Following up on previous comments about the leadership of GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference), Dr. Michael Poon has written a scathing commentary on the origins of this Conference and its leadership. It is published on the Global South Anglican pages. He writes:
"I am saddened and shocked by the Statement on “The Global Anglican Future Conference, June 15-22, The Holy Land”, issued on December 26, 2007. Perhaps the Primates responsible need to clarify their views on the matter.
1. On what basis was the Statement “announced by Orthodox Primates”? What is the basis of orthodoxy? Historically, the Communion takes Canon A5 “Doctrine of the Church of England” and C15 “On the Preface to the Declaration of Assent” of the Church of England as the basis of its belief. This underpins Section 2 (“The Faith we share”) of the proposed Anglican Covenant. On what basis did the Primates of Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Southern Cone, and Tanzania declare themselves as orthodox primates?
2. Did the Primates at Nairobi act on their personal capacity or as primates of their respective churches that “represent over 30 million of the 55 million active Anglicans in the world”? It would be helpful if the Primates and bishops are able to have their Statement ratified through due process by their Provincial/National/Diocesan Synods.
3. Has the Global South Anglican Primates Steering Committee endorsed this Statement? So far, it has remained silent on the matter. It is important to note that the authority of the Global South Anglican “movement” and of the Steering Committee arise from the South-South Encounter and most recently the Kigali Meeting in 2006. The Global South represents a broad spectrum of Anglican churches that hold onto the historic faith and ecclesiology informed by the historic formularies. It does not answer to the dictates of the radical evangelical wings within the Communion. It is regrettable that Asia, West Indies, and Middle East are glaring omissions among the “conveners” of the proposed Conference. Have they been consulted? Have they rejected the proposal? In their place, we find names of colleagues (with due respect) from a particular strand in the Northern churches. Why was this Statement issued with such haste? And without broader representation?
4. Was the Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem of the Middle East consulted? After all the proposed Conference takes place in Jerusalem? Furthermore, by holding it in Jerusalem, it makes it quite impossible for orthodox Christians from Muslim countries to attend. And yet, what is that insignificant minority in the face of powerful numerical blocs?
What should our discipleship be at this stage? Primates are pledged to uphold the unity and the faith of the church, and not their private judgments and personalities—even their interpretation of orthodoxy. Please be constructive in your decisions at this stage."
The importance of this critical commentary cannot be overstated. Dr. Poon is one of the leading theological lights in the Global South and his writings carry great weight, particularly in Asia.
That unhappiness cannot have been lessened by seeing the remarks of Bishop Anderson of Nigeria and CANA who wrote the following on the American Anglican Council weekly newsletter yesterday:
"This last year has been an epic battle within the Anglican Communion. A year ago the American Anglican Council was making preparations for our presence and ministry at the Dar es Salaam (DeS) Primates' Meeting that was held in February. At the last three Primates' Meetings the AAC has arranged to be nearby for news gathering, communication, document gathering and sharing, and the deployment of trained volunteers to assist with any requests for informational materials. The AAC is uniquely structured to put such teams in the field, drawing from our own domestic volunteers in the USA and also turning to missional partners globally to bring together a cross-cultural group that can analyze, report, counsel and advise as occasion arises. In DeS we also provided photos to news organizations on several continents.
Always there are high hopes that the right people would come together as leaders and do the right thing. Our default setting seems to be on HOPE, thinking that surely next time the powers at the top will actually do what a reasonable Anglican would pray that they do.
When the Panel of Reference (POR) was created, it could have done so much to prevent the rupture within the Communion, but they were given no funding, little encouragement, and sparse opportunity to meet and complete. Dr. Williams may have thought (and I shall for the moment give him the advantage of the doubt) that they could produce something useful when he set them up, or else WHY would he had done so?
Subsequent decisions by the Palace however, guaranteed the POR's inability to forcefully address the requests and problems because they were not resourced and not put under a time schedule to produce results - results that would be enforceable in some substantive way. A less optimistic view would be that Dr. Williams knew this all along and it was designed as yard art, to look like he was really trying but guaranteed to fail. Perhaps only Dr. Williams and God know which view, the optimistic or the other, is true. Someday all will know for certain, though by then it may not matter.
Dr. Williams came to believe that a mystical group called the "Windsor bishops" was the key to moving the Anglican Communion forward. He appeared willing to sacrifice the troubling revisionists and the most orthodox and go with a minimalist group which could find agreement in the Windsor Report (however interpreted and described). He forced through the DeS Primates' Meeting a Communique which had several dubious parts, including a belief that TEC might move toward the center if given encouragement. It gave TEC until September 30 to decide, a date which came and went. The AAC documented TEC's lack of compliance during that seven month period, and yet even with this documentation in hand, Dr. Williams could not bring himself to say forthrightly that TEC had failed the Communique test and would be disciplined. Truly, in Dr. Williams mind, the missionary rescues in the USA by overseas Provinces seem to be more objectionable than the issues behind such actions; in his view, "Border Crossings" are worse than pantheism, syncretism, Bible editing, and the homosexual agenda promoted by the revisionist TEC leadership.
Perhaps it is true that one definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things and expect a different outcome, but we do keep expecting someone to do the right thing. Although we had hoped that it would be Canterbury who would step forward as the "father in God" of the entire Communion, it is again the Primates connected to the Global South who, full of conviction and the truth of the Gospel, have courageously filled the leadership vacuum.
Orthodox Primates with other leading bishops from across the globe are inviting fellow Bishops, senior clergy and laity from every province of the Anglican Communion to a unique eight-day event in Jerusalem, to be known as the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) 2008. This GAFCON event, which was agreed upon at a meeting of Primates in Nairobi a few weeks ago, will give the orthodox Anglicans from around the world the opportunity to gather, to learn, to take counsel together and to go forward equipped to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to a world sitting in the shadow of unbelief. The gathering will be in the form of a pilgrimage back to the roots of the Church's faith: thus this journey begins with a pilgrimage.
The first thing that springs to my mind is the planning necessary to accommodate all the people who will want to come. I remember the summer of 2003 when Canon David Roseberry and I had planned a small gathering of church leaders at his church near Dallas, to take place after the General Convention in Minneapolis and to be jointly hosted by Christ Church, Plano, and the American Anglican Council. As people heard of the gathering, more wanted to come, so we upped our estimated attendance several times. Finally, as a number of unfaithful and unholy decisions were made by the General Convention of TEC, the rallying cry of the orthodox became, "See you in Plano," and David Roseberry and I had to begin to think really big. Hurting people who wanted to be hopeful came, bishops, priests and deacons and laity came, over 2000 in all. Over 800 clergy were vested in the great procession in the Eucharist. A note of encouragement from Cardinal Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict, was read by Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh. Plano became a term and Plano II and Plano West happened as people took the hope and enthusiasm back home to their areas. The relentless grinding down of the orthodox members by the Episcopal Church, the subsequent departures and planned departures, the law suits and litigation, the depositions and deceit of TEC have all taken their toll, and many of our faithful Anglicans in North America are hungry and hopeful.
Could Jerusalem 08 (GAFCON) be more than a simple gathering of the faithful? Might this meeting be on a global scale what Plano was in the USA: the crystallization of the future; the future taking form and substance in our midst, and bringing us forward into a reality shaped and formed by the Holy Spirit of God? What might God do with Jerusalem 08 and GAFCON?"
Bishop Anderson's description of the history of the American Anglican Council's role in managing and steering events, his dissection of the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his delight in Plano and related meetings (which gave rise to the Network) and the final paragraph which in its triumphal hope deserved highlighting, present a self-congratulatory whole that is amazing in its chutzpah.
There are those in the Global South who might not take kindly to the notion that they are being "helped" by AAC and other neo-fundamentalist first world manipulators. That critique came out in the meeting of the recent meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. It has arisen on other occasions when Bishops Minns and Anderson and others in prior or present ecclesastical offices mucked about in the workings of Anglican meetings.
The gaffe in GAFCON is a growth industry.