JERUSALEM: Double Speak Diplomacy in "Unity" Remarks by Jerusalem Bishop to GAFCON Leaders
By David W. Virtue
In a strained, invitation-only service that saw much diplomatic feinting and ecclesiastical double-talk, the Bishop of Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Saheil Dawani, delivered a rebuke to leaders and pilgrims of the Global Anglican Fellowship Conference (GAFCON) saying that the unity of the Anglican Communion lay with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In stern language, that reflected censure rather than welcome, Dawani told pilgrims gathered at St. George's cathedral that "in this diocese, we regard relationships across the Anglican Communion as a crucial network of bridges on the international scene that bring together Anglicans of 164 countries and 38 provinces worldwide, all of which support and strengthen our witness and mission."
The Jerusalem bishop recently replaced the corrupt former Bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal. Not once did he mention the issues that currently divide the Anglican Communion, nor did he mention GAFCON by name. Also present at the service was the Bishop of Colorado, the Rt. Rev. Rob O'Neill, who is not a GAFCON pilgrim, but who sat next to the Apostolic Nuncio at the service.O'Neill's presence with Dawani sends a loud signal that the Episcopal Church is watching through its proxy bishop who is not permitted to participate at GAFCON.
In a clear slap at GAFCON bishops, Dawani said, "pilgrims do not bring decisions with them. "They come here to seek prayerfully the decisions God wants them to make. God has not finished with us or with our Church."
He urged his listeners to work for peace in Jerusalem and the world. "I pray God's blessing on you, on the Archbishop of Canterbury and on our Anglican Communion."
In unprepared remarks, the Roman Catholic Papal Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Franco, told the orthodox Anglican pilgrims that he hoped for unity. Jesus prayed for and urged his hearers "to be careful not to break unity." It is our commitment to keep unity in all the churches, he said. He wished the GAFCON conference "spiritual renewal" as "you return to your roots."
One woman theologian noted that the Apostolic Delegate's speech was very different from that delivered by former Roman Catholic Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, XVI, to the Dallas Plano gathering of some 4,000 orthodox Episcopal priests October 2003.
Has the Vatican gone cold on Anglican orthodoxy, mused one observer?
In his remarks, Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola said conference pilgrims are engaged in the work of God in the fulfillment of prophecy.
Addressing The Anglican Communion, Akinola said, "As a family there are problems and they are ours to solve. This week we seek to know the mind of God and the power to go about solving our family problems. God has given us the Holy Spirit to solve these problems.
"GAFCON is not a threat to you; we want to be your friend in the work of the Lord in Jerusalem. We want to be a blessing to you and the Christian community in Jerusalem." A stony faced Dawani did not respond.
There were no photo ops. Dawani did not greet the whole conference because, as one primate noted, "he doesn't understand it."
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