GAFCON and the Global South

At the beginning of the week a statement by the Primates and Standing Committee of CAPA (the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) released a statement from their meeting in Nairobi back in early September. There was also an article detailing the views of some of the leadership in GAFCON with the ongoing Anglican Covenant process. Read together, the two statements indicate that there are different groups headed in different directions.

The CAPA statement deals at some length with the tensions in the Global South, CAPA and the GAFCON organizations whose constellations contain various grouping of Anglican Provinces and the attendant dangers of seeing all issues through the lens of stances taken on the inclusion of Gay and Lesbian Christians.

There were two key sections of the statement that deal with the tensions caused by differing responses to the GAFCON movement:

First the following dangers were noted (key sections in italics):

  • Defining each other’s spirituality in light of the choices made to attend either of the two meetings;
  • Not appreciating that homosexuality and lesbianism are not only issues in the West, but that they are actually at our door-steps;
  • Overlooking the seriousness of the challenges related to the human sexuality debate and if we attempt to address them in a fragmented manner;
  • Getting preoccupied with issues of human sexuality and ignoring other issues that deprive God’s people of their dignity prevalent in our Provinces and when we fail to care and support each other within the CAPA family to respond to those pressing challenges;
  • Not taking advantage of every space available to engage on the issues affecting the communion as running away gives the space to the devil and eventually will damage us. Being discouraged is not a Christian virtue;
  • Failing to build our economic capacity as this leaves us vulnerable to diverse interests.

And then, toward the end of the statement the following actions were listed:

  • We will support the CAPA Secretariat to operationalize the linkages of Dioceses as agreed upon at the All Africa Bishops Conference in Lagos;
  • We shall rotate all CAPA events including meetings;
  • We shall respond to each others needs to the extent that we are able;
  • We shall establish strategies that will make CAPA economically independent and able to support Provinces in the same direction; this will involve among other things – Sharing good investment practices – Working towards establishing a micro-finance bank
  • We shall develop pastoral strategies in our respective Provinces to reach out to those who are struggling with their sexual orientation and sensitize the populations against those de-humanizing tendencies/practices;
  • We shall use all available resources including the catechism, to equip and disciple our flock into the faith and enable them to understand their privileges and responsibilities placed on them in their choice to follow Christ;
  • That the new Strategic Plan and ongoing constitutional review process pick up those concerns and aspirations. On matters concerning the Anglican Communion GAFCON is encouraged to maintain its commitment to being a renewing fellowship within the Anglican Communion.
  • We remain engaged on issues concerning the Anglican Communion, and in this regard Primates will respond positively to the invitation by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2009.
  • Encourage the Global South to speed up the preparations for the 4th Trumpet and mandate them to continue to give us the lead in the on-going dialogue regarding the proposed Covenant.

As mentioned above, earlier this week, just before Election Day, there was a report that a number of leaders in the GAFCON movement have decided that the proposed covenant for the Anglican Communion is unlikely to be able to heal the animosity between various parts of the Communion.

George Conger reports in an article for Religious Intelligence:

“The proposed Anglican Covenant is an ‘exercise in futility,’ theologians affiliated with the Gafcon movement tell The Church of England Newspaper, and the current draft is beset with ‘a considerable degree of theological confusion.’

[…]This week the Sydney theologian Dr Mark Thompson, Dean of Moore Theological College, argued the covenant process would not resolve the problems before the Anglican Communion. The actions of Bishop Schori and New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham since Lambeth “have made clear that the covenant idea simply will not deal with the real issues.” The “Lambeth Commentary itself refuses to deal with the real issues,” he noted, observing that the covenant was “entirely irrelevant” and would “make no difference to the current situation and will be unable to prevent future challenges of the same magnitude,” Dr Thompson said. The present draft of the Anglican Covenant made a “simplistic appeal to the biblical covenants” in support of its agenda, yet the biblical covenants “were instituted by God as a gift which provided a framework for understanding Israel’s relationship with him. At the heart was hearing, believing and obeying God’s word. They ought not be confused a covenant between human beings,” he said. The Lambeth Commentary was also unclear as to what it understood the Covenant to be, describing it both as a “central text” while also “speaking about it as a ‘foundational document’.”

[…]Prof Stephen Noll, Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University told CEN the “most important requirements of a workable covenant are doctrinal substance and disciplinary efficacy [emp added]. The drafts to date have fallen short on both counts.” Both Dr Thompson and Prof Noll argued that the exclusion of theologians and leaders of the Gafcon movement weakened the credibility of the document. “If the Covenant Design Group truly wishes to be inclusive, it needs to sit down with the leadership of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and seek to incorporate the principles of the Jerusalem Declaration into the Covenant,” Prof Noll said.

[…]“The St Andrews Draft of An Anglican Covenant, and the Lambeth Commentary on that draft, are institutional responses to a situation that can only be resolved by much, much more,” [Thompson] concluded. “

Read the full article here.

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