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.