frgavin on June 24th, 2011

June  2011

Chris Sugden  Evangelicals Now  July 2011

In May the GAFCON Primates Council released the communiqué from their bi-annual meeting in Nairobi.  The eight primates have heavy responsibilities in their national churches. Since the GAFCON conference in Jerusalem in 2008 they have not had an implementing arm.

That is about to change. The new chairman, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, is to have a chairman’s office in Nairobi.  A co-ordination office will be established in London by the deputy secretary of the Council, Bishop Martyn Minns preparing for further GAFCON gatherings in 2012 and 2013.

But can the Anglican Communion ever again be more than a collection of independent national churches?   The doctrine of the church runs throughout the Primates’ communiqué.

They speak of supporting those “who have been alienated so that they can remain within the Anglican family”.  They say that  “there is and can only ever be one church of Jesus Christ.” “The local  church”, they continue” is the fundamental expression of the one true church here on earth and is bound together with other local churches by ties of love, fellowship and truth.  From such networks have come denominations, national churches and global communions.“

But does this understanding of the church actually concede what The Episcopal Church in the USA is seeking for, a network or federation rather than a communion of reformed catholic churches?

It was after all because Gene Robinson was (and before him Jeffrey John was to be) a bishop for the whole church and all other Anglicans were implicated, that a worldwide outcry and crisis ensued.  Might there be further clarification of this area where orthodox Anglo-Catholic and evangelicals in England have been coming together?

The communiqué strongly affirms the “global communion with its distinctive balance of reformed catholicity”.  The Anglican Communion claims  that it is part of the one church of Jesus since the beginning (catholic), and is also reformed by putting the scriptures at the heart of its teaching and life.

They affirm the East African Revival which was the forerunner of the charismatic movement and so recognise the role of movements in the church, of which they see GAFCON as one.

They pledge to resource leaders so that “we can more fully become the church that God has established”, namely to demonstrate unity, holiness, apostolicity (adherence to and proclamation of the teaching of the apostles) and catholicity ( commitment to visible fellowship with those uphold pure preaching and faithful administration of the sacraments).

The Primates critique the current organisers of Anglican Communion meetings for promoting “an uncertain faith and a never ending listening process.”  “This faith masquerades as a religion of tolerance and generosity, yet is decidedly intolerant of those who hold to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’.  For them the theological principles of the Jerusalem Declaration give “a secure foundation for the future.”

Can all the orthodox in the Anglican Communion, who are indeed the majority,  work together so as to form a truly global orthodox fellowship that will remain both orthodox and lead the Anglican Communion into the future?

Vinay Samuel, one of the leadership team at GAFCON in Jerusalem, comments: “The real issue continues to be evangelical uncertainty in some areas of ecclesiology. The first is Christian unity.  What do evangelicals mean by it?  In practice they tend to limit it to common faith assertions and convictions. But unity is much more than that if we take the Divine Trinity as the model for unity.  It is “Communion” with all its implications of being one “Body”, relating as the Persons of the Trinity relate with one another. And that includes the global body of Christians. The model of unity that evangelicals often work with is narrowly propositional and leads to the kind of denominational fragmentation we are rightly notorious for. I am not sure GAFCON/FCA has tackled that adequately in spite of the promise of Jerusalem 2008  “

Chris Sugden
Anglican Mainstream

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