March 26, 2017

October 21, 2013

GAFCON Day 1 - The Church Gathered and a Firm Word for Archbishop Welby

The first official day of GAFCON has been a great one. I’m sitting back in my hotel reflecting on many powerful things I’ve seen and heard. First and foremost is the incredible joy of being part of a group of over 1,300 people gathered from all over the world. As the conference got underway former Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, led a roll-call of attendees by country. Nation after nation was called and welcomed by the rest of us. Some delegations were enormous - the Nigerian crowd filled the hall with noise when called - and some were tiny, including single delegates from Iran and Pakistan. But the conference made up for their small voices by adding their own in a cheer of welcome and greeting.

The main session of the day was a presentation on the East Africa Revival. Academics and bishops from the region each spoke giving their findings and experiences of the revival. One strain that came through was the clear signal that revival had brought with it deep repentance for sin, and sin as set out in the Scriptures. It was a powerful reminder of the work of God in this region but also a not so subtle signal about the authenticity (or otherwise) of current movements in Anglicanism. It’s also been a day of forming relationships. I had the privilege of introducing Bishop John Harrower of Tasmania to Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina. John had written to Martin in support but was delighted to now meet him. The conference has had many other similar moments.

There are other photos of the day, available courtesy of GAFCON.

Of course, behind all the wonderful expressions of gospel partnership across the GAFCON movement is the thorny question of its place in the Anglican Communion. According to the GAFCON site this conference is “Confirms a major realignment in the Anglican Communion”.

The second Global Anglican Future Conference, which opens today in Nairobi, is confirmation that the churches involved in the GAFCON movement are committed to the Anglican Communion and modelling how the communion should operate in the 21st century.

As well as seeking to set a clear path together in mission, there is the question of the relationship of the movement with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who visited on Sunday and preached at both morning services at All Saints Cathedral. Anglican Ink are reporting that +++Welby had a tough time of it…

The archbishop’s multi-layered sermon evolved over its two presentations – after being all but silent about Gafcon in his first sermon, in its second reading the archbishop spoke three times about the forthcoming Gafcon conference, set for 21-26 October 2013, at All Saints Cathedral.

His sermons also sparked mixed responses. Following the first presentation, Archbishop Pete Akinola, the former Primate of All-Nigeria, told Anglican Ink Archbishop Welby’s sermon was “outrageous”. The Nigerian leader was incensed that Archbishop Welby had suggested there was a moral equivalence between the normalization of gay bishops and blessings by the Episcopal Church and the violation of ecclesiastical boundaries by church leaders from the Global South.

“Did you hear what he said? He is saying the sins of the Episcopal Church are as bad as border-crossing,” Archbishop Akinola said.

However, after the second presentation, Archbishop Welby walked back his moral equivalency comments. Dr. Peter Jensen, the former Archbishop of Sydney and the current General Secretary of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans—the sponsor of the Gafcon conference—said he was encouraged by the address. The archbishop’s statement “the old ways are no longer appropriate, the old structures no longer work, given on the eve of Gafcon, give us hope,” he said.

Several people have told me that Welby looked tired. Perhaps due to a long flight but also possibly due to the meeting he had with the GAFCON Primates. Sources have told me that the Primates gave a very clear message to Welby that he must deal clearly and firmly with TEC and others who have abandoned Scriptural authority; the Scriptures being the very thing that Welby in his sermon said was the cause of any church flourishing. If he thought he could come to Nairobi and present a pathway for “reconciliation” then he will have been very surprised. But I am also told that GAFCON leaders are keen to be supportive of Welby, although that may depend on the choices he makes going forward. It’s certainly true that he faces a very tough position back in the Church of England with continued pressure from liberals to soften the church’s stance on sexual ethics. At some point, it seems, he will have to make a choice. If he chooses to stand publicly for the conservative position then he will find the enormous GAFCON movement squarely behind him. If not, then he will see the “Church within a Church” continue to grow and pursue it’s own authentic Anglican path together.

More tomorrow.

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I don’t know Welby from a canned ham.  But at the end of the day I think he’s a creature of the government and culture in Great Britain and will act accordingly.

We saw this in the 80s & 90s with all the “moderate” clergy who were really “slow-motion” revisionists.  Welby strikes as being of that mold.  There are still more traditional folks he can’t afford to entirely cheese-off YET by being honest about what he REALLY wants to do because in TEo 20 years ago they actually pay his salary, but for Welby now the GAFCON primates provide him cover as an international ecumenical figure instead of just simply the head of an increasingly irrelevant and dying national church.

It is just one more reason for me to see Rowan Williams as an utter failure and a coward.  Williams could have cast his lot with TEo and the ACC and let Welby get on with the business of selling off parish buildings for discos and coffee shops, but he kicked the can down the road enough so the dissolution of the Anglican Communion will happen on someone else’s tenure, even though his fingerprints are over the present situation by his utter lack of leadership.

[1] Posted by Bill2 on 10-21-2013 at 04:04 PM · [top]

Thank you for your report, David.  May God bless this gathering, and may He bless your own experiences there.

[2] Posted by Katherine on 10-21-2013 at 06:05 PM · [top]

Really interesting and good post, David+, thanks!  So glad you’re there and able to report for Stand Firm. 

Upon reading that there are 400+ Nigerian attendees at GAFCON, I did a little math…

400/1350 = 30%  (approx % of GAFCON attendees who are Nigerian)
18 million / 70 million = 26% (approx % of Nigerians in the Anglican Communion)

So one of the most striking things to me about GAFCON is that it may be the most truly representative gathering of Anglicans ever, as well as being, I believe, the largest ever global Anglican gathering.  [Note, I’m excluding events like the consecrations of African bishops, etc., that routinely draw together 3000+ people.)  Also, the Plano1 and Plano East conferences were larger, if my figures are accurate, but of course the attendees at those events were almost all North Americans.]

[3] Posted by Karen B. on 10-21-2013 at 06:18 PM · [top]

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the following may illustrate Karen B’s point eloquently-

Over at Lent and Beyond, there is a wonderful photo taken over the last couple days-
That is what Gafcon looks like, and what ACC meetings, Lambeth and other Anglican meetings would look like if they were actually representative of the Communion.

[4] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-21-2013 at 06:45 PM · [top]

tj, thanks for linking my post at Lent & Beyond.  Isn’t that a STUNNING picture?

I had the privilege of attending the 3rd Lausanne Congress at Capetown 3 years ago in October 2010.  That was AMAZING:  about 4500 evangelical Christians from something like 120+ countries.  Worship in 8 different languages…  It was probably the closest I’ll get to glimpsing the worship of heaven and the multitudes that will be around the throne from every tribe tongue & people on this side of heaven.  These pictures from GAFCON II are reminding me of being at Lausanne!  (also just a little added FYI - there was a huge Anglican presence at Lausanne too.  Abp. Orombi was one of the main organizers of the Lausanne congress, and there were 5 or 6 Anglican Primates there.  I had the joy of getting to chat for about 30 minutes with Abp. Mouneer….!)

[5] Posted by Karen B. on 10-21-2013 at 06:56 PM · [top]

“At some point, it seems, he will have to make a choice.”

I don’t know about that. If he follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, he will give us a Hegelian dialectic without resolution as a means of maintaining the peace.

[6] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 10-22-2013 at 08:54 AM · [top]

You couldn’t pay me enough $ to put me in Welby’s job.  Any way he chooses he loses.

So, why not stand for the Gospel?

I know, call me crazy…

[7] Posted by B. Hunter on 10-22-2013 at 11:40 AM · [top]

Is it possible that Her Majesty has told the ABC that “the communion does not disintegrate on my watch. There are no conditions that the destruction of Canterbury is allowable while I am your Queen?”

[8] Posted by balthrop on 10-22-2013 at 12:01 PM · [top]

balthrop:  I doubt that HRH has any significant influence.  Rather, I think that there are two other factors which are much more likely to play a role here. 

First is that Welby realizes that there is considerable conservative discontent in the Global North - not enough to win any political battles, but more than sufficient to cause real problems if they up and leave (witness ACNA’s effect on TEC).  The CofE has so far not experienced anything like what has happened in North America and Welby wants to ensure that it doesn’t.  Thus he understands that there must be some pacification of conservatives.

Second is that there is much more cachet in being the Archbishop of a large global communion that has a significant African presence, then to be the Archbishop of a small, wealthy, white, declining western church.  And what’s more, he wants the appearances to be one of a great, big, happy family, not one of accusations of western imperialism.  And so, he understands that there must be some pacification of conservatives.

So Welby has a very strong incentive to keep the Communion together and the conservatives pacified.  He knows that he can’t take the hard-line KJS approach, nor do I think that he would want to.  He probably has sympathy for the conservative position, but is too cowed by institutional inertia and political pressure to hold a conserative line.  And so, he will try very hard to make it appear that he sympathizes with GAFCON but will avoid actually doing anything specific of significant.

[9] Posted by jamesw on 10-22-2013 at 03:15 PM · [top]

My modem needed replacing, so I have been out of the loop since last Thursday.  I’m glad to see that we have 150 delegates representing us at the conference, including Archbishop Duncan and Bishops Menees and Iker, and I’m pleased to see that Bishop Lawrence is there as well.  I saw the pictures of Archbishops Duncan and Welby together, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in this; I think it was nothing more than a photo op.

[10] Posted by cennydd13 on 10-22-2013 at 05:22 PM · [top]

Jamesw at #9, brilliant summary. 

The only thing I would add is that there is a geopolitical angle as well - Britain’s foreign policy is much more focussed on Africa and the Commonwealth than it was 5 years ago.  The British government will be happy if ++Welby plays his part in keeping relations within the Communion smooth.  It won’t tell him what to do of course, but the old boys and girls network will pass on messages to him.

[11] Posted by MichaelA on 10-24-2013 at 06:07 PM · [top]

Good to see the Bishop of Tasmania present at Gafcon.  There is a strong evangelical and orthodox influence down there.

[12] Posted by MichaelA on 10-24-2013 at 06:08 PM · [top]

Cennydd at #10, that is encouraging.  Meetings like this with ++Duncan, +Lawrence, +Iker and others from across the Anglican world are necessary to foster strong conciliar and collegiate bonds, so that the real Communion will be strong.

[13] Posted by MichaelA on 10-24-2013 at 06:10 PM · [top]

The fact that Archbishop Duncan officiated alongside Archbishop Wabukala speaks volumes for our relationship with the African primates, and is indicative of the changes occurring within the Communion.

[14] Posted by cennydd13 on 10-24-2013 at 11:50 PM · [top]

And won’t it be interesting to see what Mrs Schori and her friends will have to say, if they say anything at all, about the final communique from the primates following GAFCON II?

[15] Posted by cennydd13 on 10-25-2013 at 09:42 PM · [top]

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