While GAFCON keeps on plugging along doing whatever it is that GAFCON is about, there’s lots going on vis-à-vis Anglican Land having to do with Episcopal Church folk that deserves attention.
Two notifications today of considerable import: (i) Bishop Charles Bennison has been found guilty on two charges related to his mishandling of a sexual abuse case involving his brother. (ii) BabyBlueOnline reports that there will be a ruling from the court regarding the constitutionality of the Virginia law covering division of churches.
Several items regarding Bishop Robert Duncan: (i) a week ago he and other officers of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh formed a corporation the purpose of which seems to be to maintain ownership of properties and assets of the Diocese separate from the Episcopal Church in case there was a need to do so.(ii) Bishop Duncan delivered an address at the GAFCON leadership meeting in Jordan, (read it HERE). It was distributed to the full GAFCON meeting in Israel, although Bishop Duncan was not in attendance. It was reported that he and his family were in Italy or that he had family obligations. It was also reported that he stayed on in Jordan with members of the Church of the Sudan who could not get visas to travel to Israel. In any even he appears to be the only member of the GAFCON initiating group not present in Jerusalem. One report says that he would only be coming to the meeting in Jordan, period. It will be interesting to see if he appears at all at GAFCON.
It may be that upcoming issues concerning possible deposition of the Bishop of Pittsburgh at the next House of Bishop’s meeting have caused him to be very careful about the extent to which is seen to be active in GAFCON planning – particularly if it is not clear just where that planning is going. He will be going to Lambeth, for at least part of the time. So it will appear, at least on this level, that he is indeed a true son of the Church, taking his part in the affairs of the Communion, etc. Of course the fact that he has incorporated the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and has charged GAFCON with a reading of the current situation that clearly points to a takeover of the future of the Communion, a hostile one if necessary, will get in the way of his argument.
Tibias Haller has pointed out that the GAFCON insistence that the Anglican Communion has not split will not serve the Virginia argument well.
And Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm has written an article that pretty well spells out the problems of GAFCAN and whatever it is that it will call for at the close of the meeting. It is worth the read. He argues that if GAFCON does not take a forceful stand for serious realignment and quickly, the air will be sucked out of the room and those still left will be comatose. (Those are not his words but mine.)
Now GAFCON itself is reporting the beginning of the shape of its final report. Just who will receive this report, what it is expected to mean, etc, we will see. But you can read the first take HERE. The statement says,
“1. There is a passion for the Gospel, a determination to stay true to the Bible, to continue the work of mission and to do so as Anglicans.
2. There is a profound sadness about the current state of the Anglican Communion and a sense of betrayal and abandonment by the exiting leadership and communion structures.
3. There is a determination to build on the experience of GAFCON and see it become a movement and not simply a moment.
4. There is recognition that for this movement to continue to develop it will require an agreed theological framework and appropriate structures to sustain its growth.
5. There is also agreement that more permanent structures need to be established for those faithful Anglicans who live and serve in provinces that have abandoned the traditional teaching of the Bible.
6. There is a genuine desire to continue to reach out to other Anglicans around the Communion who share our common faith so that we can grow in our witness to the world of God’s transforming power.”
So as it stands the read seems to be: GAFCON is a bible based, betrayed and abandoned, gathering of people on the way to becoming a movement, one that will have a theological framework (read oath of conformity), a world wide structure (not including the betraying and abandoning leadership one assumes), permanent structures (read new Provinces) to take the place of provinces that have abandoned traditional teachings, etc., and inclusion of Anglican like bodies that are not now part of the Anglican Communion.
I fail to see how this is not precisely a recipe for an effort to take over the Anglican Communion, or declare it null and void, replacing it with more amenable structures. As I have said, GAFCON is right – this is not schism. This is hostile take over time.
The thing that now exists – The Anglican Communion, “a fellowship…within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” will continue. It will consist of those Provinces, Dioceses, etc in communion with the See of Canterbury. This new thing will be what ever it is and members of it may continue to be part of the Anglican Communion. But they will be a new and different sort of thing – not a province or provinces of the Anglican Communion, but a worldwide Church that is in communion or not with the churches of the Anglican Communion.
When the dust settles, the Anglican Communion might be smaller, which is OK. Big is only important for worldwide churches. For the rest of us big is about family, and the family is always big enough for love and ready to take in more by marriage or birth or community. The Anglican Communion will continue just fine.
As for the new thing that is contemplated by GAFCON, it will continue to be a mess for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, with competing churches springing up here and there with Provincial allegiances to churches clearly not in communion with the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada. They will either succeed or not as God wills. But they will not be in line to take over the diocese of The Episcopal Church.
In those places – San Joaquin or Pittsburgh or Fort Worth where such efforts might be tried, there will be a messy time. Likewise for Canada.
But when it is over there will be an Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada presence in those places and ministry by our churches there. What those who leave do will be their business.
And in the Episcopal Church we will still be working (as I hope any of the churches will) to hold people – including our bishops – accountable for their actions.