As the invitations went out for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, those who remained faithful to the biblical doctrines which were the basis of Anglican unity found the Instruments of Communion were being employed to condone fundamental disunity. By including schismatics in fellowship with orthodox Anglicans and claiming that unity was a result of attending the same conferences the Instruments of Communion had become a conceited phantasm.
This was called out for the fallacy that it is and GAFCON was born. In 2008 the first GAFCON arrived at the Jerusalem Declaration which was a statement reaffirming what it means to be an orthodox Anglican. Paradoxically those who had betrayed the basis of Anglican unity began ridiculing the orthodox Anglicans as schismatics. Nevertheless, fidelity to the gospel compelled the GAFCON movement forward and a deep spiritual unity, the kind of unity the Instruments of Communion were supposed to foster, was cultivated. The GAFCON movement continued to call upon the Instruments of Communion to fulfil the mandate they had been created for. Unfortunately, in the decade since the first GAFCON there has been no indication that the Instruments of Communion will return from their usurpation of the basis of unity being in shared history, doctrine and mission. Rather, they continue to contend falsely that they are the basis of Anglican unity.
GAFCON 2018 marks a significant turning point in the history of Anglicanism. The conference was not only the largest international gathering of Anglicans in the last 50 years, it represented the majority of the Anglican Communion. In the final statement the movement reiterates its earlier calls for schismatics to submit to the authority of the Bible and the Instruments of Communion to return to the purposes they were established for. But the legacy of GAFCON 2018 will be more than a reiteration of orthodox Anglicanism and a call for schismatics to return. In a highly significant move the conference endorsed the establishment of several networks which will foster the fellowship between Anglicans who share a unity of history, doctrine and mission. Nine networks were established including networks for theological education, youth and children’s ministry and all importantly, mission and evangelism. In this way, GAFCON 2018 has effectively declared that the mission of the church is too urgent and important to indefinitely wait for errant churches and corrupt fellowship structures to fulfil their original purposes. These new global networks will deepen the fellowship and expand the mission of those who share unity in Christ.
Under God, the new communion structures that GAFCON has endorsed hold great promise and there is good reason to be hopeful about the future of Anglicanism. Of course, it is desired that the original Instruments and the errant churches will return to their purpose, but now whether they do or not is quite irrelevant to the future of global Anglicanism. Some within the GAFCON movement, out of love, will continue to engage with the old structures and call for repentance. Others will see participation as a validation of a false fellowship and will choose to not be involved. Either way, the fellowship and unity of global Anglicanism will grow as the majority of the church get on with mission and partner in the gospel through the newly established networks.