Friday, July 25, 2008

My Conversation with Stand Firm's Sarah about GAFCON

My readers may view the full discussion (including Roland's entry) here: Restating a Third Mill Catholic Prophecy.

Sarah writes:

Oh, I certainly believe that the Communion will break up -- but not for anything that Gafcon did or didn't do.

I think that Gafcon is merely the consequence of the Communion's inability -- and I believe it to be unable -- to discipline itself.

For example, you state that setting up the Gafcon Primates Council undermines "the authority and relevance of the already-established Primates' Meeting" -- but of course it was already undermined and ignored and appears to have no authority at all, as Dar has now well-demonstrated.

It seems that we are debating the *causes* of the inevitable breakup of the Communion and I just can't see that Gafcon will have had much to do with it. I think that Gafcon's eventual -- and I think it is eventual in a long-term sense -- separation from the Communion will be a *consequence* of the fracture and dissolution of the Communion and not its cause.

There will be a long long long list of causes of the dissolution of the Communion and I don't think that history will record Gafcon as a major one, if at all.

Roland, you say "If conservatives had maintained a united front and lined up behind +Rowan's covenant proposal, they could easily have isolated the North American revisionists" and I have to laugh at what seems to me to be breathtaking naivete about the process.

Conservatives could have maintained a "united front" till the cows come home but again -- it is the ACC and the Covenant Design Group that determines what the Covenant actually is and whether it will be effective.

Of course -- there is still time. The Design Group meets after Lambeth for its next draft, and the ACC will get its mitts on the Covenant some time in early April of 09. It will then proceed to the provinces' for their individual approvals.

I personally believe that *all* the provinces, including TEC and Sydney, will sign on to the Covenant.

And so, by the end of 2009, we will be in the exact same place as we were in December of 03, with all the provinces of the Anglican Communion staring at one another, completely opposed in their two gospels, and with no discipline.

And a signed, approved Covenant -- with *all* the conservatives approving it -- won't, of course, solve any problems at all.

Someday, I'll probably leave the Communion. But saying that Gafcon is "causing the breakup of the Communion" sounds very similar to a person saying "when Sarah left the Communion, she caused its breakup."

I guess if you are operating under the assumption that if all conservatives, including Gafcon members, simply sat in the Communion and never did anything, that *then* the Communion would never break up, then I can see your point. But in that case, you seem to be advocating for all of us to simply sit still -- and the Communion will survive.


Dear Sarah,

You're correct that the Communion is currently unable to discipline itself, but this is because the structures were never in place to do so. No one denies this, and in fact this is precisely what the Windsor Commission originally reported.

So the question at hand is NOT, nor has it ever been, why hasn't the ABC (or the some other instrument) done anything to "discipline" TEC? There is no process to discipline. Rather, the question is what structures must evolve over the next few years to bring the Communion to the point where it can live together in "autonomy with accountability"? (As the Windsor Continuation Group has recently said). This implies that the Communion is working towards the accountability structures that will provide for discipline. We're simply not there yet.

GAFCON effectively is already a schism -- "Methodist-style" as I have argued in the past. Never in history has the "church within a church" strategy ever worked for reform, but has always ended in separation via estrangement.

The essential problem with GAFCON (as evidenced by the Jerusalem statement itself) is that its major movers and shakers (e.g., Akinola) are federalists. No less than a federal (and confessional) solution will please them. Akinola made his move long before GAFCON by changing his province's constitution to write Canterbury out of the definition of what it means for his province to be Anglican.

I think you know me better than to suggest that I advocate sitting still. I actually think we need a "refuge" of some kind for the disaffected in our province. However, this should be set up as an extraordinary "safe space" for conservatives, not as a first step towards "realignment" or separation (i.e., schism).

Indeed, I'm sure that this is precisely where you and I differ in our estimations of GAFCON. You see what has been done as essentially what I advocate in the paragraph above (i.e., safe spaces). I see these so-called "safe spaces" as hopelessly compromised (and dominated) by federalists who don't give a rat's ass for saving the so-called Canterbury-centered Anglican Communion (Noll and Rodgers for instance).

So if you wish to talk about causes, well there are plenty to choose from, indeed. But it's naive to give GAFCON a "get out of jail free card" on this one. The intellectual engine behind GAFCON is compromised by federalism, and there is nothing stopping that train now that it's rolling down the track.

1 comment:

Roland said...

I think those of the federalist/confessional camp showed their hand clearly when AMiA consecrated its first bishops. From that point on, they have never looked back. They don't want to save traditional Anglicanism, with its catholic ecclesiology. Rather, they want to revive the Puritan agenda that Anglicanism has consistently rejected over the centuries. CANA, and now GAFCON, represent further moves in this direction. They have never supported the convenant process because it represents the very (catholic) ecclesiology they are trying to undermine and supplant.

In short, GAFCON represents not an alternative set of tactics, but an alternative strategic goal. I find its goal no less objectionable than that of the revisionsts.

In its anti-catholic, anti-convenant - and, ultimately, anti-Anglican - ecclesiology, GAFCON is really no different from the revisionists that dominate TEC. Both will either take over the Anglican Communion or start their own club(s).

The next test will come with the Pastoral Council. Will Nigeria and other GAFCON provinces cooperate with this effort? Perhaps they will surprise me, but I expect they will not. I think they are already committed to CANA and the other North American missionary jurisdictions, not as temporary pastoral necessities to deal with a crisis, but as permanent institutions to advance their neo-Puritan agenda.