In his opening address to the first session of GAFCON on Sunday 22nd June 2008, the chairman of GAFCON, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, outlined the reasons why 1300 Anglicans from all over the world were meeting together in Jerusalem at this time. He acknowledged that there were leaders in the Anglican Communion who either did not want it to meet, or wanted it to meet after Lambeth 2008, or who were attempting to dismiss it as some kind of bullying 'monster' trying to disrupt the business of the Anglican Communion. Though the holding of GAFCON was certainly controversial, nevertheless the cause of the Gospel within the Anglican Communion has made it both necessary and timely. Akinola referred to GAFCON as a 'rescue mission' within Anglicanism, '...a godly instrument appointed to reshape, reform, renew and reclaim a true Anglican Biblical orthodox Christianity that is firmly anchored in the historic faith and ancient formularies.' Here we outline 4 reasons why GAFCON was needed and why faithful godly Anglicans need the initiatives proceeding from GAFCON.
The apostasy of North American Anglicanism and the failure of the Anglican instruments of unity
The first reason for GAFCON is the apostasy of the North American provinces of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth conference upheld the biblical and traditional christian view of sex and marriage and rejected homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture. It called on member provinces of the Anglican Communion not to legitimize, bless, or ordain those involved in same sex unions. Despite the Anglican Communion clearly speaking its mind in this resolution, the leadership of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada completely ignored it; for example, TEC consecrated an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, to be the bishop of New Hampshire in November 2003 despite the pleas of the Primates in October of that year not to proceed with the consecration. The Primates, meeting in Lambeth, warned that such an action would '...tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level and may lead to further division...' and that communion would be broken with many of the provinces of the Anglican Communion. Arrogantly, TEC paid no attention either to the teaching of Scripture or to the biblical views of the vast majority of Anglicans. Its subsequent consecration of Gene Robinson did indeed break the unity of the Anglican Communion, as many provinces of the Anglican Communion took the decision that they could no longer be in fellowship with them.
Frustratingly for many faithful anglicans, the so-called 'instruments of unity' (the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' meeting, and the Anglican Quadrilateral) proved unable to discipline the revisionist North American provinces. Worse still, as Akinola claimed in his opening address, some of these so-called 'instruments of unity' became part of the problem, promoting disunity rather than discipline! In their meeting in Tanzania in February 2007, the Primates gave a last chance to TEC to clarify unequivocally and adequately their stand by 30th September 2007. However, to the dismay of many of the Primates, Lambeth palace, without waiting for this deadline or for the Primates to be given time to assess the adequacy of the american response, issued an invitation in July 2007 to these heterodox American bishops to come to Lambeth! Akinola writes: 'At this point, it dawned upon us, regrettably, that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say.' Rejecting the entreaties of the Primates to delay the Lambeth meeting, Lambeth Palace 'choose not to be bothered about that which troubles us; decided to stick to its own plans and to erect the walls of the 2008 Lambeth Conference on the shaky and unsafe foundations of our brokeness'.
For many of the Primates, the unscriptural actions of the heterodox North American provinces and the unprincipled action of Lambeth Palace, necessitated a global Anglican meeting that could address the chaos engulfing Anglicanism. In outlining 'why Gafcon', Akinola writes: 'we cannot succumb to this turmoil in our Communion and simply watch helplessly. We have found ourselves in a world in which Anglican leaders hold on to a form of religion but consistently deny its power. We have a situation in which some members of the Anglican family think they are so superior to all the others that they are above the law, they can do whatever they please with impunity. As a Communion we have been unable to exercise discipline.... We can no longer trust where some of our Communion leaders are taking us.' In the words of Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney, in his opening remarks to the Jerusalem Declaration (the outcome of GAFCON – see chapter 4), the holding of such a meeting as GAFCON was necessary to 'bring a strong dose of order to the chaos of the Anglican Communion'.
Renewal of committment to the Gospel of Christ
The primary reason for holding GAFCON, according to Akinola, was to rescue the Anglican Communion from 'the manipulation of those who have denied the gospel and its power to transform and save'; from 'those who have departed from the Scripture and from the faith once and for all delivered to the saints';and from 'those who are proclaiming a new gospel, which is really no gospel at all (Galatian1). In the wisdom and strength God supplies we must rescue what is left of the church from the error of the apostates.' In other words, GAFCON and the initiatives proceeding from it, are about the Gospel. The presenting issue may have been the North American provinces' departure from scriptural teaching on homosexuality and the inability of the 'instruments of unity' to discipline them, but the real underlying issue is about the future of the Gospel in the Anglican Communion.
GAFCON stated unequivocally that Anglicanism is about the promotion of the Gospel of Christ. It is this Gospel that has historically shaped Anglicanism's formularies and corporate worship and it is this Gospel that present day Anglicanism wants to proclaim to the world. GAFCON was called to make sure that the biblical Gospel is not only preserved within the Anglican Communion, but also that Anglicanism perseveres in promoting and passing on this Gospel. This is because it is only the Gospel of Christ that is the power of God to bring salvation and transform the lives of sinful humanity. Therefore, GAFCON has clearly set out the intention of millions of faithful Anglicans to contend for the Gospel because it is not just the integrity of a Christian denomination that is at stake in the present crisis within Anglicanism, it is the salvation of men and women from sin, death and Hell. Akinola writes: 'we want to renew our committment to our sacred duty to preserve and proclaim uncompromisingly, the undistorted word of God written to a sinful and fragmented world. GAFCON is a meeting of ordained and lay leaders concerned about the mission of the Church and how best to carry it out...'
A Haven for those persecuted by heterodox Anglican leaders
As with all those who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus and proclaim His Word, there is persecution from those who oppose this Gospel of Christ. Since the heterodox leaders of revisionist provinces have rejected the Gospel, true to type they have gone on to persecute those dioceses, churches and individuals who seek to remain faithful to the Gospel. Thus for example, the liberal leadership of TEC deposed the bishop and clergy of San Joaquim for taking a Gospel stand. This happened also to the bishop of Recife, Brazil and the clergy of that diocese. In the USA, the leadership of TEC has inaugurated a vicious legal campaign to block churches leaving dioceses, to claim their property, and to do all it can to drive out Gospel-minded clergy in order to get on with its revisionist agenda. One of the aims of GAFCON was to provide a haven for those persecuted by their province or diocesan bishop. As we shall see (chapter 4), the Jerusalem declaration that was the outcome of GAFCON, has indeed provided such a haven. Present at GAFCON was a large number of clergy, including the bishop of San Joaquim, USA, and the bishop of Recife, Brazil, who are suffering from persecution from their provinces.
An instrument to banish error and bring Gospel freedom
Lastly, the organizers of GAFCON see the process inaugurated by GAFCON as a means to banish from Anglicanism the plague of heresy, and to free it from the spiritual dungeon of liberalism. It is not enough to promote the Gospel, but the Scriptures are clear we must rebuke false teaching and oppose it wherever it appears in the church. The strong conviction of the leaders of GAFCON, representing 33 million out of 55 million church-going Anglicans, is that they are not going to give over the Anglican Communion to the revisionists. Far from it! The GAFCON leadership have stated quite clearly that 'we can banish the errors plaguing our beloved Communion' and '...we will not abdicate our God-given responsibility and simply acquiesce to destructive modern cultural and political dictates... We are here because we know that in spite of the fractures in our Communion, as orthodox Anglicans, we have a future and so we are here in the Holy Land to inaugurate and determine the roadmap to that future'.
Though the leaders of GAFCON are categorical in their denial that they intend to set up an alternative Anglican Communion, nevertheless they have set up a huge 'power-block' within the Anglican Communion. They are not going to be easily dismissed. Those who have broken the unity of the Communion by bringing in a false gospel are going to face ongoing opposition from this powerful movement of God. The liberal revisionists are the 'cuckoos in the nest' of Anglicanism and it is the intention of the GAFCON movement to impress upon them the error of their ways and their need for repentance; they are not going to allow the Anglican Communion either to be dictated to by these alien intruders, or to live with such blatant heresy within its ranks.
GAFCON is the product of faithful biblical Anglicanism. It is totally committed to the Gospel of Christ, to its proclamation in the world, confident in the power of the Gospel to transform lives, supportive of those who promote it, and willing to stand firmly against liberal revisionism and heresy within Anglicanism. Faithful Christians within the Church of Ireland need to give thanks to God for it. The same trends that have led to the trajedy of the liberal revisionist take-over and destruction of North American Anglicanism are at work in Ireland: for example, strong support by some bishops in the Irish house of bishops for the gay agenda; also, increasing opposition to the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ (writing it off as 'fundamentalism'). GAFCON is a signal to faithful Anglicans within Ireland that they are regarded as mainstream Anglicans and have international support. It is a signal to liberal-revisionists that they will face international opposition if they try to repeat the bully-boy tactics of the American revisionists. If GAFCON represents the mainstream of Anglicanism, theologically, historically and geographically, then liberal-revisionism within the Church of Ireland, no matter its present dominant position, is a stagnant back-water that can only bring ill-health to the people of Ireland. The Church of Ireland has much to gain in aligning itself with such a godly movement as GAFCON.