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Monthly Archives: June 2008
Audio from the final press briefing in Jerusalem. Questions answered by Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Peter Jensen of Sydney, and Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda.
(ACNS) The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has responded to the final declaration of the Global Anglican Future Conference with the following statement:
The Final Statement from the GAFCON meeting in Jordan and Jerusalem contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met for prayer and pilgrimage in the last week. The ”˜tenets of orthodoxy’ spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues. I agree that the Communion needs to be united in its commitments on these matters, and I have no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of GAFCON’s deliberations. Despite the claims of some, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion
However, GAFCON’s proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways, and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed.
A ”˜Primates’ Council’ which consists only of a self-selected group from among the Primates of the Communion will not pass the test of legitimacy for all in the Communion. And any claim to be free to operate across provincial boundaries is fraught with difficulties, both theological and practical ”“ theological because of our historic commitments to mutual recognition of ministries in the Communion, practical because of the obvious strain of responsibly exercising episcopal or primatial authority across enormous geographical and cultural divides.
Two questions arise at once about what has been proposed. By what authority are Primates deemed acceptable or unacceptable members of any new primatial council? And how is effective discipline to be maintained in a situation of overlapping and competing jurisdictions?
No-one should for a moment impute selfish or malicious motives to those who have offered pastoral oversight to congregations in other provinces; these actions, however we judge them, arise from pastoral and spiritual concern. But one question has repeatedly been raised which is now becoming very serious: how is a bishop or primate in another continent able to discriminate effectively between a genuine crisis of pastoral relationship and theological integrity, and a situation where there are underlying non-theological motivations at work? We have seen instances of intervention in dioceses whose leadership is unquestionably orthodox simply because of local difficulties of a personal and administrative nature. We have also seen instances of clergy disciplined for scandalous behaviour in one jurisdiction accepted in another, apparently without due process. Some other Christian churches have unhappy experience of this problem and it needs to be addressed honestly.
It is not enough to dismiss the existing structures of the Communion. If they are not working effectively, the challenge is to renew them rather than to improvise solutions that may seem to be effective for some in the short term but will continue to create more problems than they solve. This challenge is one of the most significant focuses for the forthcoming Lambeth Conference. One of its major stated aims is to restore and deepen confidence in our Anglican identity. And this task will require all who care as deeply as the authors of the statement say they do about the future of Anglicanism to play their part.
The language of ”˜colonialism’ has been freely used of existing patterns. No-one is likely to look back with complacency to the colonial legacy. But emerging from the legacy of colonialism must mean a new co-operation of equals, not a simple reversal of power. If those who speak for GAFCON are willing to share in a genuine renewal of all our patterns of reflection and decision-making in the Communion, they are welcome, especially in the shaping of an effective Covenant for our future together.
I believe that it is wrong to assume we are now so far apart that all those outside the GAFCON network are simply proclaiming another gospel. This is not the case; it is not the experience of millions of faithful and biblically focused Anglicans in every province. What is true is that, on all sides of our controversies, slogans, misrepresentations and caricatures abound. And they need to be challenged in the name of the respect and patience we owe to each other in Jesus Christ.
I have in the past quoted to some in the Communion who would call themselves radical the words of the Apostle in I Cor.11.33: ”˜wait for one another’. I would say the same to those in whose name this statement has been issued. An impatience at all costs to clear the Lord’s field of the weeds that may appear among the shoots of true life (Matt.13.29) will put at risk our clarity and effectiveness in communicating just those evangelical and catholic truths which the GAFCON statement presents.
At historic Trinity Church, located in Boston’s Back Bay, …[Mary Conroy] had no car and essentially walked everywhere.
The outgoing, personable pastor adopts a laissez-faire attitude to what has become a central and divisive issue within Episcopalianism: The ordination of an openly gay man as bishop and the resultant hassle as some churches and even dioceses abandon the Episcopal Church USA in favor of some sort of affiliation with bishops and dioceses in other parts of the world, principally in Africa.
The U.S. church fights any attempt by parishes and dioceses to carry away churches and/or their property, even as the anti-gay dissenters react as though those who support or accept gay ordination are spawn of the devil.
“The Episcopal Church once passed a resolution stating that gays and lesbians have full rights to pastoral care. Bishop Robinson was totally above board in this matter, never hiding or denying his sexual orientation, and he was chosen by his (New Hampshire) diocese and confirmed by the nationwide convention. So, there’s this huge split in the church now.”
Conroy turned very serious as she pronounced, “I’m not sure than the unity of churches is the goal of Christianity. In fact, we’re all covered by the love of God, and forcing people to be united – to accept this position or its opposite- is not a good idea.
“Nothing in my ministry here or elsewhere has changed over this conflict. People want the basics, their weddings, The Word preached to them, baptism. It’s still all the same in my work here or wherever I am.
“As for Ascension, the issue really hasn’t really surfaced. I’ve heard a few comments, but I think that overall, it’s not an issue here – certainly not a divisive one.”
The Rt. Rev. Andy Doyle’s election in May to lead the Houston-based Episcopal Diocese of Texas came as a surprise to many, including him.
For one thing, he is young ”” at 41, he’ll be the second-youngest bishop in the country when he takes over in 2009. For another, his initial support in the election process came overwhelmingly from the laity. One of his opponents, the Rt. Rev. Dena Harrison, a suffragan, or assistant bishop, covering the Austin area, drew more clergy votes.
After several ballots, though, Doyle prevailed. He succeeds the Rt. Rev. Don Wimberly who, according to church policy, is retiring next year at age 72.
Some observers in the church cited an “Obama factor,” a combination of youth and enthusiasm for change, as a reason for Doyle’s win.
“The message I feel I have is really one of hope and excitement about our future and joy,” Doyle said.
Bishop [Allan] Ewing says he is disappointed about the boycott because he believes any rifts should be discussed in the wider Anglican community.
But he says this latest development does not have to lead to a permanent schism.
“At its heart the Anglican Church is a reforming church, that is, it doesn’t breakaway and create new churches so much as tries to reform, always from within,” he said.
“So the challenge of what’s happened in Jerusalem , and the Archbishop’s involvement in that, is a challenge to how we might order ourselves and form ourselves as church in the future.
“The Lambeth Conference will be another important part of that discussion.
“I think what it will mean for us in Australia is that those of us who go to Lambeth will need to redouble our efforts with those who have not been there to establish a close understanding of each other.”
The new council of primates (highest-level bishops) would be able to “consider matters calmly” and to decide if “fairly drastic action should be taken.”
Five of the six primates are from African provinces of the church — Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and West Africa — and the sixth is from the church’s southern Latin American branch. The majority of Anglicans lives in Africa and adhere to traditional church teachings.
[Archbishop Peter] Jensen acknowledged that the move was unusual, “but then the times we are in are unusual.”
Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria said that the conservative Anglican leadership wants those who are following the “false gospel” to repent.
Jensen went a step further and said Christians need to take action to counter the liberal influences.
“The revisionist agenda, which you can see came into its fruition with the same-sex union … is a missionary one and it is going to spread it’s theological views as far as it can,” he said.
“That means that the rest of us have to be alerted to this and have to give ourselves to very strong theological work to make sure we can defend the gospel,” he said.
[Traditionalists]…have set up what amounts to a church within a church in order to organise for a long struggle against the ordination of gay clergy, the blessing of gay relationships, and what they claim is a drift towards accepting other religions as offering “equal access to God”.
The Rev Rod Thomas, of the conservative Church of England group Reform, helped to formulate the organisation’s strategy.
He claimed that traditionalists had been forced to create a new alliance to prevent the Bible being rewritten by liberal Anglicans to suit their current lifestyles.
“The Anglican Church is being destroyed by false teaching of the Bible on issues such as homosexuality”, he said.
“We are gong to stand against this trend, and spread the true message of the Bible with confidence.”
A Melbourne sociologist, Professor Gary Bouma, said the movement would have little support beyond Africa and some conservative parishes in Canada and the US, and the prospect of losing property and superannuation would bind leaders such as Peter Jensen to the fold.
Despite the “overheated rhetoric” of a church within a church, Dr Bouma from Monash University doubted the movement would amount to more than a vocal sub-caucus within the communion.
“What they are talking about is a group within the Anglican communion. They haven’t left it. If they do, there are consequences. Anyone who does leave would lose their property and their superannuation. Instead, they talk of being a sub-caucus within the communion. There’s more or less sub-caucuses there now. It’s a self-appointed group of people that are arrogating authority to themselves ”¦ Where it has some traction is in Africa where ”¦ a large part of the Anglican population lives. What’s more, these people are a whole lot younger than Anglicans in other parts of the world. In 50 years’ time, this smaller group demographically might be dominant.”
Dr Bouma said the Archbishop of Canterbury’s best option was “to sit quiet and let it happen”. If he gave any more ground he risked losing the support of those moderates and liberals who remained in the church.
The Australian Primate of the Anglican Church, Phillip Aspinall, declined to comment.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been sidelined by a new orthodox movement which claims to represent almost half of the world’s 80 million Anglicans.
Leaders of the organisation, that styles itself as a fellowship of confessing Anglicans, said Dr Rowan Williams would just be “recognised for his historic role” as the head of the worldwide Communion.
They added that in the “post-colonial reality” of a Church dominated by traditionalists in developing countries rather than England, he would no longer be the sole leader.
Organisers of the movement, which was formally announced at the end of the Gafcon summit in Jerusalem, also failed to mention the Archbishop of Canterbury in their declaration of the 14 central tenets.
It couldn’t be clearer. The GAFCON fellowship is a reform movement within the Anglican Communion, but rather than simply calling for change, or asking the Archbishop of Canterbury to bring about change (a request that has been made repeatedly, and refused), the GAFCON movement is prepared take concrete action to make a difference. As the Statement proceeds, what this means in practice is spelled out””such as recognizing the need for the formation of a new province for North America, and urging the GAFCON Primates’ Council to act accordingly.
It is a remarkable statement””a rescue plan for the Anglican Communion, and a vision for a positive, growing, gospel future. Given the different streams of orthodox, Bible-believing Anglicanism represented at GAFCON, and the horse trading that is always involved in crafting these sorts of statements, it is stronger in its Scriptural and doctrinal affirmations, and bolder and wiser in its practical measures, than many of us had dared to hope.
In their “Statement on the Global Anglican Future” released today, participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) declared that they see the Jerusalem conference as the beginning of “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.”
Dr [Peter] Jensen said the organisation aimed to rescue those who supported the old rather than modern ways of the church.
“The homosexual crisis is only symbolic of a whole way of looking at the world, which many in the church had taken on as well, I call this post-modernity,” he told ABC radio.
“We have decided to rescue people in the West who want to stand for the old ways, who want to stand on the Bible.
“Secondly, we’ve decided to protect ourselves against this post-modern and relativistic world view that will come our way through the internet and other communicational revolutions.”
On Sunday, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) concluded with the launch of a new missionary movement within the Anglican Communion. There is no split, say the organisers, though they question the importance of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the arbiter of who is an Anglican.
There are three components in the GAFCON final communiquÃ©, which was formally released after final ratification by participants at a signing session on Sunday morning: the designation of GAFCON as a “fellowship of confessing Anglicans”; a 14-point Jerusalem Declaration described as “the basis of that fellowship”; and a newly formed Primates’ Council, which is likely to meet in the next two months.
Each of the three suggestions is radical. The transformation from a conference to a fellowship makes GAFCON an enduring element in the Anglican Church. The 14-point Declaration is largely doctrinal, though it contains a section on sexuality, and another on relations with more liberal dioceses. On sexuality, the document does not name homosexuality, and instead speaks of “marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy”, and it calls for “a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married”.
The Global Anglican Future Conference has overwhelmingly endorsed the Jerusalem Declaration and final communique, a document Archbishop Peter Jensen says will help bring order out of chaos.
The GAFCON leaders were at pains to point out that they were not withdrawing or splitting from the Anglican Church, despite media reports constantly describing ”˜split’ or ”˜schism’.
“We have not moved, and churches who support this have not moved, from the position of historic Christianity,” says Archbishop Jensen. “But the actions of the North Americans in 2003 went too far and something needed to be done”.
The response is three-fold. In the opening part of the statement GAFCON leaders said:
“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 and recognise the GAFCON Primates’ Council.