Monday, June 25, 2018

GAFCON, ACNA and Anglo-Catholics

By all reputable accounts I’ve heard, GAFCON 3 was an excellent conference.  And I concur in its closing Letter to the Churches.

At the same time, there was a serious shortcoming that occurred before the conference began.  And if this shortcoming was addressed during the conference, I am not aware of it.  GAFCON leaders failed to address with adequate firmness the consecration of a woman bishop in South Sudan in violation of an agreed moratorium.  Yes, there was a response of a sort early this year.  But she was apparently free to come to the Jerusalem conference as a full participant this past week.

It appears that because of that a number of Anglo-Catholics decided not to attend, including Bishops Keith Ackerman and Bill Ilgenfritz.  It turns out the South Sudan delegation did attend due to visa issues.  But that did not become clear until near the beginning of the conference.  In any case, the damage was done; the number of Anglo-Catholics at Jerusalem was fewer than in the past.

As for ACNA, I will not rehash the aftermath of the Conclave concerning Holy Orders.  Nor will I dive into the thorny topic of just what assurances were or were not made to traditionalists concerning Holy Orders at the formation of ACNA.  But communion with Anglo-Catholics is certainly frayed and even impaired as is the case with the Diocese of Ft. Worth.

We can hardly undo the past.  But as for the future, probably the most urgent matter for GAFCON and ACNA is to restore as much as possible communion and fellowship with Anglo-Catholics.  That is easier said than done although it is perhaps not too late to enact a moratorium on women’s ordination in ACNA and to strengthen a moratorium on women bishops in GAFCON.

Also, future GAFCON and ACNA meetings should reflect the importance of Anglo-Catholics among us, including in worship meetings.  Frankly, the next ACNA Provincial Assembly next year presents a danger.  With it being in Plano, Texas, I presume it will be hosted by Christ Church Plano, which is a large parish in the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO).  It is safe to say C4SO has a talent for rubbing Anglo-Catholics and other traditionalist Anglicans (including yours truly) the wrong way.  If the Assembly turns out to be like an expanded C4SO Synod, that would not assist any remaining traditionalist patience with ACNA.

That Assembly and the time leading up to it should instead be used by both ACNA and GAFCON to mend fences with Anglo-Catholics.

Any form of Anglicanism without a robust and enthusiastic contingent of Anglo-Catholics is an impoverished Anglicanism.  I pray that GAFCON and ACNA bishops address that danger wisely and soon.

Friday, June 22, 2018

BREAKING: GAFCON 3 “Letter to the Churches”

I haven’t yet had time to fully reflect on this final statement from the GAFCON 3 Conference.  And it does deal with much that is important in the long run far beyond Lambeth 2020.  At first reading, it seems a succinct, well-written, and reflective statement.

Having said that, the most newsworthy point is the following:

In light of the recommendations of the Synodical Council, we respectfully urge the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • to invite as full members to Lambeth 2020 bishops of the Province of the Anglican Church in North America and the Province of the Anglican Church in Brazil and
  • not to invite bishops of those Provinces which have endorsed by word or deed sexual practices which are in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture and Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, unless they have repented of their actions and reversed their decisions.
In the event that this does not occur, we urge Gafcon members to decline the invitation to attend Lambeth 2020 and all other meetings of the Instruments of Communion. 

Since Justin Welby is exceedingly unlikely do what GAFCON is requesting of him, this in effect calls for GAFCON members to withdraw from “Lambeth 2020 and all other meetings of the Instruments of Communion.”

The letter follows. (Any formatting errors are mine.)

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Greetings from the land of the birth, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. The third Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) was held in Jerusalem in June 2018, a decade after the inaugural Gafcon in 2008. Gafcon 2018, one of the largest global Anglican gatherings, brought together 1,950 representatives from 50 countries, including 316 bishops, 669 other clergy and 965 laity. A unanimity of spirit was reflected throughout the Conference as we met with God in the presence of friends from afar. We celebrated joyful worship, engaged in small group prayer and were inspired by presentations, networks and seminars.

We met together around the theme of “Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations”.  Each day began with common prayer and Bible exposition from Luke 22-24, followed by plenary sessions on God’s Gospel, God’s Church and God’s World.

We renewed our commitment to proclaim the gospel of the triune God in our churches and in all the world. Our Chairman reminded us in his opening address: “God’s gospel is the life-transforming message of salvation from sin and all its consequences through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is both a declaration and a summons: announcing what has been done for us in Christ and calling us to repentance, faith and submission to his Lordship.” It involves the restoration and reaffirmation of God’s original creative purposes. It is addressed to men, women and children and it is our only hope in the light of the final judgment and the reality of hell. 

This is God’s gospel, the gospel concerning his Son (Romans 1:1–3). The centre of the gospel message is this one person, Jesus Christ, and all that he has done through his perfect life, atoning death, triumphant resurrection and glorious ascension. In our daily expositions, we followed Jesus’ path from the judgments by Pilate and the Jewish leaders, to his death for us on the cross,  to his breaking the bonds of death on Easter morning and to his commission to the disciples to proclaim “repentance for the forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). The uniqueness of Jesus Christ lies at the heart of the gospel: “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The gospel confronts us in the midst of our confusion and sin but it does not leave us there. It includes a summons to repentance and a call to believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15), which results in a grace-filled life.  The ascended Christ gave his Spirit to empower his disciples to take this gospel to the world.

Yet faithful proclamation of this gospel is under attack from without and within, as it has been from apostolic times (Acts 20:28-30).

External attacks include superstitious practices of sacrifices and libations that deny the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. Some religions deny the unique person and work of Christ on the cross, and others are innately syncretistic. Secularism seeks to exclude God from all public discourse and to dismantle the Christian heritage of many nations. This has been most obvious in the redefinition of what it means to be human, especially in the areas of gender, sexuality and marriage. The devaluing of the human person through the advocacy of abortion and euthanasia is also an assault upon human life uniquely created in the image of God. Militant forms of religion and secularism are hostile to the preaching of Christ and persecute his people.

Internally, the “prosperity gospel” and theological revisionism both seek in different ways to recast God’s gospel to accommodate the surrounding culture, resulting in a seductive syncretism that denies the uniqueness of Christ, the seriousness of sin, the need for repentance and the final authority of the Bible. 

Tragically, there has been a failure of leadership in our churches to address these threats to the gospel of God. We repent of our failure to take seriously the words of the apostle Paul: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number, men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).

We dedicate ourselves afresh to proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations, working together to guard the gospel entrusted to us by our Lord and his apostles.

The gospel of God creates the church of God. Through the invitation of the gospel, God calls all people into fellowship with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. As the word of the gospel goes forth in the power of the Holy Spirit, they respond through the work of the Holy Spirit to repent, believe and be baptised, and are thereby joined to Christ’s body which is his church (Acts 2:37-44; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13). As members of Christ’s body, they are sanctified in him, called to live lives of holiness and to be salt and light in the world.

One Conference speaker reminded us: “In the councils of the church, we should not mimic the ways of the world but gather to pray, to praise (i.e., to be eucharistic), to consult, to decide, and if necessary to discipline. These gatherings should be properly conciliar in nature, decisive in moving the church forward in its mission and common life. There should be the will to exercise loving but firm discipline to bring sinners to repentance and restoration.” Likewise at the Communion level, there are times when the leadership must come together to exercise its responsibility to discipline an erring member province. 

For some time, our Communion has been under threat from leaders who deny the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture. In the late 20th century, human sexuality became the presenting issue.

The 1998 Lambeth Conference by a huge majority (526 to 70) approved Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality, which affirmed the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19 that there are only two expressions of faithful sexuality: lifelong marriage between a man and a woman or abstinence. The resolution rightly called for pastoral care for same sex attracted persons. At the same time, it described homosexual practice as “incompatible with Scripture” and rejected both the authorisation of same sex rites by the Church and the ordination of those in same sex unions.

Lambeth Resolution I.10 reflected the rising influence of the Global South in the Communion. The ground for the Resolution had been prepared by the 1997 Kuala Lumpur Statement of the Global South Anglican Network. Our collaboration with the Global South Network has been ongoing, and its leaders took an active part in this Conference.

The subsequent rejection of Lambeth I.10 in word and deed by the Episcopal Church USA and later by some other Anglican provinces led to a “tear [in] the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”, followed by ten years of futile meetings in which the four Instruments of Communion failed to exercise the necessary discipline. The Primates’ Meeting repeatedly called upon these provinces to repent and return to the faith.  Yet their efforts were undermined by other Instruments of Communion, culminating in the failure of the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury to carry out the clear consensus of the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam in 2007.

In the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference took up the challenge of restoring biblical authority (and the teaching on human sexuality in particular) by affirming the primacy of the Bible as God’s Word written and going back to the other sources of Anglican identity – the Creeds and Councils of the ancient church, the 39 Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. The Conference also constituted a Primates Council and authorised it to recognise Anglican churches in areas where orthodox Anglicans had been deprived of their church property and deposed from holy orders.

During the past twenty years, the Instruments of Communion have not only failed to uphold godly discipline but their representatives have refused to recognise our concerns and have chosen instead to demean Gafcon as a one-issue pressure group and accuse it of promoting schism, where in fact the schismatics are those who have departed from the teaching of the Bible and the historic doctrine of the Church. Slogans such as “walking together” and “good disagreement” are dangerously deceptive in seeking to persuade people to accommodate false teaching in the Communion.

We grieve for the situation of our global Communion as it has been hindered from fulfilling its God-appointed task of reaching the world for Christ. We repent of our own failures to stand firm in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13). But we do not lose hope for the future, and note that there is strong support for the reform of our Communion.  Prior to Gafcon 2018, delegates overwhelmingly affirmed the following propositions:

  • Lambeth Resolution I.10 reflects the unchangeable teaching of the Bible;
  • the Gafcon movement should continue to be faithful to the Jerusalem Declaration; 
  • the Primates Council should continue to recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions.
Over the past twenty years, we have seen the hand of God leading us toward a reordering of the Anglican Communion. Gafcon has claimed from the beginning: “We are not leaving the Anglican Communion; we are the majority of the Anglican Communion seeking to remain faithful to our Anglican heritage.” As Archbishop Nicholas Okoh stated in the inaugural Synodical Council: “We are merely doing what the Communion leadership should have done to uphold its own resolution in 1998.”

We give thanks for the godly courage of our Gafcon Primates in contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.  We applaud their decision to authenticate and recognise the provinces of the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Church in Brazil, to recognise the Anglican Mission in England and to consecrate a Missionary Bishop for Europe. This has become necessary because of the departure from the faith by The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church of Brazil and the Scottish Episcopal Church.  At Gafcon 2018, we heard many testimonies of faithful Anglicans who have been persecuted by those holding office in their respective provinces, merely because they would not surrender to, nor be compromised by, the false gospel that these leaders profess and promote. We also recognise the Gafcon Primates’ willingness to assist faithful Anglicans in New Zealand where the Anglican Church has recently agreed to allow bishops to authorise the blessing of same sex unions.

As the Gafcon movement matures, it has also seen the need for a more conciliar structure of governance.  We endorse the formation of Gafcon Branches where necessary and of a Panel of Advisors, comprising bishops, clergy and lay representatives from each Gafcon Province and Branch, to provide counsel and advice to the Primates Council. Together with the Primates, the Panel of Advisors form a Synodical Council to bring recommendations to the Gafcon Assembly. The Synodical Council met for the first time at this Conference.

In light of the recommendations of the Synodical Council, we respectfully urge the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • to invite as full members to Lambeth 2020 bishops of the Province of the Anglican Church in North America and the Province of the Anglican Church in Brazil and
  • not to invite bishops of those Provinces which have endorsed by word or deed sexual practices which are in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture and Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, unless they have repented of their actions and reversed their decisions.
In the event that this does not occur, we urge Gafcon members to decline the invitation to attend Lambeth 2020 and all other meetings of the Instruments of Communion. 

Our conference theme has been “Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations.” We have received the gospel through the faithful witness of previous generations. Yet there are still billions of people who are without Christ and without hope. Jesus taught his disciples: “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matthew 24:14). 

We repent for the times and seasons when we have only preached to ourselves and not embraced the difficult task of reaching beyond our own cultural groups in obedience to God’s call to be a light to the nations (cf. Acts 13:47).  In faith and obedience, we joyfully recommit ourselves to the faithful proclamation of the gospel. 
In order to expand our ability to proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations in both word and deed, we launched nine strategic networks.

Theological Education: To promote effective theological training throughout the Anglican Communion

Church Planting: To expand church planting as a global strategy for evangelisation

Global Mission Partnerships: To promote strategic cross-cultural mission partnerships in a globalized world

Youth and Children’s Ministry: To be a catalyst for mission to young people and children of all nations so that they may become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ
Mothers’ Union: To expand the potential of this global ministry to promote biblical patterns of marriage and family life

Sustainable Development: To establish global partnerships which work with the local church to bring sustainable and transformative development

Bishops Training Institute: To serve the formation of faithful and effective episcopal leadership throughout the Communion

Lawyers Task Force: To address issues of religious freedom and matters of concern to Anglican lawyers and Chancellors and to further the aims of the Jerusalem Declaration

Intercessors Fellowship: To inspire and develop globally connected regional and national intercessory prayer networks

In the world into which we go to proclaim the gospel, we shall encounter much which will need us to walk in paths of righteousness and mercy (Hosea 2:19; Micah 6:8). We commit to encouraging each other to give strength to the persecuted, a voice to the voiceless, advocacy for the oppressed, protection of the vulnerable, especially women and children, generosity to the poor, and continuing the task of providing excellent education and health care. As appropriate, we encourage the formation of other networks to assist in addressing these issues.

To proclaim the gospel, we must first defend the gospel against threats from without and within.  We testify to the extraordinary blessings on this Conference, which leads us to call upon God even more, that the Anglican Communion may become a mighty instrument in the hand of God for the salvation of the world. We invite all faithful Anglicans to join us in this great enterprise of proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations.


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church
and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

GAFCON: Peter Jensen Responds to ACC Whinging

It just came out that a week ago the General Secretary of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), Josiah Idowu-Fearon, e-mailed Anglican Primates to discourage participation in the GAFCON 3 Conference this week.

It is a laughable bit of whinging to say the least.  But I won’t rehearse the recent history of the ACC and of the Anglican Communion to get into that.

What I do want to highlight is the brilliant response by Archbishop Peter Jensen.  He wrote thus on behalf of GAFCON:

The attempt by Anglican Communion Office to challenge the Gafcon Primates for supporting new ministries is further evidence of how much the institutional form of Anglicanism is out of touch with spiritual reality. The launch of our networks is a sign of spiritual vitality which ought to be welcomed and applauded. Voluntary movements getting involved in much needed ministry has a long tradition within the Anglican Communion.  This anxious missive suggests a fear that people are not under the control of some central organisation. Had the institutions of the Communion been clearer in their theological stance, movements of reform and renewal like Gafcon may not have arisen. Now, however, the wisdom of God is displayed in that the work and the workers are adding to the ministry of the gospel.   Thanksgiving rather than criticism is surely the appropriate response.

I am unaware of an Anglican Archbishop dropping the mic or of liturgies or canons for the same.  But Jensen’s succinct response is certainly worthy.

“Dangers and adversities” and the early Trinity season collects

If one were to judge from some of the collects of the Book of Common Prayer, one might think us traditional Anglicans are a bunch of worrywarts.  For example, every Evening Prayer we pray, “…by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night.”  The Litany contains several lists of said “perils and dangers” containing just about everything that could possibly go wrong.  (Don’t misunderstand. I love that Evening Prayer collect and the Litany.)

The collects of the early Trinity season likewise are alert to things that can go wrong.  The collect for Trinity Sunday, after focusing on “the glory of the eternal Trinity” then adds almost as an afterthought “evermore defend us from all adversities.”  It seems even as he reflects on the glorious Holy Trinity, the Anglican is worrying about “adversities.”

At the same time such prayers reflect a dependence on God in the midst of adversities and of things that could go wrong.  And that dependence is perhaps the best remedy to worry.  So we pray for God to “defend us.” The Second Sunday after Trinity, we pray for Him to “keep us . . . under the protection of thy good providence.”  The Third Sunday just past, we ask that we would be “by thy mighty aid . . . defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities.”  When we see “dangers and adversities,” our prayers should reflect that God is stronger than them all and thereby be comforted.

What prompts me to bring this subject up is a road trip I just took.  It was a pleasant trip overall, but it came too close to being something else.  As I was pulling out from a traffic light, I heard a collision to the left of me.  I braked and veered to the right and saw an out of control car go in front of me and debris around me.  Thankfully, nothing hit me or my vehicle.  The next day as I was near home, I saw such stupid and reckless driving, I thought I was about to witness another accident.  But there was none – no thanks to the stupid drivers – and I soon got “safely to the haven where I would be with a grateful sense of thy mercies” indeed. (That phrase is from a BCP prayer for travelers, another prayer seemingly for worrywarts.)

I’ve since reflected that with age as one can look back on more adversities, accidents, and close calls (Lord knows I’ve had a few of those.), one realizes more that there really are a lot of “perils and dangers” out there.   One could then indeed become a worrywart or even a recluse.

The collects of the Book of Common Prayer show a better way: acknowledging the perils and dangers out there and therefore running to God in prayer for his protection and trusting in his good providence. 

And the longer I live, the more I shake my head when I think where I would be without God’s providence.  I have both seen enough “perils and dangers” and seen God bring me through them.  And no telling how many more dangers I will need him to bring me through.  So I will keep praying those BCP collects.

Monday, June 11, 2018

And You Thought I Was Hard on the Pope Movie…

Back in April, when the promotion for Pope Francis a Man of His Word was in full gear, I had some fun with it, noting it was “risible piece of propaganda.”

Well, now that the movie is out, Matt Gaspers and Maureen Mullarkey have reviewed it and make me look almost gentle and restrained.  And they agree that the most notable aspect of the Pope Movie is that it is . . . a risible piece of propaganda.  Gaspers:

I decided to go see Pope Francis: A Man of His Word on opening weekend (it premiered on May 18 across North America) – for investigative journalism purposes only – and if I was forced to use a single word to describe it, I would have to go with propaganda. From start to finish, it is obvious that the film’s purpose is to (1) propagate a favorable narrative that (2) appeals to the emotions rather than the intellect and (3) omits inconvenient truths.

One of said inconvenient truths is that Francis’ word is something of a moving target.  Maureen Mullarkey, as is to be expected, is even harder on the movie.  I find her most on target when she notes:

“Pope Francis” is a disturbing film, not solely for its exaltation of Francis and his politics but more so for having been planned from the beginning of his ascent to office. states that Wenders received a written invitation to “collaborate” with Pope Francis on a documentary about his pontificate in 2013, the year his papacy began…

This is crucial: Bergolio was intent on documenting himself as the hero of his own pontificate early on. Accordingly, the commissioned film subordinates the substance of the papacy to Francis’s personality and secular pieties.

That says volumes about the oh-so-humble Pope.  Further, I find this sad because of who got lured into this project.  I’ve long had the highest respect for Wim Wenders for his Paris, Texas (1984), a great movie that is one of my favorites.  For him to get tied up with such laughable propaganda for such an undeserving figure is sad indeed.  I hope Wenders is remembered for his other works.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

On Justin Welby’s EU “Terrible Error of Judgement” (and ACNA)

Gavin Ashenden has posted a piece dubbing Justin Welby’s statement in praise of the EU a “terrible error of judgement.” I think Bishop Gavin is being nice.  To say as Welby did that the European Union “is the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Roman Empire” descends into clownish cluelessness.

Nonetheless Ashenden well points out what is even a bigger problem with Welby’s statement:

There is a convention that clergy don’t speak out on political matters where their ‘flock’ or constituency reflect both sides of the argument. It’s a sensible one and has saved many an Archbishop from unnecessary humiliation and risking national disrespect.

Although those who lean to the Left find the temptation too hard to overcome sometimes, ignoring this convention suggests one of three things; that you think you have a hot-line to God, (not impossible but unlikely); that you believe your own personal political judgement is beyond criticism; or that you seriously disrespect your political opponents and their views.

And I may add that said disrespect invites anger and division . . . although in Welby’s case, his statement is so absurd that laughter is more appropriate and more common I suspect.

The bishops and other leadership of the Anglican Church in North America would do well to read and consider.  No, I cannot recall an ACNA bishop going so far as Welby into ill-advised political statements.  But ACNA would do well to be more careful to respect “political opponents and their views” in areas in which ACNA is not of one mind.  We have enough areas of disagreement and difference to navigate as it is.

We can learn a lot from Justin Welby . . . from his “terrible errors of judgement.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Young C. S. Lewis Near the Beginning of WWI

I have begun to read/skim The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper (And be sure to get his edition.  Other collections may short-change you.).  And I am glad I have.  I am still in Lewis’ teen years.  But he was a pleasure to read even back then.

I also appreciate getting slices of life from the early 20th Century, particularly during World War One.

Among the passages of his youthful letters that stand out is one from a letter to his closest friend Arthur Greeves.  He steps outside himself and observes himself remarkably well at age 15.  After some negative boarding school experiences, he is happy under the tutelage of W. T. Kirkpatrick even as The Great War begins:

So great is the selfishness of human nature, that I can look out from my snug nest with the same equanimity on the horrid desolation of the war, and the well known sorrows of my old school.  I feel that this ought not to be so: but I can no more alter my disposition that I can change the height of my stature or the colour of my hair.  It would be mere affectation to pretend that sympathy with those whose lot is not so happy as mine, seriously disturbs the tenour of my complacence.  Whether this is egotism of youth, some blemish in my personal character, or the common inheritance of humanity, I do not know.  What is your opinion?

So he asks Greeves in November 1914. 

How would you answer young C. S. Lewis?