(sorry, weebly doesn't support embedding achors, much to my dismay)
Walking Together in Service of God in the World: the Communique of the 2016 Primates' Gathering
Statement by the GAFCON Chairman and the GAFCON General Secretary
Primates Meeting 2016 Update from Foley Beach
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Why the GAFCON Primates Chose to Thrash it Out, by David Ould
Man Plans His Course, but the Lord Establishes His Steps: Fr. Adam's comments on the whole affair
Walking Together in the Service of God in the World
The Communique of the 2016 Primates' Gathering
We came knowing that the 2016 Primates’ meeting would be concerned with the differences among us in regard to our teaching on matters of human sexuality. We were also eager to address wider areas of concern.
The meeting started by agreeing the agenda. The first agreed item was to discuss an important point of contention among Anglicans worldwide: the recent change to the doctrine of marriage by The Episcopal Church in the USA.
Over the past week the unanimous decision of the Primates was to walk together, however painful this is, and despite our differences, as a deep expression of our unity in the body of Christ. We looked at what that meant in practical terms.
We received the recommendation of a working group of our members which took up the task of how our Anglican Communion of Churches might walk together and our unity be strengthened. Their work, consistent with previous statements of the Primates’ meetings,addressed what consequences follow for The Episcopal Church in relation to the Anglican Communion following its recent change of marriage doctrine. The recommendations in paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Addendum A below are:
“It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.
“We have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a Task Group to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.”
We will develop this process so that it can also be applied when any unilateral decisions on matters of doctrine and polity are taken that threaten our unity.
The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.
The Primates recognise that the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. Where this has happened they express their profound sorrow and affirm again that God's love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression.
We affirmed the consultation that had taken place in preparation for the meeting by Archbishop Welby and commended his approach for future events within the Communion.
The consideration of the required application for admission to membership of the Communion of the Anglican Church of North America was recognised as properly belonging to the Anglican Consultative Council. The Primates recognise that such an application, were it to come forward, would raise significant questions of polity and jurisdiction.
In the wake of the climate change conference in Paris last month, the meeting heard about a petition of almost two million signatures co-coordinated by the Anglican Environment Network. Reports were made about moves to divest from fossil fuels, the expansion of the African Deserts and the struggle for survival of the peoples of the Pacific as island life is threatened in many places by the rise of sea levels.
The meeting discussed the reality of religiously motivated violence and its impact on people and communities throughout the world. Primates living in places where such violence is a daily reality spoke movingly and passionately about their circumstances and the effect on their members. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has taken important initiatives in bringing people together from a range of faith communities globally for discussion and mutual accountability. The Anglican Primates repudiated any religiously motivated violence and expressed solidarity with all who suffer from this evil in the world today.
The Primates look forward to the proposal being brought to the Anglican Consultative Council for comprehensive child protection measures to be available throughout all the churches of the Communion.
In a presentation on evangelism, the Primates rejoiced that the Church of Jesus Christ lives to bear witness to the transforming power of the love of God in Jesus Christ. The Primates were energised by the opportunity to share experiences of evangelism and motivated to evangelise with their people.
“The Primates joyfully commit themselves and the Anglican Church, to proclaim throughout the world the person and work of Jesus Christ, unceasingly and authentically, inviting all to embrace the beauty and joy of the Gospel.”
(See Addendum B.)
Primates discussed tribalism, ethnicity, nationalism and patronage networks, and the deep evil of corruption. They reflected that these issues become inextricably connected to war and violence, and derive from poverty. They agreed to ask the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion to commission a study for the next Primates’ meeting. The Primates agreed to meet again in 2017 and 2019.
The Primates owe a debt of gratitude to the staff of the Anglican Communion Office, and especially the Secretary General, to the staff at Lambeth Palace and at Church House Westminster. The Primates were especially grateful for the warm welcome, generous hospitality and kindness offered by the Dean of Canterbury and all at the Cathedral. Their contribution was very important in setting the mood of the meeting in prayer and mutual listening. Thanks to the Community of St Anselm for their prayer, help and support, Jean Vanier for his inspiring addresses, and the Community of St Gregory for the loan of the crosier head to sit alongside the St Augustine gospels.
The Primates received their time together as a gift from God and experienced many signs of God's presence amongst us. They appreciated the personal care and humility shown by the Archbishop of Canterbury especially in his chairing of the meeting. We leave our week together enriched by the communion we share and strengthened by the faithful witness of Anglicans across the world. The Primates deeply appreciate the prayers of many throughout the world over our time together.
- We gathered as Anglican Primates to pray and consider how we may preserve our unity in Christ given the ongoing deep differences that exist among us concerning our understanding of marriage.
- Recent developments in the Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage. Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation.
- All of us acknowledge that these developments have caused further deep pain throughout our Communion.
- The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.
- In keeping with the consistent position of previous Primates’ meetings such unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.
- Such actions further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us. This results in significant distance between us and places huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and the ways in which we express our historic and ongoing relationships.
- It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years TEC no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.
- We have asked the ABC to appoint a Task Group to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.
We, as Anglican Primates, affirm together that the Church of Jesus Christ lives to bear witness to the transforming love of God in the power of the Spirit throughout the world.
It is clear God’s world has never been in greater need of this resurrection love and we long to make it known.
We commit ourselves through evangelism to proclaim the person and work of Jesus Christ, unceasingly and authentically, inviting all to embrace the beauty and joy of the Gospel.
We rely entirely on the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us speech, brings new birth, leads us into the truth revealed in Christ Jesus thus building the church.
All disciples of Jesus Christ, by virtue of our baptism, are witnesses to and of Jesus in faith, hope and love.
We pledge ourselves together to pray, listen, love, suffer and sacrifice that the world may know that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Come Holy Spirit.
Statement by the GAFCON Chairman and General Secretary
The Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala and The Most Rev. Peter Jensen
We are pleased that Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America has played a full part in the Canterbury meeting of Primates and that sanctions have been applied to the Episcopal Church of the United States, (TEC) recognising the need for mutual accountability on matters of doctrine within the family of the Communion.
However, this action must not be seen as an end, but as a beginning. There is much that causes us concern, especially the failure to recognise the fact that the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) has also rejected the collegial mind of the Communion by unilaterally permitting the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of those in active homosexual relationships. We fear that other provinces will do the same.
Since the beginning of the crisis in the Communion brought about by the actions of both TEC and the ACoC, the Anglican instruments of unity have been unable to guard biblical truth and restore godly order. There must therefore be doubt about the effectiveness of the sanctions that have been agreed.
In particular, it must be recognised that the continuing brokenness of the Communion is not the result simply of failed relationships, but is caused by the persistent rejection of biblical and apostolic faith as set out in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. We are therefore disappointed that the Primates’ statement makes no reference to the need for repentance.
The need for the GAFCON movement is being recognised by an ever increasing number of people and we are encouraged in our conviction that God has called us to work for an Anglican Communion which is a truly global family of Churches. We long to see a united, confident and courageous witness to God who by the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ has given us an unshakeable hope and assures us of his unfailing love.
Primates' Meeting 2016 Update from Foley Beach
I am writing to you from Canterbury, England late on the night of January 14th, 2016. Thank you for your prayers and support this week. Although I’m tired at the end of a long day, I wanted to send you an update.
I participated fully in the meeting, where the first and primary agenda item was addressing the Episcopal Church’s changes to the doctrine of marriage. We spent most of the week discussing this issue and seeking to come to a common conclusion.
We unanimously agreed that these changes “represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage,” and we wrestled with what the consequences should be.
The GAFCON and Global South Primates were tremendous in their leadership in the meeting, and made a strong impact in the final decision. I confess that I have mixed feelings about the sanctions.
The sanctions are strong, but they are not strong enough, and to my deep disappointment, they didn’t include the Anglican Church of Canada as they should.
With that said, it took many steps for the Anglican Communion to come to this current crisis. This is a good step back in the right direction, but it will take many more if the Communion is to be restored.
Thank you again for your incredible prayer support, and let us stay on our mission – to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ!
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Why the GAFCON Primates Chose to Thrash it Out
January 15, 2016
For some this has been seen as a weakening of resolve or even a failure to uphold the Scriptural mandate to not meet nor even validate false teachers. The question was only further sharpened by the now well-publicised decision of Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda to leave on Tuesday after his call for TEC and ACoC to absent themselves was defeated. My initial reaction was to wonder why the rest of the GAFCON Primates didn’t leave too.
As always, the reality is more complex than we first realise. Sources from within the conservative camp tell me that the decision not to leave was based on a number of key factors.
- For 20 of the Primates it was their first gathering and a large number simply weren’t properly informed as to what TEC and ACoC had been doing over the past 20 years. In our rapid information culture of the west this seems incredible, but that’s the reality. Those Primates needed to be briefed and reasoned with so they could understand the gravity of the situation.
- Uganda’s decision to walk was view as one of integrity and the choice of the remaining GAFCON Primates not to leave had nothing to do with a lack of solidarity.
- It was evident as the meeting progressed that as more and more Primates understood exactly what had been transpiring in North America they were joining up with the GAFCON position. On Tuesday when Uganda chose to leave this shift was taking place. The other GAFCON Primates understood that there was more to be gained by staying and carrying on the discussions so as to win more over.
- In particular a number of key Global South Primates who had previously stood somewhat on the edge of GAFCON were increasingly standing square alongside them. I am led to understand that Archbishop Mouneer Anis (Middle East) was a key mover here. The GAFCON Primates chose to remain and cement that joint position rather than leave.
Ultimately, the choice to stay was weighed in favour of continuing to win over more Primates rather that some failure to stand to principle. That’s not to say that the process put in place by Welby’s staff wasn’t at times difficult to work with (and some would even claim outright manipulative and designed to avoid any clear decision making).
When the final vote came it was passed by 3 quarters of those present; something that my sources tell me would not have been achieved even on the Tuesday. When Uganda left his vote was lost – 15 in favour and 20 against. Even over the next 36 hours there was therefore a shift of up to a further 15 Primates towards the conservative position.
The final sanctions were centred around the question of same-sex marriage, implemented by TEC at their latest General Convention. This is also the reason that the ACoC are not included in the disciplinary measures. Their General Synod has not yet progressed as far as TEC has, only authorising “same-sex blessings”. While the distinction may be somewhat artificial it had to be dealt with. TEC’s changing of marriage rites was a key factor in the strength of the final vote. As someone very close to the conservative Primates told me:
TEC has engaged in all sorts of unbiblical behaviour for the last 15 years, but it was the changes they made this summer at their General Convention that galvanised the room.
Should they have left early? Should they have even turned up? Opinions will still differ. But why they stayed is now becoming clear.
Man Plans His Course, but the Lord Establishes His Steps
on receiving the 2016 Primates' Communique with circumspection
Christ Church Anglican on the Main Line
First, I might point out that the responses coming from all quarters are quite interesting. As a general rule, conservative Christians from outside the Anglican world greeted the Communique (or rather, Addendum A of the Communique, which was leaked a day early) with adulation. Roman Catholic and evangelical observers see this as the first sign of the triumph of Global South Christianity over the decadent and decaying West, and are hoping their own churches are paying attention. Their sense of God's movements may very well be correct.
On the other hand, conservatives from within the Anglican fold have generally been much more circumspect. Many of them have been down a similar road before. Many of them have been burned by the straight up manipulations of the Anglican Communion Office in London and its cynical attempts to paper over real division. Many of them have seen agreements made before and then quickly filed away and forgotten. So much of the liberal West's posturing these past few years has been largely based on the pretension that Lambeth 1998 I.10 didn't happen, that the Windsor Report of 2004 didn't happen, that the Dar es Salaam Communique of 2007 didn't happen (publications of the official Instruments of Communion all). Claims to "Communion" are laughable at best when the Communion's own voice is ignored, and this is precisely why the Global South Anglicans are so distrustful of "official communiques." They recognize that this Communique does represent a step in the right direction, but they are concerned by what precisely was left out of the final Communique (or again, more accurately, Addendum A of said Communique) and some of the slippery language. At no point, for example, is the authority of Scripture even mentioned, let alone championed. Vague appeals to "walking together in love" and the "grace of Jesus Christ" bandied about with alarming frequency in the final documents have been used as pious sounding cloaks before by those whose intentions are anything but pious or orthodox. What's more, the "three year suspension" of The Episcopal Church comes with no strings attached, no demand for repentance, and no mechanism for determining if it should continue when the time is up. Even the Anglican Communion Office couldn't bring itself to call this "discipline" but rather only "consequences." What, pray tell, is the difference, other than one sounding more politically correct? The attitude of traditional Anglicans is somewhat understandably "we shall see."
The reaction among Episcopalians has been what you might expect: prideful and defiant. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry made an allusion to his slave ancestors and how he feels enslaved again (or something to that effect), which is a curious card to play in a context where it was mostly black Africans, themselves rising up against the boot of white colonialism, who led the charge against his church. Only the Western white establishment came to his defense at Canterbury, surely a telling sign of the charade (or delusion?) of such manipulative rhetoric. Another leading Episcopalian said she took "pride" in being a martyr for justice and inclusivity, seemingly aloof to the reality that pride cometh before the fall. Others have talked about the Primates' exceeding their authority, a complaint which exposes a pragmatic ecclesiology fiercely jealous only for local prerogative (the rest of the church be damned!) which has little basis in the Scriptures or the catholic tradition. All the while, these leaders claim their continued allegiance to "Anglicanism." What that term means for them is unclear, but it certainly does not mean in any way adherence to the standard formularies of our tradition. It is precisely this latter definition, long held by the Global South as the only viable one, which has, temporarily at least, won the day. Whatever Episcopalians think they mean by "Anglican," the Global South has finally been able to officially call out the emperor's nakedness for what it is. The Episcopal Church is, naturally, crying foul. Since they cannot appeal to a robustly biblical and theological ecclesiology, what more can they do but kick up dust and grind their teeth about "proper protocol" and "canonical authority"? One wonders where their concern for decorum went when their own canons were run roughshod over for being in the way of their great prophetic march to Hegelian glory. (See the update below for a typical Episcopal expression of this anemic and disingenuous defense.)
What are my thoughts on all this? I suppose my glosses to the reactions already offered gives you a taste.
I also have concerns about the fuzziness of the some of the language in the Communique. I am quite certain that the full document released only today significantly walks back from the hard edges of the censures imposed on The Episcopal Church, which are included as a mere "addendum," and significantly confuses the extent of the Communion's resolve to solve this crisis along truly biblical lines. (Seeing that their work was done, I'm told the Global South Primates largely left a day early, and I don't know at what point the full Communique was drafted, though I suspect it was after they left.) As I mentioned, the Bible's authority, or the "faith once for all delivered to the saints" are not concepts generally present in these documents. Language that "[changes to marriage canons] represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage" makes it seem like the only offense committed here was against "the majority." It should actually read: "[such changes] represent a fundamental departure from the faith once for all delivered to the saints" if the narrative of the GAFCON bishops is the correct one. Such slipperiness is everywhere in this document. Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I have seen how these language games are played and the devil truly is in the details. Remember that the battle over Nicene orthodoxy in the fourth century was fought over a single "i" (the letter, not the pronoun) in the Creed, and it was right that the Nicene party prevailed. Whole theologies hang in the balance, some faithful to the Scriptures, others possessing only an appearance of godliness but denying its power.
That all said, perhaps in the months to come we will find that the fallout over the Communique will be more important than the language of the Communique itself. The mainstream media, hardly an ally of the orthodox voice, has almost unanimously reported that the Communique represents a "suspension" of The Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. To those lacking a full knowledge of how the Instruments of Unity actually work, this may sound pretty damning. I even saw the word "excommunicated" in one report, hardly an accurate term, But The Episcopal Church will continue to be listed on the Anglican Communion's website as a full member for the next three years, and there will continue to be no mention of the Anglican Church in North America. Nevertheless, it has been the media's reports which have driven the response from conservative and liberal alike. (Perhaps this explains the circumspection of conservative Anglicans, who are paying more attention to the actual language of the Communique.) Traditional Christianity has been resoundingly defended, so the media reports are saying, and if people are going off only what they see in the media, conservative voices in the rest of the Anglican world who have hitherto been in a "wait and see" posture may now feel emboldened to take a stand with our GAFCON brothers and sisters. One feels rather like the Apostle Paul: whether out of malice or not, at least Christ is preached!
I am encouraged by the faithfulness of the GAFCON Primates and I am deeply humbled by their leadership at the gathering. Too often, in the American context at least, have conservatives simply cut and run from denominational institutions, guaranteeing victory for the progressive party with all the legitimacy denominational names, buildings, and endowments inevitably give them. The GAFCON leadership has said "no!" to all of this. "This is our church" they have stated by their actions, "and we will not be the ones to leave it. Those who have changed the teaching, they are the ones who must leave!" They love the Anglican tradition and they are willing to fight for it. Their efforts resulted in turning almost half the room from neutral to support within only a couple days, and that is remarkable. Had they walked out, the Anglican Communion, or at least its official structures (which is all progressives and the watching world see) would be lost to the Kingdom forever. I too love the Anglican tradition, and I for one will stand with them to fight for it. I am also heartened to learn that Archbishop Beach was able to present to all the Primates about what God is doing in our church (many of whom had only heard "rumors" about us before, ++Beach said later), and that he had the foresight to hand out to all the Primates a copy of the new ACNA Catechism. That was a very shrewd maneuver on his part.
I think it was shrewd because I suspect the real results of this meeting will be fleshed out in the coming months behind the scenes in the relationships that are now cultivated (or not). GAFCON has effectively told its story and increased its support, and may soon increase its official ranks among the Anglican provinces around the world. The charade of The Episcopal Church that "Anglican" just means buildings and institutions has been, at least potentially, exposed for the nonviable farce that it is. Now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, I predict they will only fall headlong all the faster into exclusively identifying themselves by the narrowest possible constituency--liberal white elites--until they diminish to irrelevancy, They no longer need to maintain the pretension of being "in communion" with Global South Anglicans who have succeeded in formally censuring them, so we will finally see them speaking more frankly about what they are actually after rather than hiding behind "orthodoxese" in a manipulative effort to keep the conservatives paying their assessments and otherwise assure themselves of their own righteousness.
But GAFCON will now need to work very hard to cultivate the favor it has begun to win for itself in the Communion if it is to maintain any momentum (the dissemination of the ACNA catechism may help!). At the same time, they should expect The Episcopal Church to be using its considerable financial and cultural resources to win over isolated bishops and activist groups in the Global South (a strategy they have officially and publicly already committed themselves to at last year's General Convention in one of the lesser noted resolutions), and GAFCON will need to strategically confront their efforts. Where hearts and minds in the Communion are in three years' time will ultimately determine whether last week's Primates' Meeting was the beginning of the salvation of the Anglican Communion, or the last gasp of orthodoxy in an institution that decadent Western elitists will simply not cede to the growing work of God in the Global South. Only time will tell.
Nevertheless, God reigns supreme over his church. Man may plan his course, but only God establishes his steps and, to mix metaphors, if God does not build the house, they labor in vain who build it. One sentiment I wholeheartedly share with non-Anglican traditionalists is that God seems to be moving southward. He has not given up his church by a long shot. It is very important for us Western Christians who remain committed to the historic faith to remember this when we are tempted to be overwhelmed by our own local problems. I, for one, am honored and humbled to be in fellowship with the Global South. May God bless and protect them, and may Jesus Christ be praised!
(UPDATE: the President of General Convention's House of Deputies, Gay Jennings, has already announced she and the Episcopal delegation are going to defy the Primates' wishes when the Anglican Consultative Council (whose permanent office is the Anglican Communion Office in London) convenes in Zambia in April, claiming that the Primates, you guessed it, have no authority over the ACC. Be that as it may (I honestly suspect that were the letter of the law strictly followed, Jennings may have a case), if the Episcopal delegation is allowed full voice and vote in that body at that time, GAFCON and likely the whole Global South will explode. Of all the Instruments of Unity, the ACC has perhaps been the most beholden to Western interests (read; money) and the most willing to ride rough shod over the consensus of the Communion speaking through other Instruments. If the ACC is immune to the Primates' censure, then little reform of the Communion will be possible. Things are already getting interesting.)