morality 2000 years ago by the eternal Son of God?

    And where on earth did you acquire this notion that a minority of people act immorally?

    1. Was the eternal Son of God incarnate or was he merely a deity in a human shell? Because if he was incarnate, human, then he, and his morality, was influenced by the culture in which he lived, including its faults and prejudices.

      1. Wow….. Bro David, are you actually claiming that Jesus was a product of his time? That he was somehow affected by the moral zeitgiest of the day and thus his moral standard was deficient?

        That’s what I’m picking up from your comment here; that Jesus somehow took on the faults or prejudiced morals of Roman occupied Palestine. Strange, because I don’t see that when he continually challenges the Pharisees and Scribes and teachers of the law in Scripture. Just the parable of the Good samaritian turns this claim on its head!

        If Jesus’ teaching on God’s moral standards is little more than a reflection of the moral code of the culture I suggest Bosco is going to have to write a post on why there is no reason to stand for the Gospel readings….

        I suppose this resulkts in the truth claims of Jesus Christ becoming subjective, thus not ultimate reality at all.

        I believe in a Jesus Christ who spoke with all authority, as given him by the Father, so his moral teaching wasn’t just some reflection of the day. if jesus says something is good, i trust that as truth. if Jesus says something is wrong, the same applies.

      2. Christopher Nimmo

        So are you suggesting that Jesus was sinful? Because I really don’t see how that follows.

        “My teaching is no mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will now whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.”

      3. You tell me. Was Jesus fully human or was he not? Was there a real incarnation, or was there not? As I read the text with regard to the Canaanite woman, Jesus was rude to her, as was the custom of the Jews toward the Samaritans of his day and she called him on it. Then Jesus changed his whole demeanor with regard to her.

        1. Christopher Nimmo

          Yes Jesus was fully human. Yes, that is indeed *one* reading of that event.

          But Jesus is still fully divine. He speaks with the authority of God.

          What I cannot understand is why Jesus’ humanity should be any justification for claiming that Jesus’ teachings should be discarded in favour of contemporary secular morality .

          1. Where has anyone made such as statement? You are reading in facts not in evidence. No one, especially me, said that Jesus’ teachings were to be discarded in favor of anything.

      4. One is reminded of the ghost of the bishop in C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, who comes up from Hell to visit an old friend of his in “The Valley of the Shadow of Life”:

        “But you’ve never asked me what my paper is about! I’m taking the text about growing up to the measure of the stature of Christ and working out an idea which I feel sure you’ll be interested in. I’m going to point out how people always forget that Jesus (here the Ghost bowed) was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he’d lived. As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience. I am going to ask my audience to consider what his mature views would have been. A profoundly interesting question. What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had reached his full stature! I shall end up by pointing out how this deepens the significance of the Crucifixion. One feels for the first time what a disaster it was: what a tragic waste … so much promise cut short.”

      5. “In traditional Christian belief, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s Messiah, is the concrete historical instance of the union of the human and the divine. This historical union, called the Incarnation, took place in time and space, within a particular set of norms and presuppositions. The problem with a fundamentalism that is interested only in what the Bible says – and not in what it means in terms of the social context in which it emerged – is that it implicitly denies the Incarnation. It denies the full humanity of the God-man Jesus. It implicitly denies that Jesus was like us in all things except sin.”

        Bruce Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthrolopolgy, p. 154.

        1. “This historical union, called the Incarnation, took place in time and space, within a particular set of norms and presuppositions.”

          Indeed. And that particular set of norms and presuppositions is, for Christians, part of a divinely disposed “fulness of time,” in which Christ was born under a particular “law” and of a particular “woman” (Gal. 4:4). Are that Law and that Woman not also part of God’s providence for the Incarnation? In other words, does it not matter crucially that Christ was born at precisely that time and in precisely that space?

          1. Or as the Mormon’s believe, on precisely this earth, because this was the only inhabited planet in all the possibly inhabited planets of the universe that was wicked enough to actually kill him and carry out the “Plan of Salvation.”

            Otherwise I am not sure what you are driving at.

          2. I didn’t know that about the Mormons! I think more of C. S. Lewis again. His Space Trilogy is based on a similar thought experiment. (Only he allows the possibility, which his hero must avert, of a Fall on an as-yet unfallen planet.)

            I must turn the question back on your good self: If we agree in the necessity of Jesus’ culturally conditioned human development, and likewise agree that at the same time he radically and definitively transcends that conditioning, then what is it that you are urging us to perceive in a contrast between Christ’s manhood and divinity (since you have been misunderstood to have had ethical implications in mind)?

            I feel as if we’re not so much discussing the problems of Chalcedon (451) — two complete natures in one person — as of Constantinople III (681) and the Monothelite controversy, where the question was whether Christ possessed a separate human will, in addition to his divine will. The Orthodox insisted that he did indeed have a human will, but that this will always assented to the divine will in a complete unity of purpose.

            If, as we agree, Christ’s complete human nature is subject to historical conditioning, and if we also agree, as Constantinople III affirmed, that his human will was subject to, in perfect harmony with, the divine will, does the question then become not so much about Christ’s historical conditioning as about ours? That is, God’s answer to our prayer, “Thy will be done,” offered in this time and place, differ from his answer to Christ’s identical prayer in first-century Palestine? And as a further question, how are we to know when our “answers” to that prayer are indeed the fruit of the subjection of our wills to perfect harmony with the divine will?

            Am I tracking your thought at all?

          3. I think that at this point we have pulled Father Bosco’s topic far off course and so I am not prepared to go further with the discussion. Reading the history with regard to Constantaople III it sounds an awful lot like the human nature is a puppet with strings and the devine nature is pulling those strings!

          4. Indeed, we shouldn’t wear out Bosco’s hospitality. For the record, though, the Orthodox position was actually held to be quite the opposite of string-pulling. Constantinople III’s affirmation of Christ’s independent human will was received in the warrior cultures of the early medieval West as the doctrine of Christ’s “human courage”. Witness the eighth-century Old English poem “The Dream of the Rood” (told from the perspective of the Cross itself):

            “Then saw I mankind’s Lord come with great courage when he would mount on me. Then dared I not against the Lord’s word bend or break, when I saw earth’s fields shake. All fiends I could have felled, but I stood fast. The young hero stripped himself — he, God Almighty —
            strong and stout-minded. He mounted high gallows, bold before many, when he would loose mankind.”

            For the Christian, total submission to the divine will is itself a declaration of our freedom, isn’t it? (Gal. 5:1, etc.)

        2. Christopher Nimmo

          David I don’t think that I fundamentally disagree with you. I agree that it is important to consider Jesus’ words in the context in which they were spoken. What I am disagreeing with is the idea that the passage of time makes these words irrelevant, and that contemporary secular morality can take precedence merely because it is contemporary.

          1. NO ONE HAS MADE ANY SUCH CLAIM HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            Stop making assumptions.

            I’m sorry that you are so committed to your party line that you can’t see/hear what is being said/written. Get over yourself.

          2. If you think that Tracy made such a claim, take that up with Tracy with a direct response to her comment and stop tying it to me by responding to my comments with an issue that you have with her!

          3. Christopher Nimmo

            That’s actually what I had intended to do in the first place. Unfortunately I missed the reply button.

    2. Thanks Christopher for that response. The greatest danger in our time is to think that it is all about me. We forget that it is about the Lord first and about the Lord last because “in Him we live, we move and have our being”. GAFCON for me is a great attempt to salvage a church that is becoming increasingly worldly. We are not led by the world or its standards but by the Lord and His standards.
      Soli Deo

  8. Having followed the GAFCON saga, from the days of the early web-site called ‘Global South Anglican’ when certain (mainly African) Provinces were girding up their loins to join in opposition to TEC’s and the Anglican Church of Canada’s provincial moves to include LGBT people in their Churches’ life and ministries – to the first GAFCON Meeting, which produced the much-trumpeted Jerusalem Declaration – I have become very chary of the political and ecclesial ambitions of this ‘Confessional Church’ grouping.

    Based on their militaristic opposition to forward movement in the Anglican Communion on any sort of liberation that would seek to re-visit the Churches’ traditional view of homosexuality and the human beings whose innate sexual orientation is involved in the debate – the GAFCON Provinces have made quite clear their desire to set themselves apart from any Province in the Communion that views the LGBT community as fellow Christians, children of God, & potential victims of violence, injustice and misunderstanding in both Church and community.

    Some of the GAFCON Provinces are openly in agreement with their local national governments’ persecution of such people, their families and supporters – often with gaol sentences and sometimes with threat of execution. I do not see this as at all Christian.

    How any N.Z. Anglican – let alone a Bishop in our Church – could possibly condone such injustices, and align themselves with the crusaders among the GAFCON membership, is beyond my imagination.

    My own feeling is that, if such people want to contest the attitude of our own church in ACANZP, which is broadly in support of LGBT persons, whose sexuality is not of their own devising but part of their given human nature; they should perhaps resign their membership of ACANZP and start their own church affiliated with their preferred chums in GAFCON and the Diocese of Sydney.

    The situation is very much like that of the schismatics in North America who have started their own Church, which they are pleased to call ACNA – though they are not part of the official Anglican Communion. They are, of course, in communion with the GAFCON. That says it all.

    1. Brother Ron, I am not sure where you got your information about GAFCON leaders being crusaders to inflict injustices on gay people. But I wonder what would have been your reaction if our Lord Jesus Christ was to appear today and flog money changers and sellers in our churches. You would have probably called it unjust persecution of innocent business people trying to make ends meet. Well, the Lord Himself said NARROW IS THE WAY. Everyone of us has a choice!

  9. Fr Bosco, you might be surprised how many women would take part in that conservative thing!

    When in the Church of Sweden, there was question of the gender-neutral marriage, a big bunch of the opponents (who put their names on a list) were… women priests! And one of the most opposed was a woman-rector of a theological seminary!

  10. I am thinking you may not realize that ACNA folks like me read your blog regularly. I am not sure what to make of this post but it occurred to me this evening that you may not know you have ACNA readers.


    1. Thank you for your comment. No, I cannot tell, even with the most sophisticated web analytics tools, the faith position of those who read posts here 🙂 I am delighted to have you and other ACNA folks as regulars here. All are welcome here.

      One thing I do ask when commenting is to use your ordinary name. It helps maintain the respectful culture here, reminding us that we are talking to real people.

      We are conscious, of course, that the GAFCON meeting begins now, and so keep that meeting in our prayers.


  11. Hello Rev Bosco. I am an Anglican priest. A Sierra Leonean. Ordained by the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion. Please could you direct me to your article after GAFCON 2013? I have read a few articles from the summit and I say PRAISE THE LORD! that there are still leaders in our beloved communion who still see it right, as it should be seen, by people who profess to be God’s spokespersons. Soli Deo my brother.

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