Changes to GAFCON’s Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment
(from the web-site – ‘A Living Text’)
|Celebrating the Communique|
I made a list of changes between the draft and final versions of the GAFCON document. The list that follows is not exhaustive, because many changes were simply moving text from one section to another. This list does show some theological jockeying, as you will see.
I. A Change of Emphasis on the Jerusalem Declaration
As you will see, there was clearly an Anglo-Catholic fear of too much emphasis on the Jerusalem Statement, presumably due to its emphasis on the 39 Articles. It changed from calling the Jerusalem Declaration the “foundation” to the “framework”:
The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which commits us to biblical faithfulness, and has since provided the framework… [from foundation to framework].
This attempt to de-emphasize the Jerusalem Declaration in terms of on-the-ground-reality also caused this change from:
the preparation of excellent theological rebuttals of the false gospel; supporting a network of theological colleges aligned with the Jerusalem Declaration;
the preparation of convincing theological rebuttals of any false gospel; supporting a network of theological colleges whose students are better oriented to ministry, whose faculties are well-trained, and whose curricula are built on the faithful reading of Scripture.
You see this again when a statement on the gospel is struck, from:
We commit ourselves anew to the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, with its emphasis upon the gospel of Christ. We rely on the power of the gospel to be effective in mission.
We commit ourselves anew to The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.
And finally, from:
The standard of theological education in some cases also needs improvement, and so we shall support theological colleges in developing curricula aligned with the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.
The purposes of theological education need clarifying so that students are better oriented to ministry, faculty are well-trained, and curricula are built on the faithful reading of Scripture.
This shows a probable Anglo-Catholic move to substitute “the faithful reading of Scripture” for alignment with the Jerusalem Statement. The “faithful reading of Scripture” can be debated – what is faithful and what is not? But the Jerusalem Statement is not debatable because it is more clearly a document in line with the Reformation.
II. A Codification of ‘Three Streams’?
The final document changed from,
we, in all our different traditions, are committed to…
we, in all our different traditions – Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics and Charismatics – are committed…
So, the “different traditions” are redefined in a “three streams” fashion. This is descriptive Anglicanism on show, but I can’t see any reason why it was necessary to delineate just what the “different traditions” are, unless it is to give them official standing in the new GAFCON world.
III. Emphasizing Repentance
The final statement added “repentance” to the East African Revival (EAR) “walking in the light” statement: “It involves repentance and ‘walking in the light, as he is in the light’ (1 John 1:7–9).”
It also added this statement further on: “We repent of indifference, prayerlessness and inactivity in the face of false teaching.” Perhaps this was another nod to the EAR and it reminds me of the PEAR USA Sacred Assembly after AMiA revolted.
IV. Does not Call out The West
The final document changes an explicit attack on the West to a more vague attack on “several national governments.” It goes from:
The danger we are in has been exacerbated by several Western governments claiming to redefine marriage and turning same-sex marriage into a human rights issue.
We grieve that several national governments, aided by some church leaders, have claimed to redefine marriage and have turned same-sex marriage into a human rights issue.
Evangelising the West
Evangelising areas of our world where clear gospel witness has become obscured or lost
V. No Kudos to Canterbury
The final statement deleted:
We commend the Archbishop of Canterbury for opposing the same-sex marriage legislation in the House of Lords.
VI. Two Integrities?
No, that language was not used! However, the final statement made another descriptive statement that may foreshadow where next year’s ACNA Commission on Holy Orders will end up: ‘
We recognize that we have differing views over the roles of men and women in church leadership.
VII. Culture of Life
The final document added a “culture of life” type statement to the end of this sentence:
We repudiate all such violence against women and children and call on the church to demonstrate respect for women, care for marginalized women and children around the world, and uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.
VIII. Contributions Optional
The language was changed from dropping financial giving to the Communion to either drop that giving, OR adding giving to the GFCA. From:
and contribute instead to the financing of the GFCA’s on-going needs.
and contribute instead, or additionally, to the financing of the GFCA’s on-going needs.
IX. Action or Thinking about Action?
A bold statement was made about acting outside of Anglican structures in the draft:
In such circumstances, we will seek to work beyond those structures as an obedient response to our Lord ‘s primary command to take the gospel to all nations
This was tempered in a typically Anglican way to add “careful consideration” of action:
In line with The Jerusalem Statement’s expectation that the Primates’ Council would intervene to provide ‘orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership’, the Primates’ Council will carefully consider working beyond existing structures as an obedient response to Jesus’ commission to take the gospel to all nations.
The language was also changed from a broadly Anglican concern for “order” to a more Scriptural definition of “structures of human authority.” From:
We commit ourselves to the primacy of truth over order. We support good order as God’s will for the church, but believe that when the defence of the truth requires it, such order must be broken.
We commit ourselves to defend essential truths of the biblical faith even when this defence threatens existing structures of human authority (Acts 5:29).
Finally, a statement was added to the effect that this will not be the last meeting of GAFCON:
We commit ourselves to meet again at the next GAFCON.
No actual structural breakaway, then, from the world-wide Anglican Communion – even though the tenor of this communique (altered) from Gafcon seeks, still, to distance the Gafcon provinces from other provincial Churches within the Communion that it accuses of being ‘un-biblical’ in its theological praxis – in terms as stated here:
“In line with The Jerusalem Statement’s expectation that the Primates’ Council would intervene to provide ‘orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership’, the Primates’ Council will carefully consider working beyond existing structures as an obedient response to Jesus’ commission to take the gospel to all nations.”
This (amended) statement would seem to structure a continuance of the existing programme of selective border-crossing in Anglican Communion Churches that do not live up to Gafcon’s expectations of ‘Biblical Orthodoxy’. The phrase ‘The Primates’ Council’ has nothing to do with the official Anglican Communion Primates, and is exclusive to the Gafcon Primates – of mainly African Provinces. With this projected ethos of further un-invited missionary endeavour into local Anglican Churches around the world that do not measure up to Gafcon standards of holiness, one can only hope that the Gafcon Primates will think very carefully before taking action.
As the writer of this report – on the amendments made to the original Communique from Gafcon – here suggests; it is fairly obvious that there has been some radical re-thinking of the original accusations against Anglican Churches in Western Provinces, that would set some of the non-African members of Gafcon at serious odds with their own local provinces in the ‘West’. For instance, both Australia and New Zealand exist in the Global South area (that also accommodates many of the Gafcon Provinces). But I guess that, for all intents and purposes, as the majority of Anglicans in Australia and New Zealand are not members of the Gafcon community, we will be considered to be part of the ‘wicked West’ – because of our attitude towards the understanding of human gender and sexuality – which mostly differs from the Gafcon understanding.
There is the reality that those few people from Australia (mainly Sydney) and New Zealand (mainly Nelson) who attended the Gafcon conference are undoubtedly aligned with the conservative Gafcon view of sexuality and gender issues. But maybe their geographical membership of more liberal provinces could have given them some idea of the need to tone down the rhetoric originally coined against ‘Churches of The West’. Whatever the reason for the ‘re-think’ of the Gafcon Communique, it cannot but help the rest of the Anglican Churches who are not officially tied to the Gafcon, to feel a little less threatened by the tone of the revised text.
The confessional nature of the Gafcon sodality is now more clearly based on the original ’39 Articles’ of the Church of England – rather than the newly didactic confessional ‘Jerusalem Declaration’, which actually distanced the Gafcon Primates from the Instruments of Unity within the world-wide Anglican Communion. The question now may be: “Will the Gafcon Primates seek to remain in the Communion? Or will they attempt to assert their ecclesial independence by claiming to represent the true ‘Orthodoxy’ of original Anglicanism? What will be their new relationship to the existing Anglican Communion, and what will be next step?
Today’s Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, verses 9 to 14 would seem to set in context the teaching of Jesus about the setting up of one’s own code of ‘righteousness’ against the perceived ‘sins’ of others – in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector. One hopes that we all might take this lesson to heart, realising that ‘we are all sinners’, and that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; which he has undertaken, on our behalf, to do. The Pharisee was , indeed, a good man. His only problem was that he boasted to God of his righteousness, and disdained the conduct of ‘the other’, who knew his need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand