Sunday, 29 June 2008

Consequences of the GAFCON Statement

The Final Statement and Jerusalem Declaration (I give the parts of most practical impact) has a number of consequences.

The first is that historians know that John Henry Newman interpreted the Thirty-nine Articles to invert their meaning beyond their obvious Protestant intent. The Church of England demotion of these Articles was not simply to satisfy a liberal consensus but to include Anglo-Catholic sentiment. GAFCON shows it is Protestant. It is not the case that even traditionalist Anglo-Catholics read the Bible in its plain sense. So the likely outcome is that the traditionalist Anglo-Catholics do split from the GAFCON movement in their continuing road of being on the fringe of Anglicanism. Plus GAFCON recognises four Ecumenical Councils when there were seven.

We shall see what happens after Lambeth 2008, but some will look to the Pope for some sort of solution. The Pope may regard GAFCON as so obviously Protestant that Anglo-Catholic traditionalists are left without a home.

There is such a difference between the Archbishop of Canterbury's approach (as I have recorded it, surely the most relevant speech for Lambeth 2008) and that of GAFCON. His is the language (and rather verbose: he could have said the same in half the words) of Gospel as gift, of persons as bishops and communities in interaction and interrelationship, of giving and receiving (an economy - it is gift-exchange theology that I draw from), and that of the mother Church. Are they compatible? Not really, because a Council of Primates would have to include all Primates not just some, and then all bishops, and this raises the question of synodical governance. GAFCON is extreme episcopacy in action, it seems, and on a Protestant believers' fellowship principle. GAFCON has replaced Instruments with Instrument, and includes declarations of orthodoxy that should be in the hands of bishops. As I suggest, the Archbishop talks conservation but fails to develop a theology of bishops and innovation. The Church is entitled to get all its bishops together in Council and make changes; it is allowed to innovate even if innovation is done on the basis of some adaptation of a past principle. Some would say that the doctrine of the Trinity was an innovation, as it is not in the Bible, but would be deemed compatible with early developments as shown in later texts of the New Testament and its development.

Clearly the Archbishop's approach is more organic and bodily; the GAFCON approach is about beliefs and all believers.

Also excluded are unusual and yet outwardly doctrinal movements like Radical Orthodoxy. Also excluded would be an earlier narrative-detail Rowan Williams, though recently he has been pushing history further than it can be pushed (even on his own admission).

Most crucially, however, is the division with other Evangelicals. GAFCON have to get the likes of Mouneer Anis and similar on board. They have rejected GAFCON so far. GAFCON also has to attract a critical mass of those who would be deemed Open Evangelical - more Evangelical or Open. Its declarations of orthodoxy cut a line through Open Evangelicalism: it does not include, for example, the post-Evangelicals. If this fails, then the GAFCON movement will fail and the Primates' Council will be nothing more than a pressure group. The irony is, the more GAFCON pushes for Evangelicals to come on board, the more it could split them. Many Open Evangelicals are committed to biblical hermeneutics and far from plain readings of the Bible, and simply will not sign up to such prescription - when others will.

It is a rocky road ahead: of likely splits. As said often, the oversight of selective literalist Primates will lead to GAFCON dividing, the Global South dividing, and Open Evangelicals dividing. Also Lambeth 2008 and the Instruments may be damaged, as some Anglicans look South to a believers' fellowship and others look West still to a mother Church.


Rachel said...

So here's GAFCON'S Jerusalem Declaration and my response to it
1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things. (I rejoice, too)

2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.(Plain and canonical sense? By whose authority? There's no such thing as 'plain' sense. We all filter God's Word through a human brain, bringing our own presuppositions and prejudices to bear. I don't think I can accept a 'plain' reading if that means 'a traditionalist, conservative reading because that reading damns all homosexuals to Hell more quickly it would seem than any other sinners; it also prohibits women in ministry, so yiex - I feel suspicious on these grounds, my pen would be shaking considerably if I were being asked to sign on the bottom line)

3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.(Pretty happy with this, would need to check out the small print first!)

4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today. (Again, I want to go through the 39 articles with a fine-tooth comb, after-all I know what Forward in Faith do with Canons such as A4 see below)

5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith. (I gladly proclaim this too).

6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture. (Does that mean Common Worship 2000 is out the window?)

7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders. (I need to look into the small print of the classic Anglican Ordinal, by reverting to the classic, if this is what is being proposed, is GAFCON seeking to undo the ordination of women in the Church which began in 1994?)

8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married. (A Godly ideal, yes in which I will bring up my own children, but at the same time I feel nervous that this will be used to set a 'minimum entry requirement' for Christianity, sinners are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, this is credited to them as righteousness, if it is promoted that only true Christians are those who conform to this ideal, then we are elevating some Christians above others, promoting a skewing of the gospel in which we can sometimes earn our salvation by leading the right sort of lives and reducing the powers of the Lord's amazing grace, that we sinners, can be saved by what he did once and for all upon the cross, we would also be implying that some sins are worse than others and that somehow God has a scale by which he rates us- as you can see I have problems with this one then.)

9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity. (I gladly accept this too.)

10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy. (I am mindful of my responsibility too.)

11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration. (These two sentences seem to contradict each other, so I'm a little confused here.)

12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us. (I'm not quite convinced that this diversity is actually celebrated.)

13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.(This seems rather theologically arrogant in its tone.)

14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives. (I rejoice too).
I'd love to know how other people out there feel about the declaration. You can respond to me direct at revisingreform.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I think you highlight a number of difficulties from your own point of view. The main impact is the effect on authority running in different directions - but they may well have to clarify this self-acquired right to determine orthodoxy.

In England by national law never mind Church only the people in a parish Church come under the Church of England bishop. If its clergy and congregation decide for any reason that their bishop is revisionist and choose to change allegiance, they must leave all the structures and property of the parish church. So it does mean schism. I think we will end up seeing competing Anglican denominations.