Friday, 1 February 2008

Global Anglican Communion Blueprint

I have created a Pluralist website page outlining and commenting on the Global Anglican Communion Blueprint paper presented by Rev. Professor Stephen Noll, Vice-Chancellor of Uganda Christian University for GAFCON. From the website main page my outline and commentary is in Learning - Religion - Denominations and scroll down. GAFCON's theology people and more met at Lagos, and there was a press conference too. Among attenders was the much travelled and ever present Rev. Chris Sugden.

The importance of the paper presented and the press conference is that it describes what may well be the intentions of a successful GAFCON conference.

Part of the press conference is effectively a response to an open letter in the Church of England Newspaper (reproduced on the Anglican Mainstream website) from 20 Evangelical bishops urging specific Global South primates to attend at Lambeth 2008. The letter went to the Archbishops of Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone. The bishops agreed with the "increasing sorrow and alarm" of these primates about Anglican Communion developments and referred to the Windsor process, the Advent Letter, and the idea of a pan-Anglican Covenant to make their appeal. They state that the Archbishop wants Lambeth 2008 based on Scripture (which it would be if the Advent Letter is the basis of conversation and study). Windsor has been slower than liked, they say, but if abandoned it would split those who have high regard for Scripture and historic faith. Thus they urged them to be on board.

Presumably the appeal had to be made, perhaps realising that it would not be heeded. They might, after all, get one or two such leaders and their bishops at the Lambeth summit. Yet if they did not come, would the Windsor process be abandoned? Who would make the effort to abandon it? Would that be other Anglican bishops?

There was a press conference for GAFCON in Lagos, on 30 January, and Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola said (getting his words garbled) [not] that some Anglicans are not paying attention to Scripture, but that they bring new principles from modern culture to interpret it. The issue of homosexuality, which Anglicans do have the courage to discuss openly, is a symptom of this. Archbishop Akinola said:

Those of us who will abide with the Word of God, come rain come fire, are those who are in GAFCON.

Even as a non-evangelical, one wonders at the arrogance of such a reply. Those who abide with the word of God are in GAFCON, and no one else. Wow!

He said Uganda, Rwanda, Sydney, and Nigeria are not going. So what about Tanzania, Kenya and the Southern Cone then? Because he also said that those who go will "sweep these issues under the carpet". GAFCON it is that is setting out a road map for the future, and will not have a stance of "maybe - maybe not".

So GAFCON forges ahead while Lambeth is a sort of maybe-maybe not thingy, a sweeping the dust under the carpet event. Archbishop Akinola claimed that GAFCON has commitment to the word of God, and these four primates represent more than 30 million Anglicans.

Presumably now the rest of the Global South can go where it likes, to a maybe or maybe not event and join others in sweeping dust under carpets.

The press conference followed a meeting of the GAFCON Theology Resource Team in Lagos. It seems to have been a brainstorming session about what to do. This is odd because brainstorming is a very early process in forming what to do, and yet this conference is in June this year. Even if they brainstormed on the conference detail, it is rather late in the day.

To wish to clarify (but still no dates or venue for sure), Archbishop Akinola said that the Conference will be in the Holy Land (not specifically Jerusalem?) and it will be in June. He stated that the orthodox who uphold the authority of Scriptures are fashioning the future of Anglicans in this generation. Modest aims then. The Conference will have a book to study (available from May) and it will look at:

  • Challenges
  • Why some deviate from the orthodox faith
  • Why some allow modern culture to overwhelm the word of God

GAFCON will ask why people are not following the Lord's leadership and just interpreting his word to suit their fancy.

Presumably one way to find out would be to ask them - and for that they would have to go to Lambeth 2008! GAFCON will contain those who don't, and those who have not yet, so they won't know, or if they do know then that part of the Holy Land Conference should be pretty brief.

The Conference will look at Aids, poverty, corruption, good and bad governance - which means it will have other issues. Perhaps it ought to spend longer on these.

The Archbishop of Lagos said that without the vision of GAFCON, many would be left frustrated. The American Church just wants to turn itself into a monument. "Generations unborn" (no less) will call the Chair of the meeting, Archbishop Okoh of Bendel, "blessed" (no less). In fact there was ecstatic backslapping all round. Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, chair of the GAFCON Theology Resource Group, gave profound gratitude to the GAFCON leaders to find his group even worthy to do theology. Work had made remarkable progress, however, so much so that they wanted to come back to Lagos to do more. The group had focused on Authentic Global Anglicanism.

The Rev. Professor Stephen Noll, presented a paper on The Global Anglican Communion and Anglican Orthodoxy. He was very humble too. He said that he was hardly up to the task to outline the past, present and future of Anglican orthodoxy, so he decided to redo an essay he had already done on the subject in 2006. If this is it, he has completely changed allegiance!

The renewed paper contains some very interesting pointers about the future intentions of GAFCON.

  • GAFCON should keep ties with those who are organising a Covenant
  • The Covenant emerging from the Anglican Consultative Council is the basis for another ecumenical Anglican Covenant that would prevent heresy and chart an orthodox future
  • The Primacy of Scripture must be restored on early Reformation principles
  • Scripture comes first, then reason under obedience, and only then the Church's interpretation
  • Salvation is by faith alone (i.e. Luther's interpretation)
  • Northern Africa provides the best rationale of "right remembering" of the apostles' teaching and the best examples of martyrdom
  • Episcopal authority is not the same as episcopal totalitarianism - many Global South churches need to address this

Keeping ties with those making an Anglican Covenant is odd if principal GAFCON Churches stay away from Lambeth! So how would structures change to bring this about? Do they not realise that this ideological side of the blueprint does not include all Anglicans, nor the extreme Anglo-Catholics going down to the Holy Land for the Conference. Africa is being promoted here, but an interesting criticism of Global South episcopacy.

So what are the structural changes (presumably laid out in a revised Covenant)?

  • A Central Synod of Bishops that every ten years has the authority to address matters of doctrine, discipline and mission
  • Primates as an Executive body carries out the will of the Synod in between its meetings
  • A Presiding Primate AND Canterbury or other historic See would exist (the latter presumably for more ceremonial occasions). The Presiding Primate is elected by the Synod of Bishops
  • A Secretariat would assist (not the ACC)

The responses and legal interpretations from Anglican Churches to even the Draft Covenant show that this is a complete non-starter. Do the GAFCON people not realise this? Apparently they do (or at least this author does). Bold action now will see a "new reformation" in the Anglican tradition.

The present order is passing away. Behold the Global Anglican Communion is coming.

Thus we have it. This is the blueprint all right. It shows that there is clear reference to a Global Anglican Communion. It is fashioned that this is a replacement. Obviously, the Canterbury Communion being far from dead, and rather entrenched, inevitably means that there will be two Communions, the Global Anglican Communion, likely to be made up of at least four Churches and their extensions, and the larger Canterbury Communion.

It is all there.


winnowing said...

I am going to suggest something that just struck me in reading over this post in particular.
What if, just perhaps, this growing breach, even affecting the northern and southern cone conservatives is a 'cover'. By that I do not mean to suggest in any sense a conscious attempt at conspiracy or cover up. Instead, I would like to suggest that a region of the world has found its defining moment to declare itself free of the long term parental guidance it has suffered under. Maybe this is not really about homosexuality, or biblical inerrancy, or even church order. Perhaps, unconsciously of course, in the greater cultural milieu this break will be looked back upon, not as the defining moment of liberalism vs conservativism in the church, but instead as the moment when the southern cone churches really took their own leadership into their own hands, for good or for ill and found their own way.
It is heartbreaking to watch, but i am not so sure that 50 years from now it will be understood at all in the same way.


Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

There are likely after-colonialism motives. They do have autonomy and have been able to develop their own brand of Anglicanism. For you to be right, it must be then that as they were once under us, then were allowed to get on with it, now they want to have us under them. Of course they think that their version of Christianity is right, that others have gone off, and they must bring the right one back. They may well feel confident, though they are doing it via Western fringe advisors - ideas, formulators, designers, tract writers. So it is not quite so confident. But what the Africans represent in our terms is nothing but that fringe of the religion and they will find Westerners not accepting their form of the faith, except among the fringe. and some apologists.

winnowing said...

I completely agree with your sense of forced Christianity. That somehow the originator (the West) has strayed from the faith and now the "real" believers must carry the torch. Also, as far as them being on their own, while I don't have the data on this, I was under the impression that many of these churches were still very dependent upon Northern churches for many forms of aid.

While this kind of 'remnant reasoning' for a split is very protestant and certainly part of the larger tradition of Western Christianity I disagree with them entirely over this.

However, this evident, temporary break over GAFCON between the organizers and a Southern Cone mover and shaker along with the concern conservative Northerners (?) have with abstaining members of Lambeth suggests that something deeper is going on. And by deeper I simply mean a larger unconscious shift. I will sound incredibly un-PC in this statement but I can't help but think of family splits, in particular parent-child shifts in relations. To be clear, the West did take a parental role in its overseas mission work, unfortunate but true. And quite frankly this could be part of the price you pay for acting the parent. You get treated like one.

I suppose part of my problem is I am already past some of this wondering what the next 100 years will bring. I do tend to get ahead of myself. Yet it is this lack of catholicity, of history and context that these groups suffer from the greatest.

If you don't mind I'd like to link to your blog from my site.