by Madeleine Davies – CHURCH TIMES – Posted: 17 Apr 2015 @ 05:49
GAFCON is receiving increasing calls for affiliation from Anglicans who feel they are regarded as “pariahs” and want to “know we are not alone”, one of its leading figures said on Friday.
The Revd Dr Peter Jensen, a former Archbishop of Sydney, was speaking at the end of a five-day GAFCON conference in London. A communiqué issued by seven Primates at the conclusion of the meeting was energetic in tone: a conference is planned for 2018 and a fellowship in Australia has been launched.
“We have planned for the expansion of our movement in order to touch the lives of many more Anglicans with gospel fellowship,” it says. “As part of this we have identified a clear need for theological education and the training of leaders, especially bishops, and we have started work on both of these priorities.”
Dr Jensen said that he had to be “discreet” about where the enquiries about affiliation came from. But they fell into two camps, he said. One was the “cultural West”, where “people are saying to us: ‘We need help. We haven’t changed. But we are now being regarded as pariahs.” They were looking to GAFCON “so we know we are not alone”.
Other requests came from outside the West, “where the Church is vigorous and evangelism is occurring at a great rate, but disciple-making is lagging behind”.
Dr Jensen dismissed any suggestion that GAFCON was made up of “schismatics”. The communiqué states that: “We are not leaving the Anglican Communion. The members of our Churches stand at the heart of the Communion, which is why we are committed to its renewal. We belong to the mainstream, and we are moving forward.”
It was “those who bring in new teachings that are creating the schisms”, Dr Jensen said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged that it may not be possible to hold the Anglican Communion together. Last November, he spoke of “enormous problems” in the Communion, including “deep divisions” about sexuality, which might prove “too much to manage” ( News, 17 November).
GAFCON’s communiqué refers to its presence in the UK through the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).
“We are particularly concerned about the Church of England and the drift of many from the biblical faith,” it states.
The use of St John’s, Waterloo for Muslim prayers (News, 20 March) is singled out as cause for concern, as is the response of the Bishop of Salisbury to the establishment of a new church in the dioceses (News, 20 February).
Representatives of AMiE were “deeply concerned about the state of British society, which does not know God”, Dr Jensen said. “They are not anti the Church: they are deeply concerned about the mission field that exists in Britain today. . . They see the need to work inside and outside the existing structures to preach the Gospel.”
This week, Professor Linda Woodhead described GAFCON in the Independent newspaper as “paper tigers, who love to roar and get a reaction but there is no substance to them. . . They don’t have money to set up here and pay clergy.”
Dr Jensen described these comments as “ludicrous” and said that, rather than AMiE or GAFCON, it would be the people who attended AMiE churches who would fund them.
“It is not a resource thing, but a spiritual thing of prayer and preaching of God’s word, and resources will follow that,” he said.
At a conference part-organised by AMiE last year, there was a commitment to investigating “the opportunities to revitalise an existing Church of England church and/or plant with or without diocesan approval” (News, 3 October).
This article, published in the Church Times on Monday 17 April, written by Madeleine Davies, reports the following comment from Peter Jensen, Secretary of GAFCON, and former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, on the aims of the conservative evangelical movement that aims to -re-convert the Church of England and other part of the world-wide Anglican Communion, to a more Sola-Scriptura version of Christianity:
“”We have planned for the expansion of our movement in order to touch the lives of many more Anglicans with gospel fellowship,” it says. “As part of this we have identified a clear need for theological education and the training of leaders, especially bishops, and we have started work on both of these priorities.”
Not content with the conversion of non-Christians to faith in Christ; this group of mainly African Prelates – together with a former Sydney Archbishop – are intent on converting the more liberal, Western, Provinces of the Anglican Communion to a more conservative, evangelical version of classical Anglicanism that has radical ideas about Male Headship and a Gay-Free Church that is consonant with its own understanding of the Gospel remit. They even propose to offer ‘theological education’ for bishops they see as not meeting their expectation of conservative, evangelical theology.
Interestingly, for the Provinces of Australia and New Zealand, one of the prime movers in this desire to set back the clock on matters of gender and sexuality in the Church is none other than former Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen; whose own influence on the mostly-African Primates who make up the majority of the GAFCON group has been to consolidate their cultural opposition to Women Clergy, the Ordination of Gay Clergy, and the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions, which is at the heart of the current dispute between the Churches of the West, and those of the Global South, which threatens the very ‘Bonds of Friendship’, that used to hold together the character of ‘Unity in Diversity’ paradigm at the heart of the world-wide Anglican Communion.
Now that the conservative GAFCON Primates have planted their own surrogate Church in the heartland of the Mother Church of England (AMiE: Anglican Mission in England), it seems their sole objective is to continue with their mission objective – which began with the establishment of other surrogate churches in the USA and Canada, now united in ACNA; the Anglican Church in North America – is to claim the moral high-ground for its revolutionary mission as professed in its ‘Jerusalem Statement of Faith’ as the only way of being the ‘orthodox’ Anglican Church.
Time alone will tell how long it will take the Church of England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take assert the claim to represent the traditional ‘Anglican’ title for its legal representation as the established Church in England. From that, might well follow the re-organisation of the Anglican Communion – to be a fellowship of Churches around the world, continuing their relationship to the original ‘Bonds of Friendship’ with the Church of England, centred around the traditional Instruments of the See of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, and the Anglican Consultative Council.
It should be noted that the GAFCON Primates have already resiled from their relationship with these formerly-accepted ‘Instruments of Unity’, preferring their own Gafcon Primates’ Council and the ‘Jerusalem Statement’ of faith.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand