Essay / Theology

GAFCON and Jefferts Schori

GAFCON is short for Global Anglican Futures Conference, which was recently held in Jerusalem from June 22-29. The conference was comprised of 1148 lay and clergy participants, including 291 bishops who represent millions of Anglican Christians from around the world. In other words, this was no small gathering! Its purpose, as the name states, was to talk about the future of the faithful, orthodox Anglican church. The conference’s final statement is written in clear and unequivocal language, stating boldly “We believe…,” “We uphold…,” “We acknowledge…,” “We celebrate…” and “We reject….” In short, there is no doubt left as to what the members of the conference meant when they issued this document. Of course, the current Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA felt the need to issue some statement, whether it was helpful or substantive or not, in response to the GAFCON document. Her response is a terse, unprofessional and, perhaps, even irate collection of words, clearly showing that the bishop is on the defensive. She likely sees the writing on the wall! What I find most interesting, however, is how different her word choices are from that of the drafters at GAFCON. Again, their words are clear and forthright. One is not left in the dark on what the members of GAFCON believe or think. The presiding bishop’s words are, in fact, quite meaningless. In part this is due to the fact the she failed to actually address the GAFCON document itself so her press release is really just an “I’m unhappy with this and wish these people would go away” statement. She writes,

Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting the latest emission from GAFCON. Anglicanism has always been broader than some find comfortable. This statement does not represent the end of Anglicanism, merely another chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only true believers. Anglicans will continue to worship God in their churches, serve the hungry and needy in their communities, and build missional relationships with others across the globe, despite the desire of a few leaders to narrow the influence of the gospel. We look forward to the opportunities of the Lambeth Conference for constructive conversation, inspired prayer, and relational encounters.

Ms. Jefferts Schori, by “broader” do you mean “I can believe, think and do anything I like and call it ‘orthodoxy'”? By “dominance” do you mean “to uphold orthodox, biblical theology and practice”? By “true believers” do you mean “those who can confess that Jesus is the only way to salvation”? By “narrow the influence of the gospel” don’t you mean “remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles and demand godliness and holiness in all areas of life”? By “constructive conversation” you mean “insist that the hereterodox get their way,” right? By “inspired prayer” you’re just talking about good old prayer to God the Father, through the Son, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, right? For what other kind of “prayer” is rightly prayer? And by “relational encounters” do you mean “sip tea and eat crumpets” or do you mean “have meaningful conversations with those who differ from me but I am willing to listen to honestly and learn from if necessary so that I can clean my ecclesial house when I get back to the United States of those unbiblical, heretical priests and bishops”?

Considering that the GAFCON statement is so clear and precise, you would think that the presiding bishop could have been as clear and concise in her response. But, alas, this was not to be. Ms. Jefferts Schori, when you’re ready to actually engage the text and content of the GAFCON statement then please post your thoughts. If not, just keep them to yourself.

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