Wednesday, April 22, 2015

GAFCON – threat, option, or only future?

April 21, 2015
By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream

Two Archbishops walk into a bar for a relaxing drink after a hard day’s work in committee. One of them, in placing his order, starts a conversation with the man serving the drinks. He beckons to his purple shirted companion and over the next few minutes, the two of them share the Gospel with the bartender, and lead him to faith in Christ. Later both prelates testify that for them, this was the highlight of the conference. Thankfully its not impossible to imagine that this story involved Most Reverends Welby and Sentamu, but in fact it was related by one of the GAFCON Primates who had been told the story by his two fellow Archbishop-evangelists at their meeting last week.

If we have Archbishops in the C of E who believe and preach the same Gospel as that which grips and motivates the GAFCON leaders, why do we need GAFCON at all? Isn’t it a threat and a challenge to the Anglican Communion which already exists under the leadership of a Gospel hearted man? And doesn’t this story of foreign GAFCON leaders engaging in informal mission in our sovereign territory undermine the Church of England’s work? Ruth Gledhill in her report chooses to lead with this idea that GAFCON is seen by the C of E establishment as a “schismatic rival” to Canterbury. Is this a correct understanding of the GAFCON/GFCA phenomenon?

The truth is that GAFCON is not splitting away from the Anglican Communion, with new ideas to form an independent church. The clue is in the “A” of GAFCON and GFCA. The movement is an expression of authentic Christian faith in a valid form of Anglican ecclesiology. The men who lead it are recognized Anglican Archbishops. And the ‘split’ or division has not been caused by GAFCON. It is a response to the irreconcileable divisions that already exist in worldwide Anglicanism and many other churches. These divisions exist because the societies of the economically developed West, much of whose success has been based on Christian worldview, are in the process of abandoning those foundations, and embracing a radical secular humanism. There has been rejection of Christianity as public truth and increasing hostility to authentic Christian faith. Part of the church has tried to remain ‘chaplain’ to the culture and accommodate to it, hoping to retain influence by speaking the culture’s language and accepting many of its values. Another part remains committed to sacrificial service of Christ in the world, calling people to repentance and faith and building communities of hope and alternative vision. This has resulted in mutually incompatible understandings of God, ethics and ecclesiology within the same church... the rest
While the Church of England allows authentic Christian ministry to flourish and in its official statements and practice does not deny the clear testimony of Scripture, GAFCON stands as an encouragement to the faithful and a prophetic witness, keeping us accountable to Christ in company with the worldwide church. It also will continue to develop options for oversight, through AMiE, in cases where Anglicans are unable to accept the ministry of a Bishop with heterodox beliefs, or for example where official protocols stand in the way of evangelistic initiatives. But if the Church of England makes a major change in its doctrine and practice that is contrary to Scripture, then GAFCON will, in the minds of many, be the only future for confessing Anglicans in these islands.


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