ABC responds to GAFCON statement
Source: Archbishop of Canterbury's website
Date: June 30, 2008
The following is The Archbishop of Canterbury's response to the final declaration of the Global Anglican Future Conference. Bishop David Anderson's commentary and analysis have been added to the original text.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: It is amazing that Dr. Williams would make this statement in light of the evidence to the contrary that the American Anglican Council has placed before him, especially in the Dar es Salaam Compliance documents. One is forced to ask whether Dr. William’s avoidance of the truth is deliberate and a tactical dissemblance. The evidence is clear that the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God is being contradicted by top Episcopal Church leaders, not the least of which is the Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori. What will it take for Dr. Williams to acknowledge what is staring him in the face? Does Dr. Williams really want to know what is happening on his watch? We are sorry that we have to ask this; it is a question that in 2003 we would not have even thought to ask.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: I do believe that GAFCON did indeed think about the risks entailed, weighed the much more problematic approach of waiting for Dr. Williams to do the right thing, and decided that, post-Panel of Reference, post-Dar es Salaam Communique, the way forward could not risk Lambeth again subverting right action.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: Since the primates in attendance at the GAFCON were validly elected by their respective provincial Houses of Bishops, in contrast to Dr. Williams, who was chosen by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the issue of legitimacy is an area he may wish to quietly pass by. The Primates’ attendance at GAFCON was a choice of free assembly, and their membership and participation in a Primates’ Council clearly supported by the large portion of the Anglican Communion represented by those present.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: Why does Dr. Williams find crossing provincial boundaries to offer pastoral care a more grievous sin than the revisionist false gospel and persecution of the orthodox Anglicans that is the cause of the boundary crossing? Perhaps Dr. Williams is confusing the peculiarities of quantum physics with theological cause and effect. Additionally, the Communion is already so deeply torn in its fabric by the actions of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada and by Dr. Williams’ questionable leadership that mutual recognition of ministries is already something of the past. If he needs specifics, he should consider the list of bishops (I would suppose that I am included) who most of the communion do recognize, but he himself does not. As to great distance and cultural divides, I do note he uses email, fax and phone, and the Global South primates are equally adept in such usage; the colonial days of writing a letter and waiting for months for a steam ship to deliver it to Africa are over. Those overseas provinces having a mission presence in North America also have on-site bishops to provide more immediate ministry to the congregations - though of course those are some of the very bishops that Dr. Williams fails to recognize.
ABC: 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?
Anderson: One would presume that if primates can affirm the Jerusalem Statement, they could apply to the Primates’ Council for membership. As to discipline, several issues of discipline have arisen in North America, and effective measures have been applied. I am sure that if Dr. Williams is truly interested in this, details could be provided to him.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: The problem is that where interim measures could have helped, Dr. Williams has consistently blocked or ignored them. Witness the Panel of Reference, which if Dr. Williams wished, could have worked, but his inaction and screening only made matters worse. Additionally, TEC’s lack of Dar es Salaam Communique compliance, which was carefully documented and given to Dr. Williams prior to the TEC House of Bishop’s meeting in New Orleans, resulted in Dr. Williams giving them a passing grade.
ABC: 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?
Anderson: The answer is local, on-site supervision by North American bishops, which is now a reality.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: Perhaps instead of setting up a straw man, Dr. Williams could provide names, dates and places so that the reader could either agree with him over the seriousness of the problem, or alternatively, come to a different conclusion. Charges leveled by a revisionist bishop in Canada or the United States does not establish guilt; that is what the court system is for. When charges pertain to property or assets of the church that are titled or held by government or financial institutions, the county, state or federal court system would hold venue.
ABC: It is not enough to dismiss the existing structures of the Communion.
Anderson: They have not been dismissed by GAFCON; the existing structures, however, have proved an obstacle to good governance, and any reformation will have to find ways to work around the structural dysfunction.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: When instruments or structures of the Communion position themselves to block reformation and renewal, they may find that they render themselves irrelevant at best.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: Dr. Williams was given an opportunity to a play a part in the future in October of 2006, and he chose to talk but not to act; in fact he played the silent partner to TEC’s disregard and arrogance toward the global Anglican Communion.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: Is is not interesting that those in ecclesial positions of power and privilege, when their ability to rule their supposed “equals” (as in primus inter pares) falters, do not wish a democratic shift to the centers of Anglicanism’s membership, but a co-operation of supposed equals ... with Dr. Williams as the Archbishop of Canterbury remaining more equal than the others. GAFCON has served notice to Dr. Williams that they see through his words and actions, and a new relationship is required.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: We have indeed exercised patience in Jesus with those who have caused and allowed the false gospel to be propagated, and now finally the time has come for action. The blame cannot be added up and simply divided by the 38 provinces to determine a relative share of the blame, and it is immature foolishness to suggest it. The blame for tearing the communion fabric at its deepest levels rests with two provinces and an Archbishop of Canterbury who, for whatever reason, has been unwilling to defend orthodox belief and practice. What needs to be challenged is the prevarication, duplicity and conspiracy of TEC, the Anglican Church of Canada, and those in Lambeth Palace who have aided and abetted them.
ABC: 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.
Anderson: The passage is a partial text having to do with decorum at the Lord’s Supper and, if you will, Parish Suppers, and has little to do with issues of false gospels and apostasy among some who formerly desired to be part of the discipline of the Lord. If the Apostles had waited indefinitely, they would all still be in Jerusalem.