GAFCON: A richness of embarrassments.

From the outset the Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Suheil Dawani, has thought GAFCON (The Global Anglican Future Conference) was planning to meet in the wrong place - Jerusalem.  So there was an effort to reconfigure the conference and pilgrimage to fit the objections. A consultation was proposed in Jordan and a Pilgrimage in Jerusalem. The Consultation was to be a small gathering of Global South / GAFCON leaders, the Pilgrimage was to be a larger gathering.

The schedule for the GAFCON Pilgrimage has been posted, and there will be more than pilgrimage involved. There are focus sessions : Gospel and Secularism; the Anglican Communion; the Gospel and Religion; Enterprise solutions to poverty. There are two plenary sessions. There are discussion groups each morning. 

It looks like a conference, acts like a conference and walks like a conference.  It must be a conference.

And it is a conference whose real agenda is set by consultation among GAFCON leaders.

All of this was predicted by the Bishop of Jerusalem. The Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis, was uneasy about the meeting being held in Jerusalem, but as Treasurer of the Global South group he couldn't step back immediately.

Well, now he has. See his letter HERE. 

The reason for stepping back is very well described by Fr. Jake HERE. But there is more, I suspect. These have to do with the original objections, voiced by the Bishop of Jerusalem. Some of these can be gleaned from the Melbourne Anglican

"He (Bishop Dawani)  is keen to promote interfaith and ecumenical dialogue in the Holy Land, and the interfaith groups with which he is involved communicate regularly with the political leaders. The GAFCON gathering, he believes, may undermine the Anglican Church’s credibility in setting this example, and he said he was disappointed that the GAFCON organisers did not seem to listen to his concerns, although GAFCON organisers have since split the conference between Jordan and Jerusalem, with the Jerusalem component called a “pilgrimage”.

“In Jerusalem, we face so many problems, we are challenged on a daily basis to be with each other, and that’s why we are so involved in ecumenical and interfaith activities. These things [at GAFCON] will be misunderstood by people, and will give the wrong signals to people in Palestine and Jordan. It is very controversial, it is the wrong time and the wrong place.”

In other words, in a part of the world where ecclesiastical and political concerns require careful attention, GAFCON is not trustworthy. Identification with it might become a liability for the Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East and the Bishop of Jerusalem.

This is a prime example of the need to respect the leadership of the episcopate in place.

GAFCON once again provides a richness of embarrassments. 


  1. "Enterprise" solutions to poverty? I wonder if this is an effort to promote Divinely Created Market Capitalism (as opposed to Satanic Social Democracy) as part of a much larger agenda (larger than Anglicanism anyway)?
    Or maybe it's code for Prosperity Gospel?
    That phrase leapt out at me.

  2. counterlight - it's about Micro-enterprise, which is supported by not only by the erstwhile Bono but also our friend, the blogowner of this site. Okay?


  3. I am sure someone told me that there is an existing GAFCON called Gay and Free Conference, who have objected to their name being misappropriated.

    I so hope that is true.

  4. With all due respect, microenterprise sounds like a conference topic - indeed a compelling one - but not something for a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

    So it looks like Mark is right; this is a conference. The language of "pilgrimage" is but attempted PR. And when the conference description is, shall we say, lacking in honesty as to its purpose, one must wonder what this reveals about the conference itself.


  5. Counterlight asks good questions...in the midst of what I believe to be a really bad idea -GAFCON - a really important missionary / social tool is discussed - Micro-enterprise. All sorts of people believe this is a useful thing - everyone from the Nobel Peace Prize committee, to Bono, BB, Five Talents, Episcopal Relief and Development, the Province of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, and even me.

    Of the presentations at GAFCON this is perhaps the "bridge" one. Most GAFCON attenders are convinced, I suspect, that progressives, among whom I count myself, the Episcopal Church leadership (of which I am a small part), the Anglican Church of Canada, and so forth, are walking away from the Gospel.

    So Counterlight is right to wonder just what is going on here. There are indeed stories of micro credit / enterprise efforts being used to sustain church efforts, and given the churches , sometimes to sustain larger agendas that do contribute to the divisions among us.

    But micro-credit/enterprise can also be a bridge that connects Anglicans of very different sorts to the efforts by the poor to find empowerment through local economies of local scale, without the burden of high loan interest to get started.

    Craig Cole of Five Talents points out that an overwhelming majority of Five Talent "users" are women in poverty who make use of micro credit and enterprise investment to find new ways to make a living.

    Counterlight is right to ask the questions. BB is right to say that it looks as if this particular session at GAFCON will be about micro-enterprise and if so is good news to all of us. If it is, it is a bridge thing. If it is not, we will see.

    Five Talents is, by the way, a very interesting bridge. FT supports the millennium goals, works closely with other micro-credit /enterprise groups, etc., speaks well of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, the work of the advancement of Millennium Goals, takes part in mission gatherings of all sorts, and generally mixes it up with all sorts.

    At the same time the FT site has a "Diane Knippers Fund" in memory of Diane who was often a thorn in the flesh of progressives, by way of the Institute for Religion and Democracy. So FT has a decidedly "conservative" edge at times.

    All of which to say that "bridge" organizations, who point to some greater good - say the alleviation of poverty - will be mixed indeed! But my sense is the poor do not care very much where the help comes from and will, when they can determine their own futures, remember where the friends were.

    Meanwhile, it means that some on various sides of the "divide" will simply have to meet on the bridge and get to work.

    We will not forget who we are, but perhaps it will be less important when we remember those in great need.

    Counterlight, thanks for asking the question. BB thanks for responding.

    As I move on in life and have more interest in my prostate I am learning the phrase "be watchful." We will indeed be watchful of many things, but mostly (knowing Counterlight and BabyBlue to be both great bloggers and really interesting thinkers) we will also be attending to those for whom Christ came, and chiefly among them the poor.

    This is too long and perhaps a bit rambling, but then again, the issues around all this are great.

  6. Several scenarios have been offered as to why +Nazir Ali may have written what he did and why. Here is another that may meet the circumstances: +Jerusalem may have complained to him regarding the substance of the conference to be offered in Jerusalem and he wishes to remove himself from any ecumenical fallout in the Middle East that may result from GAFCON.

    Recalling +Jerusalem’s conversations with +Akinola, +Jensen and Sugden+, (http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/uploads/gafconjerusalemminutes.html) an agreement seemed to have been reached that the “conference” portions of the event would take place outside of Jerusalem. A couple of days ago, the agenda for the “pilgrimage” Jerusalem portion of GAFCON was published. Its expository sessions, workshops, discussions, focus topics, plenary session, etc. do not seem to reflect “pilgrimage” format at all, rather a “conference”, the kind of conference that +Jerusalem specifically requested not take place in his territory as potentially fractious in an already unstable religious environment. (Interestingly, +Nazir Ali, in referring to GAFCON, only referred to it as a “conference”) If assurances were offered to +Jerusalem that this would not happen, and, in fact it is going to happen, +Dawani (and Nazir Ali) may feel betrayed and their reputations in the Middle East may well be damaged, hence the need to separate themselves from the GAFCON event. The target audience for +Nazir Ali’s letter may, in fact, be the Middle East community itself.

    It is true that +Nazir Ali has expressed concern about both the northern leadership of GAFCON and the leadership of the GS itself. If he does perceive that his wishes and the wishes of Dawani, are in fact, being ignored, the substance and agenda remaining the same for Jerusalem, then he may well be concerned about who is leading the GS and how that leadership has been chosen. And, not surprisingly, his letter moves on to that issue. EPfizH

  7. Fr. Mark,
    You give me more credit than I deserve. I don't have a blog, and the most time I've spent in seminary is a stroll across the lawn of Concordia in St. Louis one summer afternoon 20 years ago. I'm just another opinionated crank who posts regularly on sites like yours.

  8. ::tongue planted firmly in right cheek::

    I am sure that you lot are genuinely mistaken. Every one of these "focus discussions, workshops, optional seminars and plenary sessions" is intimately and directly related to the "pilgrimages" to all the typical tourist traps of the Holy Land for which GAFCON participants are scheduled.

  9. Anonymous@1:47 kept referrig to Bishop Nazir Ali. I'm quite sure he meant Bishop Mouneer Anis.

  10. it's about Micro-enterprise, which is supported by not only by the erstwhile Bono but also our friend, the blogowner of this site. Okay?

    Oh, it's more than Okay, bb. Micro-enterprise (when thru micro-credit funding, ESPECIALLY for poor women) is one of the GREAT, empowering ideas of the past 50 years.

    I'm just curious, though: how come when TEC sponsors projects like this, we get smeared as "just another social service agency"? (But I suppose when GAFCON/CANA does so however, it's the "corporal works of mercy, as Jesus taught us")

    I wish helping others wouldn't be divided into an Either/Or in this way (at least not where MY church's efforts for "the least of these" are concerned!)


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Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.