February 23, 2017

October 23, 2013


GAFCON Day 3: Welby and Jensen - Ambiguity of Context and Clarity of Scripture

This morning the GAFCON delegates were shown a video address by Justin Welby, filmed before he came to visit Kenya this last weekend. The entire message is available on Canterbury’s website.

The message was greeted with a very short and muted round of applause, more out of politeness one felt than anything else. Reactions from delegates mostly expressed frustration at what was seen as yet another wasted opportunity for Welby to stand firm. In particular there was unhappiness with this segment,

We all live in different contexts and the challenge overlaps but is slightly different wherever we live. We are dealing with very rapid changes of culture in the Global North and the issue of sexuality is a very important one. How we respond rightly to that – in a way that is holy, truthful and gracious – is absolutely critical to our proclamation of the gospel.

It was described to me by one bishop as “almost insulting”. Another clergy delegate called it “two-faced”, saying “he worked very hard at trying to sound like he was supportive while actually not saying anything clear on the subject. If he thinks we’re fooled then he ought not to”.

Bishop Jack Iker told me,

[It was] very good of him to send an official greeting to the conference. But what he had to say was innocuous. It certainly didn’t stir the conference or cause any enthusiasm based upon his comments.

Others were a little more concilatory. The Venerable Donald Roberts, Archdeacon of New England said,

The fact he sent us a message is a wonderful positive statement. I think his call for unity is certainly a step in the right direction and I pray that might happen. I understand the unique pressures he’s under.

Wherever I asked it was impossible to find anyone to say something positive about the content of the statement.

Welby’s attempt to maintain a precarious middle ground (and, by so doing, appearing to please nobody) stood in stark contrast to comments from former Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen (the General Secretary of GAFCON). GAFCON have released the text of remarks that Jensen made to a lunch of invited guests including key Primates and Archbishop Welby. Jensen spoke clearly of the issues facing the Communion, with none of the ambiguity that Welby had used,

...it has begun to happen in other places around the Communion, where to stand for Biblical truth is going to cost you very, very dearly indeed, as it has cost our brothers here.   And then you will have to ask yourself: who are our friends?   Who will stand with us?  And GAFCON is a way of delivering friendship, it is a way of delivering unity…

...

The clarity of the Scriptures - particularly in the area of human sexuality - which is so important for our identity, means that we believe that we know – always ready to look again - but  when we look again, the same message appears:: that human sexual expression needs to occur within the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman.

What seems to be increasingly clear amongst delegates here is that GAFCON wants to have Welby as a friend, but they understand that friends will stand by them clearly and unequivocably, despite cost to themselves. If Welby wants GAFCON to trust him and support him then he will have to make a much more clear stand once and for all on the Communion crisis. Delegates from England, however, told me that he is under immense pressure (not least self-imposed) from liberals in the Church of England and that this appears to be guiding his public statements. Some even suggested to me that the video for GAFCON was really produced with the Church of England in mind, to keep liberals happy.

All of which means that the final GAFCON communiqué and statement is greatly anticipated. The mood here is for something very clear and robust. When asked about what they were looking for in the statement one clergy delegate said to me, “we want it to be very very strong. We didn’t come here simply to meet each other, as good as that is. We came to make a clear bold statement together about the future, else why did we actually come here?” There is every indication that he will get exactly what he’s looking for.


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7 comments

If Welby wants GAFCON to trust him and support him then he will have to make a much more clear stand once and for all on the Communion crisis.

Yep.  The ball, as we say in the States, is in his court.  We are moving on with those who yearn for an orthodox, biblical Communion.  He is either with us or not.  But we are not standing still, breathlessly waiting for permission to keep on keeping on.

[1] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 10-23-2013 at 03:01 PM · [top]

It is increasingly apparent that GAFCON is about the only functioning instrument of unity in the Anglican Communion and the only one exhibiting joy.  It is the new Lambeth.  The Archbishop can be a part of it or not.

[2] Posted by pendennis88 on 10-23-2013 at 03:14 PM · [top]

[1]  As we say, the proof will be in the pudding.  ++Welby will have to decide if he is with us or against us, because there can be no more middle ground ala Rowland Williams.

[3] Posted by cennydd13 on 10-23-2013 at 04:42 PM · [top]

David+,
Let me add myself to the list of many on SF who are thankful for your time and effort in putting up these daily updates. 

One notes that no such updates are coming via the Anglican Communion News Service- at least they are not making my daily email deliveries.  Apparently, the ABoC did send a video to some folks meeting in Nairobi, but that has been the only coverage.  One might have anticipated, with the ABoC committing himself to doing away with colonial structures, there might be some acknowledgement that a conference of 1/3 of all Anglican diocesan bishops and 1000 clergy and laity representing 70% of all Anglicans was underway. But I guess that is just not as important to ACNS as the design of the prince’s baptismal PJs or today’s installment on the whereabouts of India’s first woman bishop.

[4] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-23-2013 at 06:06 PM · [top]

As I read this thread, the phrase “peace peace where there is no peace” popped into my mind, and when I went to check in my bible I realized how appropriate the actual verses seem.

Jeremiah 6:13-15

13 “For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
15 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the LORD.

[5] Posted by Daniel on 10-24-2013 at 09:59 AM · [top]

tjmcmahon, good point about the Anglican Communion News Service - again proving its limited relevance to most Anglicans across the globe!

[6] Posted by MichaelA on 10-24-2013 at 04:40 PM · [top]

From David’s link above:

“The group applauded when an impassioned Dr Jensen said “But our intention is to gather up the fragments of the Anglican Communion, and what GAFCON has done, particularly in North America, has been to gather up the fragments and to unite and to make sure that our beloved friends like Archbishop Bob Duncan here today, our beloved friends are kept and recognised as the authentic true Anglicans that they are, and that they don’t have to pretend to be something else”.”

In a sense that is true.  But if that were all Gafcon is, ++Welby wouldn’t be there.  He certainly wouldn’t have flown 8,000 miles out and 8,000 miles back for a couple of days meetings.

Gafcon was about establishing ACNA as an alternative to TEC, and it may yet be about establishing ACiE.  That is why Welby is there, and trying to juggle his comments so as not to offend either Gafcon or the folk back home.

[7] Posted by MichaelA on 10-24-2013 at 04:46 PM · [top]

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