Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Alphabet Soup Thickens

Global South to Toot another Horn

Several of us who have been following the Anglican blogosphere will recall the "third trumpet" announcement of some "Global South" primates in October 2005 and a "fourth" in September 2007. It appears they're tuning-up for another trumpet-blast in June 2008, shortly before the meeting of Anglican Communion bishops at Lambeth. We now have another group to add to the "Alphabet Soup" of Anglican dissidents: GAFCON.

StandFirm carried this story, posted on Christmas Day as a gift (I suppose) to the Anglican Communion:


Orthodox Primates with other leading bishops from across the globe are to invite fellow Bishops, senior clergy and laity from every province of the Anglican Communion to a unique eight-day event, to be known as the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) 2008.

The event, which was agreed at a meeting of Primates in Nairobi last week, will be in the form of a pilgrimage back to the roots of the Church’s faith. The Holy Land is the planned venue. From 15-22 June 2008, Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-catholic wings of the church will make pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where Christ was born, ministered, died, rose again, ascended into heaven, sent his Holy Spirit, and where the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out, to strengthen them for what they believe will be difficult days ahead.

At the meeting were Archbishops Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Henry Orombi (Uganda), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Donald Mtetemela (Tanzania), Peter Jensen (Sydney), Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria); Bishop Don Harvey (Canada), Bishop Bill Atwood (Kenya) representing Archbishop Greg Venables (Southern Cone) , Bishop Bob Duncan (Anglican Communion Network ), Bishop Martyn Minns (Convocation of Anglicans in North America ), Canon Dr Vinay Samuel (India and England) and Canon Dr Chris Sugden (England). Bishops Michael Nazir-Ali (Rochester, England), Bishop Wallace Benn (Lewes, England) were consulted by telephone. These leaders represent over 30 million of the 55 million active Anglicans in the world.

Southern Cone Primate Gregory Venables said “While there are many calls for shared mission, it clearly must rise from common shared faith. Our pastoral responsibility to the people that we lead is now to provide the opportunity to come together around the central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging historic Anglican faith. Rather than being subject to the continued chaos and compromise that have dramatically impeded Anglican mission, GAFCON will seek to clarify God’s call at this time and build a network of cooperation for Global mission.”

The gathering set in motion a Global Anglican Future Conference: A Gospel of Power and Transformation. The vision, according to Archbishop Nzimbi is to inform and inspire invited leaders "to seek transformation in our own lives and help impact communities and societies through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Bishops and their wives, clergy and laity, including the next generation of young leaders will attend GAFCON. The GAFCON website is

Canon Chris Sugden added: "While this conference is not a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference, it will provide opportunities for fellowship and care for those who have decided not to attend Lambeth. There was no other place to meet at this critical time for the future of the Church than in the Holy Land.”

I heartily support meetings that help to support mission and ministry throughout the Anglican Communion. As you may recall, just such a meeting was held in July 2007 in Madrid, Spain, at a one-week event called “Walking to Emmaus: Discovering New Mission Perspectives in Changing Times.” The meeting was announced by ENS. Trinity Wall Street featured the conference, with video postcards from several participants. ENS carried a follow-up story. According to the Anglican Journal, 32 African bishops and 24 North American bishops attended. I know that my own bishop attended, as we have an active and fruitful covenant relationship with the Diocese of Lui in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. Bishop Jon Bruno (Los Angeles) was one of the few to offer a report after the conference. I applaud any effort for the churches of the Anglican Communion to reach out and communicate about mission and ministry.

My disquiet is that whereas the July 2007 meeting involved a widely diverse group, I have a hunch that the meeting announced for June 2008 is intentionally exclusive. There is no indication how the list of invitees will be developed. I fear it will be on the one-issue basis of "opposition to gay people." Of course, I could be wrong. I hope I will be proved so.

I am troubled that this meeting "was agreed at a meeting of Primates in Nairobi last week." Who knew such a meeting was occurring? But the press statement above provides the answer, as does the FAQ of their website, which states: "The Global Anglican Future Conference is being called by those who took part in the Nairobi Consultation." And who participated in that consultation?

  • Archbishops Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Henry Orombi (Uganda), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Donald Mtetemela (Tanzania)
  • Archbishop Peter Jensen (Sydney) and Archbishop Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria)
  • Bishop Don Harvey (Canada) and Bishop Bill Atwood (Kenya) who also represented Archbishop Greg Venables (Southern Cone)
  • Bishop Bob Duncan (Anglican Communion Network and Common Cause USA.) and Bishop Martyn Minns (Convocation of Anglicans in North America)
  • Canon Dr Vinay Samuel (India) and Canon Dr Chris Sugden (England)
  • Bishop Michael Nazir Ali (Rochester, England) and Bishop Wallace Benn (Lewes, England) were consulted and also form part of the Leadership Team.
I note that some of these purported bishops are neither recognized by nor in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury – notably "bishops" Harvey, Atwood, and Minns. But if they are about furthering the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then so be it. And I note that "Bishop Bob Duncan" is included as a representative of the ACN and "Common Cause" (whatever that may turn out to be), rather than a bishop of the Episcopal Church. But ok. Whatever. I understand that these folks don't think the Episcopal Church can possibly have anything to contribute in a discussion of global mission. I disagree profoundly. But I know where these guys are coming from. O.K. Whatever.

I observe that the press release stresses that "Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-catholic wings of the church" will be involved. Why are they making this point? Is it really important? Aren't we all about mission? That point strikes me as a little bit bizarre.

I do think it's funny that they feel the need to state that "these leaders represent over 30 million of the 55 million active Anglicans in the world." It reminds me of evangelical Protestants' fixation on head-counting. And it leads me to reflect: A vote was taken as to whether to crucify Jesus or Barrabas; the vote was overwhelming: "Crucify Jesus!" But o.k.. Whatever. If it makes them feel better to claim some super-majority, then I won't argue. As others have observed, the Episcopal Church is undergoing a sort of crucifixion, as it refuses to bow to the dominant U.S. and worldwide culture's hatred of gay men and lesbians. I firmly believe our church will come out stronger after this schism is past.

I find it increasingly amusing that the "Global South" leaders more and more quote the white British colonial primate Venables. But maybe that's just me.

I am perplexed by Venables' statement: “While there are many calls for shared mission, it clearly must rise from common shared faith." Why, of course! And that's the shared mission and shared faith that the Diocese of Missouri (TEC) and the Diocese of Lui (Episcopal Church of the Sudan) are living-out day after day. Duh! That's why both our dioceses were present in Madrid. We share a zeal to preach the Gospel, to bring comfort to the suffering, to heal the sick, to support people in living holy lives. That's why we're trying to bring clean drinking water to Lui and why we're trying to support the priests in Lui and why we're bringing people from Lui to speak to the people of Missouri. We have found that we share a common faith. Does Bishop Venables – or anybody else – doubt that?

I would like for Bishop Venables to explain what are "the central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging historic Anglican faith." It occurs to me that, not so long ago, a "central and unchanging tenet" of the Christian faith was that non-white people weren't fully human; in fact, in the U.S., Christians happily counted African-Americans as being 3/5 human. I wonder what Bishop Venables means by his statement, what central and unchanging faith is being challenged.

Archbishop Nzimbi hopes to "inform and inspire invited leaders." I look forward to learning what leaders will be invited. But the invitation list has already been limited. The group plans to invite "bishops and their wives," as well as clergy and laity. Clearly, no female bishops will be invited. I wonder whether any female priests will be included.

Finally, the group and Canon Sugden raise the prospect that this conference will be "a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference." You know what? I really couldn't care less. If these folks want to have a purified gathering, that's ok with me. Sad. But ok. It's their choice if they decide to absent themselves from Lambeth.

Addendum (12.26.07): Count on Mark Harris for fine analysis. He offers his thoughts on GAFCON here.


Blogger David said...

Heh. "Gaffe-Con" Heh... ;)

12/26/2007 12:02 PM  
Blogger Liz+ said...

The numbers certainly provide a bit of comic relief to this article. Can we speculate on how many of those 30 million plus actually know they're being represented by these pointy hats, let alone what the issue is?

I'm also hearing the beginning of another pattern of gathering that seems to be coordinated more and more behind the scenes. The self-named Chicago Consultation certainly falls into that category, and now we have this recent Primates in Nairobi planning GAFCON. Both gatherings have managed to stay under the radar, and neither has offered a complete list of attendees. One can only wonder what the next quasi secret group will be.

Maybe it's time for TEM to plan another public gathering open to all so we can begin to reacquaint ourselves with inclusivity and transparency and model what we claim.

Just a thought.

12/26/2007 1:17 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Good thought Liz. -- Transparency and inclusivity - what a concept --

12/27/2007 5:41 PM  

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