Conference in Israel for Anglicans, June 15-22, 2008
Rumours have been around for a week or two, and now the following announcement has been made on December 26, 2007):
“Orthodox Primates with other leading bishops from across the globe are to invite fellow Bishops, senior clergy and laity from every province of the Anglican Communion to a unique eight-day event, to be known as the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) 2008.
The event, which was agreed at a meeting of Primates in mid-December 2007 in Nairobi, will be in the form of a pilgrimage back to the roots of the Church’s faith. The Holy Land is the planned venue. From 15-22 June, 2008, Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-catholic wings of the church will make pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where Christ was born, ministered, died, rose again, ascended into heaven, sent his Holy Spirit, and where the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out, to strengthen them for what they believe will be difficult days ahead.”
As yet the venue, the speakers or the costs have not been made known. We are told that it is not meant to be an alternative to the Lambeth Conference of July 2008. Nevertheless, it is planned as an event that those bishops who will not go to Lambeth can attend—while also allowing bishops, who are going to Lambeth, also to attend. With the Bishops at the Conference will also be clergy and laity, probably more of these than of Bishops.
The Provinces promoting it are Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Southern Cone of South America. Working with them is the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, the American Common Cause and Anglican Communion Network, and various other evangelical bodies from England and elsewhere.
It is not clear whether the Conference is supported by other Global South Primates—e.g. S.E. Asia—or, more importantly, whether sufficient time has been allowed for bishops, clergy and laity to raise the money and be free to get to Israel in six months time. There are no cheap flights to Israel from many parts of the world, and one wonders whether the bishops and clergy of East and West Africa—let alone the laity-- will be able to afford to get there. Each American going from the East coast area will need a minimum of $2,000.00 to pay for airfare, accommodation and the like. Those from Britain will need nearly 1,000.00 sterling.
From the minimal publicity for the Conference, it appears that the organizers see ahead a time of spiritual and moral struggle/ warfare in the Anglican Family and they are determined to be rightly prepared and rightly armed for this battle. In other words, the Global Anglican Communion, as we have known it, is very likely to split, and this group will form what they see as the Orthodox part or wing of the Anglican Family.
Without doubting the zeal and commitment of the promoters and organizers of this proposed Conference on Mount Zion (as it were), I have to recall that by the standards of Anglican Orthodoxy of not too many years ago, most of the leaders would be judged to fall short of it—and seriously so. So in a real sense, in terms of the content of the classic Anglican Way, they are commending an orthodox-lite type of religion.
Most of them ordain women (which is clearly against both the biblical doctrine of headship and the long-standing tradition of the Church) and most of them have adopted forms of worship with doctrinal content which are at odds with the doctrinal content of the classic Anglican Formularies (see. e.g., the modern prayer book, mischievously called “The Book of Common Prayer,” of Nigeria, and the similar Canadian BAS of 1985 and the ECUSA Book of 1979 favoured by the Common Cause).
So I for one cannot be enthusiastic about this development for I see it as a clear intention to secede from, or break up, the Anglican Communion of Churches in the name of a supposed Orthodoxy which is, as I have stated, at best orthodox-LITE.
The Conference site (www.gafcon.org) says this in terms of splitting:
“Aren't you splitting the church? No. Communion depends on having something in common. Churches in the Global South are growing. They're passionate about the truth and their faith. We are building on this strength. As the Anglican Communion develops, some of the old bonds are loosening, and some new bonds are being formed. That's a good thing. These bonds involve churches which are growing, and which have something distinctive to say to the world.”
This is I think written in coded language. The old bonds are loosening (e.g., with C of E etc) and new ones are being formed (e.g., with Common Cause in North America). Secession is intended: indeed it is necessary for mission.
My view is different.
Far better that the Israel Conference for 2008 be cancelled ,and ALL the Bishops go to Lambeth and engage in genuine conversation with those with whom they disagree, in order to work out ways of making the ideal for which to strive to be —Mission based on truth with/in unity and unity in/ be cancelled with truth.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon St Stephen’s Day, Dec 26, 2007 firstname.lastname@example.org