Thoughts on the Jerusalem Statement of GAFCON
A Change in Tempo?
I have had a first look at the Jerusalem communiqué of GAFCON. I will be rereading it in days ahead but here are some initial reactions. GAFCON establishes itself as a confessing movement within the church based on an ecumenical definition of Christian orthodoxy and the historic Anglican formularies. GAFCON does not formally break with the Archbishop of Canterbury and describes itself as a movement for reformation and renewal. The statement asserts that Anglicanism is to be defined doctrinally. Canterbury is accorded respect but declared not to have the power to say who and who is not Anglican. This is an explicit rejection of the notion that to be an Anglican church all that is required is an invitation to the Lambeth conference. Rather Anglicanism is to be defined in terms of the common confession of creedal orthodoxy and adherence to the doctrinal heritage of the classical Anglican formularies. The language describing the significance of the 1662 BCP, the ordinal and the 39 articles is confessional and authoritative but is carefully worded to allow for some very modest interpretation and local adaptation of worship.
Those dioceses in North and South America that in word or deed have ceased to confess the uniqueness of Christ or promoted extra-biblical sexual morality are declared apostate and called to repentance. The existing instruments of communion are identified as an inadequate “colonial structure” and condemned for not promoting discipline within the communion. The primates who organized GAFCON are asked to create a council of primates and to enlarge this council with other confessing members and to recognize confessing Anglican jurisdictions whether they are in communion with Canterbury or not. The establishment of a new province for confessing Anglicans in North America based on the common cause partnership and to be recognized by the GAFCON movement is encouraged.
I do not read this as the break up of the Anglican Communion. I expect that many of the attendees at GAFCON will be attending Lambeth but I do see this conference and its statement as an important breakthrough in the impasse of the communion crisis. In the game of chess I believe there is a term called tempo. It has to do with which player is the one to which the other must respond. One player has the upper hand and then there is an exchange and the player who was setting the tempo is now the one who must respond. Until this meeting in Jerusalem the tempo was in the hands of the North American churches. They acted and the rest of the communion was in the position of responding to their actions. The existing instruments of communion including the Archbishop of Canterbury have in part by inaction and in part by intention, continually moved the tempo back to TEC and The Anglican Church of Canada. The emergence of GAFCON as a confessing group within the Anglican Communion which is willing to take bold action, though at this point action short of a formal break with Canterbury, changes the tempo. It is now the rest of the communion including its existing instruments of communion which must respond. It is the consensus of the emerging confessing majority in the communion which is now setting the agenda. If the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth conference do not respond to this initiative in a meaningful way they are likely to become irrelevant to the future of global Anglicanism. Irrelevancy for Canterbury, Lambeth and the Anglican Consultative Council seem a greater risk at the moment than the risk of a formal break or repudiation of these instruments by members of GAFCON.