GAFCON, visas and other factors

GAFCON (The Global Anglican Future Conference) has posted a note on their website claiming that over 1000 people have signed on for the conference. The first paragraph of that notice reads,"Over 1000 senior leaders from seventeen provinces in the Anglican Communion, representing 35 million church-going Anglicans, have registered for the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem at the close of the online registration process. They include 280 bishops, almost all accompanied by their wives. Final attendance figures will depend on smooth processing of requested visas, and other factors."

Note the final sentence: "Final attendance figures will depend on smooth processing of requested visas, and other factors."

Interestingly there is no mention in this latest rendition of the GAFCON song of the meeting i
n Jordan of an "important Consultation in Jordan from 17-22 June (which) will include the conference leadership, theological resource group, those bishops serving in majority Islamic settings and other key leaders." (This from an earlier press release from the GAFCON leadership meeting in London.)

The processing of requested visas might be more difficult than imagined. Jordan might not be too interested in having a consultation of religious leaders highly critical of Islam. Israel might find 1000 Anglicans and fellow-travelers who come in part with an agenda that is difficult for the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem at best a bother, at worse a politically charged problem.

And then, what about "other factors?" Is this a signal that registration has been made by
individuals who may not have yet secured funds to attend, or shortfall of outside funding?

Who knows? But it is interesting that the number 1000 consists of registrations some of which are not yet secure.

We are now one month from the date of the Conference.

My bet is that Jordan will become a rump meeting held, if at all, in Jerusalem just prior to the larger Conference, billed as a pilgrimage (but we know better), and that there is some possibility that the Conference will be considerably smaller than predicted.

We shall see.


  1. There is a link at The Lead to a conference brochure that says the Consultation precedes the Pilgrimage;
    An initial Consultation in Jordan will include the pilgrimage leadership, theological resource group, those bishops serving in majority Islamic settings and other key leaders.

  2. david....I know, that quote came from the earlier release in London. let's see if they get visas for Jordan.

  3. Excuse me, but I have heard it is illegal to cross the border between Israel and neighbouring countries in the wrong direction? Indeed, having been on Israeli territory bars you from entering some countries for all eternity (‘til you get a new, “clean”, passport).

    I hear that people who do pass have to use 2 different passports (with accompanying visas).

    There seem to be possible suprizes wainting in the wings.


  4. Connecticut is really big on making mission trips here and overseas. Recently, we clergy, while being encouraged to make mission trips, were also warned that it may be difficult, visa wise and international security wise, if an overseas mission team is more than five people, "so check with Diocesan House before making your plans".

    I have to look into this further, because we're planning a trip for next winter. However, I wonder what this will be like for the GAFCONers, or if this is solely a U.S.A. homeland security thing my bishop was talking about.

    Lois Keen

  5. Nom de Plume20/5/08 8:20 AM

    I note, first, that "almost all" of the bishops who will be in attendance will be accompanied by their wives - none accompanied by their husbands, I take it. I don't understand this mania for bishops travelling with their wives to business meetings. Are they unable to sleep alone? Given that, can they then not be trusted without their wives? Or is it the wives who can't be trusted when the episcopal cat is out of the house? And how many wives per bishop? But seriously....

    So, if 280 bishops plus nearly 280 wives make up part of the group, that's well over half (nearly 560 or 56%) of the 1000 being trumpeted, and a good quarter of the total group will be made up of women who, largely I suspect, have little choice but to come along with hubby and bolster the numbers.

    There's something almost masturbatory about this constant fixation on numbers, as these GaffeConfidence Men try to prove how important they are. "My conference is bigger than your conference." As if only size matters.

  6. Deacon Charlie Perrin20/5/08 10:37 AM

    The whole fixation on "wives" is to proclaim to the world that they're not gay. This is also the reason they are so set against gay marriage. If the gays can get married then they can no longer prove their straightness be merely claiming to have wives.

    Most of them are probable deep in the closet. (Which is also why they believe sexuality to be a choice. After all didn't they choose?)

  7. I'm also always a little amused when I read things like "representing 35 million church-going Anglicans." Really? Have those people voted for their bishop? Was there a resolution passed at their Diocesan Convention supporting any of this?

    Even in the United States, where bishops are in fact elected, I doubt seriously that very many of them would claim to "represent" every single person in their diocese. Since African bishops are, I believe, largely appointed, I find it hard to believe that they represent anyone but themselves.

  8. The role of women in the African church appears to be very significant according to Philip JENKINS Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies and History, Pennsylvania State University who spoke sat the Pew Forum on Religion last May http://pewforum.org/events/?EventID=145. For example, he stated: "bishops' wives or bishopesses, as they are commonly known in Uganda, an absolutely critical part of the Anglican Church." And further noted: “One thing I've said on a number of occasions is if you look at Global South Christianity, it is a women's movement or it is nothing. Women may or may not be ordained in particular churches, but they always represent the key lay leaders; women prophets are an enormous phenomenon in Africa.”
    This central role of a bishop’s wife is affirmed in the following situation as reported in the African press regarding Bishop Kunonga’s wife. As reported by George Conger. The amazing part to a westerner is not that attempts to remove her were made to remove her, but the expectation she had of her seat, literally, in the church.: “The London-based expatriate newspaper The Zimbabwean reported that on Nov 25, Mai Kunonga, the wife of Bishop Kunonga, was rebuffed by the clergy of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Harare when she attempted to sit on the bishop’s throne during Sunday Eucharist services. Mrs. Kunonga was rebuffed at two other churches that Sunday, The Zimbabwean reported, and subsequent threats issued by her husband have not persuaded the clergy to accept his authority.”
    To not include bishops wives, it appears would be a failure to acknowledge their spiritual leadership role in the African Church. Of course that role would not extend to the obvious role of political power exercised by their husbands. EPfizH

  9. Most conferences expect spouses. Lambeth has had a program for them for decades. I think it a bit unfair to suggest that their coming to the Gaffe is in any way improper.

    I do wonder if the wives are counted among the 1000 attending. If they are, the conference is a lot smaller than its conveners seemed to envision when they announced it.


  10. Well, if we're including spouses, Lambeth is already well over the 1,000 mark with no lay people at all. And no visa or financing problems.

    We win?

    Of course not. GAFFEPRONE will move the goal line again.

    BTW, a comment on Thinking Anglicans suggests that the Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Syndney boycott of Lambeth may not be quite so complete as they say.

  11. Including wives isn't that much of a surprise. It speaks of a role that once was as common in the United States as it still is in other parts of the Church: the "pastor's wife." It included expectations of paraprofessional leadership in many areas of congregational life, including especially organization and program management, children's and other educational ministries, and sensitive, discreet pastoral support. To the extent that the role is still observed in the American scene, it is much more common in evangelical congregations, and especially in small congregations in small towns. The wife of my first bishop, near a generation ago now, had her own business. It was considered quite something (whether scandal or progressive, depending on point of view) by many.

    I wouldn't be surprised if including wives didn't in some ways also reflect tribal traditions, in which the chief's wife had clear community responsibilities. EPfizH's comment seems to speak to that.

    And there is that old proverb that "the only person who outranks the admiral is the admiral's wife" (I use the naval form because I've met more admirals than generals)....

  12. Re EPfizH's comment, I have had occasion to report this previously. A priest from Uganda was a colleague of mine when I was a curate and he was an assisting priest in the U.S. He was proud that Uganda had ordained women before we did. He said there had been no question women should be ordained, since in his culture, that of Uganda, women are the bearers of the holy.

    In fact, he said, this extends to the political arena. When the women did not approve of a person in office, they would hound him out, and their decision would be upheld.

    I am not surprised, then, that the bishop's wife in question had every expectation of the fitness of her sitting on her husband's throne.


  13. Virginia Gal20/5/08 10:18 PM

    No one is claiming that women haven't had a certain level of power in the church. Anyone heard of the altar guild? :-) And certainly the rector's wife has always been part of the church family if she wants to be active. Nice to know that in parts of Africa, you women don't have to just stand behind the throne - if the Bish isn't around, they can actually sit in it!

    Seriously, though, in the meeting and conference biz, attendance is normally represented as three different groups, all all important for different reasons: delegates, spouses/SOs and exhibitors. It is certainly misleading to lump them together in some cases, perhaps this one.

  14. I believe that it is fairly unremarkable to go back and forth between Israel and Jordan. They have a peace treaty and are economic trade partners.

    However, there are instructions for those attending the conference to request of Israeli agents that stamps not be placed in the passport, but on sheets of paper carried in the passport, that can later be removed.

    I have heard before that this is a common practice, not only for the Israelis, but Cuba also does the same thing for Estadounidense who travel to Cuba illegally from other Latin American and Caribbean nations.

  15. Just ignore my post of 20/05/08 at 7:58 - the issue is insurance coverage. That's me, panic first, check it out later. Sorry.


  16. Now Mark, you really do read like you're praying for rain when there is a parade with whom those you disagree. Then if the Lord rewards you as He does me when I adopt that attitude, it might be the best prayer of all for all the snags to be cleared.

  17. It's a truism, but I wonder how much confusion re "gender roles in changing times" is driving the hysteria re gays among African bishops (AND their wives!)?

    If "the Bishop's Wife" is a source of authority unto herself, then so would the collection of bishop's wives, in a given national church (w/ their own rules, and pecking order, etc).

    Throw in the prospect of a "bishop's husband" (whether the husband of a gay, or FEMALE bishop?)? Suddenly, all the rules are out the window! The Earth itself is spinning off its axis! (or so would be feared)

    It occurs to me, that "person-to-person" contact among bishops' spouses---male, but mostly female; gay, but mostly straight---across North & South divides, could go light-years towards making progress in Anglican harmony.* Lord hear my prayer!

    [* Of course, that ain't going to happen at GAFCON, mores the pity...]

  18. Nom de Plume23/5/08 11:08 AM

    Jim said...

    Most conferences expect spouses... I think it a bit unfair to suggest that their coming to the Gaffe is in any way improper.

    I don't think I was suggesting that spuses coming to the Gaffe was improper, though I was certainly raising the question of numbers.

    That said, I just don't get it. When I go to a conference, it's to engage in the business of the conference, which also involves the meetings in the free times. I don't go to worry about how bored my spouse is while I'm in the meetings, nor to feel guilty about spending hours outside meeting time talking to other conferees. Maybe I'm just too thick, or perhaps too goal oriented.


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