GAFCON Puts Covenant Debate in Perspective: We Ain't Going There

The Church of England General Synod is debating the Anglican Covenant. And just in time GAFCON (the Global Anglican Fellowship Conference) / FCA (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans primates have released a statement making it clear that a significant number of Provinces are not signing the Covenant and are not taking part in the life of one of the Instruments of Unity - the Primates Meeting.

We have already heard that Archbishop Earnest is not attending, and now the list is growing:

The Most Rev’d Gregory Venables, GAFCON/FCA Chair presumably is speaking of the Primate of the Southern Cone, but we will have to see.

The following are out:

The Most Rev’d Justice Akrofi, Archbishop, Anglican Province of West Africa
The Most Rev ‘d Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Rwanda
The Most Rev’d Valentino Mokiwa, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Tanzania
The Most Rev’d Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
The Most Rev’d Henry Orombi Archbishop, Church of Uganda
The Most Rev’d Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya

Also attending was The Most Rev’d Robert Duncan, Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America, deposed bishop of Pittsburgh and holding dual citizenship in the Province of the Southern Cone and in the ACNA which is recognized by the other worthies (if not by their churches) as a church (province) in communion with the GAFCON folk.  His presence and signature means that GAFCON is working the new world Anglican Order as they see it.

The Archbishop of Sidney was there as secretary, not as primate.

So the alignment for a non-Covenant, non-Canterbury, non-Anglican Instrument of Unity, worldwide Anglican-like body is firming up. The churches across the center of Africa and the Southern Cone are joined by ACNA as their more or less repentant Western companion body, and present themselves as a new improved Anglican Communion (NIAC).

They are not going to Ireland with the Primates, they are not signing the Anglican Covenant, they are not going to pay attention to the Archbishop of Canterbury's invitation, they are on their way to NIAC.

The publication of this GAFCON statement on the day that the Anglican Covenant is being debated by the CofE Synod is no accident. The GAFCON primates met in early October. Given GAFCON's record in putting signatures on papers without clearing it with the persons named, perhaps it too several weeks to make sure all were on board. Still, it is of some interest politically to note that release of this message precisely while the CofE debate is going on is a bit of a bombshell.

The Archbishop of Canterbury argues that the Covenant is an instrument for Unity, not punitive of dissent but supportive of common life. To have it dismissed by a sizable group of African Anglican Primates is bad enough, but for those same Primates to make it clear that no matter what the meetings are prior to the Primates Meeting, they are not going to take part in one of the "instruments of unity," is devastating.   

GAFCON is on its way to forming an alternate way to be Anglican in the world, one which the Covenant does not support and the existing unifying elements in the Anglican Communion are irrelevant. 

The Covenant will not draw us together. It has nothing to do with any of our reservations about it. The facts are now on the ground. Even supposing all the remaining Provinces signed on, the fact that a sizable group of Provinces will not consider it in its current form means that the Covenant that we have before us will not do what it was hoped it would do.

This is a mess and likely to get worse.


  1. Covenant has passed. Please ponder the voting tally. Puts in perspective the peripheral position of blogs like this. Sam

  2. The Communion is history. It ended when Primates refused Table Fellowship with each other at Dromantine.

  3. no worries.... what will happen is that the ABC will agree to the GAFCON request that it is not the current Standing Committee but the Primates who are the referees for the Covenant and that way he will get GAFCON on board..... he cannot lose them, they represent most of the Anglicans in the world and have growing church attendance.

  4. Priscilla Cardinale24/11/10 1:05 PM

    Sam, my perspective is that the evangelical conservative movement in England worked diligently to stack the new synod with supporters who would vote for the covenant. So what? And your tone implies that “peripheral” is something, what, shameful? sad? to be pitied? Sorry, your triumphalism is as hollow as your positions to me. No thanks.

  5. The Anglican Communion was reduced to rubble 10 years ago and it became official with the Jerusalem Declaration.

    This whole "silly" process (dance if you will) reminds me of the story that Steve McQueen's character relates in the Magnificent Seven. When asked how they (the seven were doing) Steve McQueen's character says," Reminds me of a story of the man who jumped out of a ten story building. A person sticks his head out as the person falling passes the 6th floor and asks how is he doing and the falling man says 'so far so good'."

    Well, with regard to the Anglican Communion, "so far so good".

  6. As far as the "right" is concerned, they already have their covenant, The Jerusalem Declaration. And anyone willing to sign on is part of the covenenant, welcome to partner in ministry together and to share table fellowship. Their view of those in the Anglican tradition that do not wish to be a part of the Jerusalem Declaration is "you pursue your ministry, we will pursue ours". They are no longer willing to spend countless hours in pointless dialogue with fellow "Anglicans" (whatever that is supposed to mean) about "what is or isn't" and they are no longer willing to pretend there is communion when there can't be any. England's passing the present form of the covenant is too little too late.

  7. The whole purpose of issuing the "Oxford Declaration" when they did was to poke the ABC in the eye. Not for nothing is Oxford known as the home of lost causes.


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.