5/08/2017

Painting the Map GAFCON purple.

Its been twenty years since the Second Global South Anglican Encounter meeting in Kuala Lumpur. They issued a statement on Human Sexuality that would, the following year, lead to the takeover of the process of discussing human sexuality at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. That in turn led to Resolution 1.10.   which declared homosexuality as incompatible with Holy Scripture. 

Twenty years ago this year saw the full flowering of an alliance between evangelical Anglicans from the UK, the US and Australia, along with some notables from a UK missionary presence in South America, and the leadership of a number of African Provinces.  The Kuala Lumpur meeting provided the opportunity for global north evangelicals to link with global south leaders, using the issues of human sexuality, and notably the matter of homosexuality, as a basis for building a new power base in Anglicanism. The Global South meetings affirmed a new locus of world Anglican influence - central African provinces and their evangelical allies.  It is primarily from those beginnings that the current struggles concerning who speaks for Anglicans has arisen.

Heretofore, to the extent that Anglicans had a voice that spoke its mind, that voice was a chorus made up of the mind of the Lambeth Conference, the programs of the Anglican Consultative Council, and the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury in consultation with other primates of the Anglican Communion.  All of that is now less clear and more messy.

GAFCON has recently contributed even more to the mess.

The GAFCON Primates met in April and issued a communique in which it becomes clear that GAFCON is interested in painting the world map "GAFCON purple."  Or to put it another way, to increase its claim to be the real, true and orthodox Anglican Communion, as opposed to the older and (GAFCON believes) now tired and fallen Anglican Communion under the influence of northern Europe and its western counterparts in the US and Canada.

GAFCON has been working to organize itself as a world wide communion of churches representing true and undefiled Anglicanism.  It has for some time claimed to represent the majority of the worlds Anglicans by way of the now nine Anglican Provinces and five "Branches" that make up the GAFCON community of churches. But as GAFCON's own map indicates, these are geographically a bit of a patchwork. 

This is the GAFCON world map:



The areas in purple are GAFCON Provinces (not necessarily the same as Anglican Communion Provinces). The areas in blue are "branches"- places where there are GAFCON related organizations or parishes.
 
Several things to note: All of North American is colored in by virtue of the inclusion of the Anglican Church of North America, which is not a Province of the Anglican Communion, but a new Church formed from a variety of churches historically rooted in several provinces of the Anglican Communion and previous breakaway groups. It covers three Anglican Communion Provinces : Canada, the US and Mexico.  Part of Brazil is now included as a extension of the Province of South America (the Southern Cone). The Brazilian component consists of portions of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil that broke away from them. But the core of GAFCON are the Provinces in Africa that make up the bulk of both numbers and provinces: Sudan and South Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo and Rwanda.

We should also note that some members of the Global South Encounters did not become part of GAFCON, and do not have "branches" in their Provinces, but participate in a wider occasional gathering of Global South primates.

The Anglican Communion provides a different map:



The areas in blue do not have area churches part of the communion. In some places (North Africa, for example) the presence of the Anglican Communion is very spotty, but is listed none the less. But there are Anglican Communion jurisdictions in all the areas indicated.

The GAFCON communique of April 29, 2017, works to expand the "map" of GAFCON influence by deciding to "
consecrate a missionary bishop who will be tasked with providing episcopal leadership for those who are outside the structures of any Anglican province, especially in Europe."

Here is what the communique says about this decision:
  
"A Missionary Bishop
 

During our meeting, we considered how best to respond to the voice of faithful Anglicans in some parts of the Global North who are in need of biblically faithful episcopal leadership. Of immediate concern is the reality that on 8th June 2017 the Scottish Episcopal Church is likely to formalize their rejection of Jesus’ teaching on marriage. If this were to happen, faithful Anglicans in Scotland will need appropriate pastoral care. In addition, within England there are churches that have, for reasons of conscience, been planted outside of the Church of England by the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).  These churches are growing, and are in need of episcopal leadership. Therefore, we have decided to consecrate a missionary bishop who will be tasked with providing episcopal leadership for those who are outside the structures of any Anglican province, especially in Europe.
 
A Word of Encouragement to Faithful Anglicans within European Provinces
 

We wish to reassure all faithful Anglicans in European provinces that they also have our prayers and our support. We are aware that some Christians within these provinces who are contending for the faith may at first perceive the news of a missionary bishop as a threat to their hopes for reform from within.  
We believe that the complexity of the current situation in Europe does not admit of a single solution.  Faithful Christians may be called to different courses of action. We bless those whose context and conscience have led them to remain and contend for the faith within the current structures. If you are successful, you will not need a missionary bishop; if you are not successful, an alternative is at hand. The only true failure would be to waste time through inaction."

The GAFCON communique is careful not to say that this is a missionary bishop for England, Scotland and Wales, although England and Scotland are the churches critiqued. The bishop is being consecrated especially for "Europe." We might note that the Provinces of the Anglican Communion in Europe are: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. All the rest of "Anglican" Europe is overseen by the Diocese in Europe, part of the Church of England, by the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, part of The Episcopal Church, or are churches in two extra-provincial churches in Portugal and Spain. 

Two things are clear: This is really about the churches in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, not Europe. And it is at the same time about coloring in all of Europe as a new province of GAFCON. 

GAFCON is working hard to become a worldwide Communion. And as it does so it is also working to show itself to be the "orthodox Anglican Communion." That is, that it is the communion of churches true to Anglicanism and its theological perspectives, rather than the communion that includes revisionist churches, particularly The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. 

By consecrating a bishop for Europe GAFCON has determined to establish an "alternative" episcopal presence in England and all of Europe. It views this as a legitimate effort to reconvert the English people from the corrupted gospel of the CofE. 

This should raise a stink in Anglican circles, but very little seems to be happening. Where is the objection from the Anglican Communion itself? What hasn't the Archbishop of Canterbury spoken concerning this invasion? Where is the Anglican Consultative Council in all this?

Whatever other agenda there is for all this activity, the decision to consecrate a bishop for those Anglicans in Europe unwilling to be part of dioceses that have been perceived to have departed from "the faith once delivered" is a slap in the face of the Church of England and its jurisdiction as an Anglican Church. More it is somewhat akin to calling your mother a whore. 

GAFCON has essentially declared the mother church of the Anglican Communion to be no church at all. 

If the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Consultative Council had the guts to do so, this would be the time to note that by its actions the GAFCON Provinces have ceased to be in communion with the See of Canterbury.

Not to do so simply means that the GAFCON folk can keep coloring the map GAFCON purple unchallenged.

On the other hand, maybe there are wise hands at the wheel. Leaving GAFCON unchallenged and allowing them uncritical access to crayons might keep the current leadership of GAFCON and its northern evangelical allies busy long enough for them all to die out and be replaced by the next generation of leaders who might not share the same need to separate themselves from the North and West.  

I believe there will arise new Global South Anglican leadership whose experience in post-colonial Anglican engagement with former colonial powers will lessen the need to distance their churches from the older churches. Perhaps those leaders will see the differences, even on deep matters, as a basis for even deeper exploration of communion and not as a basis for abandonment. 

Those of us in Anglican Communion churches (Provinces) need to insist, however, that the Anglican Communion is a "fellowship, within the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional churches in communion with the see of Canterbury." (That being the definition of the Anglican Communion from the 1930 Lambeth Conference.)

Churches that determine to enter the jurisdictions of Anglican dioceses, provinces and regional churches, without the permission of the jurisdiction, with the intent to correct or convert those bodies because they have failed in their gospel mission, have every right to do so. But they have ceased to be part of that fellowship, having determined that the Anglican Communion as represented in the particular jurisdiction they have entered is false, wrong, or evil. 

The GAFCON world is real, but it is not in any way The Anglican Communion, and the sooner this is made clear, the better.  Otherwise the guys with the crayons will scrawl across their new map "The Anglican Communion" and who will be there to insist otherwise?

4 comments:

  1. Good to see you blogging again. I was priested slightly over 20 years ago, so this has been a reality for the entirety of my priesthood. No end in sight, I'm afraid.

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  2. The reported event consecrating a bishop for English congregations associated with what we used to know as the Church of England in South Africa (CESA, and not exactly in communion with Canterbury, now known as REACH-SA) seems to have caught everyone by surprise - Anglican Communion and GAFCON alike. It will be interesting to see what develops. I haven't had the impression that CESA/REACH-SA have been all that actively involved in GAFCON; and since they aren't an Anglican province as such, in Global South meetings.

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  3. The Church of England's Diocese in Europe (not of Europe) is a vast network stretching from Russia to Spain, with more than 40 parishes in France alone. It may be for this reason that 'Europe' was referred to in the context of the CofE. Most Americans can be confused at this point due to the counterpoint Convocation presence, which is far smaller and represented by only a dozen or so churches, many former chaplaincies. At present, due to Brexit, the Diocese in Europe is facing challenges due to arrangements for health care and pensioning of clergy which will time out unless some carve-outs are created. James.

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  4. James the anonymous.... thanks for the correction. Correction made. M

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