Sunday, 3 January 2016

GAFCON prepares for the gathering of Primates

Jonathan Petre reports in the Mail on Sunday: Repent or we quit say bishops in gays feud: Anglican church could split in challenge to Welby’s authority

Church leaders from Africa and Asia are threatening to walk out of a crucial meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury unless American bishops drop their support for gay marriage.
Archbishop Justin Welby last year invited the leaders of the worldwide Anglican Church to the summit in Canterbury next week in a ‘make or break’ effort to avert a permanent split over homosexuality.
The row has torn the Church apart for a decade – with conservatives accusing liberals of abandoning the word of God by backing openly gay bishops and marriages for gay couples – and the Archbishop wants to broker a deal to allow both sides to co-exist peacefully.
But insiders said a hardcore of eight to 12 conservative archbishops from Africa and Asia are preparing to quit the meeting on the first morning unless the liberal Americans ‘repent’ or the Archbishop throws them out…

The GAFCON website has been very active in the past few weeks, see the following links:

And Anglican Mainstream has links to further items at Canterbury Primates’ Meeting – news and commentary

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I hope Archbishop Justin shows some courage and tells them they're free to go. Call their bluff if it's a bluff, make it clear who caused the schism if not.

Posted by: Jo on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 6:26pm GMT

"Church leaders from Africa and Asia are threatening to walk out of a crucial meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury unless American bishops drop their support for gay marriage."

If the African and Asian church leaders are really saying that:

Good-bye.
Don't let the fancy Medieval gilded doors slam on your backside.

These churches fought for a long time to have Western churches stop telling them what to do, and now they want to tell Western churches what to do?

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 7:25pm GMT

Th optimist in me hopes that these bishops will leave as they threaten and we can have an end to this blackmail once and for all (for that is what it is, naked blackmail). The pessimist warns that there will be yet another fudge.

Jensen's article shows why these people will never accept the 'mixed economy' solution, something which is obvious from 'shared conversations' too. There is going to be a split, any chance of a compromise, if one existed which I doubt, is long gone. The sooner it takes place the better.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 7:44pm GMT

To start with Eliud Wabukala's Christmas Pastoral Letter:

"If Jesus is Lord, then he must govern our relationships through his word."

What exactly does this mean? Is the 'word' literally true? Is it to be interpreted? How? Is it to be read in the context of the social values of its authors? Is every verse applicable to all societies in all times? In what sense is the bible 'true'? What role does individual conscience play? Or justice? Should Canaan be re-colonised and its non-Jewish inhabitants be killed to cleanse the Promised Land? Did God even actually command that in the original case? Was Noah's Ark an actual boat and event, as literally described in Genesis? Did Adam and Eve have ancestors? What about modern developments in psychology, geology, astrophysics, palaeontology, which were not known in the days when the biblical texts were written? Should the 'word' be the only arbitrator for human behaviour? What about the Spirit? Does revelation ever end? If God gave us conscience to decide right and wrong, should we suspend our moral agency if it conflicts with a bible verse? If different people have different ways of responding to the bible, say over divorce, should only one view be enforced?

Simply to say 'the bible is right' is quite simplistic, and arguably escapist in moral terms, because it begs the question 'in what sense is it right?'

If the bible is 'right' in a literal sense, then gay sex is an 'abomination' and women should submit in church, and to their husbands. There was no evolution from which humanity emerged. All species of animals were wiped out across the planet, even in the high Himalayas, except for pairs that were somehow gathered (from the undiscovered Amazon, Greenland, Australia, the Galapagos and everywhere else).

Or is the bible 'true' as an agent through which we mediate our own sense of justice, of love, of faith, in the exercise of God-given conscience, and openness to God? In which case there may be other, reasonable, agents of mediation too: encounter with people in a variety of contexts, people of diverse lifestyles, intelligent thought and ideas explored rationally in a multiplicity of disciplines.

"With many others, I long to see our beloved Communion united and its divisions healed, but this must be in a way that truly honours Jesus as Lord and head of his body, the Church. It is easy to be like parents who by false kindness allow their children to follow destructive patterns of behaviour."

Imposing one conscience as a uniformity on the consciences of others may not heal differences, it may accentuate them. Such insistence may drive division, not prevent it. Whereas our unity in Christ may be able to accommodate diversity of views, if we love one another.

And in what sense, precisely, is love, devotion, fidelity, sacrifice, tenderness, intimacy, care, commitment... a "destructive pattern of behaviour"?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 7:45pm GMT

Sad bigotry and an affront to my gay and Muslim friends.

Posted by: Clarejxx on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 8:04pm GMT

"Play our way or we'll take our toys and go home." I can hardly see the American bishops "repenting," or ++Canterbury chasing them out in response to this most un-Christian blackmail. The end of the "Communion"? Let us hope so, in order that the C of E can finally be free to start to operate as a national church. We can and should pray for those that leave, but it will be a good thing if they do go.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 8:11pm GMT

In the 'Anglican Communion at a Crossroads' post, what exactly is "the truth and authority of the Bible"? How precisely should the biblical texts be read, interpreted, and understood? Are the texts literally true? Inerrant? To be read in social contexts of the authors? Are all verses for all ages? And where does interaction, conscience, judgment, change, new knowledge come in? Are we automatons, pre-programmed (if faithful) to submit individual conscience to ancient texts? Is that what we were given conscience for?

If the Anglican Communion is at 'a crossroads', is that a decision between a rigid dogmatism insisting on uniformity that will DIVIDE a church, or the grace needed to live in diversity of opinions, taking the harder route of LOVE for one another, even with all our differences?

The crossroads may be a choice between rigid dogma and grace to love even those we disagree with, to co-exist with them, to value them.

The crossroads may be a choice between journeying on together, bound by grace and love, or parting ways out of an insistence on dogma.

Which group is more willing to stay together? Which group wants to opt for DIVISION?

Here in the Church of England, we are divided down the middle on certain issues, but there is little appetite for a breach, a division, a schism in the church - except from people at the fringes of our national worship and service and faith. We co-exist together, with differing views, which perhaps paves the way for the real challenge from God... not about who is right, but about who can find grace to love one another, and co-exist, and put love and care above the rigid letter of the law.

Eliud calls for "robust commitments to biblical teaching and morality"... er... sort of like The Covenant?

It's not going to happen. The best he can hope for is a fudge - around vague reference to biblical teaching, trying to keep everyone happy, without precision about how the bible should actually be understood and applied.

Over half the members of the Church of England accept gay and lesbian relationships and sexuality, and regard them as thoroughly moral. We should respect (and protect) divergent consciences.

If Justin Welby tried to enforce 'robust' terms on the Church of England, and a re-run of the Covenant, to alienate gay sexuality as wrong... then he would not be saving the worldwide communion, but he would almost certainly be subverting the reputation, mission, unity and social position/influence of the Church of England. His 'robust' stance would become ungovernable and untenable, because people in the pews are not going back on their acceptance of the decency and preciousness of committed loving relationships, whether heterosexual, gay, or lesbian.

Our society, and our Church, has moved on (into justice and openness) to an increasing degree.

The vilification of gay sexuality, espoused by people like Nicky Gumbel in the 90's, in the HTB culture that helped form and frame Justin's views... is a lost cause, and an embarrassment these days, even to Nicky Gumbel.

How much more, the homophobia that culturally thrives in some African societies, and the blunt statements of a Kenyan prelate, that has little or no bearing on the cultural openness that exists both in society and the pews, here in England. Gay and lesbian sex are here to stay in the UK. And they are now part of our Church as well, because quite simply, most Church members accept and affirm it.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 8:28pm GMT

A walkout by conservative churches would be a good thing. It would bring matters to a head, and force Welby to confront the inherent contradiction of attempting to keep ultra-conservative African churches happy in a liberal western society in which (for the vast majority of the population) the debate over same-sex issues is over and settled.

What does he want: a Sealed Knot re-enactment of the Chatterley trial, re-fighing the culture wars of fifty years ago in the desperate hope that he'll get a different answer (hint: he won't), or making the CofE actually part of England, accepting that the price will be some upset in the global south?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 8:37pm GMT

Peter Jenson, in his article 'The Need for Gafcon', writes of gay and lesbian sexuality:

"this sin is identified as spiritually deadly and those who engage in it without repentance are outside the kingdom of God"

If Gafcon seriously think that Parliament, and the majority of church members in the Church of England, will accept that, he is in 'wonderland'.

Will the Archbishop of Canterbury repudiate that statement?

Is Justin Welby seriously going to try to impose 'robust' rules on sexuality in order to placate views like this one above?

It's just unreality, and he has a duty and responsibility to the Church here in England - and the impact sentiments like Peter's have on the British public, alienating people, putting off the young, wherever gay sex is vilified, put down, branded as less than ideal.

Peter Jensen is entitled to his views. But Church members here in England, and Parliament, and the public will also have views. Gay and lesbian sexual relationships are legal here, are affirmed here, are valued here.

The decent social conscience, and sense of justice, of the British public... is putting our church here in England to shame... and critique of gay and lesbian sex, however much finesse is put on it, is alienating a generation from the church...

Justin is trying to hold the Communion together. But what happens if some parts of the Communion don't WANT to be held together?

At what point does the Church of England have to be rescued and salvaged? At what point does Justin have to stop trying to placate other provinces and prelates?

At what point are gay and lesbian couples fully accepted - for who they are and who they love - in our Church?

At what point do our bishops hold our church together, here in England, by accepting unity in diversity, instead of disastrous attempts to enforce conscience on other people's sincerely held conscience and faith?

At what point is gay love honoured in our church, openly and unashamedly?

Or is Justin a product of HTB and Nicky Gumbel's teachings on gay sex, at the time Justin was there? Does Justin, actually, think gay sex is "spiritually deadly"... or basically wrong?

What exactly are his views, and should they dominate other people's views and consciences?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 8:51pm GMT

Peter Jensen, in 'Why Gafcon Truly Matters':

"The Evil One rejoices at the division of Christians. Far from being divisive, GAFCON is a great force for unity."

Then stay unified. Don't split or divide. Look for grace to love one another, even if people have diverse views within your church.

Like it or not, we are One in Christ, for all eternity, even if we have different views on some things. Our union and communion dwells in Christ alone.

The challenge is not "Who is most right?" It is "Who can find most grace?"

We need grace to stay together.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 9:02pm GMT

A good principle is that if anyone offers their resignation, accept it with a good grace. And also, never threaten to resign yourself.

Posted by: Turbulent Priest on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 9:17pm GMT

Looking at the GAFCON website I thought that Peter Jensen, even in his posed jpg, is beginning to look quite old. It's time for him to let go and let someone younger bring some much -needed fresh air to what is a very stale debate.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 9:32pm GMT

It's the Mail, so of course it doesn't identify its sources. Who are these 'insiders'? It may be true, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 9:45pm GMT

I expect Justin Welby will try to smooth things over, but it may not be in his power to do so. He surely knows that churches that favor same sex marriages and blessings will not roll back their policies. Also, I don't see how anyone can view the policies in the Church of England as anything other than homophobic. What form does the archbishop want the AC to take?

Posted by: June Butler on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 10:09pm GMT

Tim C: it'll be the Archbishop of Here or the Bishop at There, or the Director of Stuff. Only the top dogs leak.

Posted by: DBD on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 11:57pm GMT

It's simply stupid. American bishops are not going to repent of following Jesus into inclusion, acting justly, and with the roar of the Holy Spirit.

Further, we are a more democratic church and this threat by GAFCON won't even be heard by 98 percent of us who have a voice in the prophetic spirit that is in our church. For those of us who hear it, there is very little to respect in the theology of hate expressed by Peter Jensen, et al.

GAFCON is not operating within the realm of reality. Which is why it is a phobia.

I strongly suspect that grassroots relationships will remain mostly intact and the impotence of these men will be revealed over time.

Our PB, +Michael is one of the wonders of the modern world when he preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has been supportive of LGBTQ people for his entire career, he likens our issues to the justice issues of the African American civil rights movement. GAFCON doesn't have a chance.

Is it Milton who gives Satan the words "I'd rather rule in hell than serve in heaven?" GAFCON may well choose to rule their own rather than play nice with the inclusive crowd. It's their choice to make, not ours. Ours is only to decide where we stand on human rights, and GAFCON positions cross the line into having real violators.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 11:59pm GMT

First reaction: This is classic triangulation, on an international scale. Family systems therapists will have a field day.

Second reaction:

'The end of the "Communion"? Let us hope so, in order that the C of E can finally be free to start to operate as a national church.'

Exactly. If the GAFCON primates do leave, this will not be the end, but rather will be a liberating moment, for the Communion, for Anglicanism generally, and for the Church of England in particular.

The Church of England should welcome the opportunity to no longer be bullied by GAFCON primates who do not have England's best interests at heart.

If Justin Welby has England's best interests at heart, he will clarify that the Anglican Communion is a family of independent churches, nothing more. The corollaries are (1) that he himself has no power to tell other Communion churches what to do, and (2) that if some siblings want to storm out of the family reunion, that would be regrettable but would be their choice.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 2:01am GMT

"Welby last year invited the leaders of the worldwide Anglican Church to the summit . . . "

Does the Mail not care that the phrase "worldwide Anglican Church" is a lie?

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 4:11am GMT

Here is a link to the New Years address by the Canadian Primate which bears directly, I think, on the agenda of the coming meeting of Primates, on its range and priorities.

http://www.anglican.ca/news/primates-sermon-2016/30013839/

His grace is far less scrappy than I. His message is one that smug self styled custodians of "orthodoxy", i.e. chaps ( they are mostly all men) who post on various right wing Anglican sad sack sites would prefer you not know about.

Some would say our Primate has no leverage because he presides over a marginal province; but then, I'm cheered by the question, can anything good come out of Galilee?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 4:43am GMT

I think Tim makes a good point. The Mail might be a cut above a supermarket tabloid. (That said, a friend once handled media relations on a Regina story that got attention around the world. He said that the only news organization that consistently fact checked with him before publication was the National Enquirer.)

Posted by: Malcolm French on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 6:06am GMT

In any event, I suspect TA and the few remaining religion editors could save themselves a lot of effort by just reprinting seven or eight year old stories and updating the names. That's all GAFFEPRONE seems to be doing. Their bullying didn't work then. It won't work now.

Posted by: Malcolm French on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 6:08am GMT

Gafcon are undoubtedly bluffing -- if they'd wanted to leave, they'd have done so many years ago -- but I doubt the managerial Welby would ever call 'em on it, if only 'cause he likely agrees that homosexuality is a "salvation issue."

Instead, there'll be the usual puff piece about unity, and, I suspect, intense pressure on TEC to impose another "moratorium" on consecrating LGBT people, likely Gafcon's immediate goal.

To get it, Welby may even threaten TEC with the rhetorical nuclear option: a formal accusation of racism from African churches, an accusation that'd terrify TEC leadership. As shown by their imposition of the 2006 moratorium, their silence over the exclusion of Gene Robinson from Lambeth '08, and their failure to reverse the firing of the striking faculty of General Theological Seminary, they're far from perfect, and can be pressured into supporting serious injustice.

I'm hoping that LGBT people are now too embedded within TEC for another moratorium. We'll soon see.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 6:54am GMT

Mr Pastry dances "The Lancers" once again?

(For those who don't remember, this performance of a man trying to hold the ring of a traditional dance is available on YouTube.)

I suspect ++Justin will feel obliged to stand in for Richard Hearne. For what purpose? Even God created one earth but made a separation between sea and dry ground. Diversity and difference may well be fruitful developments in honest thinking

Posted by: Sister Mary on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 7:38am GMT

Why not do as the GAFCON website suggests, and share your thoughts with ackenya.archoffice@gmail.com? I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

Posted by: Colin Penman on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 10:02am GMT

"Welby may even threaten TEC with the rhetorical nuclear option: a formal accusation of racism from African churches"

How would that work? "It's racist for Americans to do in America things that some Africans don't like". I get that liberal USians are petrified of accusations of racism no matter how ill-founded, but in 2016 I would hope that the transparent stupidity of that argument - especially when being used to suppress LGBT equality, which is another shibboleth of almost equal weight - would see it rejected.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 10:09am GMT

James Byron, I'm not sure you grasp TEC's current situation.

At General Convention 2015, "the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops’ approval the day before of a canonical change eliminating language defining marriage as between a man and a woman (Resolution A036) and authorizing two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples (Resolution A054)."

In other words, TEC's governing body opted for marriage equality despite knowing the likely GAFCON reaction. (This is what happens when a church decides refuses to be bullied by foreign prelates.)

PB Curry is in no position to backtrack. I doubt he'd want to--but even if he did, this is the governing body that also elected him overwhelmingly, on the first ballot.

I'm not sure why you predict an accusation of racism, but I doubt anyone would find it terrifying, least of all TEC's members who are both LGBTQ and African-American.

Historic discrimination against some is not remedied by continuing to discriminate (even criminalise) others. The answer to inequality is equality--for all God's children.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 10:14am GMT

Oh GAFCON, how can we miss you if you just won't go?

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 10:15am GMT

"It is easy to be like parents who by false kindness allow their children to follow destructive patterns of behaviour."

Does Archbishop Wabukala have any sense of history, that such a phrase parrots exactly one that would have been used 100 years ago, re a church model of European "parents" and African "children"?

We're all adults here...AND we're all Children of God. No one gets to talk down to each other as the (supposedly) superior---or more godly---party.

That is, unless one side INSISTS upon "taking our marbles and going home". In which case, the "children" analogy becomes too painfully obvious...

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 10:28am GMT

Either this threatened walk-out by the GAFCON Primates is basically a publicity stunt or these leaders are up to something.

+Michael Curry, the Primate of TEC, will represent our Church. When threatened by whomever, +Michael Curry will have neither the inclination nor the power to "repent" of TEC's position on LGBTI inclusion in the Church. I assume the GAFCON Primates know that.

+Justin Welby has no authority to expel TEC from the Communion. I assume the GAFCON Primates know that.

So, what are they up to? My guess would be that they will demand another moratorium on consecrations of LGBTI bishops by Communion Churches, or failing that, they may table a motion to give voice and vote to the ACNA Primate and to deny voice and vote to the Primate of TEC.

In the event that both of these moves fail, I understand they intend to leave and re-group at their UK office to plot further schism. In which case, all we can do is say, "TTFN." Not that this outcome would not be serious. These Primates will return to their countries intending to continue to support the oppression and terror under which their LGBTI persons struggle to live. However, at Canterbury, there seems to be little that can be done because these Primates are demanding the impossible.

Posted by: Karen MacQueen on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 11:12am GMT

Karen, I suspect that the GAFCON conservatives are trying to construct a narrative that (1) will serve them well back home, because they are about to take a major step that will not meet with universal agreement in their own provinces, and (2) will give any wavering primates an apparent incentive to join the marble-takers in leaving the gathering.

The marble-takers probably have their post-departure press release already drafted.

The question is how Welby plans to counter their maneuvers, other than by blocking any attempt to exclude. I don't think throwing money at the problem will do the trick.

Perhaps this gathering of primates will formalise a looser, more accurate understanding of the Communion?

We can hope! For if the Anglican Communion becomes an Instrument of Oppression, then it is not worth saving.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 11:48am GMT

"Either this threatened walk-out by the GAFCON Primates is basically a publicity stunt or these leaders are up to something."

Actually, there's a third option: they genuinely believe that they are right and genuinely believe that others secretly agree with them and are just awaiting a leader to coalesce around. You only have to listen to Anglican Mainstream to hear the effect of a reality distortion field: Sugden genuinely believes in his own position, and genuinely believes that there is a vast silent majority of people who agree with him. There may be much to dislike about his ideas and his arguments, but he is making them in good faith: he genuinely believes that there will come a day when the 1967 Sexual Offences Act will be repealed by the vast portion of society today who secretly want homosexuality recriminalised and are just waiting for the opportunity. In fact, I think he believes that even those that publicly speak of equality know that they are wrong and are only acting in bad faith.

He's laughably wrong, of course, and so are GAFCON: there is no vast homophobic mob in the the west. In fact, even in places you might think of as socially conservative, for example Bible Belt USA, when such things are put to electoral test "live and let live" tolerance wins out.

But GAFCON may be neither scheming nor cynical: they may just be staggeringly, laughably wrong. And it's actually the option I'd put the highest probability on, I think.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 11:56am GMT

Interested Observer, I imagine it'd be a spin on the post-colonial guilt trip they laid on England: arrogant Westerners imposing your corrupt, unbiblical hedonism on decent African provinces just trying to stay true to the gospel. They could also point to TEC flouting a Lambeth resolution passed with African votes. All nonsense, but as you say, even the accusation of racism terrifies liberals.

Jeremy, back in '06, Rowan Williams swiftly and effectively intimidated TEC leadership into a moratorium on consecrating lesbian or gay bishops. Canons can be suspended or ignored.

As I said, I hope enough has changed, but I'm not complacent. Gafcon aren't to be trifled with nor underestimated. They're brilliant and ruthless political operators. They might not have all the money, but they have the numbers, and the moral authority from having suffered imperialism. They're the power in the Communion, and the necessary resistance must be waged with great care. We're up against true bossmen.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 2:06pm GMT

"Jeremy, back in '06, Rowan Williams swiftly and effectively intimidated TEC leadership into a moratorium on consecrating lesbian or gay bishops."

I'm familiar with that history. But after that event, while TEC observed the moratorium, schismatics schemed at border crossings. So I suspect that TEC is in "fool me once" mode.

Furthermore TEC is no longer subject to blackmail by its former GAFCON elements. As against them, TEC is in litigation mode.

And the hoped for means of disciplining TEC--the so-called Anglican Covenant, which was neither--died an ignominious death, voted down by the Church of England itself.

A lot has happened since 2006!

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 3:02pm GMT

@ interested observer, do you really think that Sugden "believes" what he says? I have been reading a lot about WWII lately and find it impossible to agree that any German really "believed" that there was a secret conspiracy by "the Jews" to rule the world. The motives for the Shoah were totally other. I marched on Washington for civil rights because I find it impossible to "believe" that the color of anyone's skin should deprive him or her of full citizenship, so if Sugden really "believes" that some of us are ceated in the image of our maker, and some are not, maybe someone should give him a 101 lesson in theology....

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 3:16pm GMT

Anybody read Welby's invitation letter for the meeting? It reaffirms all the previous meetings which upheld traditional teaching. Gafcon wouldn't even be in London if he didn't do that and invite acna. Tec even accepts that?! On what basis does anyone think welby is going to tell gafcon to take a walk?
I don't see why anyone has hope that he goes against the church of England's established position (see very expensive legal cases recently defending just that), jettisons the largest Anglican provinces (with whom he agrees) and simultaneously smashes his relations with Rome. Rather than playing wishful thinking regarding the primates, why don't people have the guts to walk away from yet more calls for the sacrifice of conscience and integrity? Sadly, TEc will accept whatever deal is offered to stay in the club (because of its demographics?) and English liberals will make another cup of tea.

Posted by: S Cooper on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 3:16pm GMT

The idea that gay and lesbian Christians are outside the kingdom of God is an interesting one; it sounds as though the GAFCON folk have rejected salvation by faith, through grace and mercy in favor of salvation through works, which is of course not an Anglican theology.

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 3:36pm GMT

You know, there seems a continuing effort to ratchet up expectations of this meeting. As I understand it, Archbishop Welby did his best to say this meeting was anything but "crucial." Those who want the Primates to function as a synod are calling for this meeting to be a synod; but that's not how this started.

Brother Byron, I was in the room when we (the House of Deputies) voted to concur with the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church to establish a moratorium. Note that it was a limited time decision, and has long since ended. This was an expression of faith on Rowan, not faith in the Communion "process" as we came to see it; and even the faith in Rowan was lost with time. We simply haven't invested that sort of faith in Justin. We're not about to invest any faith in GAFCON, except to respect that they are who they are and will act as they act. Will they walk away? Will they form a new network, a new federation, a new "communion?" God bless them, then, and let them get on with it.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 4:18pm GMT

Actually there is fourth option, Interested Observer. I think it the most likely one. Someone with their own motives has been spinning news to a hack hungry for a story. The piece in the Mail contains no quotes, no 'statement' - just claims by 'insiders' - who have their own motives no doubt. So, unsurprisingly, we end up spinning stuff in turn. Well this meeting is going to be quite hard enough with the best of motives.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 4:52pm GMT

I don't think the threat of accusing TEC of racism is going to go anywhere. +Michael is African American and he is a leader in talking honestly about race in the US. As Jeremy pointed out, TEC is not uniformly white!!! Our diversity is broad, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latino/a Americans, and then outside the US in our Province 9 there is Haiti, Honduras, etc.

There is some racial tension in the US over gay equality. Some African Americans come from more conservative religious traditions. Gay African Americans sometimes suffer isolation in their communities. But this is not a big thing in TEC, that I've ever heard of. Sacramental inclusive marriage passed overwhelmingly with our big tent of diverse voices.

Several GAFCON leaders are human rights violators. They have no theological or moral credibility.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 6:57pm GMT

I made the mistake of reading the article with the hopeful title "What Brings Us Together as Anglicans." Alas, apparently, according to the writer, Phil Ashey, what brings Anglicans together is hatred towards gay people and twisting Scripture to lift up and support their bigotry above all other considerations. Apparently, we are not brought together in the Eucharist, in the urgent concern for justice for the poor and marginalized, in the love of Jesus Christ who poured out his life for all, or in following His commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. Nope. What really unifies is the "truth" of hatred towards a group of people who are barely addressed in Scripture.

No enlightenment or inspiration of the Holy Spirit to be found there...

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 8:03pm GMT

Just a simple question - this is Jonathan Petre from the Mail on Sunday. Since when did anyone give any credibility to anything he writes? It does seem slightly crazy to take this story seriously. Of course, there are all sorts of people on both edges of the debate who would wish that it is true, because it suits their preconceptions. But ask yourself - is likely that folk will pay for the air fare just to do a walk out? Or is it more likely that this is at the same level of credibility as everything else that appears in the Daily Mail and its sister rag? After all, you wouldn't believe their rants on refugees, or benefits claimants, would you?

David Runcorn has it right.

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 8:30pm GMT

I think comparisons of anything with the Shoah rarely illuminate.

But without wishing in any way to defend Sugden's spurious views, I think the comparison is particularly tasteless in his case. He is not essentialist, as racists are: once a racist decides someone is a member of the out-group, there is nothing the victim can do. Sugden believes, so far as I can tell, that gay people are just the same as everyone else but _choosing_ to behave in a way he asserts is sinful. That is for most people here, of course, arrant nonsense, but it is entirely different to eliminationist racism: he believes that people chose to be gay, and will (I think) welcome the repenting back into his fold. Racism does not assert its victims are making bad choices, it asserts its victims are inherently and irredeemably inferior.

All these views are distasteful and (for many) un-Christian, but it is unhelpful to lump them together.

Now I'm going to go and wash to try to feel clean again after defending Sugden.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 8:45pm GMT

Thank you, David Runcorn.

All the talk on this issue reminds me of the hours we go through on CBC TV in Canada between the polls opening and the results starting to come in. It's spin, spin, spin, but we've got hours to fill.

What might be a Christian solution? Maybe the new presiding bishop of TEC should pick up the phone, call a few of his GAFCON-affiliated counterparts in Africa and Asia, and ask 'Hey - just wondering, as one crazy Christian to another - is there anything in all this talk about a walkout on the first day?'

Imagine - the people concerned talking to each other, rather than talking ABOUT each other to others. Sounds almost like Christianity!

Of course, the GAFCON primates might not take the call. But then you might, at last, have a real clue that there might be something in it. Whereas all we have now is 'sources' and 'insiders' and 'spin'.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Monday, 4 January 2016 at 10:58pm GMT

"is likely that folk will pay for the air fare just to do a walk out?"

Quite possibly. These are the kind of people who want to score a theopolitical point and make an international media splash.

A mere boycott by 230 bishops didn't really cause much excitement at Lambeth 2008; but GAFCON has learned that lesson. Politely declining the invitation is no story at all. This time, they will arrange for the TV cameras to be near their point of exit. I predict a parade of primates to the microphones in high dudgeon.

They cannot arrange such international media coverage easily in, say, Lira; they can do this, very easily, in London.

Furthermore, walking out in England helps them reach one of their target audiences. Part of their goal here is to lure conservatives in the UK away from the Church of England. (Haven't you figured that out yet?) So the GAFCON primates will model what they think is appropriate behaviour for their followers in England.

Lastly, who says GAFCON (or any of the African provinces involved) is paying for the airfare?

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 12:12am GMT

"What might be a Christian solution? Maybe the new presiding bishop of TEC should pick up the phone, call a few of his GAFCON-affiliated counterparts in Africa and Asia, and ask 'Hey - just wondering, as one crazy Christian to another - is there anything in all this talk about a walkout on the first day?'"

Would this be a phone call to the very same people who refused to share Communion -- or even space-- with our former Presiding Bishop? and who strong-armed the former Archbishop of Canterbury into disinviting one of our diocesan bishops to Lambeth?

Posted by: F. D. Blanchard on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 3:29am GMT

As for a possible GAFCON exit, So long, have a nice trip, and we'll leave the porch light on for you.

Posted by: F. D. Blanchard on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 3:33am GMT

To be a fly on the wall in the room when ABC Welby accuses PB Michael Curry of racism...

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 6:05am GMT

"this is Jonathan Petre from the Mail on Sunday. Since when did anyone give any credibility to anything he writes? It does seem slightly crazy to take this story seriously."

Exactly.

The majority of the Global South isn't even aligned with Gafcon. No one knows what will happen at this meeting and that is precisely the way it is designed.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 6:42am GMT

" As Jeremy pointed out, TEC is not uniformly white!!!"

Of course not, Cynthia: any such accusation would be horsehockey.

Gafcon may not go there; an alternative would be to threaten to leave the Anglican Communion en masse unless the ACNA is immediately recognized, and TEC put on immediate notice to repeal equal marriage or be expelled, say by a vote of the primates. No precedent, or course, but then, there was no precedent for Lambeth 1.10 dictating policy to the provinces, yet it happened.

They've already gone and gotten Foley Beach invited, so they're halfway there. Playing on Welby's post-colonial guilt's an art Gafcon honed with his predecessor: they've got both men believing that gay right abroad gets African churches burned and their congregations massacred. To Welby, even if he was willing to lose half the Communion (which I doubt he is), this is life and death.

Here's praying they don't come close to closing the deal in a few days.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 7:32am GMT

The cries of "racism" are nothing new, and generally come when those who despise and vilify TEC and inclusion start to become a bit hysterical having realized that their chest-puffing self-righteous bullying hasn't worked. Of course, they have a great objection to cries of "homophobia" are levelled at *them*.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 9:10am GMT

"an alternative would be to threaten to leave the Anglican Communion en masse unless the ACNA is immediately recognized, and TEC put on immediate notice to repeal equal marriage or be expelled, say by a vote of the primates."

This is likely what GAFCON is working up to. I doubt Welby can give much on either of these things. For his own local reasons, if nothing else--the Church of England cannot afford to be seen as discriminating.

As for whether TEC would respond to any threats, at this point TEC has chosen its understanding of justice over the Anglican Communion. So I doubt any threat, if even issued, would have much purchase. And if the Anglican Communion becomes an instrument of oppression, then it is not worth saving.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 10:52am GMT

'Would this be a phone call to the very same people who refused to share Communion -- or even space-- with our former Presiding Bishop? and who strong-armed the former Archbishop of Canterbury into disinviting one of our diocesan bishops to Lambeth?'

Yes. A presumption of Matthew 18:15-20 is that a sin has in fact been committed.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 11:06am GMT

Colin wrote "Why not do as the GAFCON website suggests, and share your thoughts with ackenya.archoffice@gmail.com? I'm sure he'd appreciate it."

I've actually sent him an email. It was very, very nice, but I made the same points I make here and made oblique references to polygamy and direct ones to concern for human rights.

Letters like this may not help, but I did my best to frame it all in the Love of Christ for all people and justice for all people, which is surely a point of common interest.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 6:16pm GMT

Does any of this have anything to do with AMIE? The English version of ACNA?

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 6 January 2016 at 1:26am GMT

Cynthia says, 'I've actually sent him an email. It was very, very nice, but I made the same points I make here and made oblique references to polygamy and direct ones to concern for human rights. Letters like this may not help, but I did my best to frame it all in the Love of Christ for all people and justice for all people, which is surely a point of common interest.'

'If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all' (Rom. 12:18). Thank you, Cynthia.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 6 January 2016 at 5:46pm GMT

Since the original conference in Jerusalem, GAFCON has borne a faithful witness to Biblical truth.

Several GAFCON provinces ordain women ( some having provision for women bishops), and divorce and remarriage/ clandestine polygamy is not even an issue.

How GAFCON deceives its self.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 6 January 2016 at 8:48pm GMT

Nice to see +Pete maintaining his record of being aggressively wrong about almost everything. The Mail on Sunday may be a bad paper, but Jonathan Petre has been careful and conscientious reporter for 30 years. He knows the Anglican Communion is bullshit, of course, because he's been around a long time, but any factual assertion in his story that can be checked will check out. If he says he has been told by people close to the conservative Africans that they'll walk out if their impossible conditions are not met, he has been told this. His sources may be lying, of course. But even if they are, that's informative. We now know what they want people to believe.

My own impression is that Justin Welby is a realist, and knows that there is absolutely no hope of getting an agreed line on sexuality within either the Church of England or the wider "Anglican Communion". His interest, therefore, lies in minimising the damage. The people who insist on regarding sexuality as the defining question (and that means half the commenters here, as well as the crazies in Nigeria) can all, by him, go away and let the remainder get on with other things.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Wednesday, 6 January 2016 at 9:56pm GMT

Andrew Brown,
yes to all of that, but not to your last sentence.
This issue has to be resolved one way or the other. It - and those who have a stake in it - will not simply go a way and let the church get on with other things (that are, presumably, seen by those who advocate that route as more important).

I understand that some people may wish that, but it's not realistic to believe that Welby will get away with damage limitation. He will in the short term, but he can only put this whole question behind him by helping to find a lasting solution for the CoE.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 6 January 2016 at 10:32pm GMT

Erika, this is an issue which cannot be resolved one way or another without a generational change. A lasting solution is in any case impossible to guarantee. How long do you want it to last? 50 years? 500?

I *think* (and this is pure speculation) that Welby's priority at the moment is to prevent an exodus of small to medium charismatic evangelical congregations after the Africans walk out. Obviously the AMIE model is vastly unattractive to most English churchgoers and even to the remains of the low church tradition. Those people don't even believe in episcopal authority until they are themselves promoted. Why should they want to import a primate?

But some kind of congregational federation like the Vineyard grouping could well seem a better bet than a failing C of E.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Thursday, 7 January 2016 at 9:05am GMT

Andrew, I suspect that your assessment of Welby's accurate, but to clarify your own position, what would you like to see the Church of England do regarding LGBT people, and how highly do you rank equality?

Personally, I'm sick of discussing it, and would love to see all provinces discuss other things, but not if that means forcing LGBT people to pay the price of injustice, and not at the cost of drawing false equivalence between advocates of equality and advocates of homophobia.

Do you believe that, regardless of place and culture, it's essential for LGBT people to be treated equally and with their full measure of human dignity, from Australia to England to Uganda, and that we should keep fighting until they are?

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 7 January 2016 at 9:09am GMT

Erika is right - yet more 'gracious restraint' (sacrificing people and their principles) for already dead institutional unity would be merely a short term plaster on a bloody wound. Both sides need to be brave enough to go their own ways (unless more years of misery and fake unity are desirable)

Posted by: S Cooper on Thursday, 7 January 2016 at 9:50am GMT

Andrew,
I would agree with you that a lasting solution requires a generation change and that "lasting" is a piece of string that will be re-defined by every new generation.

And I agree that a short term aim should be to achieve a looser federation and to prevent as many people as possible from walking out.

I was just cautioning against the frequently stated view that we should all just ignore the "extremists" on both sides, forget about the debate and get on with more important things.

You may, of course, not have meant that at all!
But to those who do mean that I would say that it is pure wishful thinking.

Groups campaigning for lgbt equality will not just go away because it's more convenient.
Our diocesan Changing Attitude group now consists of a more or less even percentage of straights and lgbt people.
This is not a minority interest, and every church leader who tries to avoid it will only find that it is impossible to do so.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 7 January 2016 at 4:15pm GMT

There is a third way, but GAFCON is not interested. We could put our "unity" into the Eucharist and the direct teachings of Jesus to care for the poor, the stranger, etc. And leave the rest to each individual province.

The human rights violations in Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya are a problem. But the UN and human rights organizations are on it. It would be great for the church to be on the right side of it, but I don't see how CoE leaders are going to go from appeasers to moral standard bearers in the immediate future.

So maybe the compromise is that GAFCON stops trying to control other provinces and the "world wide Anglican Communion" doesn't isolate and punish the human rights violators, as they so richly deserve? Sounds like a deal to me.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 7 January 2016 at 7:23pm GMT

Thank you Erica. We need such care with our language. An extreme is not, in the first instance, a value judgement. It is simply a measure. An extreme is what is found at a farthest distance from somewhere, or someone, else. That means the journey involved if there is to be meeting and understanding will be long and needs considerable time. And when we meet we may find that, for example, conservative is not another word for ‘bigot’, and ‘liberal’ does always define all things hospitable, tolerant and inclusive.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Friday, 8 January 2016 at 8:20am GMT

David,
thank you.
I think very often in this debate the term extremist is used to describe those who want more than should be their due and who are not willing to settle with what the comfortable middle has decided should be sufficient.

So people with a conservative theology of same sex relationships should not want to go back on the CoE official stance that lay married people are to be welcomed without being questioned.
And people with a fully inclusive theology should not want to push for marriage but accept that the church tolerates Civil Partnerships.

I fear that "extreme" is often used by people who would really much rather the issue simply went away without bothering them.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 8 January 2016 at 9:21am GMT

Erica

Of course I meant ‘liberal’ does - not - always define all things hospitable, tolerant and inclusive. Ho hum.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Friday, 8 January 2016 at 11:34am GMT

David,
the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are incredibly hard to define, aren't they.
As a matter of principle, I believe "liberal" to mean that regardless of what I believe to be true or right, I do not prevent others from believing and living what they believe to be true or right, provided it does not harm anyone.

But in church circles we use the terms to refer to styles of worship, or to social attitudes on one or two selective issues, or to theological beliefs on some selective issues.

The terms are really quite meaningless outside their respective narrow definitions, because people can be "liberal" about women yet "conservative" about same sex relationship. And that applies to people in "liberal" and "conservative" churches.

And conservatives can be truly tolerant (i.e. liberal) about other people's theology, whereas liberals can be astonishingly intolerant about any view but their own.

We need new words!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 8 January 2016 at 2:12pm GMT

Oh GAFCON, how can we miss you if you just won't go? JCF

I almost fell off my chair laughing, thank you, thank you JCF for making my day (it's Saturday in Central America and a CLEAR day that makes me glow with joy and hope for LGBTI everywhere).

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Saturday, 9 January 2016 at 2:53pm GMT

"who are not willing to settle with what the comfortable middle has decided should be sufficient."

And yet Martin Luther King had very eloquent words for those who would ask a vulnerable population to continue to carry the very heavy burden of injustice for the sake of those who are comfortable.

The problem with compromise on a justice issue is that the anti rhetoric is actually harmful. It would be nice to think that churchy adults could be agreeable and leave things in this happy middle. But the reality is that injustice and exclusion affirms nasty behaviour in bullies and affirms horrific self image by vulnerable people, especially LGBTQ teens. The bullying and the unaccepting behaviour contributes to LGBTQ teen suicide, for example.

For all of the attacks on TEC, what we have is a national policy of inclusion and justice, but individual parishes can be "conservative," "liberal," broad, whatever. The reverse was that no liberal parish was allowed to act on conscience. And now the rhetoric from the church leadership is more healing than hurting.

The message that God loves you as you are is the most healing message an alienated LGBTQ person (especially a teen) can hear. I never tire of it. After all the discrimination and hate, I can't hear it enough.

The message "we think God loves you, but those people don't, and so we're going to restrict your inclusion because of them" somehow isn't very inspirational. I'm racking my brain to see how Jesus handled outcasts and the poor and I'm just not finding that equivocation. He seemed pretty harsh on the religious establishment for being jerks...

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 9 January 2016 at 4:23pm GMT

Erica More on the complexity of the words we are using in this debate. The Daily Mail calls all those (including me) who signed the letter to the Archbishops, 'liberals'. Well I would claim that my own 'including' position here is based on a conservative reading and interpreting of scripture actually.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 6:48am GMT

David, I've also been thinking about labels, they never satisfactory.

I note that you signed a document that affirmed the Good News for All People, everywhere. It may not be extreme, but it certainly is radical!

What's the label for that? You helped with the the moral arc of the universe, bending towards justice. And affirmed the message of the Angel bringing Good Tidings of Great Joy.

Surely someone can find a label out of that? Maybe it's Christian leader.

Cheers, and peace. And thank you (as gay person who finds great healing in that letter).

🙏🏽 🌈 🎉 💕 🌻 🙏🏽 🌈 🎉 💕 🌻 🙏🏽 🌈 🎉 💕 🌻 🙏🏽

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 10 January 2016 at 5:37pm GMT

Every label is a libel

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 11:28am GMT

I should correct something. I predicted "a parade of primates to the microphones in high dudgeon."

Well, apparently the Archbishop of Canterbury's staff has taken a lesson in crisis management and has declined to offer press accommodations.

According to one tweet, this has resulted in only one, repeat, one, reporter being present outside the gathering today.

If a tree falls in a forest . . . .

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 11 January 2016 at 3:22pm GMT

"Every label is a libel"

Not necessary. For example, the label "Christian." If you think it only means one thing, than yes, that could be "a libel." However, in the post modern world, we are very much about process. If being a Christian is about being engaged in the process of figuring out how to follow Christ, that isn't a libel. And there's an infinite number of possibilities that could be involved in that process and some of those possibilities could be conflicting.

Take "love the Lord with all your might..." If you consider God's Creation and all the Created, what it means to love the Lord is likely too vast for one person. Take "love your neighbor as yourself," and there might be a wide range of options, but jailing people for being gay probably doesn't fit in.

Other labels some people like: seeker, student, contemplative... Herein is a problem, I'm describing process, that implies movement without one fixed position for all time. Some people really want that fixed position.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 2:52am GMT
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