Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gafcon conference 'rearranged'

Tuesday, 19th February 2008. 5:39pm

By: George Conger.

The Gafcon organizing committee, which is arranging an alternative to the Anglican Lambeth Conference, has announced that the dates and venue of the Jerusalem conference have been changed.

Following consultations with the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Rev Suheil Dawani, the conference will now be broken into two parts: a consultation for church leaders in Jordan from June 18-22 and a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from June 22-29.

"We are very grateful for the feedback that we have received on the many complex issues that confront us,” the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen (pictured) said on Feb 19.

"The emphasis of our time together will be our future in the Anglican Communion and the reformation and renewal of our common life rooted in the Holy Scriptures and our common faith in Jesus Christ,” he said.

On Saturday, the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Rev Suheil Dawani urged Dr Jensen to reconsider holding Gafcon in Jerusalem. During his tour of Australia, Bishop Dawani told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation holding Gafcon in Jerusalem was politically unwise.

"We are dealing with many different issues and we have other priorities there," he said, on “the communicable level, the inter-faith level, as well as on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Last month Dr Jensen and the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola travelled to Jerusalem to discuss the June meeting, which critics allege will be a rival Lambeth Conference --- a charge vigorously denied by its organizers. Bishop Dawani shared his concerns over the political ramifications of the conference for the small Arab Anglican community within the ongoing Palestinian and Anglican civil wars.

The first week of the meeting will consist of a smaller, invitation only gathering of the conference leadership, its theological resource group, those bishops serving in majority Islamic settings and other key leaders. “The Jerusalem pilgrimage will focus on worship, prayer, discussions and Bible Study, shaped by the context of the Holy Land,” the announcement said.

By separating the conferences political and spiritual components into distinctive components, the Gafcon organizers hope to assuage Bishop Suheil’s fears of dire political consequences for his community, while honouring the Nigerian wish to meet in Jerusalem. Meeting in Israel for a ‘pilgrimage’ and in Jordan for a ‘consultation’ accomplishes this aim, they believe.

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