Venables blindsided

Update: The briefing paper in question has been removed from the Gafcon site.

[As far as we know, the primates of West Africa and Tanzania are at Lambeth.]

Pat Ashworth at the Church Times Blog:

He was diplomatic about it, but it was clearly vexing to the Archbishop of the Southern Cone, Greg Venables, that he had neither seen nor agreed the published response to the St Andrew’s draft Covenant, issued by GAFCON on Friday in his name and those of the Primates of Nigeria, West Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda….

“If the conservative orthodox group within the Communion is going to come out of this very difficult situation in a way that honours God, it’s going to have to be consulting together, agreed not just on what we believe but prepared to be tolerant and considerate and loving on secondary issues and also committed to talking together and doing things together,” said Bishop Venables.

“If we speak, it’s because we have had dialogue and we have agreed on what we’re saying. The GAFCON statement as it came out of Jerusalem [The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration] was fully agreed on and worked out together – but obviously other things haven’t been followed through in the same consultative, collegial way, which is a great pity.”

…Was GAFCON starting from a totally fixed position with no compromise and no leeway, I asked Bishop Venables? “That’s the opposite of what a number of us feel, “he said. “I wouldn’t be here at Lambeth if I didn’t think that God had always got the door open, and if we move towards him then hopefully we would be moving towards each other if we were all sincerely seeking the same thing.”

The conservative Andrew Goddard also has questions about the authorship and the process of what was claimed to be Gafcon’s response to the St. Andrew’s draft:

The first and irrefutable conclusion that must be drawn from these two documents is the shocking inadequacy of GAFCON’s theological resource group and wider leadership. To have produced a briefing paper claiming to summarise the changes between the Nassau and St Andrew’s draft covenants but actually comparing the St Andrew’s draft to a quite different document unrelated to the covenant (and which many of the GAFCON team were involved in writing) is an astonishing error. That nobody in the group (or among the GAFCON leadership which released it) realised that the claimed removals from the Nassau draft were therefore all fraudulent suggests an inexcusable level of ignorance about the covenant process on the part of all those involved in writing and then disseminating this briefing paper to the wider Communion. The authorship is unclear but either we have a very small number of people writing what claims to be a representative document commended by seven Primates or we have a large group which failed to spot this basic and serious flaw.

These conclusions point fairly inexorably to the sad conclusion that the GAFCON movement, although it may talk about its commitment to the Communion and its reform and may appear to have given support to the established Windsor and covenant processes, seems determined to pursue its own agenda on its own terms and to weaken and undermine the wider Communion if it believes that it will not get from it exactly what it wants. It thereby reveals that, in relation to our common life together as Anglicans, it is suffering from the same spiritual sickness as the North American churches have revealed in relation to Communion teaching on sexuality.

At present it is unclear who is ultimately responsible for these two flawed but revealing documents. However, 7 leading primates have, in their response to the Archbishop of Canterbury, commended them as a GAFCON response to the St Andrew’s Draft Covenant. Given they are all men of integrity who seek to address the Communion in truth and with good faith it is to be hoped that they will now apologise for this commendation and these failures, withdraw and rewrite the response and seek, as the GAFCON Primates’ Council, to ensure future GAFCON contributions aimed at bringing about necessary reform are more conducive to the building up of the Communion.

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