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GAFCON II: What has changed?

GAFCON II: What has changed?
Will GAFCON II be heeded by the wider Anglican Communion?

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
October 22, 2013

Much has changed since the original Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) met in Jerusalem in early summer of 2008. Yet much stays the same. In June 2008, when nearly 1200 Anglicans gathered in the Holy Land in the shadow and memory of Christ's earthly life, the Anglican Communion had been thrown into disarray as an opening and practicing homosexual, Vicky Gene Robinson had been elevated to the episcopate firmly clutching the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire's crozier. Katharine Jefferts Schori, too, had burst through the stained glass ceiling to become the first female primate in Anglicanism. Both events shook the Anglican Communion to its very core. The very fabric of Anglicanism had been torn - rent asunder - and the healing of Anglicanism continues to slip through fingers like water and sand.

Now as GAFCON II opens in Nairobi, Kenya, Bishop Robinson has retired as a sitting Episcopal bishop. He has moved to Washington, DC to become the Bishop-in-Residence at St. Thomas on DuPont Circle, apparently leaving his "partner" behind in New Hampshire. The outspoken bishop continues to globe trot with his LGBT message. On Oct. 17 he tweeted, "In London. Breakfast with new Archbishop of Canterbury this morning at Lambeth Palace, and Morning Prayer in 13th c. chapel." Lambeth Palace has refused to comment. "The meeting to which you refer was a private meeting and therefore we can't offer any comment," Jan McFarlane the Acting Press Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury replied to VOL's inquiry.

Three days later, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby made an 8,000 mile flying trip to Africa - while on his way to a Porvoo Communion Primates' Meeting in Iceland - to schmooze with the gathering GAFCON bishops and provide for some photo ops while quickly preaching at All Saints Cathedral's 9:30 and 11:30 Sunday morning services. The new Archbishop of Canterbury was all smiles when he posed with American Archbishop Robert Duncan, who has been summarily marginalized by the Anglican powers that be in the western hemisphere.

Meanwhile Katharine Jefferts Schori's ecclesial reign of terror, which has seen Mitregate, Bishopsgate, UTOgate and the disposing of at least 700 Episcopal clergy, is drawing to a close. The Episcopal Church is slated to elect a new presiding bishop at the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since the first GAFCON meeting many global south Anglican primates have refused to sit at table with her, break bread with her, or even communicate with her. Anglican bishops and primates alike have been no shows to major Anglican Communion events such as Lambeth Conference, the Primates' Meeting, or the Anglican Consultative Council confabs because the Episcopal Presiding Bishop was scheduled to participate.

Since the first GAFCON, gathering four more Episcopal dioceses have realigned and left The Episcopal Church for greener spiritual pastures including the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy and South Carolina. The Diocese of San Joaquin realigned before GAFCON I took place - a foretaste of things to come.

Both the papacy and Canterbury saw new top leadership. When GAFCON I occurred, Rowan Williams was the Archbishop of Canterbury; Pope Benedict XVI was the Roman pontiff. Both gentlemen have retired turning over their respective croziers to newcomers. Pope Francis has moved to the Vatican from South America while Justin Welby became the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. Both enthronement ceremonies were beamed live worldwide via the Internet within days of each other. The two top Christian leaders have since met.

While Benedict was pope, Anglicanorum Coetibus was penned and the Anglican Ordinariates - a unique Catholic ecclesial jurisdictional niche for disenfranchised Anglicans and Episcopalians who want to be united with the Bishop of Rome rather than the Archbishop of Canterbury - was established in the United Kingdom for England and Wales, the United States and Canada, and in Australia. Five Church of England bishops Andrew Burnham, Keith Newton, John Broadhurst, Edwin Barnes and David Silk temporarily decimated the leadership of Forward in Faith–UK when they announced their intention to enter the forming English Anglican ordinariate. Since its erection, former Bishop Newton (II Bishop of Richborough) was named the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for England and Wales.

Some familiar faces from GACFON I have also experienced change. Former Episcopal Bishop Robert Duncan (VII Pittsburgh) has become the founding archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) while Church of England Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali (CVI Rochester) has retired and become a much sought after speaker throughout the Anglican world raking up frequent flier miles as he zips across the globe fulfilling speaking engagements. Archbishop Duncan has had to battle acceptance from his fellow Anglican brethren. GAFCON and Global South primates and provinces readily offered the glad hand of fellowship and communion to the American bishop when ACNA was in the early stages of formation taking it first early breathes of provincial life. All seven Anglican primates who attended the first GAFCON have retired including: the Church of Nigeria's Peter Akinola; the Anglican Church in Australia's Peter Jensen; the Church of Uganda's Henry Orombi; the Church of the Province of West Africa's Justice Akrofi; the Southern Cone's Gregory Venables; the Church of Rwanda's Emmanuel Kolini; and the Anglican Church of Kenya's Benjamin Nzimbi.

Several bright lights in the Anglican world, too, have gone out following GAFCON I including Peter Toon who died in 2009 and John R. W. Stott who died in 2011.

One future King of England has been born - Prince George of Cambridge. The newborn prince is to be baptized this week by the Archbishop of Canterbury while GAFCON II continues to meet in Kenya. When he eventually comes to the throne, he will not rule over that east African nation as his great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II did before its 1963 independence. It is the British colonization of Africa that brought Anglicanism to Kenya. Standing between the young prince and the throne are his great-grandmother Elizabeth II, the reigning sovereign; his grandfather Charles, the Prince of Wales; and his father Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge.

The preliminary numbers are in for GAFCON II which shows an increased participation over the original GAFCON. A total of 1352 participants journeyed to Kenya from 29 Anglican provinces in 40 different nations, a boost of more than 200 souls over the 2008 GAFCON where participants came from 19 Anglican provinces in 29 countries. The new numbers include 331 bishops. Nearly 10 percent are archbishops, an increase of 40 bishop-attendees including some of whom are newly-minted bishops such as ACNA's Clark Lowenfield the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Western Gulf. Other familiar American faces at GAFCON II include Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker and South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Some of the GAFCON leadership archbishops known to be attending GAFCON II include: Eliud Wabukala of Kenya and GAFCON chairman; Daniel Deng Bul of the Sudan; Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America; Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria; Archbishop Henri Isingoma of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Tito Zavala of the Southern Cone; Archbishop Stanley Ntgali of Uganda. Onesphore Rwaje of Rwanda is also a GAFCON primate.

Although an unfolding medical emergency almost forced Archbishop Duncan to return to United States for immediate treatment even before Monday's opening GAFCON II gavel fell, he was able to have much needed dental surgery in Nairobi to relieve an tooth abscess. He plans on staying at GAFCON. Sunday he was complaining of tooth pain; Monday prayers went up for his healing and health.

So far GAFCON, which was originally convened to "deliberate on the crisis that has divided the Anglican Communion", has not been the hoped-for spiritually galvanizing transformative force within the Anglican Communion to guide Anglicanism back on to the well-trodden Scriptural path to Christ. The Words of the first GAFCON's Jerusalem Statement "We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed" have fallen on deaf ears and hardened hearts and have gone unheeded in many Anglicans in the western world.

The Episcopal Church is still thumbing its nose at the rest of the Anglican Communion and now, in addition to embracing same-sex relationships, the American church is also openly promoting transgendered ministry, and has single-handedly effectively killed the Anglican Covenant designed to bring a modicum of traditionalism and orthodoxy to the faith.

The Church of England is forcing women into the House of Bishops even though that measure failed in the 2012 CofE Synod. Five more women - including a practicing lesbian - have been elected bishops in The Episcopal Church in the United States. Since the first GAFCON conference, other Anglican jurisdictions now allowing women in the episcopate include the Episcopal Church of Cuba, Anglican Church of Australia, the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, the Church of South India, and the Church of Ireland. In addition, a female Church of England priest has been elected as a diocesan bishop in New Zealand thus becoming the first CofE woman bishop but not serving on English soil.

The Church in Wales has recently made provision for women bishops. The Scottish Episcopal Church was not able to elect its first women bishop, although one was nominated.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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