Gafcon calls alternative conference of worldwide Anglican bishops

GAFCON Primates are to attend an alternative meetingGAFCON

The global network emerging as an alternative to the Anglican Communion has called a conference open to all orthodox bishops around the world.

In a new statement today, Gafcon (the Global Anglican Futures Conference) announced the gathering, which will be held next June – just a few weeks before the Archbishop of Canterbury's own Lambeth Conference of worldwide bishops.

The declaration also indicates that the organisation is moving towards a traditionalist position on episcopal ministry by being inclined towards reserving the role of bishop for men.

In relation to Justin Welby's Lambeth Conference, the communique, from Gafcon's Council of Primates, says: "We have no interest in attempting to rival Lambeth 2020.

"On the other hand, we do not want our bishops to be deprived of faithful fellowship while we wait for order in the Communion to be restored.

"Therefore, we have decided to call together a meeting of bishops of the Anglican Communion in June of 2020."

The Lambeth Conference will be held from July 23rd to August 2nd – just a few weeks after Gafcon's.

The statement makes clear that this new event will be open to all bishops without exception who support the existing position of the Anglican Communion on sexuality – whether or not they are members or supporters of Gafcon itself.

"The conference will be primarily designed for those who will not be attending Lambeth, but all bishops of the Anglican Communion who subscribe to the Jerusalem Declaration and Lambeth Resolution I.10 are invited to join in this time of teaching, worship, and fellowship," it reads.

They will meet from June 8 to 14 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The resolution referred to was passed in 1998 by worldwide Anglican bishops and upholds the traditional position on marriage and sexuality.  Technically it remains in force, though various provinces have disregarded it.

In relation to the Lambeth Conference 2020, Gafcon says: "Last year in Jerusalem our delegates urged us not to attend [the event] if godly order in the Communion had not been restored. They respectfully called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to effect the necessary changes that fell within his power and responsibility."

The statement continues: "We have not yet received a response from the Archbishop of Canterbury. We note that, as it currently stands, the conference is to include provinces who continue to violate Lambeth Resolution I.10 thereby putting the conference itself in violation of its own resolution: failing to uphold faithfulness in marriage and legitimising practices incompatible with Scripture. This incoherence further tears the fabric of the Anglican Communion and undermines the foundations for reconciliation."

The Gafcon statement also speaks of the ongoing turmoil in Britain over contemporary sexual issues: "The Anglican provinces in this region have become confused and compromised by the waves of cultural change. We are encouraged by the growing membership of Gafcon UK.

"As we said in 2017, 'We believe that the complexity of the current situation in Europe does not admit of a single solution. Faithful Christians may be called to different courses of action. We bless those whose context and conscience have led them to remain and contend for the faith within the current structures.' At the same time we have approved the creation of a missionary district for Europe to further the work of the gospel by meeting the needs of the growing number of Anglican congregations outside these provinces."

The statement goes on to speak of Gafcon's emerging traditionalist position on the respective roles of men and women in ministry.

The Gafcon primates have affirmed the view of an interim report, published after four years of study, that "the provinces of Gafcon should retain the historic practice of consecration only of men as bishops until and unless a strong consensus to change emerges after prayer, consultation and continued study of Scripture among the Gafcon fellowship".

However, a Gafcon task force will continue consulting on the issue.

The declaration follows a meeting of Gafcon leaders in Australia. The network now says it represents 50 million of the 70 million active Anglicans around the world.

Despite all the tensions within the global Anglican Communion, Gafcon says that in fact its main discussions were not about that but were about outreach.

"Our primary focus this week has been upon the great tasks of mission and evangelism. As a global fellowship we are uniquely positioned to support one another in ministry to a world where mass immigration and globalisation are reshaping our countries."

The full statement is here