1/22/2008

GAFCON Leaders, arrogantly enough, are not listening.

A long time in-house rule at the Episcopal Church Center concerning work in other Provinces or Dioceses in the Anglican Communion was in place the 12 years that I worked there. It was this: always do your work within the context of the work being done by those in place. That meant that mission sending, programing , and any other activities were carried out with the diocese or Province being both informed and (particularly in the case of mission sending) with their approval and indeed initiation. That sometimes meant that we were constrained in who was sent or what was done.

The process forced us to listen to what our partners were telling us of their situations and concerns. It also helped us be clear that where there was an Anglican presence the church in place had the primary role in determining mission.

This house rule drove some independent mission agencies crazy! They had already determined that some mission activities required intervention, not just cooperation.

It appears that the leadership of GAFCON (The Global Anglican Future Conference) do not believe that such listening to their mission partners or hosts or companions is of great weight. Archbishops Akinola and Jensen, part of the leadership of GAFCON went to Jerusalem to meet with the Bishop in Jerusalem, Bishop Suheil on the issue of GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem. You can read the minutes of the meetings HERE, and a commentary HERE.

What transpired seems to be this:

Bishop Suheil said it would be very difficult for him and the diocese if this meeting was held in Jerusalem. He is opposed to the meeting being held there. The Primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the bishop of Egypt, also cautioned that the meeting not be held there without the approval of the bishop of Jerusalem. They said no.

Archbishops Akinola and Jensen in different sessions, each accompanied by Dr. Chris Sudgen, met with Bishop Suheil. They came convinced that they had every business meeting in Jerusalem, never asked or invited comment from the Bishop of Jerusalem. When confronted with the Bishop's concerns they responded with the challenge that he (the Bishop of Jerusalem) was not the master in his own house.

The person taking minutes wrote: "Archbishop Akinola apologized for sending his letter to Bishop Suheil at a very inconvenient time (at Christmas) and at such short notice, but he said that he could not see how this conference could become a “political problem”. He stressed that liberty was important for Africa and that
he could not allow anyone to tell his community what to do and to say. He repeated that his interests were not political, and that his major concern was about how to grow and how to be strengthened and exchange experiences." (emphasis mine)

This sort of taunt is so outrageous it is a wonder the Bishop did not have him thrown out of his office immediately.

So it comes home to others in the Communion: Archbishops Akinola, Jensen and the others in the GAFCON leadership don't give a damn about local authority of member Provinces and churches in the Anglican Communion. They will meet where and when they want, it a appears. No matter that being Christian in Jerusalem is difficult and the religious and political landscape amazingly complex, they would come if they wished.

The recorder wrote:

"Bishop Suheil closed the discussion by saying that for the sake of making progress in this discussion he would like to suggest that Archbishop Akinola either reconsiders the venue and time for the conference, or divides his program into two parts: to have the conference in Cyprus, and to have a pure pilgrimage in the Holy Land.

Should Archbishop Akinola be ready to accept this suggestion, Bishop Suheil would warmly welcome him and his pilgrims."

So where do things stand? If the leadership of GAFCON is willing to divide the program into two parts, a conference and a pilgrimage fine, they will be warmly welcomed. If they do not they will be coming contrary to the wishes of the local Diocese and the Provincial Primate.

In the amazingly difficult political and religious climate of Jerusalem the GAFCON crowd ought to then think about how they propose to guarantee travel documents to enter Israel and Palestine.

GAFCON is so far exhibiting the worse sort of arrogance.

A small note on GAFCON's constituancy. Archbishop Akinola is reported to have said, "... that this pilgrimage would be different from previous ones, since it included primates, bishops, clergy, and laity from 20 countries around the world."

Twenty countries is considerably fewer than the "every Anglican Province" touted first by the planners. Twenty countries. Not twenty provinces. Twenty countries.

14 comments:

  1. "20 countries"....but about 60-90% of the Anglican Communion?

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  2. Is it possible that the one name that keeps recurring in these accounts might tip us off to the identity of the spider who sits at the center of the web?

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  3. GAFCON should be the week before Lambeth and in London....... no extra flights, minimising costs and pollution, and allowing people to attend both conferences...


    Not sure what this Holy Land idea is all about...... but it is clearly a "GAF"

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  4. What doesn't suprise me in this is how "What you do in America has impact on us in the Global South" -- As Abp Fearon of Nigeria said, using the "when the US sneezes the world gets a cold" cliché -- doesn't fit on the other foot. Of course, it's because Akinola believes he is Right and Righteous; and he will not be told what to do either in his own Province or in anyone else's. This from a person who charges TEC with being unilateral in its actions...

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  5. So, meet in Nigeria, or Uganda or Kenya or Rwanda. This is a GS function. Everybody knows that. Go meet in the GS. Or is it now "inconvenient" In my own experience booking a conference hotel is a minimum 6 months out function. So has Canon Sugden, who seems to have accepted the PA or secretarial functions for this group, already booked and people have already made air reservations and.. and... and... EpfizH

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  6. And what about the "rules" that the Episcopal church ignored when it went ahead endorsed local option and consecrated Gene Robinson? Remember, all the "instruments of unity" warned the Episcopal Church not to go ahead with the consecration of Gene, but TEC went ahead and did it anyway. So much for "rules" to live by.

    And now we see the same rationale being applied to the canons. Some canons it seems, are more equal than others. Right, Jon Bruno?

    I don't want to see a divorce, I'd like to see a legal separation where we can cool our jets until the toxic mess can be cleared away and we can start talking again. But to be pointing fingers at this stage of who is breaking what rules seems to me to be a bit of kindergarten tattling, all trying to be this week's Teacher's Pet. waah waah waah.

    bb

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  7. 20 countries does not correspond to 60-90% of the Anglican communion. Someone maybe coming from my country but they will not be representing me. In Zimbabwe, the priests still following Kunonga are conducting services with only 2 or 3 persons, the priest, his wife and a family member, and then claim to have taken the whole diocese with him. Arrogance is unbecoming of Christians. Before claiming liberty in Jerusalem they should claim liberty for those oppressed in African countries such as Zimabwe!

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  8. BB, for somebody who's allegedly so up on all things reassertive, implying that Gene Robinson's consecration was the signal event is LOL funny. I guess you think there are people who know (and care) about all this who are so ignorant that they'd buy that.

    I doubt it. But I guess you'll try all the same.
    LPR

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  9. Mark, this was my very favorite "through the looking glass" portion of the minutes you referenced:

    Archbishop Akinola then said, that this was a pilgrimage and wondered what the difference was to other pilgrimages.

    The Rev’d Canon Hosam responded by saying that this was not only a pilgrimage, since the Archbishop himself was talking about a conference with an agenda.

    Archbishop Akinola replied that he would be happy to change the terminology and refrain from calling it a conference, in which case he would call it a pilgrimage.


    Akinola's holding a ecclesio-political conference in Jerusalem, but then says, "Oh! OK! We'll just call it a pilgrimage." This guy cracks me up!

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  10. Babyblue, what rules did the Episcopal Church break in consecrating Bishop Robinson? He was chosen legitimately by his diocese and affirmed also legitimately by General Convention. Might you suggest which constitution or canon was violated?

    Your bigotry is showing.

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  11. In response to BabyBlue:

    Even if one were to assume that TEC erred in its actions, how is that relevant for the current discussion?

    "America did a bad thing and 'acted unilaterally;' so we can too." Is that the argument you're making, or are you simply trying to divert attention?

    "Pay no attention to the man behind the purple shirt. The Great and Powerful Akinola has spoken!"

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  12. BB, the only way you can make a valid comparison between this matter and Robinson would be if TEC had barged into some other country and consecrated a bishop against their will.

    Hmmm. come to think of it, that's what your new spiritual overlord has been doing for some time now.

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  13. i think you are correct about Akinola, but the evidence of the transcript is that Jensen, by contrast, did take Dawani's concerns to heart and promised to take them back to the GAFCON leadership and argue against going to Jerusalem; but Jensen could not speak for the whole group and did not make a promise about what the reply would be.

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  14. A man: "Have sex with me!"

    A woman: "No."

    A man (i.e., a rapist): "I could not allow anyone to tell [me] what to do and to say."

    Nuff said.

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