Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop responds to GAFCON statement

Update: This response is now online at the Archbishop’s website and the Anglican Communion Official Website.

The following press release from Lambeth Palace was issued at 1641 BST today.

Press release from Lambeth Palace

For immediate use

Monday 30th June 2008

Archbishop responds to GAFCON statement

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has responded to the final declaration of the Global Anglican Future Conference with the following statement:

The Final Statement from the GAFCON meeting in Jordan and Jerusalem contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met for prayer and pilgrimage in the last week. The ‘tenets of orthodoxy’ spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues. I agree that the Communion needs to be united in its commitments on these matters, and I have no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of GAFCON’s deliberations. Despite the claims of some, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion

However, GAFCON’s proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways, and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed.

A ‘Primates’ Council’ which consists only of a self-selected group from among the Primates of the Communion will not pass the test of legitimacy for all in the Communion. And any claim to be free to operate across provincial boundaries is fraught with difficulties, both theological and practical – theological because of our historic commitments to mutual recognition of ministries in the Communion, practical because of the obvious strain of responsibly exercising episcopal or primatial authority across enormous geographical and cultural divides.

Two questions arise at once about what has been proposed. By what authority are Primates deemed acceptable or unacceptable members of any new primatial council? And how is effective discipline to be maintained in a situation of overlapping and competing jurisdictions?

No-one should for a moment impute selfish or malicious motives to those who have offered pastoral oversight to congregations in other provinces; these actions, however we judge them, arise from pastoral and spiritual concern. But one question has repeatedly been raised which is now becoming very serious: how is a bishop or primate in another continent able to discriminate effectively between a genuine crisis of pastoral relationship and theological integrity, and a situation where there are underlying non-theological motivations at work? We have seen instances of intervention in dioceses whose leadership is unquestionably orthodox simply because of local difficulties of a personal and administrative nature. We have also seen instances of clergy disciplined for scandalous behaviour in one jurisdiction accepted in another, apparently without due process. Some other Christian churches have unhappy experience of this problem and it needs to be addressed honestly.

It is not enough to dismiss the existing structures of the Communion. If they are not working effectively, the challenge is to renew them rather than to improvise solutions that may seem to be effective for some in the short term but will continue to create more problems than they solve. This challenge is one of the most significant focuses for the forthcoming Lambeth Conference. One of its major stated aims is to restore and deepen confidence in our Anglican identity. And this task will require all who care as deeply as the authors of the statement say they do about the future of Anglicanism to play their part.

The language of ‘colonialism’ has been freely used of existing patterns. No-one is likely to look back with complacency to the colonial legacy. But emerging from the legacy of colonialism must mean a new co-operation of equals, not a simple reversal of power. If those who speak for GAFCON are willing to share in a genuine renewal of all our patterns of reflection and decision-making in the Communion, they are welcome, especially in the shaping of an effective Covenant for our future together.

I believe that it is wrong to assume we are now so far apart that all those outside the GAFCON network are simply proclaiming another gospel. This is not the case; it is not the experience of millions of faithful and biblically focused Anglicans in every province. What is true is that, on all sides of our controversies, slogans, misrepresentations and caricatures abound. And they need to be challenged in the name of the respect and patience we owe to each other in Jesus Christ.

I have in the past quoted to some in the Communion who would call themselves radical the words of the Apostle in I Cor.11.33: ‘wait for one another’. I would say the same to those in whose name this statement has been issued. An impatience at all costs to clear the Lord’s field of the weeds that may appear among the shoots of true life (Matt.13.29) will put at risk our clarity and effectiveness in communicating just those evangelical and catholic truths which the GAFCON statement presents.

© Rowan Williams

Marie Papworth
Archbishop of Canterbury’s Press Secretary
Lambeth Palace
London
SE1 7JU

020 7898 1280

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karen macqueen+
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karen macqueen+

“The ‘tenets of orthodoxy’ spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues.” Fortunately for us, Rowan Williams does not speak for TEC. If he regards the 39 Articles and the 1662 British Prayerbook as “tenets of orthodoxy”, which are presented as normative by the GAFCON statement, then RW is ignoring the history and practice of TEC. We have, as a Church, decided to list the 39 Articles as an historic document and have explicitly chosen… Read more »

Treebeard
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Treebeard

A profound,timely and magisterial response to Gafcon statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

badman
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badman

karen, you must take a step back. TEC is not a majority of the communion and what Rowan Williams says in your quote is correct. The GAFCON challenge is a challenge to the whole Anglican Communion, not just the US. That is why the ABC has at last spoken clearly against it. You should be glad, because now he is actually fighting your enemies, just as the Americans joined World War Two only after the attack on themselves at Pearl Harbour. GAFCON has gone too far. Everything has changed. The biggest threat to the Anglican Communion was majority inertia in… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“And this task will require all who care as deeply as the authors of the statement say they do about…”

; = )

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“TEC is not linked to the C of E in the same way that many of the other Anglican Churches are.” Quite so. You’ve nailed the essentials. I believe I am correct in remembering that the C of E attempted prayer book revision in the 1920s, but that their proposed new BCP could not pass the House of Commons? Is that why they are stuck with the 1662 and why everything else used is in fact ‘trial use’ or some such. I may have that QUITE wrong, and would appreciate clarification. And is it also true that C of E… Read more »

Kurt
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Kurt

Karen is so very right. The Articles of Religion have never had the popularity here in the US that they have had in some other Churches of the Communion which were established so much later than the American Church. In the American Proposed Prayer Book of 1785, the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England were cut down to twenty. In our first Authorized Prayer Book of 1789, they were left out altogether. The question of their reinstatement proved to be troublesome, and a modified set were not incorporated into an Episcopal Church Prayer Book until 1801 And yes, we… Read more »

Rob Leduc
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Rob Leduc

I would point out to karen macqueen+ that the original covenant draft has already been modified to take into account that a number of national churches in the Anglican Communion do not have this regard for the 39 articles and the 1662 BCP. While I may agree that the Archbishop’s statement is a little unfortunate as it is open to overinterpretation, I don’t believe he is unaware of or trying to do away with this fact. There is much to be explored in terms of what is meant by ‘differences of emphasis and perspective’ on these issues.

R. Eric Sawyer
Guest

The Rev. Karen MacQueen wrote, among other things, “Rowan Williams does not speak for TEC” Quite right- no one but TEC speaks for TEC. We are a law unto ourselves. There is no orthodoxy save what we ourselves at this moment decree it to be. Nothing in writing, even written by ourselves, can deter us from what we want to think good. I’m sorry, but as a layman in the Episcopal Church, who believes the Bible as described in the Articles and by the English reformers and by the Ancient and Catholic Fathers, the Rev. MacQueen does not speak for… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

I think that what GAFCON/FOCA have done is to set up a new church whilst trying to pretend they remain in the old one – a sort of putsch. Thing is, they can’t, because Anglican, as its name suggests, is simply churches which choose to relate and be in communion with the Church led from Canterbury It is clear enough that they have no desire to do this, thus whatever they set up will by definition not be the Anglican Church. I can’t actually see all that many CofE churches heading FOCA-wards other than the usual suspects, and a bishop… Read more »

kieran crichton
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kieran crichton

My goodness, hasn’t this been big a weekend of gauntlett-throwing? I’ve suddenly (re-)gained a whole lot of respect for +Rowan. While I don’t think he’s got the whole doctrinal picture right (but in fairness, who really could hope to achieve this?), this is the first time he’s come out categorically in opposition to the GAFCONites. That in itself is a big matter: they’ve finally flushed out +Rowan. Perhaps there is a new use for the Covenant. Now that the GAFCONites have their punitive document, primatial star chamber and all, perhaps the Covenant can be a truly inclusive document that affirms… Read more »

MRG
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MRG

Here’s an interesting exercise: I just read through the 39 Articles to see how many I could honestly concur with. Even allowing that several of them are clearly no longer of much relevance – and one or two were even omitted from my prayer book – I only managed to count 15 that I thought reasonably unproblematic. I wonder if RW would consider me sufficiently orthodox.

Walsingham
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Walsingham

One word: Bravo.

badman
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badman

The 39 Articles were sidelined by the whole Anglican Communion many years ago. Lambeth Conference Resolution 43 of 1968: “The Ministry – The Thirty-Nine Articles “The Conference accepts the main conclusion of the Report of the Archbishops’ Commission on Christian Doctrine entitled “Subscription and Assent to the Thirty-nine Articles” (1968) and in furtherance of its recommendation: (a) suggests that each Church of our Communion consider whether the Articles need be bound up with its Prayer Book; (b) suggests to the Churches of the Anglican Communion that assent to the Thirty-nine Articles be no longer required of ordinands; (c) suggests that,… Read more »

J S-C
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J S-C

Am I the only one surprised by the extreme Evangelical bias of the GAFCON declaration? I honestly had not recognized that there were more than 4 or 5 Anglicans worldwide pining for the 1662 BCP, and I haven’t discussed, read, or heard anything about the 39 Articles in decades. We are supposed to believe that half of the world’s Anglicans think that these are pressing issues? Curious – were there any conservative Anglo-Catholics in Jerusalem?

Merseymike
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Merseymike

So, just to show that the FOCAs doctrinal purity is not that of the CofE! I don’t think anyone as catholic as RW would be all that enamoured with the 39A in any case. I think the ‘tenets of orthodoxy’ are as he says, “the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion” It has always been my understanding that liberals believe in uniqueness but not exclusivity in the sense of all other faiths being bogus, and certainly RW of… Read more »

Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

Peter Owen: wasn’t it the late Colin Stephenson who said “I assent to the 39 Articles in the same sense that I assent to the presence of the local gasworks. They’re there, and I can’t do anything about them”?

choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

Funny thing, I had to more or less memorize the 39A’s for confirmation back in 1972. In the US no less. Did anybody else over here (or anywhere for that matter) have to do this?

B O'Callaghan
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B O'Callaghan

If the forthcoming Lambeth Conference 2008 has reportedly been structured in such a way as to prevent full assembly resolutions – perhaps re-emphasizing the 1998 statement on sexuality and ostracising TEC and ACC which have ignored or by their actions contradicted it, one understands why the GAFCON delegates have lost faith in Lambeth and are now setting up alternative structures. Dr Williams appears to accept as a fait accompli the appointment of missionary or flying bishops for traditional Anglicans in the USA who have fallen out with TEC. He merely wants to make sure, it seems, that the “refugees” they… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Peter: that’s a great quotation, thanks for the accurate version.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

With regard to the predominance of the Articles. What you need to recognise here are the poppet masters, not their embarrassing but politically useful African dupes.

I mean Jensen, and Anglican Mainstream – who are themselves closely allied to Reform. We are talking about hardline cons-evos – who know they cannot make the CofE what they wish it to be so instead have focused on the Communion in the hope of taking enough with then when the timer comes.

Pluralist
Guest

I seem to be in a minority here, but I thought the Archbishop’s response was pathetic. He goes along with the GAFCON’s ideological argument, as he did with the Advent Letter. He has no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will find approval with the positive aspects of GAFCON – well how will we know? He doesn’t get it that the form and the content run together, that GAFCON is a Reformed theology of exclusion, and they have set up such a structure. But in order to accommodate them, a sort of “please come back” he would ruin the breadth of… Read more »

Francisco de Assis da Silva
Guest

A very perspicacious response. A Brazilian point of view on this response could be found at my blog.
http://www.xicoassis.blogspot.com

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

What an amazing response from Abp Williams. Not the slightest trace of the reaction most political leaders would have put forth — no defensiveness, no clutching at power, no defence of a status quo — the response is rooted in a very radical attitude to the question “how can church structures best serve the Gospel” — almost to the point of admitting that everything is up for grabs. Having outdone GAFCON in evangelical radicality Williams can then serenely recall them to the Pauline charity that “builds up” the Church. If this spirit prevails at Lambeth 2008 it will be a… Read more »

Tim
Guest

I’ve always felt a little uneasy about this idea that ‘Anglican’ simply means ‘in communion with Canterbury’ rather than describing a particular belief or practice. It reminds me too much of the idea that ‘catholic’ means ‘in communion with Rome’ – an idea that we rejected at the Reformation.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Hasn’t GAFCON just taken a page out of the TEC play book? I mean, we all know the ABC is unwilling to do anything substantive to anyone. Heck, TEC could start ordaining turtles and the ABC would say something like, “Well, that’s highly irregular and the turtles certainly will not be welcomed to Lambeth, but we have to understand TEC’s commitment to their baptismal covenant. Uh, well, er…there are some definite complexities here, etc…etc…” The AC is all talk and no action, especially when it comes to discipline (as TEC has masterfully demonstrated). So, no matter what one’s position is… Read more »

Mike
Guest
Mike

These are wonderful theological musings and I’m sure many people are waiting with baited breath to make the next post, but in the meantime, who’s out there dealing with the people who are homeless, abused, or in other ways ignored by the church? Gafcon’s statement seems at best posturing, at worst delusional. Frankly, does it really matter in the least what +Akinola, +Jensen, or even +Williams think or do about this? I can’t imagine that Gafcon (at least for US bishops) is anything other than an attempt to retain property while claiming some misguided sense of moral high ground. From… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“as a layman in the Episcopal Church”

In your case, R. Eric, I think it might be more appropriate to say “of it, but not in it”.

Lord have mercy!
God bless the member of Christ’s body which is TEC!

Wilf
Guest
Wilf

The emphasis on the 39 articles is rather chilling. It is clearly coming from Sydney in order to impose a neo-puritan doctrine of the eucharist. Quite why the Africans have assented to this is puzzling. The FOCA needs to check its history of the pre-imperial, pre-missionary church of England where the ‘historic formularies’ came from. The 39 articles are but one example of numbered articles published in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is also just one document that has stood the test of time along with the Book of Common Prayer and the 1662 ordinal. It may be possible… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

One passage in the letter “We have seen instances of intervention in dioceses whose leadership is unquestionably orthodox simply because of local difficulties of a personal and administrative nature. We have also seen instances of clergy disciplined for scandalous behaviour in one jurisdiction accepted in another, apparently without due process.” How objective and fair is this review process? There is no avenue appeal for parishioners who are suffering abuse by diocese leadership, and thus also no avenues of review for whether the parishioner, local minister, bishop or diocese have acted simply because of personal or administrative issues, or tolerated scandalous… Read more »

RPNewark
Guest
RPNewark

Peter Owen, at 20.48 on 30/06, set out, in response to Cynthia Gilliat of 18.22 on 30/06, the requirements of CofE clergy in respect to assenting to the witness of the 39 Articles to the faith.

Those who are not from England may be interested (and surprised?) to know that the same requirement is made of some 10,000 lay people in the CofE – those who are Readers, the only lay ministry regulated by canon law. The only adaptation is that in the declaration of assent the words “and administration of the sacraments” are omitted.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

It would seem that GAFCON dont simply want to get rid of liberals and liberalism, they want to jettison 40 yrs of ecumenical convergence and agreement and the liturgical movement as well.Where now ARCIC and other conversations and the agreements we have officially ratified?It would seem a significant ( or at least noisy ) section of the Anglican Communion has jettisoned all that has been achieved in a misguided attempt to anchor the identity of Anglicanism in the middle decades of the sixteenth century, presumably the idea is to create a 21stc version of the Edwardian Reformation.There cant be much… Read more »

sergei
Guest
sergei

I think the archbishop was right to try and locate his response in the ‘tradition’ of the church, in order to humbly but firmly try to rebuild from the centre. This might not be my preferred option and I would struggle to be as tolerant of GAFCON as he has been, but he has exercised his tricky role with more dignity than most. But I am still puzzled on the GAFCON statement – who wrote it, how many bishops really have signed up to it (especially those of a more Catholic persuasion), what of the ‘minority report’ that was briefly… Read more »

Treebeard
Guest
Treebeard

I love your term ‘poppet masters’ merseymike.

Quite charming !

Especially hard line conevo poppet masters ! …

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

What’s amusing to me is that the CAFCONites, particularly the Africans, seem to think that the Global North can’t stir up trouble for them in their neck of the woods, too. This cross-border intervention thing works both ways. It could really get interesting if we Americans choose to devote resources to it.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“there will be a new province in NA by Advent 09 with the archbishop (?) of the new province being recognized by the Primates Council. Love it or hate it, you know I’m right on this one. – Posted by Joe” Right about what, Joe? Yes, there may well be something CALLED a “new Anglican province in NA . . . being recognized by the Primates Council.” But in what sense will it really be ANGLICAN? The “Primates Council” you speak of, has but a small fraction of the (current) Anglicans Primates Meeting, and to the extent they push…stuff, like… Read more »

Richard Lyon
Guest
Richard Lyon

I think that Rowan Williams has the historical distinction of being more on the hot seat than any ABofC since Thomas Cranmer.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“But in what sense will it really be ANGLICAN?” If the Jerusalem declaration is anything to go by, to no extent at all. From rejection of Ecumenical Councils to the setting in stone of a defective liturgy, to their desire for a strong central controlling body, these people show they have no understanding of the words ‘orthodox’ or ‘Anglican’. Those Anglocatholics who signed on to it show that their “catholic” faith is little more than shared fear of change. I am still trying to figure out if Don Harvey, for whom I once had great respect and who always presented… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest

“I think that Rowan Williams has the historical distinction of being more on the hot seat than any ABofC since Thomas Cranmer.”

I think you are forgetting about William Laud – executed by Calvinist Puritans in 1645.

Archbishop Laud has the distinction of being the last Archbishop of Canterbury to suffer martyrdom . . . to date.