NAIROBI: Anglo-Catholics Go For GAFCON
By Michael Heidt in Nairobi
VOL Special Correspondent
October 26, 2013
The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Nairobi is overwhelmingly evangelical, with Anglo-Catholicism largely represented by Bishop Jack Iker and the Diocese of Fort Worth. This signals a willingness on the part of Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals to work together against the common enemy of liberal revisionism in the Anglican Communion.
Formed in 2008 to combat what it perceives as a "false gospel" of sexual immorality and compromise with secularism, GAFCON is the largest movement of traditional Christians within Anglicanism. It is strongly evangelical in its leadership and ethos, which has led some Anglo-Catholics to criticize the Diocese of Fort Worth's participation in the event.
For critics, Anglo-Catholic participation in the GAFCON movement amounts to a "sell out" to evangelical Protestantism and is no better than a denial of catholic principles.
Fr. Ryan Reed, Dean of St. Vincent's Cathedral and part of the Diocese of Fort Worth's delegation to GAFCON, sees things differently, believing that a failure to engage with the GAFCON movement would be fatal to North American Anglo-Catholicism. "GAFCON," he said in an interview with Virtueonline, "is the only thing going and we need to take our place at the table. If we don't participate we risk extinction."
The Dean also criticized what he characterized as "tribal attitudes" on the part of Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics and stressed the importance of moving beyond caricatures to work together for the Gospel. Reed was encouraged by the attitude of many GAFCON Evangelicals, "I've seen a spirit of reaching out to catholic minded folks here and I think we'd be wrong to turn our backs on that," he said.
Bishop Iker also believes that it is "important to take a positive attitude" towards GAFCON. For him and the rest of Fort Worth's delegation, it's preferable to concentrate on what unites catholics and evangelicals, rather than what divides them. There are several points of convergence; for example, both church groups are pro-life and pro-family, teaching that abortion is wrong and that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman. More importantly, both evangelicals and catholics affirm the centrality of scripture and the unique divinity of Jesus, all the while stressing the Gospel message of repentance, forgiveness of sin and salvation in Christ. Beyond that, Anglo-Catholics present at the conference feel they can sign on to GAFCON's statement of faith, the Jerusalem Declaration. Drawn up at the first Global Anglican Future Conference in 2008, the Declaration is a statement of classical Anglican belief. For example, it affirms the authority of scripture while stressing that the bible is to be understood with respect to the church's historic, consensual reading. It also "upholds the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church," and "rejoice(s) in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel." The Declaration also states clearly that marriage is between a man and a woman and "reject(s) the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed."
While most Anglo-Catholics would like to see the Declaration go further in a catholic direction, many agree with the Executive Director of Forward in Faith North America, Michael Howell, that the document "is a start." Likewise, though bishop Iker and the clergy from Fort Worth have been able to join in with GAFCON's worship, all would have liked greater use of the Prayer Book. For instance, an important Prayer Book Saints day, St. James, was overlooked at the conference, causing surprise among catholic minded delegates. Surely a movement that aims at "authentic Anglicanism" would lay greater emphasis on distinctively Anglican worship as authorized by the Book of Common Prayer. This, after all, is the liturgical standard upheld by GAFCON's statement of belief, the Jerusalem Declaration.
However, despite differences of doctrine, piety, liturgy and emphasis, Anglo-Catholics at GAFCON feel there is sufficient agreement on essentials to warrant working with Evangelicals against the common enemy of aggressive Anglican liberalism. This has displaced, persecuted and litigated against evangelicals and catholics alike in North America, Canada and beyond, leaving many traditional Anglicans disenfranchised and potentially without a home province.
For those Anglo-Catholics that have been run out of their own provinces by aggressive liberal pansexualism and want to be a part of the traditional majority of the Anglican Church, GAFCON represents a potential home. An imperfect one no doubt, but a home nonetheless, in which the sacraments are administered and the word of God proclaimed; a place to stand in the spiritual battle for the heart and soul of Anglicanism against the enemy of disbelief, whether within or without the church.
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