Saturday, July 19, 2008

Anglicans Face Irreconcilable Differences

In a Church Times interview with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rebecca Paveley wrote, "Dr Williams is careful to convey that he takes the concerns of those who attended GAFCON seriously. Our conversation is peppered with references to these “serious concerns”; but GAFCON’s Jerusalem Declaration, and its inherent attack on his authority, is clearly a significant source of his frustration.

And it may be this emotion that leads him to dwell on the potential for division within the GAFCON movement. “It is not as if it is a single-issue thing. There are motivations and perspectives even there, which pull in slightly different directions, and, I think, depend on different visions in the Church.

In the interview Dr. Williams remarks, “Someone like the Archbishop of Sydney, whom I greatly respect as a theologian, has a very clearly worked out theology of the Church, which is much more federal and locally independent. I am not sure that would be exactly the theology you would find in some of the traditionalist American bishops. I will watch to see how some of the theological discussions evolve.”

A Church Times report highlights one of the points of conflict within Anglicanism: opposing views of the episcopacy. Traditionally the bishop is one who upholds, even at great personal risk, the apostolic Faith once delivered. However, at Lambeth many hold a democracy view of the episcopacy as a representative of the people's will, certainly not apostolic or catholic view. Consider this excerpt from July 18:

This is a serious flaw in Lambeth 2008. Laypeople and clergy are not represented directly at the Lambeth Conference (one of the structural questions about the governance of the Communion, though not one that we hear many bishops asking). For this reason alone, bishops have a duty to be as widely informed as possible on different approaches to theological and ethical matters, regardless of their personal preferences. Thus, even if individual bishops believe that the differences that exist in Anglicanism at present stop them from receiving at the same altar (we believe otherwise), it nevertheless behoves them to attend the Lambeth Conference in order to converse with those with whom they disagree.

Fortunately, many conservatives have chosen to do so. Thus, many of those who attended GAFCON — the Tanzanian bishops, for example — have come to Lambeth to continue the debate begun in Jerusalem. They will find themselves rubbing shoulders with many others who call themselves conservatives but who have chosen not to walk apart. It is this more than anything else that gives us hope for the future of Anglicanism. The jury is still out on how much stronger the bond between provinces can be made. Dr Williams was persuasive in our interview last week when he spoke of the contribution of the internet, which, paradoxically, in the light of the criticisms above, forces a greater intimacy on the Communion, so that one part of it cannot function without affecting the others. Our hope is that the bishops in Canterbury find a way of asserting this as a strength of Anglicanism, not a weakness.

Here is the GAFCON response:

The Global Anglican Future Conference gathered leaders from around the Anglican Communion for pilgrimage, prayer and serious theological reflection. We are grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for engaging with the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. We wish to respond to some of his concerns.

On faith and false teaching.
We warmly welcome the Archbishop’s affirmation of the Jerusalem Statement as positive and encouraging and in particular that it would be shared by the vast majority of Anglicans. We are however concerned that he should think we assume that all those outside GAFCON are proclaiming another gospel. In no way do we believe that we are the only ones to hold a correct interpretation of scripture according to its plain meaning. We believe we are holding true to the faith once delivered to the saints as it has been received in the Anglican tradition. Many are contending for and proclaiming the orthodox faith throughout the Anglican Communion. Their efforts are, however, undermined by those who are clearly pursuing a false gospel. We are not claiming to be a sinless church. Our concern is with false teaching which justifies sin in the name of Christianity. These are not merely matters of different perspectives and emphases. They have led to unbiblical practice in faith and morals, resulting in impaired and broken communion. We long for all orthodox Anglicans to join in resisting this development.

On the uniqueness of Christ.
We are equally concerned to hear that ‘the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God’ is ‘not in dispute’ in the Anglican Communion. Leading bishops in The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and even the Church of England have denied the need to evangelise among people of other faiths, promoted and attended syncretistic events and, in some cases, refused to call Jesus Lord and Saviour.

On legitimacy.
In the current disorder in the Communion, GAFCON came together as a gathering of lay leaders, clergy and bishops from over 25 countries on the basis of their confession of the common historic Christian faith. They formed a Council in obedience to the word of God to defend the faith and the faithful who are at risk in some Anglican dioceses and congregations.

GAFCON, where the governing structures of many provinces were present, affirmed such a Council of the GAFCON movement as its body to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith.

In their primates and other bishops, the assembly saw a visible connection to the catholic and apostolic Church and the evangelical and catholic faith which many have received from the Church of England and the historic see of Canterbury. It is this faith which we seek to affirm.

On authority.
As the Virginia Report notes, in the Anglican tradition, authority is not concentrated in a single centre, but rather across a number of persons and bodies. This Council is a first step towards bringing greater order to the Communion, both for the sake of bringing long overdue discipline and as a reforming initiative for our institutions.

Whilst we respect territoriality, it cannot be absolute. For missionary and pastoral reasons there have long been overlapping jurisdictions in Anglicanism itself – historically in South Africa, New Zealand, the Gulf and Europe. In situations of false teaching, moreover, it has sometimes been necessary for other bishops to intervene to uphold apostolic faith and order.

On discipline.
Finally, with regard to the Archbishop’s concern about people who have been disciplined in one jurisdiction and have been accepted in another, we are clear that any such cases have been investigated thoroughly and openly with the fullest possible transparency. Bishops and parishes have been given oversight only after the overseeing bishops have been fully satisfied of no moral impediments to their action.

We enclose a response to the St Andrew’s Draft Covenant.

We assure the Archbishop of Canterbury of our respect as the occupier of an historic see which has been used by God to the benefit of his church and continue to pray for him to be given wisdom and discernment.

The Most Rev Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria
The Most Rev Justice Akrofi, Primate of West Africa
The Most Rev Emmanuel Kolini, Primate of Rwanda
The Most Rev Valentine Mokiwa, Primate of Tanzania
The Most Rev Benjamin Nzmibi, Primate of Kenya
The Most Rev Henry Orombi, Primate of Uganda
The Most Rev Gregory Venables, Primate of The Southern Cone
July 18 2008

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