Archbishop Jensen messes with the Press.

Archbishop Peter Jensen spoke to the press yesterday. The GAFCON website posted his remarks. Among other things he said this:

"What the Americans did in 2003 and what the Canadians did was to rip the communion. If we're talking about schism and the breakup of the communion – that's where it starts and that is where the responsibility is. What GAFCON is doing is saying that given that new state of affairs, how now can we live together and how can we sustain the highest level of communion and work well together. My way of putting it is to say that the British Empire has now ceased to be and the British commonwealth of nations has come into existence or the nuclear family has turned into an extended family. This is the new reality. I don't hear GAFCON saying or GAFCON being a further cause for schism."

The Global Anglican Future Conference has been accused of being an instrument of schism. These remarks of the Archbishop of Sydney were meant to counter that charge. Unfortunately they do nothing of the sort.

The Archbishop begins by slamming the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada around the specific issues of inclusion and accusing us of being the source of schism. Then he argues that GAFCON - an invitation only conference limited to those who are pre-approved as true believers - is "saying that given that new state of affairs, how now can we live together and how can we sustain the highest level of communion and work well together." The "we" who are going to "live together and sustain the highest level of communion and work together" are the GAFCON Anglicans. The "we" does not include all us excluded folk.

That is schism.

Archbishop Jensen rounds out his apology by an analogy: "My way of putting it is to say that the British Empire has now ceased to be and the British commonwealth of nations has come into existence or the nuclear family has turned into an extended family. This is the new reality." Someone from the Commonwealth of Nations part of a church that more closely identifies with the last two hundred years of the Empire might think that the Anglican Communion is moving from Empire to Commonwealth, but that is a weird read of the history of the Anglican Communion and irrelevant to the history of many of the churches that grew from the colonial period, or who never experienced that history.

To put it bluntly: the analogy fails for lack of sufficient affinity. The first non CofE Anglican Churches had very different and mixed reactions to the British Empire, the notion of Lords Spiritual and any sort of real or implied dependence on the Church of England.

I have often heard the Anglican Communion described as something like the British Commonwealth of Nations, but even that analogy lacked. But to compare it to the British Empire is rot.

It is done so that the claim can be made that the Global South (or at least the GAFCON gang) and their Western friends have suffered too long at the hands of foreign and now heretical masters and are yearning to be free from the yoke of oppression. This is far enough from the truth to be what more usefully would be called propaganda.

GAFCON is at the moment painting itself as an innocent gathering of like-minded people set on the pilgrims' way, etc. But it begins by identifying itself as anti-inclusionary on a whole variety of levels. Not those Americans and Canadians, not those awful Empire builders, not those masters on whom we are financially dependent, not those sinners.

GAFCON is not a further cause of schism. It is an example of schism in action. All the smiley faces and laughter at common meeting and warm fuzzy reports of how wonderful it is to be together to the contrary, this gathering is meant to gather up the true believers. Much of that work will be done in side conversations, over tea and whatever in the afternoon and evening, in building relationships and even occasionally in planning sessions by GAFCON leadership behind closed doors. What they talk about there will shake out later in actions to form a more perfect union (perhaps commonwealth).... you know, a better Anglican Communion, replacing the one we have.


  1. Please accept responsibility for the actions of GC 2003. We were warned that consecrating Robinson would 'tear the sacramental unity of the church at its deepest level.' That is a pretty darn good definition of schism: tearing the sacramental unity of the church. We did not offer the theological rationale first, gain acceptance for it, and then move ahead. We acted--in contradiction IMHO to our canons about marriage and the Scriptural and BCP understanding of the place of sexual expression within marriage--in an incredibly individualistic manner, and this includes bishops (Peter Lee+ of VA, for one) who said the consecration was fine based on the right of NH to elect whomever they wanted and thus not dealing squarely with the issue before them.

    All that aside, it would be more encouraging if those on the so-called progressive side would at least admit that they sometimes think 'Gee, maybe we were wrong in 2003' and 'Maybe, since we did not listen to the wider church, we may have gone against the true movement of the Spirit' . . if, in fact, the so-called progressive, ever even think that being wrong is possible possiblity. There is a huge lack of humility on the left if you ask me.

    As it stands, when the rest of the communion tries to cope with what we take as a schismatic action by realigningand that, realignment, is the fair and accurate word-- you try to make the charge of "schism" stick. If you want to begin to be fair, balanced, and self-aware, I suggest you use the word "realignment", show some sense that you could be mistaken (or at least give us your brief on the kind of infallibility you progressives have), and if you're up to it, tell me why taking Christians to court, offering to sell church property to anyone but those who paid for it (Schori to the Falls Church in VA), and making a mockery of the canons to deny someone a fair trial, are not each of them effectively schismatic.

    John 2007

  2. If hosting an exclusive conference in Jerusalem against the wishes of the local bishop and refusing to attend the Lambeth Conference with most of their fellow Anglican bishops are examples of how the GAFCON gang would "sustain the highest level of communion and work well together," then it's little wonder people think of them as laying the groundwork for schism.

    And if Archbishop Jensen had any *real* interest in commonwealth structures and "extended family," then there wouldn't be any problem in the first place, would there?

  3. John 2007,

    In all fairness, do you see any willingness on the part of the GAFCON group to admit that they may be wrong in their, interpretation of the Gospel? That they may be wrong in their refusal to take a more scholarly approach to Scripture, including new undestanding of translations from the original Greek, and putting words into their societal context of 2,000 years+ ago?

    There are some differences that have deep roots, and I don't deny that. They may prove impossible to bridge any time in the near future. However, people like me are not calling for the break-away churches to apologize for their beliefs as a condition of staying at the communion rail together. And frankly, I think that there are some apologies to be made, on behavior that defies the teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ - of the Triune God. But, it is not a condition in any way, any more than I would ask my Baptist neighbor to apologize...or my close Roman Catholic friend.

    Please do not say we are breaking 2,000+ traditions, because God's church has changed in many ways since the time Jesus was here in human form. The early details are sketchy at best, and we know that - but some surprsing details are constantly revealed to us.

    That said, I think everyone could go back 100 paces, start walking toward each other, and yell out "forgive me" at the same time. But if no one really means it, the time has not come. Right now, both sides would suspect their opposite numbers to stay silent.

  4. Yes,
    All of those GC delegates and their acolytes who have worked daily to enact a progressive agenda (without canonical process/approval) need to stop hiding behind institutionalist loyalty now.

    The Canons are being flouted daily by TEC's loud and proud. (Hello! California? Heard of how fast they fell on their faces to embrace Caesar's new law allowing poolside and courthouse civil unions? They couldn't wait to fling open the church doors for SSBs without General Convention authority!) The only ones who don't admit it are the ones who intend to continue to twist and deceive.

    Congratulations to all... we are plummetting to the same low stature of the UCC and other micro Churches.

  5. john has a serious misunderstanding of tec polity and our relationship with the wider anglican communion.

  6. Schism does not mean disagreement, even very serious disagreement; it means *formal* separation from a religious body. The one who *embraces* schism is a schismatic, although the latter term is probably not all that helpful in discussions such as these. After all, the English Reformation itself was a formal separation from the Roman Catholic Church, which would make all of us Anglicans "schismatics." Unfortunately, formal separation between Christians appears to be necessary, though, when there is irreconciliable disagreement on the requisite *fundamentals* of Christian belief or practice - defined by Anglicans for more than one hundred years, by the way, in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (ECUSA BCP pages 876-878).

    So GAFCON does not reflect schism - not yet, although they want to enforce new fundamentals for all Anglicans - because they have not declared any *formal* separation from Canterbury. Neither, of course, have - or will - the Anglican Church of Canada or the Episcopal Church. So that's good news, right? On the most basic level, there is no schism at present in the Anglican Communion. There is just very serious disagreement on what constitutes fundamentals of faith and practice.

    Of course, the situation before us is quite complex. Are unilateral parish declarations of formal separation from their respective Anglican provinces and attempts to transfer ownership of properties held in trust by them to other jurisidictions acts of schism?
    If schism means formal separation, then indeed these attempts reflect schism, because the Anglican Communion does not work that way.

  7. Deacon John,
    How so? Whatever one's polity when the instruments of unity, the broad consensus of the church, and other, let's say, 'hints' from the Holy Spirit are disregarded and the church begins to split, surely those responsible for divisive actions--again, warned in advance--should at least hint--read my post closely--or wander that they may have been wrong. I myself do put pressure on my own traditionalist view and would probably even say that it can be held and lived out in the wrong way. And, yes, to one of the posts, I think that change can happen. Of course. But note how things are lobbed at me (eg., 'don't say 2000+ etc.,)and the issue is not directly engaged. The issue is the use of 'schismatic' by a group responsible for the initial breach who never even admit they might be wrong. TEC's hubris, whatever its alleged polity, is astounding. (And speaking of polity . . .the improper use of Canon IV 9 the contortions and falsehoods and casuistry used to try to defend 'all bishops entitled to vote' as really meaning 'bishops at this particular meeting at this time' make it very, very difficult to even waste time talking with those in power.)

    JOHN 2007

  8. "Please accept responsibility for the actions of GC 2003. We were warned that consecrating Robinson would 'tear the sacramental unity of the church at its deepest level.' That is a pretty darn good definition of schism: tearing the sacramental unity of the church. We did not offer the theological rationale first, gain acceptance for it, and then move ahead."

    The well-trod spin.

  9. John,

    Deacon Jim is right. TEC is governed by General Convention. It is not overly concerned about The Anglican Communion, at large. So, the question to you is: now that you understand TEC polity, is this the sort of church that you want to be in? Don't fight the facts, just vote with your feet.


  10. As a retired counsellor, I have hear it a thousand times:

    "Why did you beat your wife?"

    "She made me do it. It's her fault, not mine. She was always nagging me."

    "Do you suppose the problem could have been solved without beating her?"

    "No! She was wrong! And I was right to beat her!"

    And around and around we go!

  11. It seems to me that schism is already accomplished, and that it began, not with disagreements over homosexuality or women or polity, but when some bishops decided that they could not abide the presence of some others and refused to share with them in the Eucharist. Thus the schism began.
    I remain puzzled why those who so hate and loathe the Episcopal Church so bitterly continue to stay with it, and why those who have left it, spend so much time and energy over its conflicts and not on starting a new life. I can only conclude that these same folk are hoping for that coup d'eglise and the keys to 815.

  12. And still: nothing about Peter Akinola's ardent and arduous efforts to get his gay Nigerian enemies imprisoned.

    This is the Anglican Communion, folks; it hates gay people more than it hates the fascist actions of its own Bishops. Not a word of rebuke for this man from anywhere.

    Time to face facts, all right.

  13. Mark,
    The fast bulk of the Anglican Communion have experienced the end of empire and it's replacement with the commonwealth. From, say, an Australian or African perspective that is almost a statement of the obvious. For a blog which view the Anglican Communion through American eyes it will be strange.
    Bishops were once appointed through a cenral office in London to sees across the sea. Just like Governors-General were.
    Peter Jensen has made it clear that he is not planning to leave the Anglican Communion.
    So why accuse him of schism for taking part in a conference that involves only some members of the communion?
    When international pro-gay groups such as Integrity and Inclusive Church met to discuss Lambeth was that shism?
    Gafcon is best understood as a mechanism for conservatives to stay in the Anglican Communion. As Susan Russell once said "We're not threatening to leave. We're threatening to stay".
    Obadiah Slope

  14. I'm having a hard time accepting the GAFCON bishops' makeover as Che Guevaras in purple. I still see a majority of fat old white men in the lineup of what claim to be the representatives of the voiceless exploited brown masses of the Southern Hemisphere (the Anglican Bishop of the whole southern half of South America doesn't even speak Spanish).
    In the USA, conservative evangelicals (including the followers of +Duncan, and the rightwing Anglo-Catholic followers of +Iker and xSchofield) remain the most enthusiastic (and perhaps only) supporters of the Iraq War, an American colonial adventure in the Mideast. That war was sold to the American public in explicitly religious and even apocalyptic terms ("clash of civilizations").
    From the perspective of other marginalized and dominated groups, GAFCON's real agenda can be summarized in a single word:



OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
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.