Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Canterbury Tale: Gerald Bray on Gafcon II and the future of the Anglican Communion

14 Jan 2014
Gerald Bray

GAFCON II has come and gone, and a great time was had by all 1300 participants, including over 300 bishops, who represented twenty-eight of the Anglican Communion’s thirty-eight provinces. It sounds impressive and in many ways it was, but statistics of this kind conceal as much as they reveal. Many of the bigger African provinces turned out in force, but representation from the developed world was patchy and at the episcopal level almost non-existent. Much as it wants to be a movement for the renewal of worldwide Anglicanism, GAFCON is a bit like the curate’s egg—good in parts. Its leadership is committed, its followers are loyal and expectant, but its influence remains limited to the sorts of people who would support its aims even if it did not exist. It has not yet reached out beyond its predictable support base, and unless it does so, the energy that has gone into it will be dissipated and it will go the way of other initiatives that never got anywhere.

Having said that, there is no denying that GAFCON has come a long way in a short time. The improvised character of GAFCON I has gone and in its place has come a much more sophisticated and responsible organisation. No other group of Anglicans could stage an event with as broad a participation, and that alone ought to persuade people to take it seriously.

Unfortunately, things do not work like that in the real Anglican world. The archbishop of Canterbury could not attend but he was good enough to find time in his diary to make a quick trip to Kenya just before it opened, and to send greetings to it on a video that was played to the assembled delegates. He meant well, and those who met him testified to the warm relations that they had with him. Unfortunately everything he said and did betrayed the fact that the English church establishment had been outflanked and had effectively missed the bus. The official communiqué from Lambeth Palace stated that the main reason for the archbishop’s visit to Kenya was to express solidarity with the victims of the Westgate Shopping Centre atrocity the previous month, but laudable though sympathy for them was, it was an implausible excuse. The archbishop did not rush off to Peshawar to show his support for Christian victims of Muslim terrorism in Pakistan, nor would anyone have expected him to.

Unless of course, GAFCON had been meeting there at the same time…In the end things got so bad that Lambeth Palace was citing the baptism of Prince George as a reason for the archbishop’s non-attendance, as if the royal family would not have been willing to find a more convenient date for the ceremony. The impression left is one of incompetence and dysfunctionality in which almost any excuse to downplay the significance of GAFCON has been eagerly seized on and exploited for far more than it is worth... the rest at Anglican Ink


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