GAFCON forecast: partly cloudy, with a 90% chance of schism

A final draft of the GAFCON statement hit the blogosphere this evening. (There’s a raging controversy over at StandFirm about the accidental violation of an embargo that reveal this document a day early.) Others have already commented on the text. I want to single out just a few bits with some early thoughts. Tomorrow, after the final version is approved, I may have more to say.

It’s a thoroughly protestant and evangelical spin on Anglicanism. It is not historic Anglicanism. The people behind GAFCON are strongly united in their opposition to the sacramental inclusion of GLBT people in the life of the church. Beyond that there is great diversity. Some of these people support women’s ordination, while others oppose it. Some are Anglo-Catholic, while others are low church evangelicals. A few of them even support lay presidency in the Eucharist. I don’t see how these diverse views will survive when they have left the Anglican Communion and the taint of ECUSA. What will unite them? How will they make room for Anglo-Catholics on one side and ardent low church Sydney Anglicans (where chasubles are canonically forbidden, it seems)?

Anyway, here are some thoughts on the statement itself. I’ve taken just a few sound bites, so make sure you read the whole thing to form your own response.

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, are a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission.

This notion of Anglicanism as a “confessing” church is a wholly new understanding of Anglicanism. It’s a reinvention of Anglican Christianity. Perhaps it’s a good idea, but it’s a little problematic to criticize progressives for their revisionism while you’re doing the same thing in redefining the very core of our Anglican identity.

The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.

I’m fine with the Holy Scriptures having primacy — after all, I have solemnly stated that the Scriptures contain all things necessary for salvation when I was ordained. I think the more Catholic members of GAFCON will be none too pleased to see the 39 Articles elevated to an authoritative place. No more Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament for you! In fact, you’ll have to rip out all those tabernacles & aumbrys; reserved sacrament is forbidden in the 39 Articles.

While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Again, this is a wholly reinvented understanding of Anglican identity.

The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

I’m not sure what the last bit means, about “historic and consensual.” I don’t get the “plain sense” of it. Here’s my question though. If some parts of the Bible are to be taken literally (Leviticus, for example), why aren’t other bits to be read plainly? What about the words of Jesus himself? He says that to become his follower, you have to sell everything you own and give the money to the poor. It’s the plain sense. So I suppose GAFCON leaders will start liquidating their possessions now? A good start would be to fly home in economy instead of business class.

We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

What happened to the next three Ecumenical Councils? We used to uphold the authority of the first seven, back in the day.

We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

There goes the 1979 prayer book in this country for GAFCONites. 1928 too — it contains doctrinal innovation in the canon of the Eucharistic prayer, so they’ll be needing to use 1662 here.

We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.

Ouch! That one is really going to hurt some GAFCON types. Several of them are reported to be divorced and remarried. Given their stated desire to to be out of communion with people tainted with heresy or ongoing moral failure, several leaders are going to need to leave GAFCON and its allied organizations.

We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.

Does “justice in society” include human rights for GLBT people? I understand that they do not plan to ordain them, but should they be jailed and beaten? It looks like Archbishops Akinola and Orombi will have some work to do back home after this statement is ratified, given their moral failure to condemn the beatings, rape, and imprisonment of people just for being gay or lesbian.

We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.

Again, this is a bit of a new thing. Many centuries ago, the church understood that Holy Orders do not depend on the character of a person; they are irrevocable when validly conferred. So you may choose not to recognize someone’s authority, but their orders should not be in question. By the way, does this mean that Bishop Iker will recognize the orders of suitably conservative (i.e. “orthodox”) women now?

We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.

Now this one I could sign on for! In fact, I might get it printed on t-shirts. “Secondary matters” could be things that aren’t mentioned in the historic creeds, or things that Jesus doesn’t address, or things that are minor themes in Scripture. Things like…same-sex blessings.

In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council.

This, my friends, is schism. No mistake about it. It’s not a conventional, historic parallel jurisdiction. It’s a new thing, designed to subvert the traditional patterns of church order already in place.

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1 Response

  1. Ailie says:

    Well said.

    Now with regard to those ‘secondary matters’: I read that as certain bishops’ selective approval of certain ‘native’ customs, such as polygamy.

    Schism? You betcha.

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