March 26, 2017

October 22, 2013

GAFCON Day 2 - A Clear Challenge to Welby and much more

GAFCON Day 2 has been and gone. And what a day!

We began with a large communion service (using the Church of Nigeria liturgy) in the beautiful All Saints Cathedral here in Nairobi. It’s a stunning building and looks all the more impressive with all the bishops sitting in the choir, loads of wonderfully dressed African ladies and a full house of delegates.

After morning tea we turned to the opening plenary session and the chairman’s address. Archbishop Wabakula of Kenya is a softly-spoken man but even his gentle voice could not disguise the power of what he had to say. We reported yesterday that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had been challenged by the Primates in their meeting and Wabukala had equally firm words to say. Here’s the key paragraph,

Five years on, the paralysis of which we spoke has intensified. And it has become clear that the Communion now needs new wineskins, a new way of ordering its affairs to fulfil the world wide scope of the Great Commission. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has now come to this conclusion and I am grateful for

His Grace’s honesty in acknowledging that the Anglican Communion’s neo- colonial leadership structures need to be replaced when he preached here at All Saints Cathedral last Sunday. However, it is difficult to see how stable and effective leadership can be developed unless the depth of the spiritual crisis we face is acknowledged. Organisational change on its own will not be enough. Even the very weak theological discipline of the Anglican Covenant has failed to win consent despite years of negotiation and the Archbishop of Canterbury is no longer able to gather the Communion.

Or, put in simpler terms, it’s not enough for Welby to visit GAFCON and tell them that he recognises that the current structures are failing. If he will not deal with the real issues (the apostasy of the American and Canadian churches) then GAFCON will continue on without him. He no longer commands any leadership amongst them.

Wabakula’s speech also contained a call to action, to not be afraid to act if required, even the continued crossing of boundaries if necessary. None of this, of course, will please Welby. I am told that the Primates would be more than happy to openly back him if only he would deal with TEC and the ACC, but as long as he fails to deal with the situation then he will, instead, find himself marginalised within the Anglican Communion which he is meant to lead.

Enormous stuff. As the writing groups begin to contribute to the final conference document this firm approach of the Primates will, no doubt, be a key train of thought.

But the day was not simpy spent on those things. Dr Mike Ovey, the principal of Oakhill Theological College in London gave a brilliant presentation on the corruption of grace in Western culture. Reflecting on the contribution of Kant in emphasising a “maturity” which breeds moral autonomy he showed how we have become the epitomé of Bonhöffer’s “cheap grace”. The full text is not yet published but when it is I’ll be sure to link it. Well worth the read. Later that day a number of people described it to me as the best sustained theological work they had encountered in a long time.

The afternoon brought a session entitled “You Are Not Alone”. Archbishop Peter Jensen hosted and introduced an enormous variety of individuals who were all, in their own way, in need of reassuring that “You Are Not Alone”; Archbishop Deng of Sudan, Andrea Minichiello-Williams of Christian Concern in the UK, Paul Perkins from the Church of England, speakers from Kenya, the Diocese of Nelson in New Zealand, Diocese of Recifé in Brazil and the ACNA all testified to the various pressures they were under. Each in turn was warmly welcomed by the conference with the repeated refrain of “You Are Not Alone” being heard again and again. There was a clear sense of solidarity in the conference hall as contributors said “we are not alone”, “we cherish the encouragement and support of global friends”, “we need you, you tell us we are not alone” and “my province is GAFCON”. If the intention was to solidify our mutual commitment to one another then it certainly succeeded.

Tomorrow the conference breaks into “mini-conferences” looking at topics such as the role of the Spirit, the challenge of Islam, re-evangelising the West and so on. This is where the real work will begin with delegates making their own contributions to the ongoing discussions. These, in turn, will be fed back into the groups working on the final conference document. What that will look like remains to be seen but, if today is anything to go by, it will express a clear commitment to standing firm inside the Anglican Communion and with each other so that the gospel can go out as far as possible.

There is a tangible expectation around me that something big will be produced. As one delegate put it to me, “I didn’t just come here to network, as good as that has been. We came here to make a massive difference”. What that different will be remains to be seen, but it will not be negligible. What GAFCON has shown today is that none of us are alone and together we can effect real changes.

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Thank you David for your “epistles” from GAFCON.  God be with you and the other participants.

[1] Posted by midwestnorwegian on 10-22-2013 at 03:59 PM · [top]

Sounds like GAFCON is taking the right approach.  Move on regardless of what Welby thinks.  He can either join them “as is” or he can become the crazy uncle in the attic.  Part of the family, but no one really cares what he says anyomore.

[2] Posted by Bill2 on 10-22-2013 at 04:06 PM · [top]

Will look forward to reading “The Challenge of Islam” statement crafted by Christians who are in front-line encounters with this other religion.

[3] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 10-22-2013 at 05:08 PM · [top]

Thanks for your reporting. I have had “You are never alone” on my side bar for several years. It is a reassuring fact for us in revisionist strongholds.

[4] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 10-22-2013 at 08:25 PM · [top]

That first picture is definitely food for thought. It is reassuring to remember that while it is the rich, white, liberals in Britain and North America get all the press trying to bend Christianity to suit their fashionable, liberal causes, meanwhile this is, demographically speaking, the real face of the Anglican Communion. While I value the English heritage (both the Communion’s and my own), I’m so glad that the Africans have been there to take a stand as the West continues to drop the ball.

[5] Posted by Ecclesiastes 1:18 on 10-23-2013 at 07:54 AM · [top]

Archbishop Welby cannot deal with the American and Canadian Provinces when his own Church of England has its own heretics/apostates in the clergy and lay leadership, and when the British Government and Queen approve those offenses and urge the Church of England to openly do the same.

Welby has his hands tied politically.  At this point, he would have to abdicate his office to stand rightly before God on homosexuality/pansexuality.

There is no way, except compromise, procrastination and/or hypocrisy, to keep the Anglican Communion together.

[6] Posted by St. Nikao on 10-23-2013 at 08:35 AM · [top]

I agree that there’s no way to keep the Communion together… it’s presently constituted.  Even ++Welby admitted that things have to change….and they ARE changing.  And speaking of Her Majesty the Queen:  She can’t do anything without Parliament’s permission, which means that even if she disagrees privately, she has to do as she’s told,  Ergo her endorsement of the homosexuality issue and all that goes with it.

[7] Posted by cennydd13 on 10-23-2013 at 09:23 AM · [top]

#3, Tim+ I too will look forward to reading that particular statement.  I’m excited about the mini-conferences.  Fr. George Conger just kindly sent me the full list, which I had not seen published anywhere:

  The Challenge of Islam – led by Bishop Michael Nazir Ali
  The Work of the Holy Spirit – led by Dr. Stephen Noll
  Marriage and Family   -  led by Dr. John & Ruth Senyonyi
  Children and Youths   -  Rev Zac Vernon
  Gospel and Culture   -  Dr. Alfred Olwa
  Being Women of God   -  Christine Perkin
  Aid and Development   -  Rev Dennis Tongoi
  Theological Education   -  Dr Andrew Shead
  Episcopal Ministry   -  Bishop Wallace Benn

In fact, I believe it could be through these mini-conferences that GAFCON 2013 has its greatest impact.

John Stott once said of the 1974 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization:
‘Many a conference has resembled a fireworks display. It has made a loud noise and illuminated the night sky for a few brief brilliant seconds. What is exciting about Lausanne is that its fire continues to spark off other fires. ’

I long and pray for that to be said of GAFCON 2013.

I’ve written about a real life example of how conferences can make a difference in my latest post at Lent & Beyond:

Why GAFCON 2013 matters – part 2: Praying for the “mini conference” sessions

[8] Posted by Karen B. on 10-23-2013 at 10:19 AM · [top]

The topics of the mini conferences tell me what GAFCON II leadership deems important. What I don’t see is topics like, social justice, pluralism, reconciliation, Millennium Development Goals, Women’s reproductive rights and environmental sustainability. I especially like the topic “Gospel and Culture”. I suspect that this mini-conference will NOT cover how the church needs to be in conformity with contemporary culture.
I could see a mission statement energized by these mini-conferences and generated at GAFCON II.

[9] Posted by Fr. Dale on 10-23-2013 at 11:10 AM · [top]

Fr Dale, while these are good, I would also like to see one universal and formal statement of reformed Catholic Christian belief emerge from these mini-conferences, and generated, adopted, and published as one by all of the churches represented at the conference.  It is time to declare exactly where we stand, in my opinion.

[10] Posted by cennydd13 on 10-23-2013 at 02:07 PM · [top]

I believe there will be a conference statement.

Even though I said I agreed with Fr. Tim about being eager to see any “statement” that comes out of the Engaging Islam mini-conference, I am not actually sure that the mini-conferences will produce separate statements.  Likely various issues they raise will be addressed in the single conference statement.

[11] Posted by Karen B. on 10-23-2013 at 02:13 PM · [top]

That statement will need to have some real teeth in it, in my opinion.  Let’s hope that it will.

[12] Posted by cennydd13 on 10-23-2013 at 03:39 PM · [top]

Dr. Ovey’s plenary talk on God’s grace versus worldly grace is now online.  Deep, meaty & ecellent.  MUST READING!  No wonder it generated so much buzz on Twitter yesterday!


[13] Posted by Karen B. on 10-23-2013 at 05:14 PM · [top]

“If he will not deal with the real issues (the apostasy of the American and Canadian churches)”

I dunno.  I would have thought that the apostasy of the English, Scottish, New Zealand and South African churches may not be far off.  But I agree they haven’t formally crossed that line yet.

[14] Posted by MichaelA on 10-24-2013 at 04:59 PM · [top]

“Archbishop Deng of Sudan, Andrea Minichiello-Williams of Christian Concern in the UK, Paul Perkins from the Church of England, speakers from Kenya, the Diocese of Nelson in New Zealand, Diocese of Recifé in Brazil and the ACNA all testified to the various pressures they were under. Each in turn was warmly welcomed by the conference with the repeated refrain of “You Are Not Alone” being heard again and again.”

Good to hear.  I suspect there are many more groups like this, and the reach of Gafcon/FCA will widen each quinquennium.

[15] Posted by MichaelA on 10-24-2013 at 05:03 PM · [top]

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