News Analysis

By David W. Virtue
May  2011

If one has any doubt about where the Anglican Communion as a whole is going, look no further than the ever increasing encirclement of evangelical Global South Anglican wagons around the liberal-revisionist West.

A council of Anglican leaders who make up the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) representing more than 35 million Anglicans now plan to meet for a second time in 2013 in Jerusalem (the first was in 2008). They also plan to open offices in London and Nairobi.

This move to plant a Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) office on UK soil can only be viewed with alarm by Lambeth Palace. It is the first major encroachment on the turf of the Mother Church by orthodox Anglicans from the Global South and must be taken with tremendous seriousness. This is happening while a number of Church of England Anglo-Catholic bishops, clergy, and laity are fleeing to Rome under the offer of an ordinariate by Pope Benedict XVI. Evangelicals within the CofE are flexing their own muscles opposing both the possibility of women bishops and the acceptance of pansexuality that are being covertly and publicly endorsed by the Church of England.

With the announcement of the opening of a GAFCON office in London, African, Asian and Latin American Anglicans might just as well fly banners over the city and take out ads in “The Times, Guardian” and “Daily Mail saying”, “We’re not taking it any more” and hope the Archbishop of Canterbury is looking out his window at Lambeth Palace and listening.

The Global South’s non-appearance in Dublin earlier this year spoke volumes. They said they were disappointed that those who organized the Primates meeting in Dublin not only failed to address their core concerns over morals and discipline, but that they decided, instead, to unilaterally reduce the status of the Primates’ Meeting.

“This action was taken with complete disregard for the resolutions of both Lambeth 1978 and 1998 that called for an enhanced role in ‘doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters’. We believe that they were seriously misled and their actions unacceptable,” they said.

The GAFCON primates have now thrown down the gauntlet making it very clear that the great divide (some might call it a schism though that is not a word they use) has widened even further with an office in London. It will not only address their concerns but bring evangelicals into the Church of England to say they have friends in the Global South who believe as they do. Despite all the nonsense talk about cultural differences and worship styles, the core beliefs of the Global South are in exact accord with evangelicals in the CofE.

Furthermore, as whole dioceses in England, many of which are liberal, depend on the financial largesse of these core evangelicals, the establishment of the GAFCON/FCA (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans) office must be viewed as a serious threat to their hegemony.

In their recent meeting, the Global South Primates reaffirmed the statement of orthodox faith formulated at GAFCON 1 in 2008, known as the Jerusalem Declaration. This stands in marked contrast to the Anglican Covenant which has been circling the globe. The Archbishop of Canterbury hopes it will draw the Anglican Communion together, but it has, in fact, become a lightning rod for dissent in The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada, (ACoC). It has been endorsed by Mexico, South East Asia and the West Indies. The Church of Ireland has “subscribed” to the covenant, while, the Province of South East Asia, has issued a “letter of accession.” Three other Anglican Communion provinces have officially adopted the covenant. They are The Anglican Church of Mexico, The Anglican Church in the West Indies, and the Church of the Province of Myanmar. It is by no means a slam dunk in either TEC or the ACoC.

In strong language, the Primates stated, “We believe that the theological principles outlined in the Jerusalem Declaration offers the only way forward that holds true to our past and also gives a sure foundation for the future.” The use of the word only cannot be overlooked or taken lightly. If that is the case, the Anglican Covenant document must be viewed as little more than Chamberlain’s “peace for our time” Munich Agreement document. We all know how well that worked.

Now the lines are being sharply drawn and the focus is becoming clearer.

In the U.S., the growth of The Anglican Mission (TheAM) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), with new dioceses forming in TEC territories and the growth of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), and the Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC) continues apace. They are pouring new evangelical wine into new wineskins even as the old wineskins of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada dry up and dissipate. By any reckoning, this can only be an embarrassment to Dr. Williams as he tries to hold a flailing communion together.

Global South Primates are planning a second GAFCON in 2013 to be preceded by a leadership conference in New York in 2012. This can only be seen by Dr. Williams as a smack in the face against his authority as GAFCON represents more Anglicans than he does. What about the failure of pan-Anglican liberalism doesn’t he understand?

Tucked quietly away in the 13-point statement issued after their Nairobi meeting was this, “We continue to be troubled by the promotion of a shadow gospel that appears to replace a traditional reading of Holy Scriptures and a robust theology of the church with an uncertain faith and a never ending listening process. This faith masquerades as a religion of tolerance and generosity and yet it is decidedly intolerant to those who hold to the ‘faith once and for all delivered to the saints’. We believe that the theological principles outlined in the Jerusalem Declaration offer the only way forward that holds true to our past and also gives a sure foundation for the future.”

This is a direct attack on Dr. Williams himself. The term shadow gospel comes from a book by Charles Raven titledShadow Gospel: Rowan Williams and the Anglican Communion Crisis in which the author argues coherently that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s theology and the real problem facing the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion are not so much an ecclesial deficit as a confessional one. He argues that what Williams really believes is the shadow, not the substance of the faith. This has blinded the West and infuriated the Global South who have seen through his ecclesiastical and theological gerrymandering with his efforts to hold the Anglican Communion together at one Primates’ meeting after another. That day is done. GAFCON is a repudiation of the Lambeth Conference. The Jerusalem Declaration is a repudiation of a failing Covenant. The GAFCON primates meetings signal the end of any future meeting of Primates called by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It also signals the end of the Instruments of Unity as having any binding authority on the Global South. They have seen how manipulated they have been by Canon Kenneth Kearon of the Anglican Consultative Council and will have nothing more to do with him. They also believe the so-called Listening Process is nothing more than a way of desensitizing orthodox Anglicans into believing that sodomy is good and right in the eyes of God when it is not.

They will also never sit down again with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and, by association, the Anglican Church of Canada, which is little more than a clone of TEC. Their archbishop is easily manipulated by a revisionist bishop like Michael Ingham of New Westminster. Jefferts Schori is paying obeisance to New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson or Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles. Pansexuality has triumphed in the West; it is a non starter in the Global South.

As Charles Raven observes, GAFCON is clear in its intention to build “alternative institutions” and they won’t be stopped, stifled or inhibited in moving forward. As Kenyan bishop Bill Atwood noted, GAFCON is not forming an “ordinariate.” It is a movement among Anglicans to promote mission to share Jesus Christ with the world and, as the Jerusalem Declaration makes clear, it is doing so in the Anglican way.

It is clear we are fast approaching what is called the “end game” in chess. The institutional and intellectual challenges GAFCON is now committed to are huge. They amount to founding the Anglican Communion afresh. The Primates have embraced their divine summons with sober faith in the power of the resurrection. As Kenyan Archbishop Eliad Wabukala observed on his appointment as Chairman of the GAFCON Primates during the Nairobi meeting, “I recognize that we have set ourselves a truly monumental task but we serve God for whom nothing, not even overcoming death itself, is impossible.”

Dr. Williams should take note.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.