Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Post-GAFCON at All Souls, 5: Panel Discussion

Summary notes by John Richardson

Q: Is it too late to mend the situation?

Greg Venables: It may be possible to mend it, but we must look to the future?

Q: Do you stand with Forward in Faith and Anglo-Catholicism? Can Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics be in one communion?

Peter Jensen: Yes, we have been in one communion. In 2003, one group in the Communion made a terrific blunder breaking through the boundaries. This freed up the rest of us. The Communion will never be the same again. We are one Communion but far looser, and this enables great spiritual movements like GAFCON to arise. The blunder is being turned to good. The Communion is going forward and those who can sign off on something like the Jerusalem statement can work together.

Jim Packer: It is important to know who our friends are. Anglo-Catholics generally believe in Trinity, Scripture, atonement, resurrection, judgement, prayer, etc. A ‘higher’ view of sacraments and priesthood seems secondary in the light of those primary correspondences. I can be friends with Anglo-Catholics. Modern Anglo-Catholicism has a different agenda from in the past. I can, with qualifications, be friends with Anglo-Catholics. I have good will towards Forward in Faith. Liberals are different, denying many of the aforementioned. We have let Liberals get away with too much with regard to leadership in the past.

Q: Would the panel unequivocally condemn violence against lesbian and gay people, and how do you handle issues of polygamy in African culture.

Henry Orombi: Violence against homosexuals is wrong. Jesus did not condemn tax collectors etc. On polygamy my grandfather had six wives and my father two. When dying, none of my grandfather’s wives offered him sanctuary. My father’s two wives, including my mother, were at constant war. I resolved only to have one wife before I became a Christian. As Church the bottom line is I would not ordain a polygamist or give one a prominent place in leadership. We would like to live our lives seeing transformation because of the gospel. We do encourage converted polygamists to formalise marriage with the first wife, whilst the other will live with her children without marital relations.

Q: Would all the GAFCON leaders support those who ordain women?

Peter Jensen: We do not ordain women — that is well known. The ordination of women is a different order of things from the presenting issue. Scripture never suggests an ordained woman is in danger of losing her salvation. The continual practice of greed or immorality is clearly a matter of being inside or outside the kingdom of God.

People at GAFCON had different views. The Jerusalem Statement in paragraph 12 speaks of secondary matters and seeking the mind of Christ on issues that divide us. It is time to rethink this matter under the word of God, yet again. We may be wrong, but we need to bring this prayerfully with each other and to reconsider it. Similarly, we may rethink on divorce and remarriage.

Q: Would you rather not be at the Lambeth Conference? How will GAFCON be brought to bear on the Communion?

Greg Venables: We decided to take no one stance on this. I decided I would go. I have no problems saying I have very little hope for Lambeth. It is not going to be a place where we can sit people down and see what we are going to do.

Henry Orombi: At Dromantine we made our recommendations. In Dar es Salaam we made recommendations seeking a response which would determine who would be invited to Lambeth. By July the Archbishop had already sent out his invitations. How can we agree together? We have already discontinued fellowship with bishops of TEC, how can we come to Lambeth and sit together? Trying to sit together has been attempted repeatedly without real success.

Q: What is the relationship between what has come out of GAFCON and the proposed Covenant?

Peter Jensen: Most at GAFCON probably felt the Covenant was not going anywhere. If it would bind people round the gospel it probably wouldn’t be accepted, if it didn’t it wouldn’t work. I am praying for Lambeth. It may be the Covenant that emerges will be suitable, but I doubt it. The Windsor Process was misconceived from the start. It was balanced, but would not say sin was sin. The Covenant may work, but probably not.

Greg Venables: The Covenant was presented to try to find unity because we were ignoring the problem. The Covenant does not address the real problem. People sitting round the same table would say they accepted one thing, then she [sic] would go back and say she hadn’t accepted it. So you get people who are devious. It is ignoring the real problem.

Q: How was the GAFCON Statement produced?

Peter Jensen: Not in the way I wanted it. I would have written the Statement first, and I drafted one. ABp Akinola got word of it and told me to stop doing, which I didn’t. But he made it quite clear we were to hear the word of God through the people. A communique group had been appointed. We also drew in what people wanted to say to the group — which went on for several days. The group kept hearing what people were saying. By Thursday most was written. By Friday we had a draft. People then broke into groups. Each province signed off on the draft and it was acclaimed on Sunday morning. There were many providences and miracles throughout GAFCON and this was one.

Q: Are we right to understand that at the heart of the Jerusalem Statement is a redefinition of Anglicanism as confessional? How does this affect relationships with ABp of Canterbury?

Greg Venables: It is not a redefinition, it is going back to our roots. Regarding the ABp over to Jim Packer ...

Jim Packer: We must accept the authority of Archbishops because we are Anglicans. The question about the Archbishop of Canterbury was raised in Nigeria, which had redefined itself as an Anglican province without specifying communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury as part of the essence. The present ABp of Canterbury who is by confession a Liberal is making it hard for the rest of us to feel anything other than that we could get on better without him. This may not be true, but I hope the next ABp of Canterbury is of a different persuasion. There is something dispensable about the ABp of Canterbury and it is not of the essence of Anglicanism to be in communion with him when he becomes part of the doctrinal problem. Pray for the next ABp of Canterbury and that he may be with us sooner than we might have thought.

Peter Jensen: As far as I know, being in communion with the ABp of Canterbury as such is not part of our constitution.

Q: Rowan Williams said that GAFCON lacks legitimacy, authority and integrity. Is he right?

Henry Orombi: GAFCON drew in 1,000+ people, bishops and archbishops. The Primates Council is coming together to challenge the unorthodox. I am at pains to understand what the Archbishop is saying. Nothing we did happened in the dark.

Q: Could the panel comment about how people in the CofE may most helpfully respond to GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration?

Peter Jensen: This affects everyone in the UK. Os Guinness compared it to a nuclear explosion where the fallout will happen around the world. Your presence here suggests you are deeply concerned about that fallout. GAFCON is a spiritual movement. Many of you will want to be part of it and to apply it to your local situation. There will be no vote here, but if you are convinced of this you signal so by writing in to the GAFCON website, indicating you support for the GAFCON movement.

No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the policy.


  1. On the whole as an Anglo-Catholic priest in the diocese of Fort Worth, TX I am pleased with what you report. If ++Jensen and Dr. Packer, who have a reputation as neo-Puritans, can take this eirenic attitude toward Anglo-Catholics it bodes well for the future of orthodox Anglicanism in the post-GAFCON era. I think we can "reason together."

    While I wish the account of Dr. Packer's remarks didn't have that "with qualifications" reservation, its tone toward Anglo-Catholicism is remarkably positive for a self-described Calvinist. Will video or audio of the actual event be available?)

    The Rev. R.W. Foster
    Chaplain, St. Vincent's Cathedral School
    Bedford, Texas USA

  2. Thanks RW,

    I think an audio will be available. Keep an eye on the Anglican Mainstream and Gafcon sites.

  3. Packer: "The present ABp of Canterbury who is by confession a Liberal is making it hard for the rest of us to feel anything other than that we could get on better without him."

    That's an astonishing declaration of theological ignorance. How Rowan can be described as a liberal is beyond me. I can see how some of the conclusions that he reaches (eg his published teachings on homosexuality) can be described as liberal, but that is simply a superficial reading, for he gets to that point via a very conservative (Anglo)catholic route. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, because his rejection of liberalism is deep and wide ranging, he is less of a liberal than Dr Packer.

    I'd second the texanglican's comments above though, about the possibility of 'reasoning together'.

  4. I just think it's amazing that Conservative Evangelicals feel that they have more in common with the Catholics than other Evangelicals who simply don't feel the way they do about Gay people and women!

  5. Ah, Rachel. A left-wing bigot has more in common with a right-wing bigot than either has with a liberal. Look at the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Look at Reform and Forward in Faith.

  6. Sam,

    I'm really baffled as to how you think Rowan Williams reaches his theological conclusions "via a very conservative (Anglo)catholic route".

    If you've not read them already, can I commend to you my own articles on Rowan Williams's theology which appeared in New Directions?:

    Theology in the Dark
    Theology at the Boundary
    Open to Question

    In them, and also in the talks I gave which are linked on this site, I identified Rowan Williams' theology as being uniquely his own - which is one reason why he has been so widely misunderstood by erstwhile Liberal friends.

    If you check the index of some of his books, however, you will find a remarkable absence of terms like 'atonement' or 'sacrifice' (surely the latter matters to an Anglo-Catholic theology). There is also little or no engagement with the Old Testament background.

    RW's theology is interesting, but far, I would say, from orthodox.

  7. Madeline,

    I just want to caution you that your comments are becoming less than erudite.

    There is no obligation for me to post here what is merely derogatory.


  8. It seems fair comment to me. Which bit do you object to?

  9. Madeline,

    It was mostly this bit: "A left-wing bigot has more in common with a right-wing bigot than either has with a liberal. Look at the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Look at Reform and Forward in Faith."

    Unpacking that to give the terms meaning, to show that the parallels are just and to indicate how they apply to the Christian organizations cited would, I think, not be worthwhile as a contribution to a discussion.

    A word of advice I read a long time ago: "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

  10. So try Tony Benn and Enoch Powell uniting against the Common Market. See? Lots of examples of extremists meeting at the edges. Anglican Mainstream is just another example of this pattern. As for flies; where I come from, the phrase is 'like flies round ****'.

  11. Madeline

    That's an improvement! Dialogue means seeking to understand other people, and therefore to represent them in the best light, as well as to present our own viewpoint.

    I hope you will appreciate I'd rather allow a fair amount of latitude on this blog. You don't give us your location, despite my preferring this, but I still post your comments - and are you really named after a PG Wodehouse character?

    However, there's no point in just posting remarks which show we really dislike others and their views.

  12. Dialogue also means not patronising others. Go learn.

  13. Hey Guys
    Madeline and John - where's the love?

    You know the whole 'iron sharpening iron' thing - that's what we should be doing. John - have you thought about my questions yet? I wanted a straight-forward answer on which Biblical texts are brought to defend the idea that women should not be Bishops. Also, why is a gospel that includes gay Christians and has women as incumbents a false gospel?

    In Christ

  14. Rachel,

    Love I can do, patience sometimes wears thin!

    On the Bible texts thing, be aware it is not simply a case of lining up some quotations and saying, "There you go." Try arguing for example, whether or not sexual intercourse is right for a couple who are committed but not married. I'm sure it is wrong, but there is no 'text' to prove it.

    It is more about concepts than texts, but these concepts are found critically within Ephesians 5:22-33, deriving from Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:18-25, extrapolated within 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, and reflected within Titus 1:5-9 and not forgetting Mark 3:13-19 and parallels.

    As I keep saying, I personally don't regard the acceptance of woman incumbents as entailing a false gospel.

    Nor do I think the 'inclusion of gays' is a false gospel (in fact I've just been in contact with a member of True Freedom Trust to try to address how we can give a higher profile to 'included gays' in our churches).

    The Global issue is about condoning and blessing sexual acts the Bible condemns. To advocate those would be a 'false gospel'.

  15. Hi John,

    I think we've just discovered a vast difference! And one that would take a long time to unpack - as I suspect we disagree on what 'orthodox', 'catholic', 'sacrifice' and 'atonement' mean - just for starters!!

    I had a read of your essays on Rowan a while back, but I'll go and have another look.

    You seem to agree that he's not a liberal though. By 'liberal' I mean someone whose perspective on the faith is formed by Modernist philosophy, enlightenment categories of thought. The reason why I see Rowan as distinctly anti-liberal is because those categories of thought are a) what he spends most of his writings criticising, and b) he criticises them from a perspective rooted in scripture-mediated-by-tradition, which I would call 'orthodox' or 'catholic'.

    This is why I'm stunned by Packer's comment that Rowan 'is by confession a Liberal'. I react to that in the same way someone familiar with Obama would react to him being described as 'by confession a conservative'. Either the word 'liberal' is being used _extremely_ loosely, or else the description is being used for purely political purposes.

    On the other matter in hand... do you think that the Jerusalem church viewed it as sinful (or rendering unclean) to eat prohibited foods?

  16. Sam

    On atonement and sacrifice, how are you with this: "Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world ..."

    A bit long, I know, but thorough. I would see that as prism through which to understand the biblical material including, re your other post, on penal substitution.

    On the Jerusalem church (I presume you mean in the Bible, not the GAFCON venue), there was clearly a 'circumcision' (and the rest) faction. Not sure where that is leading, though.

  17. It's amazing that Packer can say he can be "friends with Anglo-Catholics"
    That's enormously Christian of him!
    It's a bit like saying he could even have friends who are black.
    And there was I thinking the Faith was about Love. Silly me.

  18. I would see that as 'of its time', and open to revision by the mind of the church, as happened with ASB and now common worship - which is why I tend to see the emphasis on 1662 in the GAFCON statement as more than a little reactionary.

    But on the other point, I'll try and spell out what I had in mind in a post on my blog. I'll put a link in here when it's done.

  19. As a post-Christian, now humanist, I think that the only reasonable outcome from all this is a split. The fact is that here we have people with almost entirely differing views within the same organisation.

    Something has to give.....naturally, I have no sympathy at all with the right-wing theological conservatives, but irrespective of my view, the two camps will have to separate.

    Anglicanism (the name is a clue) is the church which looks to Canterbury, and so those who wish to shift their focus elsewhere will be the ones who will no longer be Anglican in that sense. But they can call themselves what they wish. In England, though, the CofE does mean Canterbury. Have you bought a new HQ and redundant cathedral for the first FOCA who leads the English breakaway?

    Mike Homfray

  20. Mr. Norton, I don't think GAFCON's emphasis on the 1662 BCP is particularly intended to be "reactionary," but rather to mark our common theological and liturgical ground. Essentially the 1662 Book is the only Prayer Book that the entire world-wide body of Anglicans has in their heritage. To use, say, either the English ASB or any of the US books that descend untimately from Scotland's own early modifications of 1662 would be to privilege one part of Anglicanism over another. Why should African Anglicans care what British or American Anglicans have done to modify the heritage of the 1662 Book in recent decades? Using the 1662 Book as a common doctrinal standard in GAFCON is a necessity born of our present de facto diversity. BCP 1662 is our common link.
    The Rev. R.W. Foster
    St. Vincent's School
    Bedford, TX USA

  21. --In England, though, the CofE does mean Canterbury.--

    What of York, then?

    Michael Canaris

  22. Mr Foster - I see that as a charitable interpretation of GAFCON's statement, which is quite possibly the best way to interpret it (and if correct I would have no argument with it). What it _can_ mean, however, is that the church is not allowed to develop its own understandings of the faith over time. Which I wouldn't agree with (and which is why I said I would _tend_ to see it as reactionary).

  23. I've put a post up on my blog here explaining my thinking in more detail.