07 July 2008


Jordan Hylden on GAFCON

The GAFCON answer to this question seems to be a revived and reinforced confessionalism, based on the Thirty-Nine Articles and the fourteen tenets of the Jerusalem Declaration. As the statement makes patently clear, the GAFCON Anglicans have little confidence that the existing structures of Anglicanism can be trusted to judge in matters of orthodoxy and Church discipline. GAFCON asked that its new fellowship of confessing Anglicans be headed by a Primates’ Council, whose function will be to “authenticate and recognize confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy, and congregations”— whether they are in full communion with Canterbury or not.

The principle is similar to that already used to justify cross-boundary interventions in the United States by the Nigerian, Rwandan, and other churches, as accepted by the 2007 primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania—namely, that cross-boundary interventions are undesirable in the long run but acceptable as a temporary measure until a Communion-wide solution can be found.

In this, GAFCON has not closed off the possibility of participating in Lambeth and the other existing structures of the Anglican Communion; indeed, the Tanzanian bishops decided to attend both GAFCON and Lambeth, along with several American bishops such as Mark Lawrence of South Carolina. That means GAFCON has not quite forsworn cooperation with the rest of Anglicanism. But they do seem to be saying that if the Anglican Communion won’t discipline itself, then the GAFCON Anglicans will take care of themselves, with or without Canterbury.

These are, no doubt, strong words and forceful actions, and they have not gone without criticism from other quarters of the Anglican world. The Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, referred to GAFCON as merely the “latest emission” from those who consider themselves the only “true believers.” (In this context, one remembers the persistent complaint of African Anglicans, repeated at GAFCON, that the American and English churches all too often remain in a mindset of colonial arrogance.)

Here's the whole thing.


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