Thursday 3 January 2008

GAFCON: Division & Scandal; Exclusion from Lambeth 2008?

There is some dispute now whether The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem was notified or not that the Global Anglican Future crowd would descend upon the city and region as part of its pilgrimage, conference and launch party for its understated new Communion.

One implication of understating intentions is that they cannot yet be accused quite yet of being formally schismatic, even though plenty of people (including me) see it as nothing other than a new Communion.

However, one basis on which Martyn Minns (and a number of others) is refused entry to Lambeth 2008 is that he heads a local incursion of the Church of Nigeria into the space of The Episcopal Church. This is such a serious offence causing division and scandal that he cannot be invited.

So what is to be made of a situation where a bishop and an Archbishop are not welcoming the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) into their space?
The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Bishop Suheil Dawani, has expressed his concern about the Global Anglican Future Conference planned for the Holy Land in June this year.

"Regrettably, I have not been consulted about this planned conference," said Bishop Suheil...

"...Yet we Anglicans who minister here have been left out in the cold.

"I am deeply troubled that this meeting, of which we had no prior knowledge, will import inter-Anglican conflict into our diocese, which seeks to be a place of welcome for all Anglicans.

"It could also have serious consequences for our ongoing ministry of reconciliation in this divided land. Indeed, it could further inflame tensions here...

"I believe our Primate, Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis,is also concerned about this event. His advice to the organizers that this was not the right time or place for such a meeting was ignored."

"I urge the organizers to reconsider this conference urgently."
The dispute centres around if a letter was sent:
But when contacted, Peter Frank, communications contact for the Global Anglican Future Conference in the United States, said the following:
“In fact, the information I have is that Bishop Dawani has confirmed that he received a letter in advance from the Primate of Nigeria on December 24. Further, he will be meeting with Archbishop Jensen and Archbishop Akinola in the next two weeks. He has said that Jerusalem is for all Anglicans.”
It appears that someone in the Diocese of Jerusalem may have published a press release prematurely.
This (posted 2 January 2008 at Stand Firm in Faith) is a figleaf of an excuse, of course: that a letter arrives on 24 December and that will do. Well what about a meeting in the next two weeks? What about the answer that goes "No"?

If the organisers say, as expected, carry on regardless (rather than meet in Nigeria instead, say) then, whether this is formally yet schism or not, this clearly is a serious scandal. A diocesan bishop is saying not that this is just inconvenient, or even he disagrees, but this has divisive consequences. It brings Anglican division into their diocese, where there is a welcome for all. Not only this regarding some sort of inter-Anglican dispute, but - far more seriously - it affects the "ongoing ministry of reconciliation in this divided land".

What can be more serious than this? This Holy Land is a deeply divided land. Furthermore it is clear that GAFCON has a pro-Israel agenda, whereas many Christians are Palestinian and suffering.

Now, here is a not such an insignificant question. If Martyn Minns and other directly schismatic bishops can be excluded from the Lambeth Conference, as part of this inter-Anglican dispute, surely the Primate of Nigeria and the Archbishop of Sydney can be formally excluded from the Lambeth Conference for producing schism and scandal with potentially disastrous consequences? This effect is in the pastoral opinion of a bishop in the diocese where the schismatics are not wanted, in a province where they are unwelcome at least at that time.

Of course they are unlikely to go to Lambeth anyway, as they are coming out in sympathy for the exclusion of Minns, but this is far more serious. A direct statement from the man with the invitations ought to be forthcoming.

The Bishop for the diocese, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, 14th Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, writes:
Reconciliation is best served by dialogue, not debate. The Christian mission is best achieved by dialogue. St. James of Jerusalem, together with the Apostles, resolved the crisis of Jew and Gentile in the first Church of Jerusalem by dignified dialogue. The Old Testament calls for dialogue. Islam calls for dialogue. It states that there is no compulsion in religion.

The ministry to which I am called demolishes walls of hatred and separation, and builds bridges of peace. Thus, I am delighted to declare the establishment of the Diocesan Department of Peace, Reconciliation and Interfaith Dialogue for the service of all peoples, and for coexistence among us all.
Something for GAFCON to consider, perhaps, as it goes about its destructive business. Its destructive business in such a sensitive part of the world is why its movers and shakers should forfeit the right of dialogue among the wider body of Anglicans, even if dialogue is normally to be preferred. They were not offering dialogue anyway but absence, and now they should be treated for not just absence but for wrecking.


Anonymous said...

I'm just relieved that at last, the conservative element within Anglicanism (whom I respect) is peeling off from the Darbyite evangelical end with their crass and distorting theologies based on hermeneutical moonshine. Years ago I wrote to Madeline Bunting (then religious affaris at the Guardian) arguing that not enough attention was neing given to the distorting effects of Scofield-led dispensationalism on Church and world affairs. At last people are starting to see these things for what they are.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

There has always been a dynamic among a minority towards a perceived purity in every movement, which means regarding something as pollution. It is better if they can link to a grand theme for whatever is the pollution they escape. These movements are inevitably small despite big aspirations; most people live in the world of mess and compromise, where making good is a more difficult task.

Father Ron said...

With all their talk of 'Orthodoxy' the Global South Primates need to think again about what that might mean - in their particular ethic.
For instance: Is it orthodoxy when you ordain faux bishops to invade the territory of another province?
Is it orthodoxy when you publicly invite people to your conference (GAFCON) in a city where both the local Bishop and the Primate of the Country - Jerusalem, Israel -
have both indicated that you are not welcome - on the grounds of the expectation of religious and civic unrest?

Is this indeed some new kind of 'orthodoxy' - which relates only to the parameters of the newly forming Global South Church of the Sinless? If so, then the sooner Lambeth proclaims it's dissociation from such an ecclesial rag-tag, the better.

The Gospel inclusiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ deserves to be preserved from such hubris.