I’m very encouraged to read this statement just out from the Presiding Bishop of The Reformed Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Leonard Riches. It certainly confirms the REC’s place within GAFCON . . . and that my dream of being part of a global orthodox Anglican communion is coming true (though not as I originally envisioned!).
July 15, 2008
TO THE CLERGY AND CONGREGATIONS
OF THE REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Grace and peace to all of you in the Name of our gracious and eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I write to provide you with a report on the historic gathering of faithful Anglican Christians which took place in the city of Jerusalem from June 22 through 29, 2008. Participation in this event, known as the Global Anglican Future Conference, was by invitation only, and drew together nearly 1,200 participants representing some 35 million of the world's orthodox Anglicans from more than 25 nations on 6 continents. The Reformed Episcopal Church was represented by 14 persons including five of our bishops. The Rt. Rev. Charles W. Dorrington, the Rt. Rev. Alphonza Gadsden, Sr., the Rt. Rev. Royal U. Grote, Jr., the Rt. Rev. Ray R. Sutton, and I were all privileged to be part of this unprecedented gathering.
Throughout the span of 8 days pilgrims devoted themselves intensively to worship in daily plenary sessions, to prayer in small groups, to Bible study and discussion, and to substantive examination of significant issues in skillfully conducted workshops and discussion groups. Throughout the week we traveled together to the holy places of Jerusalem and its immediate environs, as well as to more distant places such as Bethlehem and Galilee. An especially moving experience came on Wednesday, June 25, when all pilgrims assembled on the southern steps of the Temple, joining in a service of rededication and renewed commitment of Christ, to the truth of the Gospel, and to the mission of the church.
The purpose of the Global Anglican Future Conference (or 'GAFCON') was stated by the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria, in his opening address. The Archbishop said that "GAFCON is a godly instrument to reshape, reform, renew and reclaim a true Anglican, biblical, orthodox Christianity that is firmly rooted in the historic faith and in the ancient formularies....We are here to inaugurate and determine the roadmap to our future."
The logo of GAFCON bears the two words "Unity" and "Truth" superimposed upon the cross. The truth-claims of Christianity were the reiterated emphasis of the Conference, because they are the bedrock upon which historic Anglican Christianity was established. Every conference speaker and workshop leader made clear, in his own way, that Christ's desire for the unity of His people is always based upon truth. "Sanctify them through the truth; Thy Word is truth." (St. John 17:17)
The outcome of this eventful week in the Holy City is articulated in the GAFCON Conference Statement, and in the Jerusalem Declaration which it embodies. This important document is also attached to this letter (both are on our website here), and I commend it to the serious attention and study of all of our people. The following matters are worthy of special note.
-- Our core identity as Anglicans is clearly defined as based upon the Holy Scriptures as God's Word written; upon the catholic creeds and the ancient Councils of the undivided church; and upon the historic formularies of our Anglican heritage: the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.
-- The Jerusalem Declaration offers a clear and forthright articulation of our present-day commitment, mission and purpose as a fellowship of faithful Anglican Christians.
-- The establishment of a Primates' Council marks a step toward restoring the church to the ancient, conciliar form of order and government by which substantive matters of belief and practice can be collectively considered, effectively determined, and strongly upheld, so that both orthodoxy and orthopraxis are maintained and promoted in the life of the church.
-- The Primates' signed affirmation, attached to the Conference Statement and the Jerusalem Declaration, provides authentication and recognition to the Reformed Episcopal Church as full partners in the realigned global Anglican fellowship which has emerged from GAFCON, together with other "confessing Anglican jurisdictions" who also agree to promote the Gospel and defend the faith.
-- The commitment of the Primates anticipates the formation of a new ecclesiastical structure for North America, to be presented to the Primates' Council for recognition as a province. Work on the formation of this new structure has engaged the Lead Bishops' Executive Committee throughout the past ten months, ever since the College of Bishops of the Common Cause Partnership met in Pittsburgh in September, 2007, and commissioned us with the task. Relationships within this new structure will continue to be federated, with jurisdictions retaining individual identities, integrities, and autonomy.
GAFCON establishes a new alignment and marks a new beginning for faithful Anglicans throughout the world. In particular, it launches a new era of opportunity for the Reformed Episcopal Church. With joy and thanksgiving we take our place as members of a global family and fellowship, uniting in witness, mission, and purpose to bear testimony to Jesus Christ as the only Name whereby men must be saved, and to serve Him, together with all faithful Anglicans, in building His church.
Faithfully yours, in Christ,
(The Most Rev.) Leonard W. Riches