Highlights from GAFCON news conference


The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, CANA, led a news teleconference this morning to tell reporters about the significant happenings at the recent GAFCON conference in Jerusalem.

The major topics of discussion in the teleconference was the formation of a Primates Council and the green light GAFCON has given for the formation of a new province in the United States and Canada based on the Common Cause coalition. Here are highlights:

The final report of GAFCON is called “The Jerusalem Declaration,” the production of which was clearly one of the chief goals of the conference. He described the process of working towards the declaration as open and inclusive of all the participants with every group, gathering and workshop feeding input to the final draft. When the final report was brought to the 1200 in attendance it was received with a standing ovation.

Does GAFCON represent a break up of the Anglican Communion

Minns says that GAFCON represents the “family structure” of the Anglican Communion is changing with the former colonial churches taking their place at the table of leadership. The churches will still be Anglican in terms of their common heritage, their adherence to certain theological and biblical norms and their recognition of each other. Most of the GAFCON churches will have a direct connection to Canterbury but they will all be recognized by what Minns termed “a majority of Anglicans” throughout the world. This is not a split, Minns said, but a change in how the Anglican Communion understands itself.

Minns said in answer to a question about who was in charge, that the leadership very definitely came from the African primates and the US churches makes up only a minority of those present and those making decisions.

How many bishops present are in “official” communion with Canterbury.

Minns could not say how many bishops were in direct communion with Canterbury and how many came from churches that have been out of Communion. He said that the allegiances of the bishops were analyzed in many ways but that question was not one of them.

How will the Primates Council work?

The Primates Council has already met once and will meet again in August. It is comprised of six Primates (Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Southern Cone, Uganda and West Africa) and has the agreement of Tanzania (awaiting approval from their House of Bishops). They plan to invite other Primates who they believe agree with them. The expectation is that if “nothing happens at Lambeth” that more will voluntarily sign up. This council will provide the Anglican Communion, as they see it, with more structural and theological clarity than the current instruments of unity.

How will the proposed province in the US work?

It will have a Primate and be governed by a Council of Bishops comprising both the dioceses and the churches (such as AMiA and the Reformed Episcopal Church) that make up Common Cause. The jurisdictions will not necessarily be geographical but will respect the different traditions that comprise the province. Minns thinks that there are 300-plus churches that have either left the Episcopal Church or been formed since 2003 and another 300-plus that pre-date that including the REC and churches that left the Episcopal Church in the 1970s.

He said that this new structure will add more coherence to the situation in the US. When asked how, he said that the coherence will come from a “clear definition of who we are and what we are about. We are looking back, in a way, to a more historic framework of what it means to be Anglican…We are still a collection of congregations…Anglicanism has always been a federation of churches…we are deliberately a federation, collection of diocese and congregations.” The alternative they are offering to the Episcopal Church is one where conservative and “orthodox” Anglicans will know that biblical authority will be taught and respected.

“In Virginia,” he said, “if you want to be Anglican, now you have an option other than the Episcopal Church. Now given that option in another coherent province, their churches can be united in a new structure.”

Won’t the proposed US province need recognition from Canterbury and the rest of the Communion?

Minns replied quickly that “we already have that recognition because a majority of the Anglican Communion was present (at GAFCON).” When pressed, he said that the conference represented the most number of people in Anglican pews, not the number of Bishops, Provinces, dioceses or parishes. (No one asked if those present can be understood as elected delegates of the people Minns said they represent.)

As for recognition by Canterbury, Minns said that it was his hope that Archbishop Williams had followed the Windsor Process and that is was his hope that he would embrace what has come out of Jerusalem.

Three questions were asked and received very short answers:

There are millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Anglicans throughout the world. What does GAFCON say to LGBT Anglicans?

Minns replied that “all are welcome” and that we are all sinners who are need of our Lord.

How will this statement work for those who are traditionalists who oppose the ordination of women?

The Anglo-Catholic groups were very present in all deliberations, workshops and in the planning for worship. They came understanding that the Gospel unites beyond these differences.

What do you expect the response to the document will be at Lambeth?

He said that they are not sure what they are going to do. They are going to talk in small groups and we are not even sure if there will be a plenary session. It may be that the planned agenda will not hold together. The design of the conference seems to be to do not much work. In the meantime, the Primates Council will be hard at work forming itself and the new, planned Province.

Minns leaves Jerusalem for England where he expects to appear before a meeting of English bishops at All Souls, Langham Place where it said that 750 Anglican clergy will come to hear Archbishops Orombi, Venables, and Jensen speak about GAFCON.

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Jim Naughton

Attendance at GAFCON was by invitation. The notion that it was in any way representative is ridiculous.

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