The Church of Ireland Gazette published an editorial article last week titled THE GAFCON PRIMATES’ COMMUNIQUÉ.
…The fact of the matter, however, is that the traditionalist point of view in relation to same-sex relationships – and that, after all, is the real presenting issue leading to all of this confusion – is eminently reasonable and, indeed, eminently traditional and scriptural, but it is unfortunate that the GAFCON Primates use somewhat emotive language in their communiqué (e.g. “sinful practices”), however justifiable they may consider such terminology to be. Yet the 1998 Lambeth I.10 resolution did call for sensitivity, and effectively calling good people sinners is not a sensitive approach. That, however, is not the core issue. The core issue for Anglicans is that the consecration of bishops and the ordination of clergy in active same-sex relationships and public rites of blessing of same-sex relationships are all simply so lacking in consensus within Anglicanism that we have come to this very sorry pass, which has witnessed a Lambeth Conference boycotted by one-fifth to onequarter of those bishops invited. Unity-indiversity just cannot cope in this case.
The GAFCON Primates have invited applications for membership of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. While individual lay people, clergy and bishops will rightly decide their own response to this invitation, it is to be hoped that as an option it will be resisted by parishes and dioceses within the Church of Ireland. To have FCA parishes and FCA dioceses and non-FCA parishes and non-FCA dioceses would be sadly divisive, not least because within parishes and dioceses there are varying opinions about the presenting issue. Other parts of the Communion must work out their approach, but we do not need such division. The 1997 report of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, The Virginia Report, raised the allied issues of ‘discernment and reception’ in recognising truth. The commission stated: “In the matter of discussing the mind of Christ for the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, discernment, conciliar debate and decision making followed by a process of reception each have a part to play. It is not a matter of weakness that the Church is unable to make instant decisions in relation to the complex matters of faith, order and morals which come before it, but the way it lives in the process of discernment, decision making and reception may give profound witness and provide a model for other communities.” (Ch. 4, IV, 5.26). Unfortunately, Anglicanism is not presenting a very helpful “witness” or instructive “model” at the moment, although the Archbishop of Canterbury is doing his level best. Decision making is followed by reception. In that way, decisions have provisionality and those who feel badly done by can be reassured that there is always room, in proper proportion, for more discussion, more debate and more discernment. But experience has surely shown that within the Anglican Communion there is currently no positive, general reception for the consecration of bishops and the ordination of clergy in active same-sex relationships and public rites of blessing of same-sex relationships.
On the contrary, the issue has led to quite possibly the deepest acrimony known in the Church and has brought us to the realms of schism. Certainly, the Churches of the Anglican Communion, being autonomous, can proceed as they wish without let or hindrance, but the GAFCON Primates’ communiqué illustrates a very stark consequence.