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JERUSALEM: Secular Media Response to GAFCON Ranges from Ridiculous to Shameful

JERUSALEM: Secular Media Response to GAFCON Ranges from Ridiculous to Shameful

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue in Jerusalem

Secular media covering the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) are seriously distorting both the content and message of the 1200 mostly Global South Anglican leaders, which includes 300 bishops from 38 countries, gathered here in Jerusalem.

Stories range from two London "Telegraph" stories saying that the GAFCON conference is a "shambles" to a follow up editorial, by eight of their writers, that said that GAFCON leaders have effectively declared the end of the worldwide Anglican Communion by saying that they could no longer be associated with liberals who tolerate actively homosexual clergy.

Not true, said GAFCON leaders. Archbishops Peter Jensen (Sydney) and Peter Akinola (Nigeria) said that GAFCON is not a rival communion. Jensen said he had been in touch with the Archbishop of Canterbury to assure him of his prayers for Lambeth and for a successful outcome. In turn, the Archbishop has assured him of his prayers for a successful outcome for this conference, as well.

"The Telegraph" simply got it wrong and worse, never retracted their accusations and allegations.

The pre-GAFCON consultation leaders have called for a renewal of Anglicanism and have disavowed accusations of schism. They reaffirmed the historic faith saying it is the actions of North American liberals that have caused the rift in the Communion. Archbishop Peter Jensen stated that the consecration of a homosexual bishop in The Episcopal Church has made the situation "irreversible" in the Anglican Communion.

"The Telegraph" writers' response to GAFCON reflects a deeply held Western patriarchy and an overt racism towards Global South bishops and archbishops. Most of them have been trained in the West and are bringing the gospel to their people, a gospel that most British clergy are too ashamed and bullied by post-modernity to publicly address.

Britain is sick morally and spiritually. It is in a vast state of ecclesiastical decline, helped along by the xenophobia of newspapers like the Telegraph, all of which is doing enormous damage to historic Christianity.

Secondly, both "The Guardian" writer Riazatt Butt and (sadly) Ruth Gledhill of the "London Times" made stories out of one single question on homosexuality at a press conference. The subject has not even been talked about, much less discussed or debated, nor has it been part of any private discussion or plenary session at the conference.

In her blog, Gledhill had a headline which screamed "The Banned" and said that eight men and women, including Colorado Bishop Robert O'Neill, Nigerian gay activist Davis MacIyalla, Rev Colin Coward, Louie Crew, Susan Russell, Scott Gunn and Deborah and Robert Edmunds, have been denied entry to GAFCON, should they try to show up.

This is grossly inaccurate. This conference, like nearly every conference ever held, is by invitation only, unless you want to attend a Billy Graham crusade. Would the LGBT pansexual Episcopal organization possibly invite an orthodox journalist to listen in on their plans? Of course not.

O'Neill cannot get into this conference because he does not sign on to the faith these 1200 Anglicans believe. He has a different gospel - a gospel propounded by Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori, which has nothing to do with historic Christianity. Why would he want to come? He would be embarrassed out of his mind after the first plenary session and leave.

Bishop O'Neill is in Jerusalem to hold the hand of the Bishop of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani and to whisper in his ear about who pays his bills as well as to serve as the "eyes and ears" of the US church's Presiding Bishop. He has not elected to gate crash the conference and if he turned up he would be politely told he was not on the list and should leave.

Jim Naughton, the PR flak for the Diocese of Washington, comments on "Thinking Anglicans" that this Anglican meeting is banning entry of the bishop's chaplain in the bishop's own diocese. Rubbish. I just checked and he has not even appeared at the Renaissance Hotel where the conference is being held.

"Should these or any other activists attempt to breach the security around the conference at the Renaissance Hotel in west Jerusalem, the 1,100 delegates have been instructed to start singing the hymn: 'All hail the power of Jesus' name.' In reality though security is extremely tight. Ex-military men from Israel are guarding all the doors, with two assigned purely to guard the Archbishop of Nigeria, Dr Peter Akinola, for the entire week."

This is a gross overstatement. Security in Israel is generally tight. Every hotel and public place, like the mall I was in recently, has security. Purses and bags are automatically checked by security. Everyone accepts it. The hotel I am staying at has lots of security, largely because, in one of the latest bombings, an Islamic fundamentalist set off a suicide bomb in a hotel.

"Guardian" writer Riazat Butt in her blog said the GAFCON leaders exhibit "an unheavenly silence on homophobia." She said clerics at the GAFCON have been slow to condemn violence against gay people. "It's incredible, and unchristian," she said.

That is not what this conference is about. Here is what happened. One whiny LGBT reporter, a Mr. Iain Baxter, from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, raised the issue of an isolated lesbian being attacked in Uganda, which Archbishop Henry Orombi had never even heard about. Unable to answer something he knew nothing about, he is now accused of being homophobic by Ms Butt. This is blatantly absurd.

Because he did not get the answer Baxter wanted (or was trying to extract from Orombi), Ms. Butt intervened and forced the issue by repeatedly asking where the GAFCON leaders stood on violence towards gays.

At that point, Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen jumped in and said Christians are opposed to violence not only towards gays, but to any minority group. One would have thought that this would have satisfied her. Apparently it did not.

She said there were "acute differences of opinion between the bishops, especially, and most worryingly, on the subject of raping and torturing homosexuals." That is simply not true. Jensen answered the question fully and completely.

Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya and is punishable by a fine, imprisonment or death, wrote Butt. Akinola indicated that every country and culture approached the matter differently and he is not responsible for what laws his Government makes. (On two occasions the Archbishop of Canterbury has accused the Nigerian Church of homophobia for alleged attacks on homosexuals. On both occasions they turned out to be false.)

The questioning here had one objective, to embarrass the GAFCON leaders on a subject they had not addressed at the conference and to write stories that would make them look homophobic. This is dishonest journalism at its highest.

Even the "Independent" magazine noted that GAFCON was a pressing reminder of the one issue that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams would like to ignore, but simply cannot: homosexuality and the Church. The "Communion" is faced with a real likelihood of schism over the Church's liberal stance on homosexuality, which tolerates gay clergy as long as they are not practicing.

Perhaps, but schism is not on the agenda and this is not the central issue here in Jerusalem. The besetting sin of liberal Anglicanism is not homosexuality, but the authority of Scripture, the nature of the gospel and the very definition of truth itself. As the Rev. Dr. David Short, rector of the largest Anglican Church in Canada observed, "this conference is about the crisis of biblical authority."

Even the BBC religious affairs correspondent focused on homosexuality, which he said was the cause of the widening rift in the communion, especially the ordination of a homosexual bishop. In fact, the conference has not addressed this in any plenary session. When the "crisis" is talked about it in the Communion, it is mainly in regard to the rejection of the authority of Scripture, growing secularist attitudes towards sexuality in the North American Church and the abandonment of the gospel and its embarrassing call to repentance and amendment of life.

"They are also drawing up what amounts to a blueprint for an alternative Anglican Communion," said the BBC. That too, is not true. There is no blueprint. Jensen and his fellow primates have repeatedly called for the renewing of the church and that they have no intention of leaving the Anglican Communion, even though they disagree very deeply with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on sexuality and other issues like Sharia Law being introduced into British Common Law.

This focus, by these writers, is biased and plays into the hands of a continuing and false homophobia aimed at orthodox Anglicans by a minority of pansexualists who are demanding acceptance of their behavior.

These stories only discredit the gospel affirming stories that are pouring out of here - of testimonies of changed lives, of Christian conversion, of the enormous growth of the church in the Global South, the high education standards and demands of African bishops and the call for faith and repentance, a call that homosexuals have no intention of heeding and which might cause them to be excluded from the very kingdom to which they yearn to belong.


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