Leading GAFCON figures speak in Belfast
Senior figures in the traditionalist Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) were in Belfast last week to speak at an event in Willowfield parish church, Diocese of Down, promoting the movement.
The 19th June event was organised by the Revd Trevor Johnston, rector of All Saints’, University Street, Diocese of Connor, and a member of the GAFCON-related Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK and Ireland).
The event was attended by an estimated 200 people, including Bishop Ken Clarke and Bishop Ferran Glenfield.
The main speaker was retired Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, GAFCON General Secretary. Other speakers included the Revd Charles Raven, adviser to the Most Revd Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya, who is Chair of the GAFCON Primates’ Council; Philip Robinson, GAFCON’s Operational Manager; and the Revd Andy Lines, General Secretary of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).
GAFCON LEADERS COME TO IRELAND
The current, traditionalist impetus in the Anglican Communion at global level is made up of two main parts – the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) and the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA).
GAFCON, which was established in 2008, sees itself as having begun “when moral compromise, doctrinal error and the collapse of biblical witness in parts of the Anglican Communion had reached such a level that the leaders of the majority of the world’s Anglicans felt it was necessary to take a united stand for truth”. Such was the depth of feeling that the heart of Anglicanism was being compromised that individuals were galvanized into action. The first GAFCON was held in 2008 in Jerusalem, challenging the Lambeth Conference of the same year, and the second GAFCON was held in 2013 in Nairobi. A third GAFCON is due to be held in 2018.
While GAFCON is the conference, GFCA is the broader movement, stating of itself: “The participants at that momentous gathering in 2008 agreed to establish a Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) as a world-wide movement of provinces, dioceses, churches, organisations and individual Christians whose goal is to help reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world. They affirmed the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, to guide the movement.”
Related to these developments has been the establishment of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), which describes itself as “a mission society that seeks to promote Gospel growth in areas covered
by the Church of England (principally in England, but also in other parts of Europe) by supporting Anglican churches and individuals both within and outside present Church of England structures”. AMiE relates to GAFCON through the regional GFCA organisation known as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, UK and Ireland.
Thus there is a global conference and a more diffused fellowship organized both globally and regionally. Last week’s event in Belfast (report, page 1), at which GAFCON had the opportunity of presenting itself on its own terms, was significant in that key leaders within the GAFCON movement came to speak. The stress was very much on the fact that GAFCON is not intended in any way to be a breakaway movement within the Anglican Communion but, rather, a force for the renewal of traditional Anglicanism. However, while this is clearly the intention, the comprehensiveness of Anglicanism does need to come more to the fore in the movement.
Just how GAFCON can achieve more visibility of the broader aspect of Anglicanism, beyond the conservative evangelical, is one of the many challenges that the leadership will have to meet. There are enormous strains and stresses within Anglicanism over the issue of human sexuality – it has been thus for many years now – and what is really needed as far as those of a traditional outlook are concerned is a greater and more obvious meeting of both hearts and minds across the comprehensiveness of traditional Anglicanism.
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Letters to the Editor
The Church and Human Sexuality
I HAVE read and reread carefully the letters in the 5th June edition of The Church of Ireland Gazette relating to the Equal Marriage referendum and human sexuality.
As a lay person and retired scientist, I find many of the comments lacking in clarity, logic or reasonableness.
First, look at the result of the recent referendum. The voting population of the Irish Republic is ~3.5 million. The ‘Yes’ vote was ~1.2 million (34%), the ‘No’ vote was ~0.73 million (21%) and the ‘non-vote’ was ~1.6 million (46%).
It requires quite a stretch of the imagination to refer to the endorsement of the ‘Yes’ position as either “resounding” or “overwhelming”. Also, to claim that “the Christians of the Republic of Ireland have together moved outside of their Church institutions to affirm and welcome their LGBT family” is simply not credible on the information available.
Second, if we accept the teachings of Christ, is it possible to give a Christian perspective to the ‘Yes’ argument?
There are no statements in Jesus’ teachings that validate, condone or promote same- sex unions or same-sex sexual activity. Rather, Jesus’ words (Matthew 19: 4) affirm the teaching in Genesis 2: 24.
Third, if we remove Christ’s teachings from Christianity:
• We will listen to the ‘spirit of now’ rather than the Holy Spirit who acknowledges, and testifies to, our Lord ( John 15: 26, 1 John 4: 1). It is not correct to say that “the Holy Spirit was poured out on all peoples” at Pentecost. It was received by those who repented and accepted Peter’s message (Acts 2: 38 and 41);
• We will doubt the authority of the Scriptures, which Christ tells us cannot be broken (Matthew 10: 35);
• We will no longer accept that the Lord’s word, which was pronounced during the Iron Age (1300 BC to 700 AD) is for all ages – “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24: 35);
• We will prefer to listen to many voices rather than the voice of Jesus – “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me” (John 10: 27);
• In an effort to stem falling attendances, we will dilute Christ’s teachings to such a degree that the Church will become no more than a well- meaning social club and of no relevance to his Kingdom.
Finally, I agree that it simply will not do to extract random verses from Scripture to use as ammunition to defeat opposing views. The full teaching of Jesus must be presented always.
This teaching not only calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves but challenges us also not to judge others, to repent, to “ Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8: 1-11), to be reborn, to be renewed by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, to be prepared to live a life of sacrifice and to be ready for the Day of Judgement.
John Wilson (Dr), Kells, Co. Antrim BT42
A PLETHORA of letters to the Gazette in recent weeks have attempted to advance two fundamentally unsound propositions:
1. That LGBT persons should be permitted to marry persons of the same sex as themselves and enjoy sexual relations in that context because God could not be so cruel or unjust as to forbid it.
2. That under the guise of making the Church ‘relevant’ the true meaning of Scripture should be altered to make it acceptable to persons who do not presently subscribe to the Christian faith.
Even accepting that homosexuality is an inclination and not a lifestyle choice, the first proposition is unsound because Almighty God and Jesus Christ our Saviour made it perfectly clear that homosexual acts are sinful.
God knows that homosexual people are essentially incapable of sexual relationships with persons of the opposite sex, but does not grant a dispensation from the one and only context in which human sexual relations receive his blessing.
That this may cause disappointment, even anguish, to certain people is acknowledged, but there is much in this broken world of ours that one cannot understand our loving God tolerating.
Why do natural disasters, famine and pestilence occur in large parts of the globe? Why do children and young people get struck down with fatal illnesses before they have had anything approaching a natural lifetime?
Being a disciple requires trust, submission and obedience, particularly where God’s will is unwelcome and does not make sense.
The Apostle Paul suffered much with his “thorn in the flesh”, but came to accept that God’s grace was sufficient for him. The arguments to the contrary in the context of human sexuality are an attempt to avoid the implications of discipleship and ultimately draw upon an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ reading of Scripture which says that words mean whatever you want them to mean, no more and no less.
The Church cannot be made ‘relevant’ by altering God’s word. The Christian faith is not for sale at a bargained price, it is not a subject for negotiation, and it is not an election manifesto to be changed because people have indicated they will not support it.
The argument from ‘relevance’ comes particularly (but not exclusively) from the Republic of Ireland where Church membership is pitifully small. New members, it would seem, are to be recruited by offering something that is liberal, tolerant, inclusive, all things to all people, but ultimately without a great deal of substance.
It is not even the revival or survival of the Church of Ireland that matters. It is the advancement of God’s kingdom that we should be working for. If that can happen while preserving the Church of Ireland, that would be all to the good, but if it can’t, there would be absolutely no reason to bemoan its demise.
David Capper (Dr) Belfast BT5
THE SPIRIT OF GRACE CHRISTIAN BELIEF FOR EVERYONE SERIES Author: Alister McGrath Publisher: SPCK; pp.110
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Publisher: Wild Goose Publication; pp.84 Price: £8.99
WALKING WITH OLD TESTAMENT WOMEN: IMAGINATIVE STUDIES FOR BIBLE MEDITATION Author: Fiona Stratta Publisher: Bible Reading Fellowship
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