Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thoughts on GAFCON

by the Rt. Rev. Paul C. Hewett, SSC

Moderator of the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas

Bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Cross

Nearly 1,200 pilgrims from five continents, representing 35 million faithful Anglicans, two thirds of the Anglican Communion, gathered for 8 days in Jerusalem, in what must surely be the most significant watershed for Anglicans since the Reformation.

The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, the Communion’s largest province, gave the Opening Address, entitled “GAFCON – A Rescue Mission.” “GAFCON,” he said, “is a godly instrument to reshape, reform, renew and reclaim a true Anglican Biblical orthodox Christianity that is firmly anchored in historic faith and ancient formularies...We are here to inaugurate and determine the roadmap to (our) future. And from what better place in the world could we take the fullest advantage of the most powerful reminders of the life and ministry of our Lord and only Saviour Jesus the Christ than here in the holy land where he was born, grew up, served, was killed, rose again for our justification, ascended to heaven and now is seated at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us.”

Normally a conference of this magnitude takes years to prepare. GAFCON was put together, brilliantly, and funded, in five months. The hand of God was upon this mighty work. Our time together was filled with pilgrimages to holy sites, worship, devotional prayer sessions, workshops, Bible study and several plenary sessions. Each of these was arranged so that we could truly be pilgrims, journeying from our roots into the future God has in mind for us. We heard outstanding presentations and sermons from Professor Os Guinness, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, England, Archbishop Yong Ping Chung from Malaysia and Archbishop Gregory Venables from the Southern Cone, and numerous others. The daily morning workshops were superb. I looked in on two, “Family and Marriage,” and “Anglican Identity in the 21st Century.” The others were “Gospel and Culture,” “Gospel and Leadership,” “Biblical Authority and Interpretation,” “Evangelism and Church Planting,” “Theological Education,” and “Bishops’ Wives.” We had opportunities to visit shrines in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Galilee.
FACA was represented by bishops, clergy and laity from the Diocese of the Holy Cross, the Episcopal Missionary Church, the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Mission in America. I had an opportunity to speak as part of a panel of bishops in the Common Cause Partnership, when we met as the CCP to lay out our perceptions and expectations. I said that it was clear that a green light was being given to us in North America to use CCP as the nucleus of a new and recognized North American province that could remain federated until it resolves its differences. And in so resolving our differences, we must always commit ourselves to the consensus of the undivided Church of the first millennium.

Forward in Faith from North America and England were well represented, and it was very useful to have time to network closely with them, to keep coordinated and on the same page. We could see that what GAFCON was doing was launching a new, or second, reformation, positioning itself as the beginning of an ecclesial movement for renewal and proclamation opportunities. To do this GAFCON would open up enough structure, like a giant umbrella, within which we can deal with secondary issues. The largest of these is the ordination of women. In his Address, “Where do we go from here?” Bishop John Rodgers noted the “serious degree of impaired communion...around this matter,” and the need for a proper study such as the one AMiA conducted. To encourage this, Forward in Faith at its recent Assembly in Belleville, IL, passed a resolution urging Common Cause Partners who ordain women to begin such a study, with a moratorium on ordinations until the study is completed. The same resolution will be on the agenda at FACA’s meeting this September.

Bishop Rodgers went on to assert the necessity of returning to “a common prayer book tradition. The classic expression of this is the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal. This classic prayer book is grace-centered to a unique degree. Cranmer surpassed all others in placing the Gospel in the center of the worship and prayers of the people.”

He also takes a strong stand for a conciliar form of governance, using the sobornost theology of the Russian Orthodox Church and the other Orthodox. “Our present form is really more like a global family picnic than a council. The early Church from biblical times onward held councils, not picnics...In addition, with regard to ecumenical conversations, a conciliar form of Communion would enable clearer and more easily recognized conversations and cooperation. We should do this because it is biblical, traditional, catholic, missional and ecumenical.” In a Diocese like ours, Holy Cross, we already have a markedly conciliar way of governance. For example, we have holy synods, not conventions. The business or political part of our synods is an hour or two at most, and the rest is all “fellowship in the Holy Spirit.” It is recognized in advance that no matter of Faith or Morals could ever even appear on an agenda.

Bishop Rodger’s projection for the future is that a new faithful Anglican conciliar Communion should be formed as soon as possible. The GAFCON primates would call a Council “which would begin the reformed Global Anglican Family comprised of all those provinces, dioceses and congregations as wished and were able to align with it. It would thus initiate the reformed Anglican Family allowing it to take its place in the world, unattached from the present Anglican Communion. The days of weak response and delay are past. The issues are far too serious, too serious for the spread of the Apostolic Gospel, and too serious for the preservation and vital work of faithful Anglicanism. No matter what the pain or no matter what the cost, we are called by the Lord to devote ourselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers, while living in vigorous apostolic mission.”

The opportunities for networking were massive, meeting new people and strengthening existing ties, with people like Fr. Kevin Donlon, Bp. Mark Lawrence, Professor Edith Humphrey, Bp. John Rodgers, Fr. Douglas Mussey, Bp. and Mrs. Jim Davis, and Ron Spears and the Association of Western Anglican Congregations, and many others. After the final Eucharist and lunch, the Ackermans took me to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I shall never forget kneeling in the Empty Tomb with Bishop Keith, placing our SSC Pectoral Crosses on the spot where Jesus rose from the dead.

Bishop Keith by the way was a strong presence at GAFCON, as was everyone from Forward in Faith and FACA. Everyone knows that we cannot and will not compromise the ministry as our Lord instituted it and the apostles continued it. We are not, and can never be, in communion with anyone who ordains women. If those who do so continue the practice, we will remain in our federated relationships, entirely independent in our own synods and structures. But we will declare to them “all the counsel of God,” (Acts 20:27) and the way in which all the issues we face are interrelated. All these issues are one and the same thing: the gnostic impulse to redefine human nature apart from Christ. Those who persist in ordaining women are backing themselves into an ever-shrinking corner. It is the women themselves who are increasingly going to rise up against it, and ask that the tables in the house of the Lord have men at their heads. Boys must have this if they are to be men-in-Christ. Our culture is crumbling because not enough boys are learning how to be godly men. Chesterton predicted, early in the 20th century, that the most radical thing in the world by the end of the century would be Christian Fatherhood. The Bible shows us how patriarchy is redeemed, modeled in Jesus the Son, who reveals the Father as the ultimate gracious Patriarch. The Incarnation of the Son is the ultimate in kenosis, or self-emptying. In the Holy Spirit, patriarchy is gracious and kenotic.

For a proper, biblical release of feminine gifts that grows out of the one great tradition, we begin with Our Lady, the first Christian, the new Eve. With a growing awareness of Mary as our Mother, we can begin to ennumerate and build up the ways in which girls and women live in the Body, first as wives and mothers, and then in the plethora of ministries that are or can be open to them, according to their gifts, to build once again a culture of life. Christian women from Africa, with their dress, modesty, courtesy and manners, have some things to teach us, and are a good example to our secular culture.

It is essential that we deepen our relationships with Rome and Orthodoxy, first and foremost because our Lord desires this, and also because the Muslims are coming. At the very least, we need to learn to speak with one moral voice in the face of the rising tide of Islam. The person who hinted at the need for convergence with the larger Catholic world was the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, in his brilliant talk, “The Nature and Future of the Anglican Communion.” The patristic consensus of the undivided Church is our foundation as Anglicans, and is now the basis for dialogue with Rome and Orthodoxy.

As Anglo Catholics we have been in the purgative fires for over 30 years. The Evangelicals have not been in as many refinings. We need to help them understand the Catholic Faith. We need to help them get rid of the cancer of gnosticism that has invaded evangelicalism and the mushy theology that has marked much of the charismatic world. We can help them to really go counter cultural and swim against the tide, as transformers of our culture. Meanwhile they can help us become better evangelicals and take sides with John Wesley, who saw the world as his parish, not his parish as his world. I am going to be asking what opportunities or structures we can create for encounters, at the deepest level, between Anglo catholic, evangelical and charismatic Anglicans.

I would say that GAFCON got it about right with the amount of structure being put into place. We can go slowly on structures now, until we begin to sort out the issues we face. This is the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic way. We cooperate to the greatest extent possible, and let the paperwork follow. This will help us to steer clear of some of the division that followed the St. Louis Congress in 1977. In some ways GAFCON resembled St. Louis on a global scale. One senses from both events that from now on, nothing will ever be the same. What makes GAFCON different is the preponderance of Global South leadership and membership, which will drive our faithful Communion for generations to come.

Of the three models for governance (confessional, conciliar and magisterial) we will, many of us hope, emphasize the conciliar. We are a confessing Church, (now, more than ever, like the confessing church movement in Nazi Germany that resisted Hitler). But we are not a Church with a Confession (a quite lengthy doctrinal statement) like the Lutherans and Presbyterians. Our only confessions are the 3 creeds of the primitive Church, and the Ecumenical Councils. There can be magisterial elements in our governance, because the Book of Common Prayer is our equivalent of a magisterium, a teaching office. But like the Orthodox, we do not have a magisterium centered in the Pope. The teaching office of the Pope should be sufficient for the entire Body, because all Christians should be aware of what he says, and take it very seriously.
GAFCON’s blessing to us in the United States is the acceptance by the Primates’ Council of the Common Cause Partnership as the nucleus of a new province in North America. Building this is a monumental task, probably our last chance to “get it right.” The task before us is staggering, as it was before Nehemiah and the Jews returning from exile. Nehemiah told them “of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” (Nehemiah 2: 18)


Texanglican (R.W. Foster+) said...

Very well put. May God hasten the day when the CCP is the internationally recognized province of North America.

Canon Tallis said...

When John Rogers, the former Dean of Trinity, recommends the English 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a focus of Anglican unity, does that mean that he and the rest of AMiA are willing to accept and obey the rubrics of that book? You know, the ones about the chancels remaining as they were during the reign of Mary and using the ancient vestments and ornaments of the Church? Or accepting the discipline of the daily offices, the assigned fasts and the celebration of Holy Communion as the main service of Sundays and holy days? I hope to be pleasantly surprised but will not be holding my breath.

In my own opinion the best Anglican prayer books are those of '28 and '29 of the churches of England, Scotland and the United States while 1662 is simply a signal that clergy will continue to be allowed to evade the "doctrine, discipline and worship . . . . of the church."

Dr.D said...

For the life of me, I cannot see why CCP would use the BCP 1662 which is so specifically English when we have the BCP 1928 that is already adapted to the American situation.

It is particularly good to see Bp. Hewett's comments being circulated. Bp. Hewett is working tirelessly for reunification within the Anglican Continuum and is a real leader. I hope everyone will listen closely to what he says and follow his work.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I think both CCP and GAFCON claim the 1662 as their standard because the Anglican churches (wherever they may be in the world) always affirm that it is their intent to carry on the historic faith of the Church of England. Most members of the CCP (to my knowledge) don't actually use the 1662 "in the pew"--except for the REC, which uses the 1662 and 1928 Eucharists. AMiA and the departing ECUSA diocese use, for the most part, some pick and choose method from the 1979 ECUSA/TEC/whatever book.

I've previously put myself on record as being in favor of Dr. Toon's "An Anglican Prayer Book" as a fair modern language version of the services from 1662, 1928 American, and 1962 Canadian BCPs.

Dr.D said...

I think you are correct in your assessment of the intent of both CCP and GAFCON in specifying the BCP 1662. The thing that strikes me as particularly unfortunate is that so many in the leadership of CCP are 1979 book people, which to my mind at least, is no BCP at all. As you said, in practice, they use the 1979 whatever book, so they are not really accustomed to using the BCP, any BCP, at all.

I am aware that Fr. Toon has done this update, but I have not seen it. I have to be a little be skeptical of it for reasons that Fr. Toon himself explained many years ago regarding the appropriate language for worship.

Speaking of Fr. Toon, everyone should be aware that he is very near death from a very strange disease, ameloid disease (sp?) that coats the internal organs and causes them to cease to function correctly. As I understand it, and this is about fifth hand, I think it is his heart that is particularly being coated, and he is very short of breath and limited in his physical activities. He was preparing for some sort of fairly rigorous treatment recently when he was informed his heart would not stand it, so he is to be given basically a palliative treatment. Please pray for Fr. Peter Toon, a great man of the Church.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I think Dr. Toon's work was done under the understanding that the "old" BCPs were too old-fashioned for most, and that if they were going to use a modern-language service it should be orthodox and approximate the classic books as much as possible.

From what I understand, you are correct about Fr. Toon's current health status. I fear that like Fr. Tarsitano we may lose Dr. Toon far to soon, given the good work that both men have done on behalf of the Anglican Church. I second your admonition to all those reading: Please pray for the Rev'd Dr. Toon.

J. Gordon Anderson said...

Is it me, or did Dr. Toon never seem to like continuing Anglicanism so much?

I had dinner with an AMiA priest a few weeks back, and he confirmed what DH+ said. Most of there churches don't actually use the 1662 BCP. He said that liturgically the AMiA is a complete toss up. I forget what his parish used, but it was a combination of about four different Anglican communion prayer books.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

Toon+ has always seemed on the fence in regards to the "break away" Anglican groups--sympathetic to their causes, but still holding out hope that some reform could come from within the Anglican Communion. I think he also saw the continuum as too fragmented (jurisdictionally and theologically) to make much of an impact. I may be reading into his thinking things that aren't there, but that's what I've taken away from some of his writings. That being said, he's lectured at Cranmer House on the Seven Councils and Tarsitano+ (his partner in classical Anglicanism for those who didn't know) was very close to the ACA and the REC.

Sadly, AMiA does seem all over the map with their liturgies (the pick and choose from the 79 method); they've got a handful of 28 BCP parishes. They've got some good people in their midst who are fighting the good fight, and my prayers are with them. As I said, I think the Toonish Prayer Book is a good thing, far better than using the 1979. I like the 1962 Canadian book, which is somewhat modern but still very much in the Cranmerian-Laudian lineage.

Dr.D said...

Fr. Anderson is correct about Fr. Toon's thinking on the Continuum. Fr. Toon thought the Continuum represented a tendency toward more and more division, and he was much opposed to that. I have discussed this with him on several occasions.

Dr.D said...

Here is an update on Fr. Toon from the man himself:

My problem and disease is Amyloidosis. In my case the amyloid rogue protein has deeply affected my heart slowing me down to half my speed of 9 months or a year ago. It has also had a knock on effect on my rigth lung.

It can be attacked by modern medicine in two ways: first by Stem Cell Transplant, a long and tough Procedure. I was all set for this having been prepared for it for several weeks and then at the very last minute (july 14) it was decided that I was not strong enough for the Procedure which involved 40 days in hospital to prevent against infections and the like. The second way to kill the amyloid is by a long process of strong medication and I began this yesterday and this lasts for 12 months and has all kinds of side effects.

The heart will remain injured but the attack is upon the amyloid and its sources in bone marrow and blood; and this should mean no further deteriotation of the heart and lung as amyloid is destroyed

Only supernatural healing from above can repair the heart to the position of wellness of say 5 or 10 years ago! God grants such only in extraordinary situations as we well know from long experience of his workings.

To add to my woes, my voice is often crackled, very low or non-existent and this is nothing to to with amyloid but is rather that the muscles of the Vocal Chords do not always close them and so air escapes! This can be improved by modern medicine but right now I cannot get this organised.

In all I must say that the pain of the Anglican Way is greater to me than my amyloidosis: but as I say the burden of much of this falls on my wife and she is more needful of prayer I think than am I.

Canon Tallis said...

I have had Dr Toon in my own prayers and in those of my parish from the moment that I heard of his condition. I hope that all others who hope, "work, pray and give" for the survival of classical Anglicanism are doing likewise. That said, I must admit that I not impressed with Dr Toon's 'transcription' of the 1662 prayer book, chiefly in what he left out. If Muslims can require the learning of Arabic so that the Quran can be read and understood in the original, surely we have among us those who can understand and teach the grammar of classical prayer book language. And please understand that I use the word "grammar" in the sense of the mediaeval trivium.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

As I've made know (to the shock and horror of many), I'm not against "modern language" services, if they are done well. This can mean several things: one would be to simply eliminate the thees and thous, another would be to keep the thees and thous and carefully update words that have fallen out of the vernacular or whose meanings have changed. Care must be taken to keep the flow and cadence of the original. While I think Toon's work is far better than using the 1979, it clunks and stumbles in parts. I think the 1962 Canadian BCP is a good "modern language service" because it was a very conservative rendition.

Anonymous said...

The moratorium on WO is a good idea for CCP. I am not exactly a fan of all 39 articles, as a Benediction/Adoration lovin' Spirit-Filled/Evangelical/Anglo-Catholic. I am in a CANA parish that utilizes the more modern Nigerian Liturgy used in Jos Diocese with a few modifications. I prefer Rite I 1979 with PFTP Form I and a restored Humble Access, or 1928 if the Epiclesis is strong and the Gloria is brought to the beginning. Throw in a few Sarum touches whispered..."Hail forevermore, O Holy Flesh of Christ..." etc. Just get rid of that '79 "Baptismal Covenant" and the prayer C "Interstellar Space" mumbo-jumbo. The form and matter of the Ordinal need to be rock solid and in undeniable catholicity. Now us "spikes" need to get out there and have the same passion for evangelism that GAFCON will bring...they'll light a fire under our behinds!!!

A CANA Seminarian

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

This is my main problem at the moment with the CCP--WO is being ignored (at least it seems to me). The Anglican Coalition of Canada ordains women to the priesthood every other week, it seems, and it proudly proclaims its "two integrities" on this issue. I don't want to see a new province emerge only to have the same problems and divisions as the old province(s) from which it emerged.

Canon Tallis said...

Seconded, Father Hastert! It seems to me that if we really can not get together as conscious prayer book Anglicans there is very little reason to do so at all. And if everyone is doing his own thing and inventing their own liturgy, how is this any different from congregationalism? The sort of 'bad ass,' forget there is any such thing as Catholic discipline and do your own thing attitude found in the reply of the CANA seminarian is something I personally find so offensive that it is almost easier to forgive those who are actually the enemies of Christianity in all its forms than those who think they are Anglicans and would want us to accept them in Holy Orders. It reminded me of nothing so much as a CofE priest I met at the time of the last Lambeth Conference who confessed that he had pushed the Roman Novum Ordo on his parish because the Church of England had no right to reform either its liturgy or the Church.
If we are, like the apostolic church, going to continue in the "Apostolic doctrine and fellowship" as in Acts 2:42 there is a great need for something as close to a common liturgy as possible. State prayers must necessarily be different but the language of 1549 which has been retained in whole line of classical prayer books even when liturgical knowledge required a revisionof liturgical form such as was seen in the rites of 1928 and 1929 continued to hold us together until, well, until the modernist liturgies that were the work of Jaspers and his fellows and a shallow imitation of the Church of Rome. Now, among those of us who still dare to call ourselves Anglicans there seems to be no understanding of the meanings implied by "One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism." Instead, we have, as we began to have with the introduction of the various English missals, everyone running around and inventing if not deconstructing his own version of Anglicanism. The devil has certainly done his work well.