GAFCON crosses the Jordan early.

The leaders of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) are leaving Jordan for Jerusalem early, on Thursday June 19th rather than Saturday June 21st. Ruth Gledhill and David Virtue both are reporting on this change in plans.

It turns out Archbishop Akinola was denied a visa to visit Jordan. For reasons not given Bishop Venables of the Southern Cone was also unable to go to Jordan. Akinola is a primary player in the GAFCON event and it appears that the rest of the leadership meeting in Jordan felt it necessary to go where the Archbishop was more welcome in order to do the planning for the GAFCON meeting beginning on June 22nd.

The GAFCON website has a press release that gives the official spin on the matter:

"The pre-GAFCON preparatory consultation in Jordan wound up early, and the participants moved to Jerusalem on Thursday, 19th June. Hotel and meeting rooms previously unavailable in Jerusalem became available at the same time GAFCON leaders learned that previously granted permission for the Jordan consultation was deemed insufficient.

The time in Jordan was very valuable for prayer, fellowship, and networking. The group made pilgrimages to Mt. Nebo and the Baptism Site of Jesus. GAFCON Chairman Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, and Archbishop Greg Venables of Southern Cone, were for different reasons unable to be in Jordan. Both are, however, expected to play significant roles at GAFCON in Jerusalem."

The press release, speaking of Thursday events, but published on Wednesday, seems premature. "Participants moved to Jerusalem on Thursday..." Well, perhaps it will be as described. The reasons given by the GAFCON press release were: hotel and meeting rooms becoming available in Jerusalem, the fact that Archbishops Akinola and Venables were unable "for different reasons" to be in Jordan and "previously granted permission for the Jordan consultation were deemed insufficient."
Whoever is doing the press release is being paid too much. The information of the press release makes it appear that the reason for meeting in Jordan had somehow to do with available rooms in Jerusalem. It was not. It was because part of GAFCON's supposed arrangement with the Diocese of Jerusalem was to have the "meeting" in Jordan and a "pilgrimage" in Jerusalem. So much for that.

The Press Release vaguely intimates that the Archbishop for "different reasons" were unable to be in Jordan, but makes no mention of the visa issue raised by David Virtue and Ruth Gledhill. The denial of entry to Archbishop Akinola is a story of some magnitude and I suspect has to do with Jordan's sense that the Archbishop is more militant in his attitude toward Islam than Jordan believes is appropriate.

The phrase, "GAFCON leaders learned that previously granted permission for the Jordan consultation was deemed insufficient," is most intriguing. This suggests that something about the consultation itself involved permission being granted by Jordan and that that permission was deemed insufficient. It could be no more than there having been a supposed understanding with the government that GAFCON leadership would be admitted to Jordan, it could be about the conference itself. Either way, it would appear that GAFCON leadership blew it.

The GAFCON press release also touts the GAFCON book, titled, "The Way, the Truth and the Life." That book will be distributed at the conference. I have seen a copy of the text. It is a rehash of several already available articles and contains nothing new as far as I could find from a cursory read.

The Press Release is a valiant effort to save an embarrassment and a major stumble. It doesn't work.

Archbishop Akinola thought he could go to Jordan. He couldn't. GAFCON didn't even bother to suggest that they were in Jordan as part of an agreement with the Bishop of Jordan. The press release proceeds actually going to Jerusalem. The text is brought out early as a show of normality when things are very abnormal.

GAFCON is underway. Time to cross the Jordan, Archbishop or no.


  1. Oh my - this would be awfully funny if it weren't so terribly sad. Are these men so truly arrogant and blind that they believe they can waltz in and out of middle eastern countries at will? With all the money pouring into hotels and plane tickets, didn't they pay some flack to make sure all the visa stuff was in order? If I ran a vestry meeting as poorly as these guys run a conference, I'd be out of job.
    Mr Arabin

  2. It seems (as reported by Gledhill and Virtue) that Akinola carries a diplomatic passport.

    Well, well... how come? Is the Church of Nigeria established? Why a diplomatic passport? Status? Wedded to a govermente he may no dare to criticize for fear of losing his "diplomatic" status? Why not to carry a regular passport like his fellow bishops?


  3. In my secular life, I am a public relatios practitioner. One of the frequent frustrations for the PR / communications professional is to watch a gifted or not so gifted amateur pass themselves off as one of us.

    Often people believe that what we do is so very easy that a trained monkey could do it. It may be so. Unfortunately for many organizations, they end up with someone having less talent than a trained monkey - at least as regards mass communications.

    This news release isn't a valiant anything. It is a crock of deliberate misrepresentation.

    If Rev'd Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad is a member of any professional society of communicators or public relations professionals, he has opened the possibility of professional discipline.

    I suspect Dr. Fjeldstad is not a member of such a society. Usually those who join such professional societies are committed to at least some degree of professional ethics and professional competence.

    The truly competent communicator knows that rule number one is "don't lie." There are two reasons not to lie. One is that it is wrong. The other is that it doesn't work.

    This amateurish and convoluted news release is, you are correct, intended to establish some sense of normalcy. What it accomplishes instead is to prove that the GAFFEPRONE GAFCON leadership have been dishonest from the get-go, that they lied to the Bishop into whose jurisdiction they thrust themselves uninvited, that they do not give a damn about the truth.

  4. Malcolm,
    I met Dr Fjeldstad at a journalist convention recently. Whatever you may think of is theogical position, he is nor an amateur in the field of communications. Your accusation of "passing off" is false.
    The Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad has been a newspaper journalist and editor in various Norwegian newspapers and the publisher of a large monthly magazine in the Middle East and North Africa. His journalistic career covers more than 30 years in mainstream news media, many of them in various editorial positions with the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten.

    Ruth Gledhill reports:
    "Gregory Venables is not in Jordan because his wife is in hospital after complications following a hip operation. He is hoping to join Gafcon in Jerusalem."


  5. Oh dear...the cynic in me believes this all might be just a ruse--the GAFCONites never intended to do anything in Jordan, and as their advertising states, the whole thing was planned for Jerusalem in the first place...but this was to save them some sort of face in their relationship to the Bishop in Jerusalem. --they just HAD to move it...


  6. Actually, there is no "Bishop of Jordan." Jordan (along with Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem) is part of the Diocese of Jerusalem. So actually, they've been having the whole shebang in the Diocese of Jerusalem against the express wishes of the Bishop there.

  7. I would not be surprised that Abp Akinola has a diplomatic passport. Apb. Gomez in the Bahamas likewise possesses one from the Bahamian government.

  8. Perhaps then Obadiah, if the Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad is such a professional, then the press release has lost some things in the translation!

    Although, it is certainly better written than much of the spin that comes from the Southern Cone affiliates in the San Juaquin Valley.

  9. Obadiah,

    The Rev'd Dr. F. may well have had a distinguished career as a journalist. It is certainly a common thing for journalists to believe that they can simply become PR practitioners by declaring themselves so. Indeed, there is a commonality of skill sets - and very many journalists have successfully made the transition.

    But journalism is not public relations / professional communications, and as many journalists have been unable to make the transition Usually because they just don't "get it."

    This news release is a tissue of half-truths weaved together to form a falsehood. A competent and ethical PR practitioner would not have allowed his name to be associated with it. Dr. Fjeldstad, however, has done so.

    I draw the only possible conclusion.

  10. Well, they really wanted and planned to be in Jerusalem anyway - Jordan was an attempted distraction from their disregard for the wishes of the local bishop - so, in the end, the short-term change in schedule and venue probably won't matter much. It was always a conference - not a pilgimage - and the conference goes on.


  11. Malcolm,
    I wonder if your view of Dr Fjeldstad is coloured by your distaste for Gafcon? i guess we are all human.


  12. Doubtless so. I'm as human as the next guy.

    But I have stopped more than one news release from going out in my time on the grounds that it was misleading. That's what an ethical professional does. And while I have never been pushed to this extreme myself, I have had several colleagues who have used the threat of resignation to prevent misleading information from being released.

    Yes, I can be fierce in defending the integrity and interest of the Communion as I understand them. I can also be fierce in defending the ethical standards of my profession.

    Misleading news releases are unethical. That is not a debatable point with me.

    This news release is calculated to mislead, implying as it does that the shift to Jerusalem had to do with the availability of meeting rooms and papering over commitments openly made to Bishop Dawani.

    A practitioner who participates in an unethical act digs the grave of his own professional reputation. Unfortunately, he also damages the credibility of the countless ethical professionals who would never dream of doing the same thing.

  13. Mark, you do remember that the original intent was to have the entire GAFCON in Jersalem? I don't think I would get any more a fair hearing from the daughter of +Frank Griswold (the official interrogating ++Akinola over the Muslim issue) than from you, judging by this slanted-nearly-to horizontal article. Embarrassment? Poor planning? Spin? Have it your way. Perhaps it is more that when God closes a door, He always opens a window, and His perfect planning is overriding necessarily imperfect human planning. And of course there's "nothing new" in The Way, the Truth and the Life! Another commenter at one of your favorite love-to-hate-it blogs said it better than I would, something like, "When you have the eternal and unchanging Word of God, you don't need something new.", let alone "the Holy Spirit doing a new thing" which just happens to contradict most of what He inspired men to write in Scripture. A house divided against itself cannot stand, and the Holy Spirit does not divide the house of God. Perhaps we should examine more closely the words of those who claim the Holy Spirit's blessing on what He long called sin.

  14. Paul... you are right.... his title is Bishop of the Diocese of (sometimes in) Jerusalem. But he is the bishop of Jordan in fact. The several parishes and schools there are part of the Diocese of (in) Jerusalem. Your read is quite right however we name the Bishop of (in) Jerusalem.


  15. Milton, the GAFFEPRONE leaders made a commitment to Bishop Dawani that the business meetings of their conference would not be held in Jerusalem.

    They lied.

  16. malcolm+
    I think you have a point about the press release.
    (I did think you were being unkind to Dr Fjelstad earlier though).
    I would have included a reference to the discussions with the Bishop in Jerusalem if I had written it - but I speak from a journalistic perspective not yours.
    My suspicion is this is a bit lit reconciling the accounts of Judas' death. Seemingly contradictory accounts are simply parts of a whole.
    The Jordan conference may well have been influenced by negotiations with the Bishop in Jerusalem AND the availability of accommodation.
    Gafcon was organised on a very tight schedule.
    So I would be cautious about accusing anyone of lying. At least on the surface that seems to contrast with the care you say public relations should be conducted



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