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MSM Roundup on GAFCON

Saturday, June 21, 2008 • 8:59 am

A lot of stories starting to appear in the mainstream media on GAFCON. Here’s a sampling:

US News & World Report:

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.”

Telegraph again:

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.”

27 Comments • Print-friendlyPrint-friendly w/commentsShare on Facebook

Spin, spin.  Spin, spin . . .

[1] Posted by Jill C. on 06-21-2008 at 09:17 AM • top

“The convention clashes with Jerusalem Gay Pride, although participants from the two events are unlikely to meet.”

What a hoot!

[2] Posted by FrVan on 06-21-2008 at 09:21 AM • top

Many voices speaking here! But there is only one voice that matters and that is the Voice Of God! To say that the Word was written by man and can be re-written is to refute and deny that God spoke to Moses through a burning bush and gave him his Laws aka… the Ten Commandments. And it also says that they deny the story of Abraham, Isaac and all the history before durng and after Christ Jesus.
The Lord must be weeping that His beloved children have turned their backs on Him and have become arrogant in their selfish ways and thinking, and behaving!
Lord forgive them as they have been blinded by the father of lies, deceit, and spin!

[3] Posted by TLDillon on 06-21-2008 at 10:20 AM • top

You gotta love the guy in the first quote, Frank Kirkpatrick. I agree utterly with him and think he’s hit the nail on the head. I want to take it to the max. - just like I know Frank does. Those crazy Christians and their Totalitarianism. How arrogant is that! How disingenuous! Everyone knows there are many possible interpretations. Those polytheists, adoptionists, arians; those worshipers of Astarte, Molech, the Queen of Heaven - they’ve got a view on Scripture too. I’m putting an Asherah Pole up in the sanctuary. Come to think of it a Golden Calf doesn’t seem such a bad idea. It’s an interpretation, isn’t it?

[4] Posted by driver8 on 06-21-2008 at 10:24 AM • top

Should be Trinitarianism!

[5] Posted by driver8 on 06-21-2008 at 10:25 AM • top

Prayers for GAFCON have been posted by Common Cause and by Lent & Beyond.

[6] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 06-21-2008 at 10:25 AM • top

Baby Blue and the GAFCON site have the daily schedule of events - as Jill W. says, please pray!

[7] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 06-21-2008 at 10:47 AM • top

HHHUUUMMMMMMM…#4, are you sure you weren’t right the first time? “Totalitarianism.”

[8] Posted by FrVan on 06-21-2008 at 10:55 AM • top

“I think it [GAFCON] is a symbolic event, with no real substantive content,” says Kirkpatrick.

I think he is half right. While I think it is symbolic, it has content just in the definition of why they are coming together.

[9] Posted by FrVan on 06-21-2008 at 11:04 AM • top

Frank Kirkpatrick ... is particularly troubled by the conservatives’ assertion that their reading of Scripture is not one of many possible interpretations of a complex text.

The existence of many possible interpretations does not imply the existence of many credible interpretations.  The fact that people disagree about the meaning of a text does not imply the meaning of a text is impossible to sufficiently discern.  Words still have meaning - at least in the pre-modern world.  They are not malleable servants in the hands of one who seeks to justify himself - who hates the light and seeks to hide in the darkness.  Truth is not a context to be deconstructed.  It exists independent of man and his self-interested assertions. 

There comes in the future that moment when every man, redeemed and damned, will confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  Some will do so with joy and love, while others will do so with dread and hatred.  But all will do so with honesty.  Within that single statement is the admission that everything God ever said was true, and that men knew it all along.  Beyond that day, men will never again ever say “Has God really said?”


[10] Posted by carl on 06-21-2008 at 11:10 AM • top

Those at GAFCON will be partaking of Eucharist with over two hundred REAL BISHOPS PLUS Matt+ and Anne+ Kennedy…now that (Time, Telegraph, Mr. Kirkpatrick, et al) is something most definitely ‘substantive.’


This song came to mind:

[11] Posted by Floridian on 06-21-2008 at 11:45 AM • top

“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…”

Er… would it make Kirkpatrick happier if we did stone homosexuals?

[12] Posted by st. anonymous on 06-21-2008 at 12:16 PM • top

Carl #10, thanks for underlining that particular quotation.  Let’s be clear about what Mr. Kirkpatrick is talking about here:  he is not referring to subtle distinctions between, say, the Catholic and the Protestant views of justification, or the precise mechanism of the efficacy of the Sacraments.  Nor is he talking about the literal vs mythological interpretation of the Creation accounts in Genesis, or the conflicting Christologies of the early Church.

What he is trying to defend is the blessing of behavior that is pervasively, unequivocally, and universally condemned in the strongest possible terms by the plain language of Scripture and two millennia of the Holy Tradition, condemnation that no theologian from St. Paul to Barth would have considered questioning, and that no reputable theologian questions even now.  There is no more intellectual support for his position anywhere than there would be for the assertion, say, “The Eighth Commandment clearly doesn’t refer to shoplifting red jellybeans, because red jellybeans are really, really good.  Besides, Jesus never said anything about jellybeans.”

In a rational society Mr. Kirkpatrick and his mentors would simply be laughed off the stage, but for some reason we seem to believe that we have some moral obligation to take him seriously.  That the venerable Anglican Communion could be torn apart by such nonsense is an indication of just how weak and secular its leading institutions—and oldest provinces—have become.

Pray for GAFCon.

[13] Posted by Craig Goodrich on 06-21-2008 at 12:19 PM • top

No, #12, TEC ordains them:  “Episcopal Diocese of San Diego ordains First Deacon with Same Sex Partner” (T19)

[14] Posted by Floridian on 06-21-2008 at 12:27 PM • top

Of course, Prof. Kirkpatrick assumes the very thing he needs to show. It’s no news to show that Scripture can be interpreted in different ways. Indeed heresy is by definition the incorrect interpretation of Scripture (i.e. it is the perversion of the truth). What needs to be shown is that the progressive interpretation of human sexuality is not simply possible but is better and this is the very thing of which the Communion has not been persuaded.

Indeed it’s emblematic of the kind of situation in which the Communion has found itself repeatedly in relation to TEC. TEC has simply refused to spend time attempting to persuade the Communion that its view of Scripture is better. (And by better, I mean, more fitting with the Good News of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, bridegroom of the Church). You might even say, in many, many dioceses, that the activists never bothered even to attempt to persuade folks within TEC. They simply placed facts on the ground in the knowledge that little or nothing, they imagined, would be done about it.

[15] Posted by driver8 on 06-21-2008 at 12:42 PM • top

“(Liberals assert that the number of abstainers will be much smaller.)”

Attendence at Lambeth is a victory for the liberals.

[16] Posted by Going Home on 06-21-2008 at 12:54 PM • top

No, it is NOT. It is an assertion that their whims and causes du jour will not dictate our faith. It is a show of strength that we DO have, rather than simply going away (which is what they want) and abdicating our voice for the faith.

[17] Posted by teatime on 06-21-2008 at 02:36 PM • top

[#17] teatime
The happy-clappy 2008 Lambeth Conference has been carefully stage-managed to insure no untoward subjects are broached.  Nothing of substance will be discussed.  There will be no whims on display; no shows of strength regarding the cause du jour.  It will instead be (metaphorically speaking, anyways) “Three days of peace and love.” 

So how does this not benefit the revisionists?  Their whole objective at Lambeth is to show the communion is not divided - that conservatives are a small group of power-hungry malcontents who have failed in their bid to stage a coup.  And Canterbury has every incentive to give them aid and comfort in this effort.  Conservative attendance then facilitates the very objective that liberals hope to achieve.  That’s why liberals are calling reports of a boycott exaggerated.  It is in their interest for large numbers of conservatives to attend - so long as the conservative voice can be sufficiently diluted.  Canterbury is willing to make sure that important condition is achieved.

The only way to demonstrate the division was to stay away.  A large conservative boycott of Lambeth would have delegitimized the conference, and brought the consequences of complicity right to the door step of Canterbury.  As it is, the Communion is being redefined   in accordance with TECs desire - a doctrinally-indifferent confederation of national churches loosely associated by history to a figurehead atop the CoE.


[18] Posted by carl on 06-21-2008 at 03:49 PM • top

I pray that GAFCON will take steps that are more decisive than Plano. When this meeting is over, if all we hear is, “We haven’t left the Anglican Communion, you have,” and “We’re the Anglican Communion in this place,” I for one will be mighty disappointed.

[19] Posted by Bill McGovern on 06-21-2008 at 03:54 PM • top

#16, #17, this Lambeth IS a victory for the ‘liberals’  That KJS was given an AC office and invited along with VGR’s ‘desecrators’ and the ACoC bishops is a sign that there will be no correction or discipline.

[20] Posted by Theodora on 06-21-2008 at 04:02 PM • top

George Conger has posted an article about the CPP, the effort of those orthodox remaining within TEC to band together for protection under three AC Archbishops.  I hope they get better treatment by the ABC and through instruments of unity than the CCP has endured and their predecesors got.

[21] Posted by Theodora on 06-21-2008 at 04:14 PM • top

With all due respect, I don’t see it that way. If there is no conservative presence at Lambeth to force the issues and MAKE SURE it isn’t an avoidance-fest, then the powers-that-be will tell the world that all is well, there is no conflict, and they’ll roll merrily along. We cannot allow them to dismiss and define us.

In the +Geralyn Wolf article, she makes it clear that the issues WILL be discussed and more prominently than the agenda suggests. How many other conferences scheduled just a few hours for “the issues,” which quickly became laughable. They can try to micromanage all they want, but the reality of the tension we are all living will burst through the most carefully laid plans.

[22] Posted by teatime on 06-21-2008 at 04:15 PM • top

They can try to micromanage all they want, but the reality of the tension we are all living will burst through the most carefully laid plans.

[#22] teatime
Assume then that you are correct.  Assume that conservatives seize control of the Lambeth agenda, and pass all sorts of orthodox resolutions.  Then what?  Will those resolutions possess more authority then Lambeth 1.10?  Who will enforce them?  Who rather will immediately set upon the task of undermining them?  What will prevent them from simply being chewed up in the bureaucracy of the AC?

What happens when TEC and ACC and others deliberately flout these resolutions?  You know they will.  These same churches have already established that there is no discipline in the AC.  They will flout these resolutions with impunity just to show they can - to show the resolutions in question have no teeth.  Will the leadership of the Anglican Communion suddenly find the will to discipline the rich important Americans - a decision it has heretofore expended every effort to avoid?

No, if you want to make sure that liberals cannot claim that all is well, then present them with the public spectacle of a train wreck at Lambeth.  To have forced RW to cancel Lambeth would have been ideal.  Then the GS would have held the whip, and made RW face the crisis.  For the message would be clear: “The Communion will not return to normal until the heterodoxy of TEC, et al is addressed.” 

As it stands, the liberals have won. TEC will return from Lambeth a duly constituted member of the AC for another 10 years.  Freed from the prospect of any international consequences, it will launch a ruthless pogrom on its conservative opposition.  And the leadership in England will politely look the other way.


[23] Posted by carl on 06-21-2008 at 05:12 PM • top

#17. Lambeth shouldn’t be confused for the Faith and non-attendance at Lambeth shouldn’t be confused for abdicating the Faith.  I commend Bishop Wolf, but at Lambeth her conservative stance will get, at most, a sound bite being interviewed in the sidewalk outside of the conference.  The ABC showed his hand with the Task Force report and his actions leading up to NO. The sole significance of this Lambeth was in the invitations, and that was peremptorily done by the ABC. This is his tea party, one carefully set up to prevent a repeat of prior conservative uprisings.

The sole question is what is the most effective means of standing firm for the Faith.  I submit that a wholesale boycott of Lambeth by all orthodox Anglicans would have been a huge event; one that would have quite possibly forced the ABC’s hand before the conference. If not, it would have provided publicity and impetus toward the formation of an alternative organization. 

In the end, all of us who subscribe to the Faith must struggle with our church affiliation. Even the most strident Comcon here have an end point, one where they will leave TEC or the COE because it has become too great of an obstacle to a faithful witness. Many of us passed that point long ago and left for a GS affiliated church or other church body.  When you reach your “end point”, you will not be abandoning the Faith, rather you will be acting because of it.

[24] Posted by Going Home on 06-21-2008 at 05:28 PM • top

Going Home,
The end point for Akinola has evidently arrived.  He writes in The Way, The Truth and The Life: “We have made enormous efforts since 1997 in seeking to avoid this crisis, but without success. Now we confront a moment of decision. If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,” writes the Most. Rev. Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Abuja, Primate of All Nigeria and chairman of the Global Anglican Future Conference.

[25] Posted by Theodora on 06-21-2008 at 05:46 PM • top

Can the Sydney folks so easily leave the Communion? Aren’t they bound into a church structure in Australia that may be more difficult to exit?

[26] Posted by driver8 on 06-22-2008 at 01:01 AM • top

Driver 8,
Arcbishop Peter Jensen has made it clear that Sydney is not about to leave the anglican Communion.
“Jensen knows he can’t take the immense wealth of the Sydney diocese into a new church. “I can’t. I’m part of a constitution, which is virtually unchangeable, of the Australian church. I wouldn’t want to. I love the church. It would be bad for Christianity, bad for the gospel.”

The property is a set of golden fetters. “There couldn’t possibly be a division in the sense of a legal division,” says Jensen. He talks expansively instead of an old empire evolving, families scattering, ties loosening, but with friendship and regard somehow surviving. “I think there is going to be an evolution in the Anglican Communion. It has occurred. And what the Future Conference is going to work out is how to live best within that evolution. That’s its business.”
Sydney Morning Herald

[27] Posted by obadiahslope on 06-22-2008 at 04:31 AM • top

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