NAIROBI: Anglicans Realign, Welby Bows out of GAFCON Conference
By Michael Heidt in Nairobi
VOL special correspondent
October 20, 2013
As conservative Anglicans of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) from around the world converge on Nairobi for the second Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON II), Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, excused himself from the event.
Preaching at Nairobi's All Saints' Cathedral, the day before GAFCON, Welby appeared to sympathize with the event, calling for "new structures" in the church that moved beyond outdated colonialism. The Archbishop also emphasized the centrality of the bible and spoke of being "hated" for speaking against gay marriage in England's House of Lords.
However, Archbishop Welby told hearers that he would not attend the conference itself, citing "long-standing commitments", such as attending an ecumenical Anglican/Lutheran conference in Iceland and a Royal baptism in England.
The Archbishop of Canterbury leaves what some observers are calling the most "important Anglican event since the Reformation" and GAFCON leaders describe as a realignment in the Anglican Communion. This could well be justified.
With over 1,300 attendees, including 30 Archbishops and 301 bishops, GAFCON II represents the majority of Anglicans worldwide and signals a realignment in Anglican Christianity along traditionalist lines.
Strongly conservative, the FCA and GAFCON emerged as a response to the universalist and pansexual agenda of Anglican churches that accept a "false gospel." According to conference literature, this false gospel is against the authority of scripture, the unique divinity of Christ and "promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behavior as a universal human right."
In opposition to GAFCON, declining Western Anglican denominations, such as the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC), the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the tiny Anglican Church of New Zealand, are strong advocates of homosexual behavior. The Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, is also home to a powerful gay lobby and allows clergy to live in same-sex "civil partnerships", with the proviso that the partners do not have sex with each other.
Neither side of this religious divide have declared themselves to be in schism with each other, though some FCA churches, including those in the Southern Cone, refuse to worship with gay advocacy denominations. Despite this de facto state of schism, the Anglican Communion continues, formally, as one body. This state of uneasy coexistence might well be threatened.
Although GAFCON leaders describe themselves in terms of a "worshipping fellowship" and a "gathering", rather than an alternative Anglican jurisdiction, retired Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen and GAFCON General Secretary, told an opening conference session that "you don't have to go through Canterbury to be an Anglican."
Jensen's words stand as a stark warning to the head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. As the center of Anglican gravity shifts away from its one-time home in the West towards the churches of Africa and the Global South, the Archbishop of Canterbury might want to think twice before skipping out on an event that speaks for most of his Church.
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