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JERUSALEM: Telegraph Newspaper Editors Write Misguided Editorial on GAFCON

JERUSALEM: Telegraph Newspaper Editors Write Misguided Editorial on GAFCON

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue in Jerusalem

The Anglican Church is divided, but not fatally, screamed an editorial signed by eight leader writers for the London Telegraph newspaper today.

"The grandly named Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon), which is meeting in the Holy Land this week, is supposed to be a sort of conservative rival to the Lambeth Conference next month.

Gafcon consists of around 200 Anglican bishops and laity, principally from the theologically conservative reaches of Africa and the United States.

On Wednesday, it effectively declared the end of the worldwide Anglican Communion, explaining that it could no longer be associated with liberals who tolerate actively homosexual clergy."

Not true, say GAFCON leaders.

Archbishops Peter Jensen (Sydney) and Peter Akinola (Nigeria) stressed at a press conference, yesterday, that the upcoming GAFCON meeting 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 assured him of his prayers for a successful outcome for this conference, as well.

The pre-GAFCON consultation leaders called for a renewal of Anglicanism, yesterday, and 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 had made the situation "irreversible" in the Anglican Communion.

Jensen played down reports that GAFCON will be an alternative to Lambeth and placed the current crisis in the Anglican Communion squarely on the shoulders of North American liberals who have turned away from the faith by forcing alternative sexual lifestyles on the Communion.

"Some conservatives will go to one conference and some will go to both conferences (Lambeth and GAFCON). GAFCON is not a further cause for schism. What has happened in the Anglican Communion has rocked us all," he said.

Jensen said a report in "The Telegraph" newspaper that Anglican Communion leaders meeting in Amman had formally declared the end of the worldwide Anglican Communion is inaccurate. The report said GAFCON leaders would no longer be associated with liberals who tolerate homosexuality.

"If there is a rift, it was caused by the actions of The Episcopal Church in 2003 with the consecration of Gene Robinson. As a result, the Anglican Communion has been damaged. The response to that is that people have been crossing boundaries and consecrating bishops with orthodox people removing themselves from local Anglican churches while wanting to remain Anglicans. We are seeing a reshaping of the (Anglican) landscape, so now we have to work to see what that looks like."

The Telegraph leader article wrongly blames GAFCON for the crisis and offers up a number of blatantly false statements.

The Telegraph editorial writers said: "Before Dr Rowan Williams runs up the white flag, he should take a closer look at the reality of Gafcon, as opposed to its self-important pronouncements. The truth is that the conference has so far been a shambles. Its leader, the belligerent Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, has been denied entry to Jordan. Other conservative church leaders are missing because they have chosen not to attend. Significant absentees at Gafcon include the Rt Rev John Chew, Primate of South-East Asia, and Dr Mouneer Anis, Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East and treasurer of the "Global South" group of conservative provinces. And even those leaders who are attending the conference make up a volatile compound. Gafcon, in other words, is far from the united force it claims to be, and it does not fully represent Anglicanism in the developing world."

The truth is GAFCON is not in "shambles." Far from it. Akinola was denied access to Jordan because of a bureaucratic snafu. The fact that not all orthodox primates, like Southeast Asia Primate John Chew, are here, means very little. The former Archbishop of Southeast Asia, Yong Ping Chung is here with the full endorsement of his peers from Singapore and Malaysia.

To say that GAFCON "does not fully represent Anglicanism in the developing world" is to fly in the face of the evidence.

The representation of the Province of Nigeria, the largest Anglican province in the Anglican Communion with 25 million active members (verses the Church of England which has less than one million active Anglicans), as well as 10 million active Ugandan Anglicans represented by Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi as well as Primates from Kenya and Rwanda, speaks volumes. Together they account for more than 70 percent of the entire Anglican Communion. It is a fiction to say, as the Telegraph writers argue, that this is not fully representative of global Anglicanism.

The presence of Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen, from the largest Anglican diocese in Australia, and the coming presence of Archbishop Gregory Venables, from the Southern Cone, gives further lie to these newspaper charges.

Furthermore, no one is asking Dr. Williams to "run up the white flag of surrender". That is not on the minds of these GAFCON leaders.

Global South theologians here (there are more from Africa and Asia than Europe or North America) have repeatedly made it clear that it is the actions of North American pansexualists and theological liberals who have walked away from the faith, and not they themselves, that have lead to the Communion's problems.

"People talk about schism - breaking away - but as far as I am concerned, I am not hearing about breaking up the communion. North Americans have rent the communion. We are trying to renew the communion. I want to see it better than ever before. It will be different, however," said Jensen.

"GAFCON is a movement, not just a convention. It will likely have a future life and the present leadership would take that life on. What that looks like is yet to be discussed," said Jensen.

"This is a different conference. It is a conference brought about in the last ten years by the monumental events which has changed the whole landscape and now we must work out what to do with the future."

The charge by the Telegraph writers that "Gafcon is dominated by the single issue of homosexuality" is total rubbish. Homosexuality is not on the multi-layered agenda, except under the general heading of a workshop on the family.

The Telegraph writers are perpetuating nonsense from an initially misguided story that GAFCON is creating schism when in fact it is not.

These newspaper writers are causing harm and division to the communion and to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the very time he is trying to pour oil on troubled Anglican waters. It is also the height of Western Anglican arrogance to perpetuate the myth that the West holds sway over the communion. That day is long gone along with the Elizabethan Settlement and the British Empire. A new global Anglican Communion day is dawning and its strength is coming from new global quarters. The Telegraph writers might want to take notice of this.

Those writers should withdraw their charges, if they really want to wish Dr. Williams well.


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