A lot of stories starting to appear in the mainstream media on GAFCON. Here’s a sampling:
Frank Kirkpatrick, author of The Episcopal Church in Crisis: How Sex, the Bible, and Authority Are Dividing the Faithful, is particularly troubled by the conservatives’ assertion that their reading of Scripture is not one of many possible interpretations of a complex text but instead the only true way of reading it. “It is disingenuous,” says Kirkpatrick, an Episcopal priest and a professor of religion at Trinity College in Connecticut. “They do not call for homosexuals to be stoned to death. They choose to follow some passage from the Bible and not others. So, clearly, they are interpreting.”
Kirkpatrick also questions the view that the Anglican Communion in the global south is a monolithic block of theological conservatism. “There may be more conservatives there,” he says, “but they don’t dominate the way some scholars think.” Kirkpatrick cites the work of Miranda Hassett, whose book, Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Resphaping Anglicanism, argues that Anglican women in the global south, though largely ignored, voice very different concerns from those of their often conservative clergy.
Much as he differs with Minns and other GAFCON orgagnizers, Kirkpatrick agrees with them on one point: The Jerusalem gathering will not be a real counter-Lambeth conference. Kirkpatrick even suspects that most bishops who go to Jerusalem will end up also attending the Lambeth meeting in Canterbury. “I think it [GAFCON] is a symbolic event, with no real substantive content,” says Kirkpatrick.
If all the conservatives walk out, they will diminish attendance at the July 20 conference by more than one-quarter. (Liberals assert that the number of abstainers will be much smaller.) The entire process could well result in the diminution of the power of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the titular head of the Communion and the closest thing the denomination has to a Pontiff.
That potential boycott and Akinola’s strong language this week will make it much harder for Williams to ignore the fact that a sizable chunk of his Communion, particularly from Africa and conservative dioceses of North America, is no longer interested in discussing questions of how the Communion will deal with homosexual bishops and the blessing of homosexual unions, and appears ready to act unilaterally to get its way. Failure to deal with the conflict could result in a shift in the Communion’s center of power away from its English roots and toward its growing, disgruntled churches in the southern hemisphere.
Bishop Duncan said this had led to a “collapse” of the old Anglicanism which needs to be replaced with a “Global (Post-Colonial) Settlement of Anglicanism”.
“The role first played by the English Parliament, and successively by the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting, cannot be dispensed with in any coherent future for Anglicanism.
“What emerges as an ecclesiological structure, we may be sure, will be neither British nor Western.”
He said a meeting of African bishops in 2004 showed how Anglicanism had to develop.
“The inexorable shift of power from Britain and the West to the Global South cannot be stopped,” he said.
Bishop Duncan said the new “global” communion, which will be worked on at Gafcon, will include discussions on an Anglican “covenant” which would give leaders the power to discipline or even expel churches which go against their teachings on sexuality.
Two of Gafcon’s leaders are prominent members of the Church of England: Michael Nazir-Ali, bishop of Rochester, and Wallace Benn, bishop of Lewes. Neither has confirmed whether they will be at Lambeth. Organisers say the 1,000 delegates will spend the week in discussion, prayer and workshops. The convention clashes with Jerusalem Gay Pride, although participants from the two events are unlikely to meet.
There has been no reaction from the Archbishops of Canterbury or York to the conference. But, in an interview with Premier, a Christian radio station, the Bishop of Durham, the Right Rev Dr Tom Wright, urged people not to abandon the communion.
“The boat is in rocky, choppy waters; don’t jump out of the boat and swim to the right,” he said. “Stick with it. We’re going towards Lambeth.”
Dr Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney, said Anglican leaders in America had driven the worldwide church to the brink of schism by ordaining the first openly gay bishop, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, in 2003.
He insisted he and other conservatives were trying to preserve the Communion and remain faithful to scripture by proposing new structures.
Dr Jensen said, at the start of a breakaway summit in Jerusalem: “If there is a schism we believe it is the North American churches that have rent the Communion and it is us who are trying to renew the Communion.”