The Anglican ‘Realignment’ Takes shape

So there we have it: a new, Bible-based, evangelical network of Anglican Churches, mostly in the developing South, has been formed at a conference of 280 bishops in Jerusalem, as a counter-weight within the Anglican Communion. This is not a split or schism. But it can be likened to a Reformation with far-reaching consequences, one that is set to reshape Anglicanism for decades to come – as did, in the nineteenth century, the Oxford movement. Just as the Oxford movement sought to pull the Church of England back to its Catholic roots and ended up dominating it, so the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA) – created by the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCon) in Jerusalem which ended Sunday – is a new association of orthodox or evangelical Anglicans which is set to undermine and overshadow the existing Anglican Communion. FOCA includes at least two Church of England bishops as well as the heads of leading African, South American and Australian churches, incorporating 35 million worshippers in countries where Anglicanism is growing much faster than in Europe and America. (The Anglican Communion overall is thought to include about 80 million believers.) FOCA rejects not only the "false Gospel" of the North-American Anglicans, and their "unscriptural" endorsement of homosexuality, but also what they call the "colonial" domination of the global Anglican Church by northern, liberal mentalities. The new federation, overseen by a Council, is not so much a "Church within a Church" as a "Communion within a Communion". It will retain formal ties with Dr Rowan Williams and remain within the global Anglican Church. But there the togetherness ends. As Ruth Gledhill of The Times points out, "the new body will have its own bishops, clergy and theological colleges, and eventually its own structures, within the legal constraints of existing Anglican institutions." Gafcon Churches will expressly be out of communion with the US and Canadian Anglicans, who allowed the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003 and have authorized same-sex blessings in the teeth of objections from the Anglican Primates. In the Gafcon view, it is the North-American Episcopals’ refusal to repent of these moves, despite requests from the Archbishop of Canterbury underlined by the Windsor Report of 2004, which has forced the current crisis. But rather than defend Canterbury’s authority against the North-American Episcopals, FOCA is choosing to bypass Canterbury because of its refusal to expel them. The attendance of the US and Canadian Episcopal bishops at the Lambeth Conference which opens on July 16 makes a mockery of these "instruments of unity" of the Anglican Communion, say the Gafcon bishops, who will mostly be boycotting Lambeth. So the Gafcon structure effectively sidelines the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the traditional dominance of the Church of England within the Anglican Communion. In its final declaration, Gafcon on Sunday noted three "facts" about the crisis within the Anglican Communion: 1. The "acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ’gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel ... In 2003 this false gospel led to the consecration of a bishop living in a homosexual relationship." 2. The "declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel .... A major realignment has occurred and will continue to unfold." 3. The "manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy .... Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ’Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008." .... "We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ’we are a global Communion with a colonial structure’." Gafcon describes itself as a "fellowship which is faithful to biblical teaching, more representative of the demographic distribution of global Anglicanism today and stronger as an instrument of effective mission, ministry and social involvement." Together with a series of 14 proclamations called the Jerusalem Declaration--essentially a call to return to the Elizabethan Protestant version of Anglicanism with its Book of Common Prayer and 39 Articles--the Gafcon leaders announced the formation of a new Council of Primates which will be, in effect, the "instrument of unity" for the Gafcon "communion-within-a-communion." FOCA will include a traditionalist North American province based on the existing Common Cause federation, which would declare independence from the liberal Episcopal Church. What happens next will be interesting. The FOCA leaders are arriving in London today, and will be holding talks and discussion in evangelical Anglican churches over the next few days. Will parishes in the Church of England profess allegiance to FOCA? If so, how many? In other words, will this "global evangelical rebellion" rub salt in the existing divisions within the Church of England? Meanwhile, four points to keep in mind: 1. The formation of FOCA consolidates and ratifies divisions which have long existed and have been growing ever more acute. Because the Anglican Communion is a loose federation, which includes Churches with strongly differing theologies and ecclesiologies, it can be seen as a tightening of one part of the Communion rather than simply the further disintegration of the whole. 2. Although the presenting issue is homosexuality, it would be wrong to say that the Anglicans have "split on the gay issue" as the press are inevitably choosing to simplify it. The difference is the old one of biblical authority. Gafcon is essentially a reassertion of the essentially Protestant elements of Anglicanism (Book of Common Prayer, 39 Articles) against "liberalizing" and "Catholicizing" tendencies in northern Anglicanism. It is a global version of the eighteenth-century English rebellion of the low-church evangelicals against the "wordly" bishops. 3. FOCA’s severing of the links with the Episcopal Church in the US and Canada leaves the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury in communion with large and important parts of the worldwide Anglican Church which are at the same time out of communion with each other. Anglicanism has always had a genius for maintaining "together" -- the word must sometimes be employed very loosely – wildly incompatible understandings of what "Church" means. There is no reason to think it has lost that genius. 4. But it is not unimaginable that in the future the Anglican Communion becomes an even looser federation incorporating three networks: the evangelicals of the South, the liberal Catholics of Europe, and the liberal Protestants of the US and Canada. Austen Ivereigh
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10 years 2 months ago
The Oxford Movement certainly did not end up dominating the Church of England. It changed the appearance of churches and made Protestant Bishops dress up in mitres but its doctrines on church, ministry, and salvation, did not permeate to C of E. It was a gallant attempt to graft upon an essentially Protestant and Erastian church some vestiges of Catholicism. The dominant section of the C of E is modernist. The Evangelicals are merely reaffirming the traditional character of the Elizabethan Church, which was regarded as Protestant by all other Protestant Reformed Churches, and was staffed by Calvinists.
10 years 2 months ago
Properly called rebellious than heretical? Not! Heresy is still heresy... The role of heresy in history is evil. The Church Is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Anglicanism/Episcopals or whatever they are going to call themselves with this new movement, need to come home. Making decisions in Jerusalem like this without the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him continues the Heresy. Quo Vadis? Lassie Come Home!
10 years 2 months ago
I would like to let Mr. Ivereigh know that Anglicans in Canada are Catholic and Protestant, and Episcopalians in the US are also Catholic and Protestant. Some also would characterize themselves as Charismatic. Many of the Protestant Anglicans and Episcopalians have chosen to be part of this ''Back to the Past'' confederation. This new GAFCON group is more focused on power than on any biblical principle. Some members have already sold their allegiance to the Anglican Communion for the chance to be consecrated as bishops. The southern hemisphere power contingency would first find a disgruntled member of the clergy, offer him the prize, then the new ''bishop elect'' would convince his parish to join the orthodox fold. This alliance is not primarily about God, Christ or any other religious dynamic: it is about pure and absolute power. -- A Canadian Anglican


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