Michael Poon asks some questions on ‘The Global Anglican Future Conference’

“Everything is permissible” — but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” — but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)

I am saddened and shocked by the Statement on “The Global Anglican Future Conference, June 15-22, The Holy Land”, issued on December 26, 2007.  Perhaps the Primates responsible need to clarify their views on the matter.

1.  On what basis was the Statement “announced by Orthodox Primates”? What is the basis of orthodoxy?  Historically, the Communion takes Canon A5 “Doctrine of the Church of England” and C15 “On the Preface to the Declaration of Assent” of the Church of England as the basis of its belief. This underpins Section 2 (“The Faith we share”) of the proposed Anglican Covenant.  On what basis did the Primates of Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Southern Cone, and Tanzania declare themselves as orthodox primates?

2.  Did the Primates at Nairobi act on their personal capacity or as primates of their respective churches that “represent over 30 million of the 55 million active Anglicans in the world”?  It would be helpful if the Primates and bishops are able to have their Statement ratified through due process by their Provincial/National/Diocesan Synods.

3. Has the Global South Anglican Primates Steering Committee endorsed this Statement?  So far, it has remained silent on the matter.  It is important to note that the authority of the Global South Anglican “movement” and of the Steering Committee arise from the South-South Encounter and most recently the Kigali Meeting in 2006. The Global South represents a broad spectrum of Anglican churches that hold onto the historic faith and ecclesiology informed by the historic formularies. It does not answer to the dictates of the radical evangelical wings within the Communion. It is regrettable that Asia, West Indies, and Middle East are glaring omissions among the “conveners” of the proposed Conference. Have they been consulted? Have they rejected the proposal? In their place, we find names of colleagues (with due respect) from a particular strand in the Northern churches.  Why was this Statement issued with such haste? And without broader representation?

4. Was the Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem of the Middle East consulted? After all the proposed Conference takes place in Jerusalem?  Furthermore, by holding it in Jerusalem, it makes it quite impossible for orthodox Christians from Muslim countries to attend.  And yet, what is that insignificant minority in the face of powerful numerical blocs?

What should our discipleship be at this stage?  Primates are pledged to uphold the unity and the faith of the church, and not their private judgments and personalities—even their interpretation of orthodoxy.  Please be constructive in your decisions at this stage.

Michael Poon
Feast of Thomas Becket, 2007

10 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. Editorial Says:

    Michael

    Answering 3, it has been made clear that this is not a Global South Anglican event. Thus, endorsement from the GSSC was not sought.

    Terry

  2. Graham Kings Says:

    A series of serious questions, Michael. Thanks.
    Who will answer them, when and where?

  3. Graham Kings Says:

    Terry, the GAFCON site says in answer to the question: ‘Is this a Global South Initiative?’

    ‘Not quite. Many of the Primates at the Nairobi Consultation are in the Global South, but it also included Anglican leaders from parts of the world beyond the geographic Global South.’

    ‘Not quite’ does not seem to me to be as ‘clear’ as you suggest. In fact it seems to imply ‘well, almost’ or ‘well, virtually.’

    This impression is compounded by the deliberate use of the name ‘Global Anglican’ which very close indeed to ‘Global South Anglican’.

    It also implies, in the rest of the answer, that it was only the presence of ‘Anglican leaders from parts of the world beyond the geographic Global South’ which meant that it was not a Global South Anglican initiative. That is clearly not the whole picture.

    From Michael’s questions, we see that the reason GAFCON is not a Global South Anglican initiative is because key members of the Global South Anglican steering group were not consulted.

  4. the pilgrim Says:

    Do people think we really need these life boats lowered?*
    How do we know that the people lowering them actually know what they are doing?*
    Does the Captain know and approve of the lifeboats being lowered?*
    Who will be in command of each boat when the boats are actually in the water?*

    *Questions asked by a concerned passenger immediately after the Titanic struck an iceberg. Said passenger not known to have survived.

  5. Editorial Says:

    Graham #3

    It is “not quite’ because the Gafcon is not a Global South event, though some GS Primates and leaders are involved. This is clear in the Gafcon Q & A.

    We should not read too much into the use of the word ‘global anglican’ either as it is a straightforward description of the nature of the event and participants expected.

    Gafcon is not a GSA initiative as the leadership of this conf, unlike that of previous GSA initiatives, will involve those outside of the GSA bloc. In past GSA events, participants may come from the non-GSA areas but the leadership of the Conf is GSA. (This can help clarify #3 of the Q & A)

    While some may read the Gafcon initiative as a move which bypasses GSA, it can also be read as one which seeks to allow more space, especially at the leadership and organisers’ level, for other primates or leaders to participate. Thus, Archbishop Peter Jensen could act as the spokesman of the event and we have some from UK assisting in the organisation.

    As to be expected, there will be ‘family disagreements’. It is obvious that not every GS Primate is comfortable or agreeable with everything GSA is doing (or doing with their friends) . However, the bonds of friendship and common conviction is such that they are not easily broken. GSA is also premised on a wider platform which allows for orthodox Anglicans to work together without tripping over issues which so easily divides folks into various camps.

    It is not that GSA has a special constitution. Isn’t this the very nature and strength of the Anglican family herself? As long as GS Primates and the Provinces they represent are working together, this natural strength will work itself out.

    The crisis has created situations where unilateral actions by some Primates or Provinces seems to be needed to address urgent pastoral needs on the ground. There are also anxiety in some quarters for ‘legit’ covering or support for their causes. We can expect individual Primates/Provinces to give priority to different needs.

    However, if we ignore or fail to appreciate the inherent strength in the life and nature of our global communion and behave as if we are quasi-family or independent churches, we will only weaken the Church further. A more adequate ecclesiology and better perspective of global Anglican realities may be needed.

    As for accusations of Gafcon being ‘divisive’ and plotting post-conf actions of setting up new leadership structures, past GSA events have received similar accusations. But ‘good Anglicans’ don’t need to ‘move anywhere’ and beyond discussing practical pastoral and mission issues or ways to respond to revisionist trends, I see no reason why Gafcon will work at setting up a new ecclesiastical structure.

  6. Graham Kings Says:

    Thanks, Terry for replying to my comment #3.

    I think part of the concern expressed by various people on various website relates to comments in at least two published articles which concern 1. a ‘non-Canterbury Communion’ and 2. ‘GAFCON seeking to plan for the future’.

    In his article ‘Not Schism but Revolution’, in Evangelicals Now (September 2007), Chris Sugden stated, after a quotation from Bishop Bob Duncan:


    ‘In other words, since the Archbishop of Canterbury has not provided for the safe oversight of the orthodox in the United States, he has forfeited his role as the one who gathers the Communion.’

    http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/index.php/2007/08/30/not-schism-but-revolution/

    In my critique of this categorical statement, I wrote:

    ‘The consequential question resulting from Chris Sugden’s view concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury is: ‘Then who does gather the Communion?’ His view leaves a vacuum. It also means that the Primates’ Meeting can’t be gathered, since Canterbury presides at those meetings. It also means the Lambeth Conference can’t meet. Of the Four Instruments of Communion, that leaves only the Anglican Consultative Council and that is not seen as respresentative by him.’

    http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/8002

    When people notice that:

    1.  the author of that article is now one of the key organisers of GAFCON - and in fact registered that domain name and runs the website and

    2. the Archbishop of Sydney mentions in his article on SydneyAnglicansNet,

    ‘[GAFCON] therefore seeks to plan for a future in which Anglican Christians world-wide will increasingly be pressured to depart from the biblical norms of behaviour and belief.’

    http://www.gafcon.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7&Itemid=1

    then is it surprising that people raise questions about what has been announced and what has not been announced and wonder about plans being discussed at GAFCON for a ‘non-Canterbury based Communion?’ These plans are openly being discussed on Stand Firm and TitusOneNine already.

    There is nothing on GAFCON’s site about the Windsor Report and the Covenant. Why not? Is it because the whole direction of GAFCON is away from the Windsor Report and the Covenant process?

    Thanks, Terry, also for your editorial noted added to Michael Poon’s second article. It really sums up the essence of the current situation very well.

    ‘Editorial note:

    Both Dr Michael Poon and Archbishop Jensen have articles featured on this site regularly. It will be in the interest of our readers and Anglican faithful that we continue some open conversations on the nature and direction that our Communion is taking. This is a critical time for our Communion and churches. If we are just fighting for biblical orthodoxy and nothing else, we might as well splinter into independent churches. Even ‘mission’ is not a good enough reason to be together - for we are working quite well across denominational boundaries. If it is both biblical orthodoxy AND the catholic order of our Church with our identity/mission as an ecclesial family, then it calls for careful, deeper reflection, longterm vision and clarity in our strategy - that the 2003 crisis and our subsequent responses may not tear the fabric of our Communion even further.’

    http://www.globalsouthanglican.org/index.php

    I also note that ‘Mick’ (on the TitusOneNine thread concerning Michael Poon’s second article) has spotted a report that Mouneer Anis has written to Peter Akinola asking him to reconsider the timing and venue of GAFCON.

    http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/8792/#164514

  7. Father Ron Smith Says:

    The First Letter of Mouneer to Peter (Nigeria):

    surely needs to be copied to ++ Sydney, if it is to have any practical effect?

  8. Graham Kings Says:

    Simon Sarmiento has some important comments on:

    http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002827.html

    and, in the light of that, Pat Ashworth’s earlier Church Times article on 27 August 2007 may be worth re-reading:

    http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=43511

  9. Father Ron Smith Says:

    Sorry chaps! It appears that the Grand Plan for GAFCON is now officially over!

    The Bishop in Jersualem has told the organisers that they will not be welcome in his diocese.

    In an article in the English Guardian newspaper, Andrew Brown has written that “Akinola has written to (Bishop of Jerusalem) Darwani with a letter that tells him, after several paragraphs of God flannel, to do what he is told:
    “Be assured that we considered your important arguments carefully as we met in Nairobi. But we came to the conclusion that we need to proceed”

    I think that the Archbishop of Canterbury will not likely intervene on GAFCON’s behalf, perhaps encouraging the Bishops involved to attend the Lambeth Conference instead. It may be the ‘Only Show in Town’ - at least for this year. Sorry!

  10. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    It is very unlikely that all the Primates invited will attend Lambeth. Many have already made it known that to attend this Conference will only make matters worse.