…the Communique reaffirms the understanding from 2008 that GAFCON is “not a moment in time but a movement of the Spirit.” This phrase is not flight of rhetoric but a claim that GFCA is among other things a God-ordained “ecclesial” entity. Secondly, the Conference identifies itself as an “instrument of Communion” called into being because of the failure of other Instruments of Communion. I suppose some will take this claim as an open rebuke of the existing organs of the Lambeth bureaucracy. It is that, and my essays on Communion governance stand as testimony as to why such a rebuke is justified. But it is more than that: it is a positive declaration that the GFCA plans to be a vehicle of God’s grace to reform and revitalize the Anglican Communion.
Some may ask by what right the GFCA appoints itself an instrument. In an early draft, the Statement Committee proposed saying that “we are conscious that we have become an instrument of Communion.” I think that wording is revealing, even if the final form moves consciousness into conviction. What I mean is that the GAFCON movement did not start out intentionally to overturn existing authorities but rather over a period of fifteen years came to realize that no other option was workable and that God had indeed formed new bonds of affection among its members during the times of trial.
So is the GFCA laying the groundwork for a separate Communion? Absolutely not! At the first GAFCON virtually all the delegates were adamant that they were not leaving the Anglican Communion, because “we are the Anglican Communion!” Some may think this is verbal trickery. It is not. There is nothing sacrosanct about the so-called Instruments of Communion. To be sure, the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference carry the weight of almost 150 years’ continuance. However, for good or ill, Archbishop Longley refused to grant the first Lambeth Conference ecclesial authority as a council and by so doing he built in a weakness that has been a major reason for the recent crisis. During the past decade, whenever the Primates proposed more authoritative action ”“ e.g., “To Mend the Net” proposal or the Dar es Salaam Communique ”“ Canterbury squelched the attempt.