more on gafcon

I copy in full below Rowan Williams' response to the jerusalem declaration - he continues to astound me with his patience and love.....

Archbishop responds to GAFCON statement

Monday 30 June 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has responded to the final declaration of the Global Anglican Future Conference with the following statement:

The Final Statement from the GAFCON meeting in Jordan and Jerusalem contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met for prayer and pilgrimage in the last week. The 'tenets of orthodoxy' spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues. I agree that the Communion needs to be united in its commitments on these matters, and I have no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of GAFCON's deliberations. Despite the claims of some, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion.

However, GAFCON's proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways, and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed.

A 'Primates' Council' which consists only of a self-selected group from among the Primates of the Communion will not pass the test of legitimacy for all in the Communion. And any claim to be free to operate across provincial boundaries is fraught with difficulties, both theological and practical – theological because of our historic commitments to mutual recognition of ministries in the Communion, practical because of the obvious strain of responsibly exercising episcopal or primatial authority across enormous geographical and cultural divides.

Two questions arise at once about what has been proposed. By what authority are Primates deemed acceptable or unacceptable members of any new primatial council? And how is effective discipline to be maintained in a situation of overlapping and competing jurisdictions?

No-one should for a moment impute selfish or malicious motives to those who have offered pastoral oversight to congregations in other provinces; these actions, however we judge them, arise from pastoral and spiritual concern. But one question has repeatedly been raised which is now becoming very serious: how is a bishop or primate in another continent able to discriminate effectively between a genuine crisis of pastoral relationship and theological integrity, and a situation where there are underlying non-theological motivations at work? We have seen instances of intervention in dioceses whose leadership is unquestionably orthodox simply because of local difficulties of a personal and administrative nature. We have also seen instances of clergy disciplined for scandalous behaviour in one jurisdiction accepted in another, apparently without due process. Some other Christian churches have unhappy experience of this problem and it needs to be addressed honestly.

It is not enough to dismiss the existing structures of the Communion. If they are not working effectively, the challenge is to renew them rather than to improvise solutions that may seem to be effective for some in the short term but will continue to create more problems than they solve. This challenge is one of the most significant focuses for the forthcoming Lambeth Conference. One of its major stated aims is to restore and deepen confidence in our Anglican identity. And this task will require all who care as deeply as the authors of the statement say they do about the future of Anglicanism to play their part.

The language of 'colonialism' has been freely used of existing patterns. No-one is likely to look back with complacency to the colonial legacy. But emerging from the legacy of colonialism must mean a new co-operation of equals, not a simple reversal of power. If those who speak for GAFCON are willing to share in a genuine renewal of all our patterns of reflection and decision-making in the Communion, they are welcome, especially in the shaping of an effective Covenant for our future together.

I believe that it is wrong to assume we are now so far apart that all those outside the GAFCON network are simply proclaiming another gospel. This is not the case; it is not the experience of millions of faithful and biblically focused Anglicans in every province. What is true is that, on all sides of our controversies, slogans, misrepresentations and caricatures abound. And they need to be challenged in the name of the respect and patience we owe to each other in Jesus Christ.
I have in the past quoted to some in the Communion who would call themselves radical the words of the Apostle in I Cor.11.33: 'wait for one another'. I would say the same to those in whose name this statement has been issued. An impatience at all costs to clear the Lord's field of the weeds that may appear among the shoots of true life (Matt.13.29) will put at risk our clarity and effectiveness in communicating just those evangelical and catholic truths which the GAFCON statement presents.

© Rowan Williams


Rachel said...

I, like many Anglicans the world over, have few problems with the Jerusalem Declaration. It does, of course, mean I would have to do my homework, if ever I was asked to consider it. I want to find out more about the 39 articles and the canons, the ordinal and the original prayer book. Of course, I will have to look into these things, as I consider over the next few years a career in the C of E. All Anglicans should of course, be familiar with the doctrinal stance to which they're subscribing, else why be an Anglican, particularly. We must be in a minority of people, who because we have often been born into a faith, the faith of our country of birth, have often spent less time on the small print of the most important aspect of our lives, realising that we may have indeed dwelt for longer on the finer details of those finer aspects of our mortgage agreements.

It is time that I got my house in order and I don't mean by tidying it up and hanging out the washing. Having said that, I will never manage to get my spiritual house in order, I will be trying for the whole of my life and failing because of my sinfulness, preoccupations and prejudices. This is why it is sometimes with such a huge sense of relief, that I 'switch off the blog and go and do something less boring instead' (quote from TV theme tune of my youth). What a joy it can be to simply, pick-up, put away and stack the dishwasher! It's not long though before I'm back to my spiritual searches and quests to deepen my understanding and relationship with God and his beautiful, if rather, bruised Church. Being free in Christ, to be all you really can be, is really rather exhausting!

I have difficulties with their insistence on a plain reading of the Bible, I don't believe there is such a thing and suspect their 'plain' reading to be one that requires more emphasis on repentance for homosexuality than other sins and one that prohibits women in leadership.

jody said...

hi rach

i think that the difficulty for me is that i suspect a (not so) hidden agenda of exclusion of those of us who cannot sign up to the whole shebang (particularly women's ordination, specific atonement theories, or how we understand evangelism) - also who decides, and how do they decide which bishop is or is not orthodox? it seems to be a way in which to justify 'doing what they want, when they want', I am thinking particularly of Richard Coekin and his irregular ordinations.......

Rachel said...

You're right to be suspicious, as I am, to use Stehen Kuhrt's words in his explanation of the support he gave Tom Butler in the Coekin case:

Any alliance will further promote the behaviour of the Conservative Evangelical 'closed shop', the
"very un-Anglican norm that contact and collaboration are only necessary with those Christians with whom they wish to have contact and collaboration."

This is a closed shop of reading certain authors, study books etc and never 'risking' a look at the 'other'. I have become quite good at discerning what literature and theories come originally from a Reform perspective, whereas I used to google the publisher or writer to confirm my suspicions, I have now developed more of an instinct for it. In some ways, it's a shame, because it's making me more cynical, I'm always asking myself questions as to what their agenda might be when actually many Conservative Evangelicals might only be wanting fellowship.