GAFCON is a way of "reclaiming Anglicanism the way we received it." --- Benjamin Nzimbi, Archbishop of Kenya.
GAFCON is "the beginning of a second reformation." --- Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda
The conscience of fallen human beings is often mistaken (it needs to be educated by the Word of God) and often sleepy (it needs to be awakened by the Spirit of God). True also, some people deny that they have any sense of sin, insisting at the same time that everything is relative now, for there are no moral absolutes anymore. Do not believe them. For by creation God still endows all human beings with a moral sense, which our inherited fallenness has distorted but not destroyed. Unless and until people so violate and smother their conscience as to 'cauterize' it (a word Paul uses in 1 Tim. 4:2) or render it insensitive, it continues to trouble them. They know they are sinful and guilty, however much they may protest to the contrary. --- From The Messenger and God: Studies in Romans 1-5 John R.W. Stott
Prisoners of a corrupt nature. It is when we see ourselves as we are, on the one hand rebels against God and under the judgment of God, and on the other prisoners of a corrupt nature, that we come, like David in Psalm 51, to despair of ourselves and to cry to God for mercy. --- From "Favourite Psalms" by Milton Keynes
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It all began here in the Holy Land. Now, 2,000 years later, it is happening all over again. The faith is being declared in clear apostolic terms, no compromise, no fudging, and no redaction. 1200 Anglican pilgrims committed themselves this week to restating what the first apostles believed. They have done it with resounding clarity and conviction.
The faith once for all delivered to the saints got its highest and most resounding affirmation from bishops and archbishops, clergy and laity who came from the four corners of the earth. Black and white mixed easily and comfortably. There was no contradiction or uneasiness. Everyone is on the same page with regard to the Gospel, God's true mission for the church - The Great Commission.They listened to lectures on church and society, evangelism, theological education, culture, intertwined with Bible studies.All the while, they were singing hymns of praise, studying the Word of God, and reclaiming the faith they were taught by missionaries who brought the gospel to them, eschewing the innovations and moral marauding that characterizes much of Western Anglicanism.
As Evangelical sociologist Dr. Os Guinness observed, when atheists and agnostics convert to Christ, it is to Biblical and Evangelical faith that they are converted, and not to liberal/revisionist versions of Christianity. One is converted FROM Spong's Gnosticism to a living faith one is not converted to his brand of Christianity, if indeed one can call it that.
From this writers' perspective, it was probably the greatest single gathering of international Anglicans that I have ever experienced in my life. It has been a privilege to be here. The people, place and content of this conference are picture perfect.
Before it is over, I will have written some 20 stories, and posted a dozen top columnists reflections on it. I will undoubtedly reflect on what happened here for weeks to come.
History is being made here. The turmoil in the Anglican Communion, brought about by years of doctrinal and moral degradation, denigration and desecration culminating in the consecration of Gene Robinson, is the reason these pilgrims are here. Had the Anglican Communion, its Instruments of Unity and its leadership not gone astray, this conference would not have been necessary. The innovators and modernizers started it all. These pilgrims finally said enough is enough. They want the Anglican Communion to go back to its roots. That is why they are demanding accountability from those who have moved away from the gospel.
It was no surprise then that in his opening speech Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola referred to the innovators as "apostates" and went on to say, "We cannot, in the developing world, allow ourselves to be kept in a spiritual dungeon". Tough talk, but then the Nigerian Primate can never be accused of shyness. He is blunt and plain spoken. When it has gotten him into trouble, from time to time, he shrugs his shoulders and carries on. He won't be bullied by the media or dumbed down by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He has accepted his fate as the Anglican Communion's lightning rod for orthodoxy. His minder keeps a wary eye on him at all times. During Holy Communion, I happened to be sitting near him. During the 'peace" he warmly shook my hand.
Akinola will retire shortly as leader of the Nigerian Province. I am told that whoever follows in his footsteps will make no change in the church's direction. If anything, the next person may be even tougher and more outspoken. That is hard to imagine, but then the Nigerians are on a separate page from the rest of Africa. This was dutifully noted in a humorous moment with a Ugandan bishop observing that when East African bishops pray, they get down on their knees. Nigerians, on the other hand, raise holy hands to heaven. The pilgrims roared with laughter.
So what happened here? When you break through all the media spin and hype, here is the bottom line.
There will be no rival or alternative Anglican Communion, at least for the moment. What has been set in motion is a structure that will flesh out over the coming months, resulting in, perhaps, a new communion, a year or two down the road.
The final communiqué coming out of GAFCON on Saturday will be presented in two weeks to the Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth. It will reaffirm what orthodox Anglicans believe. It will be a statement that goes back to the future. We are told that this is not a "moment" but a "movement", but in truth it is more than that. The Rt. Rev. Dr. John Rodgers, an AMiA bishop, theologian, Seminary Dean and author, sees it is as the genesis of a new Anglicanism arising out of the ashes of a communion that has gone theologically and wildly astray.
In a paper he delivered here, he said, "we are in a period of testing and reception." He wrote that if Lambeth fails to adopt GAFCON, then the Global South, the orthodox body that has led the way during all this time of turmoil should, at its 4th meeting in January of 2009, initiate steps leading to a council in two years which would "affirm the marks of faithful Anglicanism...and begin the reformed Global Anglican Family comprise of all those provinces, dioceses and congregations...to align with it."
Naysayers will wring their hands and say it was a flop or it "fizzled", as TIME magazine reported, because no declaration of a split occurred. That is to underestimate and downplay all the hard work and necessary pre-theological and ecclesiological ground work that needed to be done for this conference even to occur.
One thing is certain. GAFCON has given the green light for a new North American Province to form. That is good news.
It is the secular media that have been most mischievous and misleading with screaming headlines about gay-bashing and homophobia, and with alleged attacks by GAFCON folk at the Gay Pride Parade. It is all lies and fiction. It never happened. The parade came nowhere near the hotel. The one LGBT representative here at GAFCON, a Mr. Ian Baxter, spoke at the "gay" rally and never once mentioned GAFCON. In truth, their parade flopped. There were no incidents and 99% of the pilgrims did not even know it was going on. It got brief mention in the "Jerusalem Post". I will write more at length about the venality of the secular media's attempt to spin this conference.
I have posted some 20 stories about GAFCON and at least 20 more with hyper links to VOL's website. Read some of the brilliant analysis by others of this meeting. I have attempted, wherever possible, to provide primary source documents on this conference. While VOL believes that News Analysis is important, we believe that you should have access, as much as possible to original documents, so you can draw your own conclusions.
When the final draft of the communique is released on Saturday, VOL will put out a special digest with commentary for you all.
A CHURCH OF ENGLAND bishop will defect to Rome, soon after the Lambeth Conference, according to Damian Thompson, editor in chief of the "Catholic Herald." He wouldn't name names, but he says there could be more to follow. "I can't tell you much more than that at the moment, because the negotiations with Rome are so sensitive - and the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, who distrust Anglican traditionalists, are quite capable of throwing a spanner in the works," he writes. "Fortunately, Pope Benedict XVI is more open to experiment than Pope John Paul II. He is taking a close interest in the progress of the rebel Traditional Anglican Communion towards reunion - a process which is under the control of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, not the Vatican's woolly-minded ecumenists." Stay tuned.
In other news this week, in the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA, Bishop Charles E. Bennison managed to walk away from Presentment charges that he misused diocesan funds.48 hours later, word came down from the judges at the ecclesiastical court that Bennison was found guilty on the two charges that he covered up his brother's sexual assault of a minor.
The court found 9-0 against Charles Bennison on count 1, was for failing to stop the sexual abuse and failing to act with respect to his brother and 6-3 against him on count 2 for the cover up. No word on the penalty. Word has it that Bennison will appeal, which comes as no surprise, but he has only one shot at it. As I am out of the county, I have posted David O'Reilly's story from the Philadelphia INQUIRER. I spoke to a couple of Episcopal bishops here. They said Bennison is finished. They also indicated that he would get something more than a "wrist slap". Bennison is still not out of the woods. In early September, he faces a civil court trial. There he will find out the meaning of public humiliation during cross examination by John H. Lewis Jr., Bennison's humiliation is far from over. He is reaping what he has sown. He has virtually destroyed orthodoxy in the diocese and it is payback time. His own Standing Committee wants to see him gone, a humiliating end at the hands of his own fellow liberals. As one observer noted, the moral stench at diocesan headquarters will take time to dissipate, however. A Bennison clone will surely succeed the unbecoming bishop.
Just when you think things couldn't get any better, the 11 CANA churches in Virginia learned that had won their case on Constitutional grounds. The VA. Court upheld the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute to end an Episcopal attempt by the DIOCESE OF VIRGINIA to seize control over their church property. The Fairfax County Circuit Court ruling confirms the constitutionality of Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code § 57-9). The 11 churches named in the lawsuit are members of the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV). "We are pleased with Judge Bellows' ruling," said a CANA spokesman. After meticulous examination, the judge ruled to uphold the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute against all of the Free Exercise of Religion. You can read the full story in today's digest.
In the DIOCESE OF SAN DIEGO, it was reported in the "San Diego Union Tribune", "Family" section that Episcopal Bishop James Mathes ordained a partnered homosexual man for his diocese. Mathes supports gay marriage - ordination, open communion, and every heretical statement that comes out of the month of Jefferts Schori. One observer noted that he is deliberately driving the conservatives out, but in a very covert and cowardly way. As more is revealed, we will let you know.
In the DIOCESE OF CALIFORNIA, it was reported in a local newspaper that a Lewis H. Kerman and the Rev. Dr. Clark Gregory Wright Trafton, a retired Episcopal priest, were married Friday morning at the Riverside County Clerk's Office in Indio, California. Kerman is 55 and the retired as dean of the undergraduate business program of Rutgers in Newark. Trafton, 73, is a retired Episcopal priest and psychoanalyst who was interim rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jackson Heights, Queens, from 2002 to 2005. He held the same post from 1995 to 1999 at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery in Manhattan. He was also on the staff of the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute in Manhattan.
Sadly, we note the passing this week of HENRY CHADWICK, scholar of Early Christianity. He was 87. The Very Rev. Henry Chadwick was an Anglican priest, professor, editor, translator and author, whose historical voyages into early Christianity won praise for depth, insight and evenhandedness helping to shed light on modern religious problems. His death was announced by Cambridge University, where Professor Chadwick taught and held administrative positions. In an obituary written for "The Guardian", Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, called Professor Chadwick, who was knighted in 1989, an "aristocrat among Anglican scholars." "The Anglican Church may not have a pope, but it does have Henry Chadwick," Archbishop Williams said, suggesting that that this is a common view. Chadwick was an evangelical. His most quoted line, spoken during a debate at the Anglicans' General Synod in 1988, summarizes his own life's work of finding answers in history. Professor Chadwick said, "Nothing is sadder than someone who has lost his memory, and the church, which has lost its memory, is in the same state of senility."
A volunteer is sought for a medical missionary post in Diocese of Eldoret, Kenya. Canon Percia Hutcherson, a longtime missionary of the Diocese of Los Angeles, established and operated a medical mission 20 years ago in the Diocese of Eldoret, Kenya, Africa, which works with crippled children and adults. Now 86, she is retiring from that ministry, and the diocese is seeking a volunteer missionary to succeed her. The new missionary will work under the auspices of The Rt. Rev. Thomas Kogo, bishop of Eldoret. The diocese is located in the Eastern Africa nation of Kenya, in the western portion of the country. For further information about the Eldoret missionary opening, contact the Bishop's Office at 213.482.2040, ext. 236.
GAFCON ends on Sunday. I will be returning briefly to the U.S. and then turning around and going to Canterbury to cover the Lambeth Conference.
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