...£2.5 million. Six individuals in Nigeria donated $1.2 million of this and one individual alone gave $900,000. There is clearly big money behind this grouping but where is it going?
Ruth Gledhill in The Times is telling us:
...the most likely outcome of the divisions over homosexuality and biblical authority was an international "Anglican Fellowship" that would provide a home for orthodox Anglicans. [my stress]
She describes a collegiate leadership (and she refers to Robert Duncan first) and this includes the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali. This is the crux of the oversight method they will lead:
Fellowship members could attempt to opt out of the pastoral care of their diocesan bishop and seek oversight from a more conservative archbishop from their own country or abroad.
On July 1st All Souls, Langham Place, will have Archbishop Henry Orombi and Bishop Greg Venables speaking, she says, and therefore this means England is targeted straight away. An excited Wallace Benn, the Bishop of Lewes, calls this fellowship like-minded people in solidarity.
Let's be clear: this scheme involves attempts at removal from oversight of the diocesan bishop. No such scheme or agreement is being offered. Interest may come from Chelmsford, St Albans and Southwark, London and Durham, apparently. If this happens without the agreement of the diocesan bishops, then it is not within the Church of England, but is a removal from it into other oversight.
Presumably the idea is to take this to Lambeth (those bishops who are going to both conferences) and put a gun to the head of the other bishops of the Anglican Communion. Such a Fellowship (note the Protestant word) would ignore any national Church as such (except those directly under it and in its leadership - these being both geographical and international) and simply take to themselves those who want this Fellowship.
Now Akinola says this in his A Rescue Mission - Archbishop Akinola's Opening Address:
We have no other place to go nor is it our intention to start another church. Anglicans we are, Anglicans we'll remain until the LORD shall return in glory to judge each one according to his deeds.
Of course such a Fellowship is a denial of separation, at least initially.
Schisms work, however, this way. They start by such a group within the bigger group. The Methodists did. The important part is that the bigger group then excludes the structure created, and that structure then goes off on its own. Property is, of course, retained: the Methodists built their own. The Puritans before them were an identifiable party, and after the Restoration in 1662, with the complete imposition of the Book of Common Prayer, these Puritans were removed (and formed a loose English Presbyterian denomination, later to become Unitarian).
Meanwhile Akinola made allegations of people being bribed with money and "accommodations" to go to Lambeth and made loose accusations of people being apostates - though he only disagrees with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Once again African Archbishops dodged around questions of oppression of gay people in their African countries, leaving it to an Australian Peter Jensen to make a bland statement about opposing violence against gay people, whether in prison or out of prison. It all leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.
With all that money spent this conference is not going to debate with one outcome or another. It is going to act, and the way to act is the international oversight is leaders have mentioned many times. One wonders whether the Lambeth Conference is going to try to prevent the Fellowship by bending in the wind and adopting some sort of restrictive Communion, and do it via what happens afterwards via the Covenant, or whether it will come to the view that Anglicanism is broader than the impositions within such a Fellowship.
Well, The Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, at Saint George's Anglican Cathedral, Jerusalem, had some phrases worth listing in his sermon for the GAFCON leaders; the best potential one-liner I put first:
- Pilgrims here do not bring decisions with them.
And here are the others:
- The greatest gift that Anglicanism has offered to the Middle East is a ministry of reconciliation
- we are a voice of moderation in a region of turmoil
- We work with humility and in a spirit of servanthood
- build and strengthen relationships among Christians, Moslems, and Jews and to work together with other Christian bodies here
- We are a people who know what it is to live faithfully and with humility in a pluralistic society
- we work for peace and unity
- Our work here is the very presence of Christ among the needy, offered without differentiation based on religion, gender, or nationality
- a crucial network of bridges on the international scene
- grateful for our relationships across the breadth of the Anglican Communion
- we have the utmost respect for the Archbishop of Canterbury
- I look forward to the Lambeth Conference
- Throughout its history, the Lambeth Conference has dealt with many difficult issues. At times these issues looked as if they might divide us, but they did not because we persevered in prayer and fellowship, together, with respect and patience
- The very stones of this holy city of Jerusalem teach us patience and humility
- God will always surprise us
- I pray that as you meet in this holy place, you will all be open, in real humility, to the Spirit's guidance and that you will continue here in a spirit of peace, reconciliation and goodwill
- I pray God's blessing on you, on the Archbishop of Canterbury and on our Anglican Communion
Let's see if any of his words have an impact on the Global Anglican Future Conference.