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GAFCON, THE CHURCH TIMES AND PAUL HANDLEY

GAFCON, THE CHURCH TIMES AND PAUL HANDLEY

Commentary

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org
4/19/2009

Paul Handley, editor of the "Church Times", an Affirming Catholic newspaper, has written an essay for "The Guardian" newspaper in which he wonders out loud about the formation of GAFCON at a recent press conference he attended at a London airport hotel.

He writes over a headline which reads, "The Anglican schism widens quietly" and then morphs into a soliloquy which goes like this: "In an airport hotel there is no avoiding the impression that everybody else is on the way to somewhere more important, or is already there. The feeling grew when I walked into yesterday's press conference outside Heathrow: the Renaissance suite could have held 360 people. In fact there were half-a-dozen archbishops and bishops connected with the Anglican conservative tendency, plus fixers and hangers-on. And me.

"This was no reflection on the archbishops, of course, and only a little on the hotel. It was principally, I'm sure, that in the week after Easter, heading up to Low Sunday, religious journalists, like everybody else, want to take a break. Tough on the press officer, but these things happen. So we moved some chairs and sat in a small circle, and I asked questions for 45 minutes, and then they went off to lunch, and I got back into my car and drove home.

"And as I sat on the M25, I reflected on what I'd heard, trying desperately to avoid the traffic analogies that came unbidden into my mind. For the international Anglican Communion, all 38 provinces and 77 million worshippers of it, has been coming apart over the past decade or so, and these archbishops were saying they want to put it back together again. Except that, to many of their fellow Anglicans, these archbishops have been leading a breakaway movement and have been instrumental in the divisions.

"So, what traffic analogy should I apply? A common jibe at the Anglican Communion is that it's in the middle of slow car-crash. That sounds neat, but it's not strictly true. How about this one instead: the Anglican coach has drifted into the slow lane and is in danger of disappearing up a slip road. Along come the conservatives in their nippy little minibus, labeled GAFCON after the Global Anglican Future Conference at which they got organized last June, and they offer to take some of the passengers."

It is a curious article, which reveals as much about the author as anyone else. Has he not noticed that the vast majority of the Anglican Communion is no longer interested in what The Episcopal Church says or does? For all practical purposes, they are a former province. They have money, but diminishing parishioners...about 100,000 lost over the last couple of years.

Is Mr. Handley only seeing the Church of England, from an office in London? Is he suffering the same kind of ecclesiastical myopia that afflicts the English who still believe the Anglican Communion revolves around the CofE - Canterbury and York? If so, what world is he living in?

Perhaps it comes as a surprise to him that most Anglicans are more interested in orthodox Christianity than in the death throes of 1960s liberalism.

Where have he and "The Church Times" been sleeping or napping since 2008 and the Lambeth Conference?

An ecclesiastical revolution has been taking place under his nose and he doesn't see it? Did he not realize what the Primates said in Alexandria...that the Anglican Communion is irretrievably broken, that the fabric of the communion is not merely, like the veil of the temple, torn, but actually shattered.

We now have two religions in the Anglican Communion, as Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan put it. They are not remotely on the same path. The Anglican Communion of North America (ACNA) leader spoke in London of "two religions. . . One is classic Christianity. One is actually not Christianity." What sort of message does that send the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York? More tea vicar.

One church is liberal in theology, revisionist in morals, interfaith in its understanding of other religions. The other is orthodox in theology and morals and believes in the actual need to convert people (horror of horrors) who are in other (revealed and unrevealed) religions and that Jesus is The way, The truth and The Life, and that offering the sacraments to Jews and assorted unbelievers (especially the unbaptized) actually blasphemes the gospel.

Of course it is not surprising that Duncan should repeat what is being said with greater frequency. VOL has been saying this for almost a decade going back to when the Anglican Mission in the Americas was born in the year of our Lord 2000.

Now, lo and behold, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey now thinks the whole show might be coming apart.

In Houston recently he said TEC was on the path to "clean out" conservatives. He then went on to say that the Episcopal Church, by ordaining Gene Robinson, against the strong advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the moral authority of Lambeth '98, [and] the appeals of the primates' meeting, has led the Anglican Communion into the worst crisis it has ever faced, and from which it is unlikely to recover.

Mr. Handley thinks that GAFCON is the "minibus of Anglicanism". Yes, he actually used that term, but this is both insulting and demeaning. The truth is GAFCON represents 40 million of the 55 million practicing Anglicans around the world. The 26 million in the Church of England can be discounted as largely fiction, as there are less than 2 million practicing CofE Anglicans. Thousands are stepping forward asking to be officially "debaptized" because they are tired of the charade that says they are Christians just because some vicar said some words and dripped some water over their heads when they were incoherent to make a decision.

Handley said, when he was at the airport press conference, that he didn't hear from any conservative or centrist bishops from the official Episcopal Church, who might have liked the opportunity to say that not everyone in the Episcopal Church is a Wiccan-tinged Buddhist, and to plead with GAFCON not to push the division wider by siding with the smaller, newer body. There was no indication that anyone of this sort had been invited at all. They were all elsewhere.

Well, allow me to tell Mr. Handley that there are NO centrist bishops left in The Episcopal Church. They died out a long time ago. They, the liberals and so-called centrist bishops, have defied the Windsor Report recommendations more times than Gene Robinson's endless appeal for acceptance, so you are either on board with the liberal/revisionist agenda, and 95% of the House of Bishops, or you face the fate of Bishops like David Bane, Edward MacBurney, Henry Scriven, Andrew Fairfield, Donald Davies, Jack Iker, John-David Schofield and Bob Duncan.

The small handful of remaining orthodox bishops like John W. Howe, (Central Florida), William Love (Albany), Bruce D. MacPherson (Western Louisiana), Mark Lawrence (South Carolina) and Jim Stanton (Dallas) know they haven't a prayer of changing anything at GC2009. Now that the Anglo-Catholics have departed TEC, they (as evangelicals) know they will be next in line when Jefferts Schori, Bonnie Anderson (House of Deputies president and David Booth Beers (Jefferts Schori's attorney) come after them. It is only a matter of time. (The Bishop of Albany has already had a taste of Anderson who floated into his diocese unasked and making trouble). In short, you will either conform or get tossed out. This is the revisionist Episcopal Church world we live in. At a local level, Handley should have a talk with Fr. David L. Moyer of the Church of the Good Shepherd outside Philadelphia, for a taste of what it is like on the ground (or in the courts).

Mr. Handley is living in an ecclesiastical bubble. He simply doesn't get it. One wonders how long it will be before everyone else cottons on to the fact that the Anglican Communion has divided? What if you gave a schism and nobody came, writes Handley. The answer is: we have a de facto schism, if not a de jure schism. We have schism in all but name. If we had a pope or a Magesterium, we WOULD have schism, but we don't. So we muddle along with the Archbishop of Canterbury mediating both sides like a professional arbitrator, hoping against hope it all doesn't come apart on his watch.

Towards the end of his soliloquy, Handley seems to catch on, but then he accuses the GAFCON crowd of being "schismatics" - the graveyard lingo of small minds. Truth is the "breaking away" has been done by the slowly dying liberals and revisionists, not by the orthodox.

Handley concludes by saying that "conservative Christians don't, by and large, worry what other people might think." Nonsense. They do. They care so deeply that they continue to go, year after year, to one Primates meeting after another, (across the world and at great expense) leaving frustrated and with nothing. How many years can you listen to Frank Griswold whine about sodomy for Christ's sake? (I mean that reverently).

They, the (GAFCON) archbishops want to restore Anglicanism to its original roots, opined Handley. On that point he is exactly right. There are 25 million orthodox Nigerian Anglicans and 9.2 million Ugandan Anglicans et al. They have a very definite fix on what the gospel is, a gospel clearly lost on Mr. Handley and his fast fading church.

END

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