Monday 30 June 2008

When Will He Go?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, facing a meltdown of his policy and the Anglican Communion as he would like it, has given really one of the most pathetic responses to the development of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)/ Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCAs) that one can believe.

He has joined in the marginalising of broad Church and liberal Anglican believers that was the focus of this Conference in Jerusalem.

At the same time he worries about the structures that will compete with those he wants to develop further.

Instead of seeing what these people are, that is Reformed theology episcopal autocrats (one could be ruder), he would rather they joined in his scheme.

It smacks of desperation. Once again Rowan Williams sacrifices the constituency from which he came in order to suck up to the New Puritans.

He says that the GAFCON (it doesn't need "meeting" after it):

contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met for prayer and pilgrimage in the last week.

Really? Yes they got themselves excited in their certainties. They do that in the worship on satellite TV too: it doesn't mean it is wholesome if it is all going towards a destructive object.

He then says:

The 'tenets of orthodoxy' spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues.

You must be joking! The Thirty-nine Articles exclude as many as they include, and have to be regarded at arms length by anyone with half a brain. The idea that the Bible does not contradict itself and that we should judge orthodoxy on the basis of a plain and simple reading of it all is, again, a joke. Does this Archbishop really believe this? Can we see how he has tackled biblical passages in the past? This is just him engaging in deception, and everyone - those on the right, the centre and the left theologically should be able to see this.

He says:

I have no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of GAFCON’s deliberations.

My God. I hope not. I hope there is a good number of bishops who tell other bishops that this GAFCON is down the theological stone age. Anglican theologians in the nineteenth century, never mind twentieth century, must be spinning in their graves (if they are dead: they might as well be). Also, are we and other Anglican provinces really supposed to do a liturgical about turn from even the limited changes that have taken place?

He says:

Despite the claims of some, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion.

Well it might be, but there are many ways to express it, before you get to people like me who see the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith as joined problematically. And expressing something liturgically, dare one say narratively amongst the community, is one thing whilst actual historical study and theological insight are another.

People (some liberals) ought to be honest and say this, but even those who are honest and believe that Christ is completely God do so in ways that cannot be judged by the likes of the FOCAs.

He is a bit late asking the FOCAs to consider changing what they have decided. This statement is like the Advent Letter 2007, where Rowan Williams borrows the argument of the worst of the Protestant fundamentalists (again this plain and literalistic reading of the Bible) and tries to use it as the basis of a centralised Catholic Communion. They (now the FOCAs) also read the Advent Letter and nothing happened to satisfy them in the meantime.

Indeed they heard lectures from Rowan Williams on multiculturalism and tackling scriptures of other faiths. They suspected, and I began to think, that the Advent Letter of 2007 was something of a fraud, and they might think that this agreement with GAFCON on doctrines is a fraud too.

No, the Lambeth Conference is unlikely to agree with GAFCON, but then we will never know because these indaba groups have had their heads cut off and cannot come towards any resolutions. That was clever, wasn't it, because it means is this: that when the bishops of Churches that have been rejecting a restrictive Covenant say the same again, the Covenant Continuation Group will just carry on as before - and Synods will be asked what they can do to pass the thing.

This Archbishop and his Catholic centralist fantasies will come and go. They are more suited to an international Church, one that has "Roman" in front. Anglicanism, though, is loose and has its Churches in geographical areas. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not some Pope who is a little less Weberian that the Roman one, he is simply another bishop with an honorary position. It matters not that the Church of England is some mother Church because it has its own mothers.

The American Church, the Canadian Church, the Scottish Church, the Irish Church, the Welsh Church (remember it?), the Brazilian Church, the Hong Kong Church, the New Zealand Church, much of the Australian Church, much of the English Church after all... These all represent something that is unique about Anglicanism, its moderation: that raises the place of reason, the understands the place of culture, that sees doctrines as contingent and sometimes to be doubted or treated lightly, that sees the importance of humble worship.

They possess something quite unique to the world, that this Archbishop would destroy in his licking of the FOCAs and linking them to his centralist fantasies.

It is not the witness to moderation and friendly co-operation that will likely destroy Anglicanism, but the extremes - the extremes of the FOCAs and the extremism of this Archbishop that once people saw as coming with theological weight.

I hope Lambeth, from his point of view, is one enormous failure, and perhaps he might then go. Anglicanism might just survive him and them.

Right FOCA

So on the theological right is FOCA, if this is the name: Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. I find the name odd, because it implies that they are a particular band of Anglicans rather than of the whole of Anglicanism. I did not predict this: I was expecting something like Fellowship of Global Anglicans. Well, such a particular name that they have chosen is realistic, but it does join the myriad of other names for other groups - for example, the Traditional Anglican Communion that wishes Pope Benedict would offer them a Uniate Church.

As part of my project this morning I was writing (in longhand, in the church) an opening session for a theology course (mentioned here previously). After outlining the basis of the course: the varieties of theology responding to the modern situation, it gets to two foundational points. One is a basis of ethical reflection, the me of me (self-understanding, self-worth, behaviour) and other mes with whom one has empathy given the self-same nature of the other - and to all this theology can rush in. There is the ethics of culture and critique of historical change and economic and social interests. The second foundation is theological method, and locales of sources for such reflection. The point made is that the Bible is increasingly one source for theological reflection: formed by various belief-communities, arranged for belief, and used for belief. There is the Christian vision and Christian identity, the development of doctrines and the critique of economic, social and cultural life. And then there are Churches.

There is the Reformed, with faith derived from the gift of the Gospel in Scripture; there is the Lutheran with a further emphasis on dogmas; there is Roman Catholicism with a stress of continuity and tradition, for which Scripture is seen as an exemplary maintenance; and there are Anglican theologies that (along with Scripture and traditions) emphasise culture, reasoning and the relativity or contingency of some dogmas. This is what makes Anglicanism different, particular.

Well, this is not so with the FOCAs, is it? They are an emphasis of the Reformed. They may not be Calvinist, but they are Reformed in a much more particular way - Thirty-nine Articles rather than the Westminster Confession.

Riazat Butt and Toni O'Loughlin are quite right to emphasise the scale of the potential intervention. I chatted with one of the liberal/ radical church members this morning, who had read about the GAFCON event in The Guardian, and I said imagine if our Bishop of Lincoln does have a small ceremony of prayers in his private chapel for a gay couple after a Civil Partnership (as he said he would: he supported a decision to refuse a much bigger ceremony). He is already called "revisionist" on some websites. Then say the (notorious) church in Stamford, to which people drive from miles around, decided it wanted alternative oversight. Unless he agreed, legally they would have to leave the parish behind if they wanted international so-called orthodox oversight.

From such events like this, therefore, comes a network of such ex-parishes and thus another Province in the making, that would presumably invent some sort of parishes of their own.

The basis of the orthodoxy of the Primates Council' would mean Common Worship (2000) is out of sync with the BCP. Are the FOCAs going to produce a translated into modern language Book of Common Prayer? Those who have reserve sacraments (like the church I attend) will be defying the Thirty-nine Articles, and of course we do not believe that the Bible does not contradict itself or can be read according to something called the plain meaning. For example (the point that my conversation partner mentioned before), Jesus entering Jerusalem in Holy Week could not have had palm leaves laid down before him because they come about in a later season of the year. Other gospels make adjustment. We know, of course, that Jesus's assertive incident at the Temple happens at different times in John's Gospel (and so on). Some Gospel statements put on to Jesus's lips are clearly those of the early Church and its theological development rather than by Jesus himself. There is no plain reading of the Bible and it is disingenuous to say that there is.

So the decision to call a local situation "unorthodox" is based on almost open criteria.

One prediction of mine that seems to be wrong, according to The Guardian article, is that of delivering some sort of ultimatum to the Lambeth Conference. It seems that the FOCAs have given up on the Lambeth Conference in advance. Certainly, it ruins Rowan Williams's attempt to create a more organic relationship between bishops and dioceses and his office as Primate of the mother Church. His policy of centralisation is finished, curiously by a set of centralisers.

Reformed Anglicanism is not Anglicanism as a whole. Perhaps with the Lambeth based centralisation ruined, the Communion might return to a more informal set of structures.Bishops are not alone in their Churches, under their own primates, Churches that will have to defend themselves from the encroachment of the FOCAs.

Sunday 29 June 2008

The Day of the Statement

Today, as GAFCON's press release (the same words: my versions disagreed on some paragraph breaks - so presumably the Final Statement received no more than a Conference nod on Sunday morning) tells us that today is the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. Not in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer it isn't, to be one new source for GAFCON regulation of doctrine. It is the the St. Peter's feast alone.

At the church this morning I talked with folks (among others) all who may be described as liberal in one sense or another. I discovered another such person last week, who had done a diploma in feminist theology at Lampeter and let slip about being somewhat on the edge of the formal liturgy. I then said so am I, and this morning pointed to several people in the same boat (or at least similar boats). Indeed, of those who speak, there are a number of us, but still expectations of roles and propriety keep liberal views relatively quiet even in churches where there is no huge pressure to keep quiet. This idea that the loyal laity were all "orthodox" and being let down by liberal clergy has always been so much tripe: if anything the clergy are the ones keeping the orthodoxy going, according to their promises and performance.

The GAFCON stress on the Thirty-nine Articles will interfere with the practice of the reserve sacrament in the local church, the prayers given for the dead, and would contradict the liturgy as in Common Worship (2000).

The Four Councils - GAFCON does not say which, but it is presumed the first four. This includes, then, the primacy of Rome, which is rather interesting.

As for the plain reading of the Bible, one of our teachers and scholars (particularly of the Hebrew Bible) let out an instant laugh. There is simply no such thing. The academic world studies biblical meaning with intensity and depth, and the notion of a plain and obvious meaning is just plain daft.

As one person said (and it is my view too), "Let them get on with it. "

Bishop Robert Duncan and company are going to set up a new province to cover North America as a whole. If the Anglican Communion has any guts, it won't recognise it. Of course, the Primates' Council, an alternative seat of power, will. So there could be two claims to deciding what is and is not Anglican, and even if Canterbury recognises the new Province, there is (at least for a time) a difference of recognition regarding The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

George Congar reports for the Washington Times:

In addition, more than 600 Church of England clergy will reportedly swear allegiance to the new GAFCON body at a meeting next week in London.

This raises questions about to whom these clergy will swear allegiance. Will they maintain their subordinate relationship to their diocesan bishop, that receiver and giver that Rowan Williams wrote about for his recent lecture, or will they transfer their allegiances to international oversight from the Primates' Council? The danger is that if the Canterbury four Instruments of Communion dither over the Primates' Council, they may find their functions being taken over in some cases by the quicker off the draw Primates' Council.

Well Lambeth 2008 is not going to have any resolutions, so presumably there will be no statement from the assembled bishops, the focus of Anglican Communion, about this additional development that will presume actions over the heads of many of them. They may try to cover the ground of GAFCON, to try and take away the need for GAFCON type action. However, the basis of the Jerusalem Declaration is far too narrow for actual Anglicanism as it appears around the world.

One good side of GAFCON, of the "let them get on with it" view, is not just that they could end up sidelining the Conservative Evangelicals and weakening the place of evangelicalism, but that the activity of the Primates' Council will mean that there is no possibility of Rowan Williams achieving a more organic, thorough and conserving intercommunion. GAFCON adds to, and does not reduce from, the situation where, according to Rowan Williams:

Anglicans have failed to think through primacy with any theological seriousness and have become habituated to a not very coherent or effective international structure that lacks canonical seriousness and produces insupportable pluralism in more than one area of the Church's practice.

It adds to it because now there will be structures that are bishop and geography centred, via Canterbury's primacy, and the Primates' Council of international oversight - except where the Primates' Council approves of local Anglicanism (which then is a double recognition).

Indeed, what GAFCON does is force a looser Confederation, not a Communion. It is one where the Church in any place, or across any place, is its own entity. Its primacy depends on where it chooses its oversight - that way around - if it chooses any at all. For example, there might be a Province of the Anglican Church of North America under Robert Duncan as Metropolitan and in the Anglican Communion as understood by the Primates Council. At the same time, The Episcopal Church may find itself either in the Anglican Communion with its Presiding Bishop attending Canterbury based meetings, and the Anglican Church of Canada has its Archbishop attending the same meetings, or, alternatively, both might find themselves excluded from the Anglican Communion, or choose to withdraw because of, say, some unacceptable Covenant, and thus seek a Communion with each other. And they may find Communion with the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish, Brazil, the New Zealanders, Hong Kong, most Australians... Whichever way you look at it, it is all more the messier, not less, thanks to GAFCON.

And as well as this, those Anglo-Catholic traditionalists, with nowhere to go (let's face it, GAFCON isn't exactly for them - given the basis of the Primate's Council deciding orthodoxy), may find themselves receiving a gift of the Gospel (to use Rowan Williams's words) from Pope Benedict XVI, offering a Unitate Anglican Church! At this point, the Anglican ship starts to look like the Titanic (breaking up into little boats).

The upshot is that Catholicism and centralisation cannot be pushed as Rowan Williams has tried to do. It can be on a Protestant basis - usurping the geographical diocesan principle - but the whole policy of a Covenant is now disastrous. It cannot be the basis of unifying such a disparate body.

Canterbury then returns to what it was: an informal centre, where there is a recognition of bonds of friendship from most Anglican bishops, but nothing so organic as he has presented. That degree of binding is not possible. Anglicanism is a set of of culturally embedded Churches which inherit what each Church thinks are the essentials of Christianity, expressed through a liturgical tradition. That GAFCON, by organising some Churches on a strongly confessional belief basis, means that other Anglican Churches will be all the more cultural and broad. This further means that these other Anglican Churches will be loosely in relationship with each other, as they wish, and the confessional belief based Anglican Churches will come under a Primates Council. They will be more centralised, but Anglicanism as a whole will not be and cannot be.

Of course there may be groups of Anglican Churches, for example those in the Global South that may develop their own catechism and wish not to come under the Primates' Council at any point. Open Evangelicals might like their own Covenant - then it would be non-geographical.

Anglicanism is likely to Balkanise.

The Archbishop's Covenant policy for all Anglicanism based on Catholic ecclesiology has completely failed before it has even come to any sort of conclusion. It was always going to end badly. It can only ever become a light and non-disciplinary document, that has neither point nor purpose. The definers of orthodoxy, who met in Jerusalem, have no need for a Covenant as they have already given the basis on how they regard orthodoxy. Broad based Anglicans have no need for a Covenant either. Others may like the idea, but they will either exist in regions or have other non-geographical formations and can please themselves.

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.

GAFCON (Not Quite) Final Statement

We are not to recognise the GAFCON Primates Council, but Encourage it, according to the revision of the apparent early publication of the GAFCON Final Statement. The Final Statement contains the Jerusalem Declaration itself after a long explanation. So corrected the explanation states:

GAFCON is not just a moment in time, but a movement in the Spirit, and we hereby:

- launch the GAFCON movement as a fellowship of confessing Anglicans
- publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of the fellowship
- Encourage GAFCON Primates' Council.

There are no surprises in the "three facts" that the Conference statement says reason current developments, except that it sees itself as a result of these changes too, causally, which puts itself into a self-proclaimed unique position (as if no one else has been caused to do anything 'positive').

The next bit then is here comes a "confessing fellowship" of Anglicans "united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit" and the Jerusalem Declaration here is called:

a contemporary rule

Which almost suggests that this Global Anglican Future fellowship is some sort of Order. It goes on that the:

goal is to reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world. Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion.

Except it will attempt to change matters that will put it into conflict with structures of the Anglican Communion in many localities. It will assume an arrogance of righteousness in those places it deems are out of step with its own declarations. The first structural point made is this:

While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Yet Anglicanism, except for the continuing Churches that copy the same form, is defined by the Communion of Canterbury as first bishop equally among bishops. This is clearly not only undermined but actually replaced. And it leads to The Jerusalem Declaration [see end].

The replacement structural change it introduces is the Primates' Council. It is what was expected: international oversight by a council of primates. This Council will actually make declarations on what is orthodox and what is not. It is oversight as predicted and involve:

the development of this fellowship which will take more time... cooperation with the Global South and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa.

The initial Council is the Primates' Council that will develop as follows:

  • encourage them [GAFCON primates] to form the initial Council of the GAFCON movement
  • enlargement of the Council and entreat the Primates to organise and expand the fellowship of confessing Anglicans
  • Primates' Council to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations
  • the desirability of territorial jurisdiction for provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, except in those areas where churches and leaders are denying the orthodox faith or are preventing its spread, and in a few areas for which overlapping jurisdictions are beneficial for historical or cultural reasons
  • the Primates' Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church
  • a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates' Council

So we have the Council that recognises existing confessing orthodox Anglicanism, that also declares Anglicanism void when it is not orthodox, and puts in international oversight including structures when not orthodox, and will (under Robert Duncan with other bishops) set up a new Province for the USA and Canada. I guess we are to expect declarations of unorthodoxy elsewhere to ultimately lead to other new provinces. This is the logical extension.

In other words, this Primates Council declares what is and what is not Anglican. It is a takeover.

We had better know what orthodoxy is. They tell us within the declaration:

2. The Bible ...translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense.
4. Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church
5. [Jesus Christ] humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell
6. 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
8. Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy [and] ...abstinence for those who are not married
11. [ecumenical!] 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.
12. diversity and acknowledge freedom in secondary matters
13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith

This actually clashes with the given theological diversity of Anglicanism today. The Church of England does not require submission to the Thirty-nine Articles except as one of the historic formularies. There is no requirement to read the Bible in a plain sense. There are various ways of understanding Christ, even if the pluralist and a faiths-universalist views were not included. Anglicans are moving towards promoting fidelity and faithfulness in relationships, for example via recognitions of the Civil Partnership in Britain, and this sexual obsession of GAFCON is not acceptable to many loyal Anglicans (many of whom are otherwise loyal in a rather full doctrinal manner). We heard in the week that Primates can decide what are secondary matters: that the Bible can never be contradicted, that the Bible does not contradict itself (oh yes it does - and often).

So, well, as these structures emerge, and their activities begin, and the institutional reaction is given back, one can say: welcome to the schism.


In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus' birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

[Updated Sunday 29. As before, I have excluded introductory text up to the Jerusalem Declaration above. It was not clear if the next part below was within the Jerusalem Declaration or not. It is not, but the final part of the Final Statement is included here as it contains concrete plans for structural change. I have repasted these sections on Sunday to take account of extra paragraph breaks when I checked between the whole leaked Statement and the Press Release from GAFCON on Sunday.]

The Road Ahead

We believe the Holy Spirit has led us during this week in Jerusalem to begin a new work. There are many important decisions for the development of this fellowship which will take more time, prayer and deliberation. Among other matters, we shall seek to expand participation in this fellowship beyond those who have come to Jerusalem, including cooperation with the Global South and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. We can, however, discern certain milestones on the road ahead.

Primates' Council

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, do hereby acknowledge the participating Primates of GAFCON who have called us together, and encourage them to form the initial Council of the GAFCON movement. We look forward to the enlargement of the Council and entreat the Primates to organise and expand the fellowship of confessing Anglicans.

We urge the Primates' Council to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith.

We recognise the desirability of territorial jurisdiction for provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, except in those areas where churches and leaders are denying the orthodox faith or are preventing its spread, and in a few areas for which overlapping jurisdictions are beneficial for historical or cultural reasons.

We thank God for the courageous actions of those Primates and provinces who have offered orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership, especially in North and South America. The actions of these Primates have been a positive response to pastoral necessities and mission opportunities. We believe that such actions will continue to be necessary and we support them in offering help around the world.

We believe this is a critical moment when the Primates' Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church. In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates' Council.

Conclusion: Message from Jerusalem

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, were summoned by the Primates' leadership team to Jerusalem in June 2008 to deliberate on the crisis that has divided the Anglican Communion for the past decade and to seek direction for the future. We have visited holy sites, prayed together, listened to God's Word preached and expounded, learned from various speakers and teachers, and shared our thoughts and hopes with each other.

The meeting in Jerusalem this week was called in a sense of urgency that a false gospel has so paralysed the Anglican Communion that this crisis must be addressed. The chief threat of this dispute involves the compromising of the integrity of the church's worldwide mission. The primary reason we have come to Jerusalem and issued this declaration is to free our churches to give clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ.

It is our hope that this Statement on the Global Anglican Future will be received with comfort and joy by many Anglicans around the world who have been distressed about the direction of the Communion. We believe the Anglican Communion should and will be reformed around the biblical gospel and mandate to go into all the world and present Christ to the nations.


Feast of St Peter and St Paul 29 June 2008

Archbishop Thinks Bishops

This lecture, below given in full (it is not on the Canterbury website, not sure why not), could give a clue as to how Rowan Williams will approach the problem of 'better bishops' and Anglicanism at the forthcoming Lambeth Conference. This view is considered here at the Covenant-Communion site. The Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius was hosted by St. Vladimir's Seminary for its conference entitled, Rome, Constantinople and Canterbury. Mother Churches?

The audio file can be heard here and there are pages of discussion here. Leander Harding also discusses this.

The content can be read below my comment here. Indeed the subject matter is timely for the Archbishop. He says, in his main criticism for Anglicans:

Anglicans have failed to think through primacy with any theological seriousness and have become habituated to a not very coherent or effective international structure that lacks canonical seriousness and produces insupportable pluralism in more than one area of the Church's practice.

The issue is whether he can do anything about that, and whether legally the Church of England could let him, nor if others want it. The bishops, in so far as they work together, do so informally. His argument also runs:

Not ignoring or making light of local pressures or needs, but reminding any local assembly and its chief pastor that is must not lose its recognisability or receivability to other Christian communities across the globe and throughout history.

In other words, he is arguing against any innovation anywhere. One wonders how any Church has been able to ordain women priests and what the Church of England would be doing, as others, in ordaining women bishops. There needs to be a theology of faithful innovation as well as conservation and conservatism. It is always going to be an argument: there will always be an innovator that is acting in concert with the gift of the Gospel and it may take time before others can accept such in another local context.

Here is the whole lecture delivered by Canon Jonathan Goodall from the office of the Archbishop.

...Its [the conference, as named] subject matter could hardly be more timely and I hope your discussions will be creative in a way that can help take forward the whole Church's understanding of this many-layered issue.

At the most basic level, every local Church has a mother Church - except for Jersusalem, where the risen Jesus first directly establishes the company of witnesses to his Resurrection and pours out upon them the promise of the Father, the promised Holy Spirit. From this point on, the Church's mission moves outwards and, as we see in St Paul's Epistles, local congregations are equipped by the Apostles with the essentials of belief and practice that allow them, in turn, to become, in their own context, to become communities of witness to the risen Christ.

And one consequence of this is something to which St Paul more than once makes appeal: the life of the local congregation is founded on something received: not discovered, not invented. The assembly of Christ's people, Christ's body, in this or that place, is the result of the active communication of tradition in its widest or fullest sense. For a local Church to come into being is for a community to arise that is part of a continuous stream of something being shared. This may serve us as a corrective to the idea that somehow each and every local Church is complete and self-sufficient in a narrow and exclusive way.

Understandably, the ecclesiology of recent decades, especially among those influenced by the brilliant work of Orthodox thinkers, like Nicholas Afanasiev and John Zizioulas, has positioned itself in strong reaction against centralised models of ecclesial life and authority: against a picture of ecclesial unity that is ultimately somewhat secular (that is, the unified organisation controlled from one focal point).

But the pendulum has swung too far if this means that we lose sight of the interdependence of local Churches and their bishops. The life of the local Churches is constituted not only by internal Communion but by the giving and receiving of the gift of the Gospel between them and by the grateful recognition of each other as gifted by Christ in the Holy Spirit to minister his reality to each other (as St Paul insists in the Second Letter to Corinth).

And the fundamental acknowledgement of having received the Gospel from elsewhere is a reminder to each and every local Church of this dimension of its life, this gratitude for having heard and received, and for being still involved in the economy of giving and receiving in Catholic fellowship. Hence the relation of local Churches to a mother Church or a primatial Church is not an purely antiquarian matter.

From very early in the Church's history certain local Churches have been recognised as having a distinctive generative importance. In the ancient Welsh and Irish Churches the great monastic houses, from which missions went out, were the mother Churches for the family of the saint who had founded the monastery. In the centuries before the continental diocesan structures had arrived in Britain and Ireland, this was the usual form of Church life. But this is only a specific and more vivid example of something just as true right across the Christian world. A local Church is, indeed, at one level, a community to which is given all the gifts necessary for being Christ's body in a particular place. But among those gifts is the gift of having received the Gospel from others and being still called to receive it. Relation with the history of mission is part of the Church's identity.

All this, of course, has many implications for our understanding of the bishops' ministry. If it is true, that as Tertullian said, "One Christian is no Christian," then by the same token we should be able to say "One bishop is no bishop," and so "One local Church alone is no Church." A bishop is not an individual who represents the local Church as if he is somehow empowered to speak for its local identity like a politician for his constituency. The bishop is, above all, the person who sustains and nourishes within his local Church an awareness of its dependency on the apostolic mission: on the gift from beyond its boundaries, of the Church established by the Risen Lord. And he does this, of course, primarily and irreducibly as the celebrant of the Catholic oblation.

Hence, and again from the earliest days, the clustering of local Churches and their bishops around Metropolitan sees which represented the channels through which the Gospel came to be shared. And hence the insistence, that might almost be called fierce in some circumstances, that bishops received ordination from their neighbours in their metropolia under the leadership of the local primates; and hence too the seriousness of communicating episcopal election by letter to the region and the severity of the sanction of removing a bishop's name from the formal list of intercession. All of this gives some background for thinking about the character and exercise of primacy today.

As this brief sketch suggests, the identification of primacy with a charism of a different order from that from the episopate at large does not sit easily with the emphasis on the grateful receiving of the Gospel. And the idea that primacy, in this sense, conferred strictly individual powers on a metropolitan or even a patriarch, independent of his role as convenor of the Episcopal Fellowship, or independent of his own relation to his own local Church is bound to be questionable.

But this model gives little comfort to those who understand the theological equality of all local Churches as dictating a structure of monadic communities, co-existing without acting upon one another.

Primacy needs to be seen as a sign of the continuing reality of active tradition, that is the sharing of the gift of Christ as the foundation of each local Church. So primacy should be exercised in the service of the further sharing of the gifts. This is why it is problematic if a local Church so interprets the gift it has received that it cannot fully share it beyond its own cultural home territory - which is an issue for both left and right in our Churches, I suspect. And the primatial initiative in challenging or seeking to limit local development on these grounds becomes intelligible as part of the service of the mother Church - to those to which it is the mother. Not ignoring or making light of local pressures or needs, but reminding any local assembly and its chief pastor that is must not lose its recognisability or receivability to other Christian communities across the globe and throughout history.

The problem that in different ways face the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Communions at present show how very difficult it is to frame this issue constructively. Roman Catholics are still labouring to discover how to disentangle the missionary, apostolic charism of the See of Peter from juridical anomalies and bureaucratic distortion. Orthodox have often frozen the concept of primacy in an antiquarian defence of the pentarchy as the structure of the Church thus allowing non-theological power struggles rooted in nationalism and ethnocentrism to flourish with damaging results. Anglicans have failed to think through primacy with any theological seriousness and have become habituated to a not very coherent or effective international structure that lacks canonical seriousness and produces insupportable pluralism in more than one area of the Church's practice.

All of us need to rethink the meaning of primacy in relation to mission - and in relation to what episcopal fellowship really means. In this connection, the discussion of the recent Anglican - Orthodox Agreed Statement, The Church of the Triune God, especially paragraphs 19 to 23 of the chapter 'Episcope, Episcopos and Primacy', is a helpful orientation in tracing the complementary connections between primacy and conciliarity and reception, and merits development in the light of the 34th of the Apostolic Canons, a text increasingly significant in ecumenical dialogue.

Your comments, reflecting on the meaning of 'the mother Church' should clarify something of the dynamic centrality of tradition and the life-giving strangeness of the Good News of Jesus as it judges and transfigures our local realities.

[Transcribed by Pluralist]

Saturday 28 June 2008

No One is United

One of the constancies in the world of Christian religion - any religion - is that there is no such thing as unity. I hinted before that even liberals are not, and in this GAFCON lull prior to the final statement, I thought I'd swing a discussion to us.

This is important because no one is going to be unaffected if a 'Global Anglican Fellowship' does manage to shake up the Evangelical world. Not only this, but Robert Duncan may make a new province in the United States under a similar collegiate set of international bishops that might bring together some disparately loyal and overseen Anglicans, and also (after Lambeth) the present pope might just make up his mind to pick off some Anglo-Catholics into a Uniate set up. The point is that the more one pack of cards gets sorted out, and starts rearranging, the more the exposures and settlements lead to other packs of cards getting sorted.

After the Anglo-Catholics divided, it was almost as if the Evangelicals were looking for an issue in order to sort themselves out, and they found it in homosexuality - but have used this to begin to reorganise on a much wider front. What is interesting here is that the Anglo-Catholic traditionalists are, as yet, mainly unorganised, and remain hangers on in all sorts of Anglican settings, including now GAFCON. Given that GAFCON is Episcopal Protestantism, they will have to move on, unless they like being on fringes. It is rumoured that after Lambeth an Anglo-Catholic C of E bishop will cross the floor to Rome, but the question is always how many follow and it what form, and what other options are there. Well there are, but as with GAFCON creating your own actual Church can be the equivalent of disappearing - so some would exist with fringe arrangements.

The liberals as broad and inclusive by temperament, who give partial or complete symbolic interpretations to literalist-encouraging statements, put up with difference and inadequacy of Church and written forms. So they give off a sense of unity. However, they can be divided into groups, and this is not just heuristically.

There are those who aren't really liberal at all theologically, it is just that by being socially inclusive they are forced into the liberal camp. They will join liberals to espouse these aims, but should these become realised then they wouldn't be particularly liberal afterwards (they'd retain an ethic of inclusiveness). Jesus as the Christ would be regarded as unique.

Then there are those who are theological liberal revisionists, who are Broad Church mainstream. Some of these can be ecclesiastical bureaucrats, in the sense of holding various others together. Some are not interested in that. They hold to all the essential details of doctrines, like the Incarnation and objective Resurrection, but might question or reject the details like the Virgin Birth or the dissolving of the body into a renewed body. They have a kind of negotiation stance between the biblical narrative and actual history: so at the resurrection people were actually struck by a real objective Christ that gave no option but to turn things around and begin anew that led to the birth of the Church. It is important for the them that the history exists in some reasonable shape or form and serves a realist theology. The relationship with liturgy is a little strained, but there are real, objective connections between an actual formed liturgical tradition and what is the essential and qualitative theological truth of that tradition. Jesus as the Christ would be regarded as best and complete.

Then there are the theological radical (or heterodox liberal) revisionists, who are edge of the Broad Church, and its most creative dissonant types. For them, the Church bureaucracy can go where it will. They are mainly interested in gatherings of people and talking and even worshipping with one another. Every single doctrine is under review, and some or all can be pretty much rejected as possessing objective truth, if there is any objective truth to be had in religion. History is something to do with various forms of disciplined historiography, and it is soon realised that the accounts of the New Testament are out of reach of anything other than inadequate second hand methods of reconstruction: what emerges is the importance of story telling and this narrative is the foundation of some sort of directive faith. Truth, then, is in the drama, and the process of writing, and is contained within. So the gospel narratives become a way of expressing faith, and the Emmaus Road event, for example, is just a glorified way of early Christians saying that when the people could see and they got the point, and thus 'saw' him, then Jesus disappeared, for them to have been thus visited by him and have legitimacy and authority. It is about the story telling, the form of setting up and directing a community, in the context of the fantastic supernatural beliefs of the time. This is how to understand liturgy too: it is a faith pathway, and whilst it connects with tradition and identity, it indicates the creativity of humanity. Jesus as the Christ would be regarded as plural or relating to a universal principle.

Of the latter group, some may say that in all realism they are religious humanists, whereas others won't make that concession because you simply live in one story-world or another. What is bizarre is that some story-world inhabitants can appear to be completely traditional: their bubble is complete. Until, of course, they have to deal with scientific knowledge, the various social science and liberal arts disciplines, and then you find they live in the same world as most others. However, there is a point where these postmodernists are hardly liberal at all: they so reconstruct their world, their non-objective world, that they may as well be a traditionalist, and as such leave the liberal camp altogether - unless they become suspected and then find they need the tolerant liberals to be generous. The Jesus as the Christ as universal principle is wholly contained within the bubble. Others, as equally non-objective, retain an essential liberalism but often hate the label, and already see liberals as compromisers of a world view that is defunct. This is the difference between the Radical Orthodox and the Nihilist Textualists.

In some stress based future, it is perfectly possible for these groups to divide apart (not here including the Radical Orthodox among radicals - their orthodox appearances would probably be acceptable to bureaucratic liberals, as they are like the first group being socially inclusive but otherwise appear to be as theologically detailed).

Imagine if the bureaucratic liberals told those to their theological left that they are letting the side down. It could well happen in a Church of Open Evangelicals, liberals and socially inclusive Anglo-Catholics. The Conservative Evangelicals have either gone or are a busted flush within, and the Anglo-Catholic traditionalists have either gone or are a busted flush (as they are now). The Open Evangelicals have been damaged, and some with nowhere else to go and who maintain Evangelical views (that won't play with the details) they have stayed with the liberals. Some post-Evangelicals have no option but to do so. In this more tolerant if uneasy Church, with the liberals no longer under direct attack and thus no longer holding together in adversity, the need for a consistent identity in this Church might find the radicals coming under pressure. The radicals would see the possibility of at last real reform: of liturgical innovation, of developing in interfaith directions, of theological textualism and postmodernism, and the negotiating liberals and the others would find such unacceptable. Until this point, the chance of innovation has been impossible under fire, and so there has been no internal dispute. Such liberals could always leave, of course, and there has been a traffic in both directions, but in the new situation they might come under a more intense pressure to either shut up or go.

One wonders the fate of the Modern Churchpeople's Union in these circumstances. It has tendencies to moderation and negotiation, with a dollop of Christian agnosticism, and a smaller number of wilder reformers. It would be like today's Fulcrum - in trouble set against the future.

At the moment the liberals as a whole are just watching and analysing, whilst the groups that contain those that find all liberalisms unacceptable split among themselves (the first target of Conservative Evangelicals is not liberals but Open Evangelicals - those that they call liberal Evangelicals, and they are not liberals as such). Assuming a New Reformation goes through, then the liberals will be the centre again of a trimmed down Church, but the radicals will see a space for innovation that could just go and upset everyone again - and may cause another split among the liberals that would seem, now, impossible.

Update Sunday: A good comment which challenges the scheme, or wants to add to it, and in mentioning the particularly non-negotiating heterodox (questioning both big beliefs and details) I go down a storytelling line rather than categories (above). There is another way to do it in that some people have particular emphases of belief on theist, spiritist and exemplarist bases, and in such context the movement to nihilist textualism is the ending up as nonitarian option whereas the three can be seen as unitarian. Please see the comments.


I've been to conferences, and General Assemblies and other gatherings, all of them in networks and organisations on the religious and theological left: radical or liberal. They are usually well prepared, and run smoothly, and in and around the events people of like mind get quite a lift.

There is always the difference between the gathering (national, regional - in this GAFCON case international) and the local. The local situation can often be depressing in comparison, especially when coming back to it from a good gathering. The local situation is either more mixed, or diverse, or otherwise inclined. In the other direction, going to it, the conference gives such an uplift. This is to what Peter Jensen refers at GAFCON in terms of his own uplift, that and being unsure that the gathering would work (given the different extreme constituencies it has gathered, given those who have rejected it despite having some similar views).

Conferences are ways of testing the constituency. In terms of having completed statements, they do relate leadership intentions to that activist constituency. They are also ways of transferring people into and out of the inner cores, maybe along with policy shifts. Some conferences are democratic, and pass resolutions, so that the leadership may find its policies severely checked in some areas but endorsed in others (Liberal Democrats - Conference is sovereign). Some other conferences are media events and conversations and not centres of decision making (Labour Party). In other conferences, lectures dominate and the overview of events may be more business-like (Sea of Faith). Other conferences are there to rubber stamp what has already been decided - but even there speeches can have an impact and input can be made by comment especially regarding functional matters (China, old Soviet Union). It all depends on how much is done by a leadership group and whether the conference in effect comments and passes what all derives from a people in agreement. The feedback process, and sometimes moments of drama (events that come to a conference from outside), lead to some shifts and changes that are not expected. GAFCON has a directive leadership, but its workshops feed opinion back from the closest sympathisers.

What is then different about GAFCON than might have been? Has the Conference made any difference? I take the view that this is a leadership core enterprise, but it has filtered and gathered supporters to test its policies. The authority and autocracy in this set up is reinforced by the episcopal principle, if a little qualified then by the Protestant principle.

There is surely no substantive difference in what GAFCON is going to do. It was and is going to provide international episcopal oversight and challenge existing structures by having its own. These structures won't be built overnight. What is different, I think, is that the presentation has had to follow the form. The form is that the Western New Puritans have led this thing from the beginning, and connected with the Africans in order to punch above their weight. Nevertheless the appearance has had to be more diffuse, less ideological even, and certainly say less on homosexuality. It has more impact if you appear to be reasonable. What's happened is that the Western side has asserted itself: it just communicates better. It is a culture issue: Jensen, NazirAli, Venables simply have communicated with informality, accurate choice of words, and they came to the front. Akinola has baggage and also does not come across: it is why, after all, the inner core rewrite his material, or the odd college academic. Robert Duncan has featured little, but this is because he is busy watching his back in the middle of The Episcopal Church issues: but it is clear that he is also busy with structures. The backroom boys of Sugden and Minns have stayed there, where they are most effective and directive. Presentation probably matters less than it may seem, but it is interesting that the Westerners grabbed more of the reins for such purposes. It shows something about the Anglo-European-Australasian as international and African as particular and in development.

There is a lull now, ahead of this final statement. But what is real has already been demonstrated. Although the issue is full of particularities and complications, GAFCON has already started to act in the way it intends to go on - by putting the first European church under international Episcopal oversight. It is an independent Anglican Church anyway, All Saints Anglican Church in the Algarve, and the real guts of GAFCON will come with those churches on the ground that are not. Archbishop Kolini of Rwanda was already dealing with the church, but now it extends to something like an Episcopal committee, a model that might be expected. See what one of the GAFCON attendees said:

"This is a truly global, cross border commitment to ensure that Anglicans everywhere can look forward with confidence."

Not just Anglicans in Portugal, then, but Anglicans everywhere. And that's the point.

I noticed the doubts on the more conservative blogs, but they have just followed the press commentary too closely and the idea even that the coming final statement was in a kind of melting pot of the Conference. Yes, but it wasn't ever really going to become something else. Journalists who were expecting instant schism by some sort of other denomination simply got that emphasis wrong: it was never going to be so and the Conference is not going to change anything so substantive. The real test won't be the Conference, it will be when it all goes local and particular again. In other words, a group will meet at All Souls Langham Place and some may go on to seek international oversight. What will happen then?

Another aspect always going to happen was somehow making a point at the Lambeth Conference that this is, somehow, last chance saloon. As it happens, people like Venables and Duncan are going, and no doubt going to make a point. Much of the rest of Anglicanism will simply not accept the kind of literalism displayed by the likes of Bishop John Akao of Nigeria. The New Puritans are really a tiny margin of Western Churches; it is why they have created GAFCON after all. The tough bit comes after Lambeth, then, when these Global Anglicans have to put flesh on the statement they issue.

This is where I agree with the Conservative blogs: if these Global Anglicans cannot actually do something different that has been the case, then the thing implodes and badly. It does become yet another evangelical failure. One expects the GAFCON action to cause a split among evangelicals and weaken evangelicalism in the Anglican Communion, but at least there will be something to show for it. If they just implode, it will be the worse of all worlds for them. The flight of Peter Jensen's aeroplane is much the easier circling over this conference: most conferences break up and little results and they gather again. This one is supposed to plan something in the real world. It needs a long haul jet if it is going to fly, and probably some mid-air refuelling.

Friday 27 June 2008


From The Thunderstorm

GALCON (Global Anglican Liberals Conference) are starting a movement for Anglican liberals. It is going to be for those who can use elements of Anglican liturgy, but would from time to time want to read from a
Buddhist Sutra or the Bhagavad Gita instead of the set Bible readings. There are no promises to uphold anything, so the leadership says the movement could evolve. In any affiliated parish church there might be one sermon on Buddha for Mattins or another on Gandhi at Evensong. They may mention the historical Jesus or Christ of faith from time to time. "There could well be Fresh Expressions, such as saying prayers while skydiving," said one leader, the one time Bishop of Edinburgh.

A spokesperson said, for example, that one week clergy may want to wear seasonal colours, but another week they might put on druid dress instead. "Let's face it, the Archbishop of Canterbury did." He continued, "We don't want to get personal about the Archbishop, and it's these Instruments of Communion that keep telling us what to do that get in the way. So we will have our own structure."

Hardliners wanted to start a new Church but moderates won a key battle. Instead this will be a "Church within a Church". It will sign priests, parishes and laypeople up, and those who are members of different religions and none, and a few retired bishops will form a committee so that those that sign up can give allegiance and receive oversight from them and tell their own bishops what they can do. "It was like Ganesh shifting a huge logistical problem," said one blogging bishop. However, the retired bishops, whose names have not yet been released, are to give no directions about spiritual content, only a requirement that members should be serious on occasions.

So the moderates have won in key negotiations. Our group of reporters - and how keen I am on the Hindu lass who learns quickly and is more accurate and measured than me - have watched keenly who has been coming and going, or not doing so. No one saw Don Cupitt or Bishop Spong, so we took it that the moderates were winning. They may be shy, of course, or plotting, or doing some gardening.

There were tense negotiations lasting all week, and we journalists know this because we have been sat outside and heard nothing. No one let us in to the workshops nor told us what key decisions had already been made. We attended all the press conferences, but these were hard to follow and much had to be filled in by our imaginations. We noticed how incomprehensible theologians were quickly replaced by the straight-talking ex-Bishop of Edinburgh, and how his status has risen. One reporter cheekily asked him if his morality was Godless.

Anyway this moderate victory will start a "new reformation", consistent with the interviews earlier on, where one interviewee said, "It's fantastic this, we are going to do what we like. I fancy a doing a naturist liturgy using free downloaded music on an MP3 player."

The group plans its own bishops, clergy and theological colleges, and eventually its own structures, within the obvious legal constraints of existing Anglican institutions (where evangelical, traditional and moderate bishops and some college principals will be told to "go and get stuffed", according to one moderate voice). Students will be put through Westcott House and Queens College Birmingham, once they have been completely captured, and also Harris Manchester College in Oxford might be a good place to do some liberal arts.

The GALCON meeting was prompted by the “failure”, as these liberals see it, of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by writing the Advent Letter of 2007 and trying to push a Covenant to match. GALCON liberals would still like to see the failure of the Covenant, which is why some of its bishops are still going to Lambeth. There is also some resentment about the Bishop of Durham, because he is seen as nowhere as good as David Jenkins was in the 1980s (though David Jenkins told leaders of this movement that he would stay a loyal Canterbury Anglican).

Anglicanism has simply failed to take sufficient account of postmodern culture, said the resource paper, called The Church as a Universal Body, and Anglicanism presents itself as far too formally dogmatic. There are too many rules, it claims. 'We should not have to licence Readers and even people who serve.' A passage in a later chapter states, 'It should be possible to have Buddhas and Krishnas on the altar table.' During the worship one priest taking the sermon announced to applause that he had changed his name to Harry Krishna so that members of the parish would keep chanting Harry Krishna. The Rev. Krishna said he had changed his name from Sidney Arthur Budder the same day that he had arrived at the conference.

More than 100 GALCON retired bishops will be unable to present their case at the Lambeth Conference in Kent because retired bishops are not invited, but as there is to be no outcome they don't care. Those few that will attend suggest that they will use the opportunity to train up and become better bishops, whilst having a good argument with those who start an argument with them.

Certain people, like Chris Sugden, Martyn Minns and Wallace Benn have been banned from the GALCON gathering, with a WANTED poster put up, and should they have come in delegates were to raise the alarm by singing:

This little Lib'ral light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little Lib'ral light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little Lib'ral light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, all the time.

Leaders said that GALCON was nothing to do with polyamorous relationships and this was why journalists slept in their own hotels, presumably together.

This, the last day, the movement said it would announce a new name. It will be called Global Anglican Liberals.

This report was not written by Ruth Gledhill, but could have been.

Thursday 26 June 2008

Rapid Notes Thursday Afternoon

I diverted from other activities when GAFCON suddenly sounded interesting. It was not quite so interesting. Here are my slightly edited into sense rapid notes. I found the speakers very difficult to follow, in their expressions and not a little because the Internet transmission was faltering.

The notes are incomplete and involve live "catching up" and immediate summarising.

It is clear from this that GAFCON is going to provide a mission fellowship, whatever it may be called and how it might precisely work. It must be self-financing. The journalists should surely realise now that the 'doubt' they thought was present was not. It is like a class taken by a teacher. It is the teacher who sets the objectives, does the lesson and carries out the assessment as well as evaluation of him or herself. That the teacher, who gets good results from an enthusiastic class, says he or she is "waiting for the class to produce the work and the wording" is, on one sense, neither here nor there as the work that is expected is pretty much understood.

Themes regarding Statement Committee and feedback. Archbishop Nzimbi.

A final statement is to continue work of mission.

There is a profound sadness of current state of Anglican Communion. There is a sense of betrayal of existing leadership of structures.

GAFCON will come into a movement - this movement to develop needs a theological framework and appropriate structures.

There is a genuine desire to reach out to other Anglicans who share common faith.

Question - Betrayal specific with the Archbishop of Canterbury? [See later]

Is there a name of new structure? We are waiting to hear regarding a name - it will come from meetings, participatory, asking people all kinds of questions. At end, what it will be.

Possible names? GAFCON! Global Anglican Fellowship.

The four instruments of unity (are about betrayal). The process we see now did not begin by GAFCON - it's been going on more than a decade. All the arguments have been put forward in the past as well known.

GAFCON meet again in 2 years time?
It is not regular and not set.

New or replacement structures than the four Instruments of Communion already - for example, having a primate structure instead? This is being worked on. Whatever the structures, they are to make sure that the process continues and these are made accordingly. There is planning and more than needs to be done. We are still listening presently.

The Queen is still head of the Church of England and therefore the Anglican Communion by extension. Has any approach been made to her? A nice question. We respect [her?] (how she has gone on for ages?) - it is not structures as such but those that make us depart from tradition. When the structures betray us this is when we say let us look at them to reclaim the Anglican. We are not fighting the Queen - no.

Statement for small groups to evaluate tomorrow: when's the final draft? We are working on it right now. We are putting it together. Tomorrow we would like the plenary to hear how far we have gone and read what we have at the moment but that is not final. Let the plenary come up with more comments. It will go into provincial teams again and they will comment and they will be put in together. We'll then meet again to move towards a final statement.

Minority statement? There is a right to say a minority.

These permanent structures - who will pay? It is a very important question. It is included in our discussion, and finances are very important. Members need to be self-supporting. [my emphasis] Common financing [?]. Budgets to be long term? These are under discussion.

Can GAFCON work with A of C ? Don't want to say much; mission we look at and we are defining that: he is claiming something which is lost. We are not excommunicating.

Bishops to Lambeth. Can anyone join your movement and be in the rest of the Anglican Communion? A movement's first duty is to claim what is lost - a revival, and this is needed. Not just in the north but the south too. 10 years plus on issues we did not agree on, so this time by communion we mean common faith. Outward sign there comes from the inward faith.

Church and Authority:

Facilitators "saddled" with responsibility of authority and status within a Church. 3 people lectured. This workshop looking at this.

Scriptures a very important role. Interpretation was the orignal tension (as between the Lord, pharisees, scribes). What is heresy and sound is based on interpretation.

Luther - he acted on the basis of Scripture; Anglican crisis is now based on interpretation of Scripture. This issue arises again as it does at every point of revivial. The Church's relationship with the Bible is not commonplace - rather, a living community reflects on gospels and what God is saying. The Christ event produced the New Testament church; the Old Testament is the platform to it They are symbiotic. Scriptures do different jobs (eg poetry, prophetic).

The Christ event runs from Genesis to Revelation - it's the big umbrella of Christology. The unity of the Scriptures is a given: the NT cannot contradict the OT or vice versa. All can be traced to the author [s and?] - God. When there is a problem with the Scriptures then the Church is divided. Scripture can rebuke the Church, they are the guide of the Church.

We go back to our roots and the authority of Scripture. Luther went back. We need to get Scripture back its authority and status in the Anglican Church. The overarching principle is Scripture, NOT Scripture AND.

We look at the Bible in music, in liturgy - a responsible reading of Scripture. There will be a lecture tomorrow. A week here but scripture and its place could take 50 years. This activity will continue after this conference.

Scriptures are not like Shakespeare. They meet the needs of personal salvation.

What is it that men do that upsets you so much? The (homosexual) practice is repugnant in both New and Old Testament. It is unambiguous in OT and forbidden in NT. So by engaging in practices they do not believe in the Scriptures!

What of those who ordain or advance homosexuals? When they practice, support or encourage, they will face the wrath of the Lord. You (don't) encourage people to steal. It is a form of participation.

1000 plus delegates: they are singing from same hymnsheet so is it an effective use of time to discuss Scripture when they all agree here? You are preaching to the converted, no need to convince them. But if Katherine Jefferts Schori was here you might have a debate? It's about what should not happen in the Church. So we (who agree) are meeting one another. Likeminded, we need to find one another and know the line to go forward.

Does GAFCON envisgage a Common Book of Prayer? One for GAFCON? Approach to that is this: BCP edited seems to satisfy all, but geographical settings led to changes [and potential heresy?]. The catechisis will be revisited, the intepretation will be revisited. We need to meet the needs of each worshipping community.

Who will be best to rule on interpretation of Scripture? An international body? Outside Anglicanism [varies [?] but Anglicanism is] based on Scripture, tradition of Fathers, and reason. Which is true Anglicanism? Scripture first, tradition second and reason first - nothing is ever to be over Scripture. Any other order is heresy. Scripture, not councils, is the final arbiter - not the final voice to our Fathers. If someting is repugnant to any section of Scriptures then it is heresy.

Individual Christians can work out own interpretation? Of course not. Archbishops can meet and can say something is not fundamental and basic. Church cannot override Scriptures.

Mrs Kwashi (Nigeria)

Bishops' wives' fellowship. Meet and come together. To encourage one another, share joys and sorrows and pray with one another. Hellos were said, and one presentation was man and woman showed how Jews dress and the importance of the man in the family. Testimonies were shared - eg joy in suffering. We prayed and cried together: God answers when we cry to God. Family: very interesting that in creation the first time God said it was not good was the presence of the woman [???] Place of wives and women: flesh of the man was used so to have company. The bishops wives' group was opened to other participants. Sometimes wives should have wonderful children, but they get into temptation. We show them every love (not throw them away - metaphorically). What is happening in America - talking sex: these things are happening. Women must talk about sex to their children. Sharing together is wonderful.

What are you doing to fight homophobia in Nigeria? We did not discuss this. Kenya Bishop says HIV AIDS - the only solution is be strong and fight (chastity). In Kenya we create awareness - testing of bishop's wife but the results belong to bishop and her. Apologies for stigmatisation. The Church is creating awareness.

She says when it is said, "Nigeria is homophobic" - it is not right. It is where we stand. The Church has stood its ground.

[Interference of music]

Picture does not match.

Extremes: Premodern, Modern and Postmodern

While GAFCON continues to deny the place of liberalism in Christianity - it replaces Catholic, Evangelical and Liberal with Catholic, Liberal and Charismatic - the reality of a liberal witness continues. The Modern Churchpeople's Union Conference approaches early next month. This is from its press release:

Saving the Soul of Anglicanism

A conservative African bishop and a gay bishop will show how they can worship together as members of the same church at a conference next month.

The Bishop of Botswana, Rt Revd Trevor Mwamba, and the controversial Bishop of New Hampshire, Rt Revd Gene Robinson, are among the speakers taking part in the Modern Churchpeople’s Union Conference, July 8-11.

The aim of the event is to show how the Anglican Church can be open, inclusive and allow differences of opinion. It takes place a week before the start of the Lambeth Conference, preparations for which have been overshadowed by divisions in the church over the issue of homosexuality.

Homosexuality is associated with Catholic forms of Christianity and it is tolerated (passively or actively) by most liberals.

In those fringe Liberal Catholic Churches, it has always been present. Arnold Harris Mathew was forever discovering and running away from it, and his priests who became bishops of the Liberal Catholic Church were either gay themselves or sympathetic. Personnel now, for example in the Liberal Catholic Church International or the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church, are often gay, or gay-sympathetic, or both, and what marks these Old Catholic and Liberal Catholic offshoots are the gender and sexuality inclusiveness of ministries at the altar table and in ministry. Blessing services for gay couples are standard. This must be a far better and fresher situation than the situation of cover-up and duplicity or behaviours as in theological colleges of the Anglo-Catholic party.

GAFCON's attempt to exclude the legitimacy of homosexuality is as false as its attempt to exclude liberalism. The reason Peter Jensen stated that GAFCON might not work together was not some doubt about its decision making (as journalists have assumed) but because at present it contains extreme traditionalist Anglo-Catholics, who are masters of the gay cover-up, and plain extreme evangelicals like him, who would simply exclude (and more).

Also, coming in with this gay Catholic territory, whether duplicitous or open, is this tendency towards dressing up and high symbolism. Again GAFCON services have both tendencies, and an extreme evangelical toleration of even lay presided Eucharists can hardly mix with the high Catholic approach. For the Catholic side there is the continued action through ritual of the one breaking of Christ's body and loss of blood, while for the Evangelical side the Eucharist is but a memory meal.

We hear a lot about tensions in the extreme dogmatists' structures: that this GAFCON must split within, that its actions can split the Global South and may well split Anglicanism as a whole. In contrast Liberals have seemed united. Throughout the division and weakening of Anglo-Catholics after the ordination of women, and the coming split of the Evangelicals via GAFCON (Open Evangelicals can face both ways) and their weakening, liberals - tolerant of diversity and inclusive as they are - have stayed relatively united, and benefit.

However, as I have myself discovered, there is division or two in the liberal camp too. First of all, there always was. This has been between those who are moderate inclusivists acting as quiet, easy-going broad Churchpeople, and the radicals who are distinctive in the search for truths - and tend to be noisier. I'm one of the noisy ones. There have been splits aplenty in Liberal Catholicism, given the nature of small-group Episcopi Vagantes (also see below). There is another division too, and this is seen in the Liberal Catholic world.

It is between those who are postmodern, but after the modern in everything, and those who may be postmodern, but only partly after the modern, and have a strong anchoring in some sort of traditionalist premodern fantasy. It may be in the esoteric, or in apostolic succession. It could be any 'invented tradition'. From these we also get the idea of ancient Orders where people can practice spirituality. Hierarchy remains important - structures are invariably premodern.

For someone like me, these premodern aspects above can only ever be identifiers and means to practical boundaries. Apostolic succession does not go back to the apostles, as there is a whole grey area in the early Christian centuries, never mind the history of the early Churches. Even if an unbroken chain could be demonstrated, there is no magic or supernatural objective linking in the laying on of hands. Like many liberals, I just don't think like this: and whilst there is an identifier in such practice towards a 'history', that's about it. I also maintain a postmodern view of a symbolic virtual presence/ absence regarding the eucharistic ritual. Far more important is its working as a doorway of going-through, as a token-using dynamic point of reflection and a means of reorientation. I do not believe in real presence in any objective sense, but nor (should it be said) do I believe in faith as some sort of Protestant supernatural transmission substitute. That the Eucharist involves the body and primal acts of eating and drinking is important, but I cannot get into so much of the bowing and scraping that takes place. My one concession is to kneel at the rail regarding the central act, but elsewhere I remain fairly motionless on a practical and participatory basis (so I stand when others do and so on).

A friend of mine has a similar modernist and postmodernist reference point; she attended a Sea of Faith Conference that I attended in the early 1990s and we were quite friendly with plenty of discussion of views. She well knows the difference between non-realism, the apophatic and real absence (and we had this online discussion only some months ago).

She once had attended a convent, and so I knew something about this. She too retained a moderate, Catholic, eucharistic outlook, and one that eventually was to break under the liberality of her views, and I noticed a few years back that she had come into the Unitarian fold but had, like me, already found its spirituality quite bare and difficult to draw from (though it represents other values and outlooks). I suggested she might consider Liberal Catholicism and even the same group indeed that I was corresponding with from time to time - she lives in Glasgow and it had a representative in Edinburgh.

One of these Liberal Catholics had a message from Spirit that she should be a nun, as she had once considered in her past, this time in a revamped Order from a defunct Church merged into this Church's structures and mentality. So there was a correspondence between my friend and me about Liberal Catholicism in general and about this group, after this approach, and she was throwing up concerns about which there could be workarounds and the like. My questions were open ones - no directive advice from me - as well as my own reflections, and I gave web links for the various organisations that showed the full range of Liberal Catholicism and Independent Sacramental Ministry (from the anarchistic who priest everyone that joins to the most dogmatic).

It all came to an unexpected head, in which I was accused of being involved in untrained counselling and making judgments (even to the point of insulting) about an organisation, which simply was not so. Nevertheless this hamfisted intervention, that showed another feature of Liberal Catholicism (tiny institutions are possessive and highly schismatic; events magnify and personalities clash), added to my friend's growing realisation that this organisation was not for her. In reflection the hole for her as a peg was too set and too far out of shape. There just was this level of fantasy about a past existence that she would have to fill: a fantasy about Orders and dress and a high Catholicism when she said that she is a graduate who can think for herself and who believes in democracy and liberty. The message from Spirit was just crass, that nobody seemed to be actually listening to her. As a vegan, images about roasted lamb were used that were offensive, and there was no place for her to develop what would have been in effect a lowly position in an episcopal hierarchy. Indeed Liberal Catholicism has this tendency to spiritual and actual hierarchy.

Being accused of ignorance and even being to the point of insulting, and without me knowing about this accusation about me until she told me, was of course one of those like-schismatic points. I was an outsider when the insiders wanted control over the situation: but no, the outsider always provides another perspective and a breath of fresh air. In cultic situations, when authority is thrown about, the outsider often provides a lifeline. They were trained and I was not, was another accusation. I was only actually corresponding and future-imagining. I was quite the opposite from insulting (as she pointed out) and indeed I have defended Liberal Catholicism to an Anglicanism here (and locally) that has a history of hostility towards Liberal and British-born Old Catholicism. But this turn of events did mean that, should the Church of England take any further flight from sense as a result of GAFCON-Lambeth, then I have lost a potential place in which I might have become involved. Corresponding to my friend, I was discussing the issues in terms of my own questions and potential answers, and where she might agree or disagree, and those sort of compromises one makes.

I make them all the time as a communicant Anglican, living at or beyond the edge. Had it not been for this edge-existence, I may well decades back have made a strong effort to put myself forward to become an Anglican priest. As it happens, I went the Unitarian route and found chapel-land to be too constraining, depressing, and with people in little traditions and committees and operating backdoor creeds that were more restrictive than many broad-brush Anglican liberals quoting the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. And as for the accusation of being untrained, I did have a year of training at Unitarian College for ministry, and it included a counselling course - and the issue is not whether you have been trained but whether it is any good (I'll admit - it wasn't much cop). I'm not too bad academically either.

At the heart of it, though, is the awkwardness of dressing up, the fantasising, and the premodern - when you are a postmodern-modern. The liberal often does overlap into Catholicism (it gives the liberalism form and reference - at Unitarian College I had made my own ceremonial gown against common practice), though Anglican boundaries are not over fuzzy due to strong High and Broad parties. Outside Anglicanism the fuzzy overlaps are extensive, so that beliefs that include Druidism, Celtic Reiki, Buddhism, Spiritualism, Tantrism, Deeksha (Oneness consciousness blessing), semi-Unitarianism and Theosophy (to name but a few) overlap with this emphasis on apostolic succession and even real presence in the Eucharist. I have no problem with the diversity, but I do with the supernaturalism and esotericism and magic that seems to be wholly other to modernity - practical, ordinary thinking by which we understand the world to work.

And here is an odd point about these straining lines. Whilst I seem to have nothing in common regarding beliefs as held by Archbishop Peter Jensen, culturally he speaks my language and there is a direct communication. That's why he covered for Peter Akinola, who sounds very other (because he really does believe in signs and wonders and all the supernatural and magical premodern stuff). Jensen represents an extremity of the Reformation - a cold rationalised supernaturalism - and in the Reformation I relate to its extreme left wing that was rapidly and instantly liberal (Faustus Socinus, Francis David); it's just that in this postmodern period, and with diversity, I also relate to the need for colour and artistic imagination, and I bring in what social anthropology can tell us about ritual, religion and community, and about the individual in the group.