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.