Saturday, 29 October 2011

Whatever happened to EFAC?

Yesterday I posted a link to an article by Dr Michael Poon published on the Fulcrum website, which sought to look at the present state of play in the Anglican Communion.
Dr Poon is one of the voices of the so-called ‘Global South’ grouping, which actually finds its centre of gravity in the far East and adopts something of a middle position between the ‘revisionist’ North and the GAFCON movement, whose focus is more in sub-Saharan Africa.
From the perspective of an outsider like myself, the Global South seems to be still undecided on the best approach to the theological conflicts which have deeply affected the Anglican churches of North America and now threaten in the UK. In their own eyes, they are the ‘evangelical moderates’ in a dispute which typically recreates the historical pattern of such conflicts (see James Whisenant, A Fragile Unity: Anti-ritualism and the Division of Anglican Evangelicalism inthe Nineteenth Century [Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press] 2004).
Thus Poon is critical of GAFCON almost as much as he is of the initiators of the conflict. In a telling paragraph, he asks,
Is GAFCON the only valid expression of Anglican evangelicalism, especially the only way to keep faith to John Stott’s legacy in today’s world? Arguably, John Stott created evangelical structures and helped to shape most of the present leadership in the southern continents. The formation of many top Anglican leaders worldwide can be traced to EFAC, Langham Trust and related networks. GAFCON organisers Chris Sugden, Michael Nazir-Ali and Vinay Samuel merely inherited the infrastructures that John Stott left behind. At the same time, does not John Stott offer a more generous ecclesial vision, and a more charitable way to speak the truth in love, than what GAFCON offers?
In short, EFAC, the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion, is the ‘John Stott’ way of addressing the problems in the Communion — the way of Anglican moderation and unity.
Today, however, I received an e-mail which basically asks what has happened to EFAC. “If EFAC had been doing its job,” my correspondent suggests, “[we] might never have needed a GAFCON.” And they add,
The question is properly, in the light of GAFCON, is there a need for EFAC? What could it achieve that is not already being done?
Naturally, the place to look these days is the internet. But try as I might, I can find very little about EFAC. It is alive and well in Australia, where its president is a certain Peter Jensen. However, the last time it seems to have been in action on these shores regarding the Communion’s crisis is in 2008, when it issued a statement which “heartily” endorsed* the GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration (ironic, in the light of Poon’s remarks):
We heartily endorse the fourteen points of the Jerusalem Declaration of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) and, like those at GAFCON, are fully committed to remaining within the Anglican Communion, and to bearing joyful witness to evangelical distinctives.
Beyond that, and the Australian presence, however, there seems to be very little information available. According to the 2008 statement, EFAC meets “every five years” and it issued a statement (.pdf file) after its previous gathering at Limuru in 2003, so it will be due to gather in 2013.

The current chair of EFAC is George Kovoor, the Principal of Trinity Theological College, Bristol, who has also recently endorsed GAFCON. However, I am unable to find any website for EFAC as an international body, or very much indication of what it is doing (nor anything about a 2013 gathering).
And this highlights a constant problem in Anglican Evangelicalism — one which, as I’ve indicated, is an endemic issue. As Whisenant describes, and as I have said in my new book on AStrategy that Changes the Denomination, faced with conflict in the denomination, Anglican Evangelicals have typically dissipated their energies by dividing amongst themselves over the best approach. The ‘moderates’ want moderation, the ‘stalwarts’ want confrontation. The outcome is division and the beneficiary is the opposition!
Poon is right in this: there are faults on both sides, but not perhaps the ones he identifies. The error of the stalwarts, specifically here in England is, as Dr Jensen pointed out just this week, a decade-long lack of any coherent action which might have addressed the issues. Sabres have been repeatedly rattled, but opportunities for institutional change have been almost entirely ignored.
Meanwhile, the moderates cry, “Peace, peace,” where there is not only no peace, but no institutional commitment to the conversion of the nation — the only proper goal, surely, of a national church?
All this is not helped, however, by the mutual lack of trust. Yet trust must be earned, and it is earned by actions. We may not be exactly sure ‘who is on the Lord’s side’, but it is human nature to want to be sure who is on our own when push comes to shove.
John Richardson
29 October 2011
* However, the extent of this endorsement, and indeed the membership of the EFAC gathering that produced it, has been questioned by Fulcrum Theological Secretary and now bishop, Graham Kings.
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  1. .. And people from other denominations watch,and shake their heads without surprise when a clumsy institution is unable to show reconciliation and diversity. Instead two sides appear to accuse the other of inflexibilty and instead resort to legal structures. The world looks in and thinks 'hypocrites'.

  2. Avey, that's what I'd call the "I am for Christ" gambit, which thinks it has found the solution but is actually just another example of the problem (see 1 Cor 1:10-12).

  3. Canon Andrew Godsall, Exeter29 October 2011 at 12:34

    John - in the end there simply can't be 'sides', as that is not the way the C of E works. The Church of England is a 'yin-yang' church to its very core. It will always be both/and rather than either/or. It simply can not be any other way. Graham Kings has huffed and puffed about the 'gay 'issue before but knows full well that he serves with partnered gay clergy and receives communion from and with them both in London and Salisbury. It's a tension that makes him a three dimensional person. It's a tension that has allowed the C of E to exist at all. The Global South can't exist without the liberal West and vice versa. Anglican Evangelicals are divided over everything, just as Anglican Catholics are. It's time to realise that they are just Anglicans and get on with building the kingdom rather than asking what colour the bricks should be.
    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  4. Andew, I think Dire Straits nailed it a long while ago: "Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong."

  5. Canon Andrew,

    You write

    'It's time to realise that they are just Anglicans and get on with building the kingdom rather than asking what colour the bricks should be.

    But therein lies the probem. It not the colour of the bricks but the fact that what is being built is quite different. If you ask Anglican liberals and evangelicals what 'building the Kingdom means' then I think you will get two quite different answers.

    Liberals and Evangelicals use the same terminology but attach different meanings to the same words.

    And it is more than just individual issues like how WO and sexuality should be resolved, but how christianity should be defined, understood and preached.

    Liberals and evangelical Anglicans preach two different Gospels which are polarised and contradict each other. They cannot both be right unless you assume that 'Anglicanism' is a 'faith' quite separate from Christianity.

    Chris Bishop

  6. Canon Andrew Godsall29 October 2011 at 17:24

    So john and Chris - what do you want to do? You want to drive all those who don't agree with you out of the C of E? Is that your solution?
    How do you know you are both right?
    And Chris, as John has demonstrated 'evagelicals' believe different things. They don't speak with one voice. How do you work out which the authentic one is, given that both understand themselves to be biblical?

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  7. Andrew, the first thing to establish is the principle: "One of them must be wrong".

    Of course, there is also the possibility that they both are.

    The important thing is, they can't both be right.

  8. Canon Andrew Godsall29 October 2011 at 18:29

    John, you avoid my question.
    You have made it plain over and over again that you think 'liberals' are wrong. So what do you want to do - drive them all out of the C of E?
    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  9. Andrew, I think you avoid my point. Or do you agree with it? Perhaps I misunderstand.

  10. Canon Andrew Godsall29 October 2011 at 19:18

    Yes John I think you do misunderstand. I would still be really glad if you answered my question.


  11. Andrew, what I'm saying is that the prior question is whether, in principle, "One of them must be wrong". Do you agree with that, or not?

  12. Canon Andrew Godsall29 October 2011 at 19:43

    One of who must be wrong about what in particular John? About everything? Tell me what you are referring to and I will tell you whether I agree with you or not.
    My question still stands. Do you want the ones you judge to be wrong to be driven out of the C of E?

  13. Andrew, as you indicate, before there can be a useful discussion, we have to know "what in particular" we are discussing.

    The prior question therefore must be whether the Christian faith is (if I can put it this way) an epistemological framework - a context in which anything can be cognitively (rather than just relationally) known.

    If no ideas, opinions or beliefs can be deemed wrong, then Christianity is not an epistemological framework and discussing what to do about wrong understandings is impossible.

    On the other hand, if it is such a framework, then ideas, opinions or beliefs can be deemed wrong.

    If you and I agree on the latter, then we might proceed to consider on what basis anything may be known. From there, I think it may be possible to go on to what should be done about false or mistaken claims to knowledge.

  14. Canon Andrew Godsall29 October 2011 at 21:14

    John you are just evading the question. Tell me something that you think is wrong and then tell me whether those who support that thing should be driven out of the Church of England.


  15. Andrew, I'm not trying to evade the question, I'm trying to establish common grounds for a discussion. Either Christianity is, or is not, an epistemological framework. As I've said above, the position we take on this decides the direction we take next.

    You have set up a particular kind of framework - one where people seek to 'drive people out' of the Church. I'm not able to engage with that but have sought other grounds for engagement.

    If those grounds cannot be agreed there's no point me stopping doing the ironing, or you taking a break from whatever you're doing. :-)

  16. Canon Andrew Godsall29 October 2011 at 21:59

    John - Christianity is about following Jesus Christ as best we can. It's about belonging to a community of people seeking to do the same. You make it sound like a tedious O level with no passion.
    Let's take someone you have publicly.railed against, Nick Holtam. Do you accept that he is fit to lead followers of our Lord? Or do you say he should be driven out of the house of bishops?

  17. Andrew, you might as well ask me "When did you stop beating your wife?"

    It is clear you don't want to discuss things from my perspective, any more than I want to discuss them from yours.

    Best leave it there.

  18. Canon Andrew Godsall29 October 2011 at 22:39

    John you are so vague about what you actually want as to make it impossible to talk about things from your angle. You don't give us anything worth following let alone to die for. No wonder GAFCON has no following here if you are an advert fir what they stand for. You talk about 'the opposition' but won't actually say who they are or what they stand for and what you want to do about them. No choice but to leave it unless you can say something meaningful.

  19. As an onlooker, this is most enlightening.

    John, I think you're doing what you need to do. Do not give in on this point, or you hand the whole thing to those who would make God a pet God.

    And Andrew, John is not 'so vague'; he has seen what happens when people who either believe another gospel or who are unclear about which gospel they believe define the terms of the debate. He just won't let you do that. And he has done so with patience, respect, and good grace.

    Sic semper tyrannus

  20. Canon Andrew,

    You are correct in saying that Evangelicals believe different things but in general, they do not amount to a total difference and not one which essentially undermines a common evangelical understanding of the Gospel.

    With liberals and evangelicals then you do not need to look far to see areas of total difference. The nature of the resurrection, the uniqueness of Christ as the only way to God, the existence of hell and eternal judgment are just examples.

    So as an example, if you have an Evangelical Anglican church that preaches the need to repent and eternal judgment and a liberal one that says that hell doesn’t really exist and that judgment is an outmoded concept, then these are surely total differences. It is difficult to see how you can accommodate both. They cannot both be right.

    But I think Andrew, that differences go much deeper than set-piece doctrines. Liberal Anglicanism does not claim to be a belief structure in the same way that Anglican conservatism does. Liberalism unlike conservatism, has no unified set of propositional beliefs and is generally suspicious of dogma.

    Now I know that the C of E has its 39 articles and formularies but most liberals I have met (or read), hold very lightly to them and interpret them as they see fit.

    The difference is that liberals are inclined to view christianity and specifically the Bible, as essentially human narratives. They are man’s understanding of God rather than God’s understanding of man. To them, the Bible is a human book - not one that has the divine imprimatur, or if it has, then it is very tenuous one.

    I am not arguing here, that mine (or Johns view) is necessarily right or that yours is wrong – simply that if you are ‘building the kingdom’ or 'following Jesus; from two different sets of assertions, both liberal and conservative, then you will emerge with two very different gospels.

    Chris Bishop

  21. Chris Bishop makes some fair observations re the nature or character of liberalism. Liberalism isn't so much a set of beliefs or convictions such as evangelicalism or catholicism as an attitude of detachment to or sitting loose from the tradition and critiquing it according to contemporary standards of reason. That's why the liberal Jesus keeps chsnging and will be something else in five years' time: the dominant culture plays the tune.
    That's also why liberal Christianity is such an uninspiring etiolated version of the real thing that quickly dissolves into liberal moralism with its shibboleths. Pace Andrew Godsall, Christianity isn't about 'following Jesus as best we can', that's the liberal morlaistic O Level understanding (or should I say A* GCSE), it's about his Resurrection life inside us by the Holy Spirit, transforming us radically in love and holiness to share in His eternal life. The two things are chalk and cheese.
    Mark B., W. Kent

  22. Canon Andrew Godsall30 October 2011 at 10:21

    A Roman Catholic priest called Richard Rohr set up the Centre for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to help people on both the right and left to transcend the dualistic thinking that divides the world into “bad guys” and “good guys.” He said
    "Again and again, I saw the tremendous social needs of our time and our world. And yet I often was disappointed in some of the responses, which I would now call “dualistic thinking”… “either/or thinking”… “all or nothing thinking.” I found dualistic thinking to be as much on the left as it was on the right.
    Every step of creation and every piece of creation is another word of God. Each is another footprint, another fingerprint, another revelation of the mystery. So the whole distinction between sacred and profane just doesn’t work anymore. It’s not helpful. It’s not true. There is only one universe. It’s all sacred, and it’s all revealing the divine."

    Mark - you pick up on part of it, but only part. That's the whole point that St Paul made. We all see through a glass darkly. And it's much easier to write other people off than face up to the fact that each of them gives us a glimpse of the face of Christ.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  23. "Mark - you pick up on part of it, but only part. That's the whole point that St Paul made. We all see through a glass darkly. And it's much easier to write other people off than face up to the fact that each of them gives us a glimpse of the face of Christ."

    Andrew, I don't agree with this take on St Paul anymore than with Richard Rohr's incipient pantheism. Paul knew the (eternal) difference between sin and grace, between darkness and light. Of course everyone made in God's image can reflect God, but some do so very badly and in a distorted way, e.g. through idolatry. (What would be your message to Ganesh worshippers? or to Muslims? or to atheists? Would you call on them to repent of their sins and believe in the crucified and risen Lord? If not, why not) And Paul had do doubts at all about the sovereign power of God: Pharaoh served God as Moses did, but as a vessel of wrath, not mercy.
    Your earlier question to John ('Who would you kick out of the C of E?') was an example of a false dilemma. I doubt John would want to kick anyone out. The Church, after all, is a hospital for the sick (to make us better) and a school for sinners (to school us out of sinning). The real question is: who should be the doctors and teachers?
    In short: no one should be kicked out of the church; but who should be leading is a different question.
    Mark B.

  24. Canon Andrew Godsall30 October 2011 at 17:15

    Mark: my earlier question to John concerned one of the doctors and teachers, Bishop Nicholas Holtam, who john and his cronies at Church Society have publicly railed against. John didn't answer that question either.

    Some of the rest of your post I am in agreement with. I commend Richard Rohr to you - clearly considered an orthodox Roman Catholic priest - because he has not been stopped teaching by the RC Church who tend to be quite particular about these things.

    Chris: I think you will find evangelicals are quite split about a whole variety of things, and that was actually the point of John's original post here.

  25. Andrew asked: "Let's take someone you have publicly.railed against, Nick Holtam. Do you accept that he is fit to lead followers of our Lord? Or do you say he should be driven out of the house of bishops?"
    That's a different question. We have no love of "martyrs". Much better if people like Nick Holtam were never appointed to leadership over orthodox Christians, or if they stood aside from troubling their consciences. Think of the chaos caused by heterodox teachers like David Jenkins years ago. They didn't repeat that mistake in Durham.
    I can't comment on Rohr's orthodoxy, and as I'm not a Roman Catholic it's not really an issue for me. The US Catholic Church is changing in any case, after the disastrous impact of gay clergy in the 1970s and 80s and the financial and social devastation they caused.
    How about my question to you: will you call upon Hindus to renounce idolatry, Muslims to embrace the divine Christ, atheists to give up rebellion against God?
    Martin B.

  26. Canon Andrew Godsall31 October 2011 at 10:17

    Dear Martin B/Mark B (not sure which/who you are...)

    It looks like practically that both you and John are saying what I am saying - that those with a variety of views are all part of the same Church of England, working together to build up the kingdom.

    As to relationships with those of other faiths - I have been very involved in this area of work for well over 30 years. The C of E has good resources to help you think through your (rather simplistic) questions - the 'Presence and Engagement' programme is what you need to look at. There is an excellent web site with the resources on

    As long ago as 1981 The C of E endorsed the Four Principles of Inter Faith Dialogue agreed ecumenically by the British Council of Churches:

    •Dialogue begins when people meet each other
    •Dialogue depends upon mutual understanding and mutual trust
    •Dialogue makes it possible to share in service to the community
    •Dialogue becomes the medium of authentic witness

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  27. Is it too late to get back to the question that began this thread--'Whatever happened to EFAC?' According to its by-laws, EFAC's members are whatever organised group represents the Evangelicals in each church of the Anglican Communion. Each group nominates two representatives to EFAC, and the resulting body is EFAC's Council. I believe CEEC is the Church of England's representative body, and the two CEEC representatives would be the first to ask what, if anything, is happening in EFAC. A list of CEEC's council members, in about as inconvenient a form as can be imagined, is on CEEC's home-page,

    The first question I would ask one of them is 'when were EFAC's financial statements last shown and explained?' Nothing shows what an organisation is up to better than its cheque-book.

    Philip Wainwright

  28. Thank you Philip, both for the information and for getting back to the point!

  29. Strange how such a mundane post can spark into something else entirely. I would only ask the good Canon Andrew where, if anywhere, he sees any growth in the Anglican Communion, or even the areas of least decline. Two generations of dialogue have not produced revival or regeneration, or anything that could be interpreted as growth.

  30. Canon Andrew Godsall3 November 2011 at 11:13

    We have areas of growth in our diocese Richard - notably in average all age weekly attendance. The whole emergent church movement needs to be taken seriously.


  31. Thank you for an interesting post and a fascinating discussion: highly enlightening.

    A question for Canon Godsall, if I may, in reply to his questions earlier: what should happen to clergy who do not, in fact, believe the doctrine of the Church of England that they have sworn that they do believe?
    Rationale for question: Canons A2-A4 highlight documents that can be believed with a clear conscience; canon A5 concludes by saying that the C of E's Doctrine is chiefly to be found in these three, the 39 Articles (to be understood in their "literal and grammatical sense"), the Ordinal and the Prayer Book. The Declaration of Assent is a pledge of agreement with these.

    Should those who do not so believe be politely retired, to make way for those who do?

    Exeter Growth: AFAIK, the growing churches are evangelical; the shrinking ones are liberal: happy to be proved wrong if you have data to the contrary.

    Cornelius, West Devon

  32. Canon Andrew Godsall5 November 2011 at 18:07

    An interesting question Cornelius, whoever you are. I personally think a pastoral conversation with their bishop is the first step.
    What about anglo catholics who use the Roman Missal instead of an authorised service book? What about evangelicals who don't wear robes or dress according to the requirements of the canons?
    I know of growing liberal evangelical churches. Or are you going to tell me that there aren't liberal evangelical churches?

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  33. Thank you, your reverence. As to who I am: a member of one of the local deanery synods.

    As to your comments: yes, I think a conversation with a bishop should be that natural first step, in any of the cases you outline. The question is what should be done if:
    * the atheist/agnostic decides not to leave
    * the wannabe-Roman-Catholic will not use BCP/Common Worship
    * the evangelical declines to dress appropriately (other than a 'Fresh Expression' for which different rules apply)?

    My impression is that their bishop has a duty to censure - and if necessary to remove - such clergy for the good of the wider church. Is that correct, and what is your view? (Where is the balance between style & substance?)

    Liberal evangelical: Not a term I have come across (prob. me just being dense!): would you mind clarifying it for me please? Who in the diocese would you regard as liberal evangelical?

    Many thanks
    Cornelius, West Devon

  34. Canon Andrew Godsall8 November 2011 at 17:38

    I don’t think this topic really is the place for answering of your specific questions, and as you are anonymous I am reluctant to do so. If you want to throw off the anonymity and e-mail me then please do.

    As to a liberal evangelical – that does relate to the topic. I don’t find labels very helpful but I think the general understanding would be a person who valued the supreme authority of Scripture but understood it as being in the on-going revelation of God in Christ rather than in a literalistic reading. A liberal evangelical might also have a more open approach to the atonement - wanting to stress the redeeming love of God in Christ. They also embrace the theory of evolution and understand it is as compatible with creation. Liberal Evangelicals are also be supportive of the ordination of women as Priests and Bishops – indeed many of them are women in priestly ministry. There are many growing liberal evangelical churches in our diocese and others.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  35. Some additional information here: