The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a group of Anglicans seeking to preserve Christian orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion, began a key meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, where a prominent Nigerian archbishop reemphasized the conference would not go into schism.
The meeting was preceded by a Thursday book release explaining the theological and historical justifications for their movement, which formed in response to Anglican and Episcopalian revisionists who have endorsed homosexual relationships and minimized the authority of Scripture.
The Theological Resource Team for GAFCON has written a 94-page book titled “The Way, the Truth and the Life,” which outlines the recent conflicts within the Anglican Communion and sets out to define what it believes to be “authentic Anglicanism.” The book discusses the consequences of the conflict and examines the future of “orthodox Anglicans.”
“Our journey is a witness that the truth of God is accessible. We are convinced that God has made himself known, sufficiently for us to be able to respond to him, and to make truly moral choices between obedience and disobedience,” the book says, according to a GAFCON statement.
Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad, GAFCON Head of Communications and CEO of the Media Project at the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life, told CNA in an e-mail the book “is for discussion and reflection and is not the conclusion” of the GAFCON debate.
“The Leadership Team is particularly concerned about making the coming week into a process where the participating bishops, clergy and laity will have a very real input to the final conclusive document. There is nothing particularly new in the document and it is not actually proposing a split but factually stating the very troubled situation for the Anglican Communion,” Rev. Fjeldstad said.
An excerpt from “The Way, the Truth and the Life” reads:
“These past ten years of distraction have been agonizing, and the cost has been enormous. The time and financial resources spent on endless meetings, whose statements and warnings have been consistently ignored, represent a tragic loss of resources that should have been used otherwise. It now appears, however, that the journey is coming to an end, and the moment of decision is almost upon us. But this is not a time to lose heart or fail to maintain vigilance. It would be an even greater tragedy if, while trying to bring others back to the godly path, we should ourselves miss the way or lose the race.”
The book says that GAFCON participants want unity, but “not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’ who can be obeyed or disobeyed.” The book also professes a desire to heal the Anglican Communion, “but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend.”
The road that follows the current path of the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, the book’s authors say, “is one that we simply cannot take: the cost is too high. We must not sacrifice eternal truth for mere appeasement, and we must not turn away from the source of life and love for the sake of a temporary truce.”
Rather, the book exhorts, Anglicans should commit themselves to many traditional beliefs, including the “authority and supremacy of Scripture;” the doctrine of the Trinity; the person, work, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the recognition of the divinity of Jesus and His being the only means of salvation; the sanctity of marriage; and morality grounded in biblical revelation.
The book says these commitments are not “onerous burdens or tiresome restrictions” but rather God’s gift to free mankind from the bondage of sin and to assure us of eternal life.
“We have arrived at a crossroads; it is, for us, the moment of truth,” the book says.
“We have made enormous efforts since 1997 in seeking to avoid this crisis, but without success. Now we confront a moment of decision. If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” said Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Abuja, Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman of GAFCON, in his contribution to the book, an essay titled “A Most Agonizing Journey towards Lambeth 2008.”
Archbishop Akinola, speaking in his opening address at the GAFCON Jerusalem meeting on Sunday, defended the decision to break communion with the Episcopal Church. “We had to stand up for our convictions based on the word of God, the Bible, and the faithful witness of a long succession of Anglicans, rather than fall for anything in the name of enlightened logic and the dictates of modern cultural trappings,” he said.
At a later news conference, Archbishop Akinola said, “I don’t want the failures of the last five years, and the endless meetings to continue.”
However, he emphasized that GAFCON would not leave the Anglican Communion.
“We have no other place to go, nor is it our intention to start another church,” he said.
GAFCON’s Jerusalem meeting will last seven days. According to GAFCON, representatives at the gathering account for 75 percent of the Anglican Communion. The 1,200 Conference delegates include 300 bishops, 250 clergy, and 200 non-ordained leaders.
The GAFCON meeting precedes the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference, which will begin in Canterbury, England in mid-July and lasts into August.
Rev. Fjeldstad told CNA he did not know the Lambeth Conference’s plans, but said they are “well aware” of the concerns of the Global Anglican Future Conference.
“I believe the conference itself is a message to Lambeth,” he said.