Changes to GAFCON’s Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment

Celebrating the Communique

UPDATE: David Ould has written about his experience from the inside of the conference regarding how and why the changes were made. I recommend reading his post for some excellent background on drafting this latest statement.

I made a list of changes between the draft and final versions of the GAFCON document. The list that follows is not exhaustive, because many changes were simply moving text from one section to another. This list does show some theological jockeying, as you will see.

I. A Change of Emphasis on the Jerusalem Declaration

As you will see, there was clearly an Anglo-Catholic fear of too much emphasis on the Jerusalem Statement, presumably due to its emphasis on the 39 Articles. It changed from calling the Jerusalem Declaration the “foundation” to the “framework”:

The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which commits us to biblical faithfulness, and has since provided the framework… [from foundation to framework].

This attempt to de-emphasize the Jerusalem Declaration in terms of on-the-ground-reality also caused this change from:

the preparation of excellent theological rebuttals of the false gospel; supporting a network of theological colleges aligned with the Jerusalem Declaration;

to:

the preparation of convincing theological rebuttals of any false gospel; supporting a network of theological colleges whose students are better oriented to ministry, whose faculties are well-trained, and whose curricula are built on the faithful reading of Scripture.

You see this again when a statement on the gospel is struck, from:

We commit ourselves anew to the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, with its emphasis upon the gospel of Christ. We rely on the power of the gospel to be effective in mission.

to:

We commit ourselves anew to The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.

And finally, from:

The standard of theological education in some cases also needs improvement, and so we shall support theological colleges in developing curricula aligned with the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.

to:

The purposes of theological education need clarifying so that students are better oriented to ministry, faculty are well-trained, and curricula are built on the faithful reading of Scripture.

This shows a probable Anglo-Catholic move to substitute “the faithful reading of Scripture” for alignment with the Jerusalem Statement. The “faithful reading of Scripture” can be debated – what is faithful and what is not? But the Jerusalem Statement is not debatable because it is more clearly a document in line with the Reformation.

II. A Codification of ‘Three Streams’?

The final document changed from,

we, in all our different traditions, are committed to… 

to:

we, in all our different traditions – Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics and Charismatics – are committed…

So, the “different traditions” are redefined in a “three streams” fashion. This is descriptive Anglicanism on show, but I can’t see any reason why it was necessary to delineate just what the “different traditions” are, unless it is to give them official standing in the new GAFCON world.

III. Emphasizing Repentance

The final statement added “repentance” to the East African Revival (EAR) “walking in the light” statement: “It involves repentance and ‘walking in the light, as he is in the light’ (1 John 1:7–9).”
It also added this statement further on: “We repent of indifference, prayerlessness and inactivity in the face of false teaching.” Perhaps this was another nod to the EAR and it reminds me of the PEAR USA Sacred Assembly after AMiA revolted.

IV. Does not Call out The West

The final document changes an explicit attack on the West to a more vague attack on “several national governments.” It goes from:

The danger we are in has been exacerbated by several Western governments claiming to redefine marriage and turning same-sex marriage into a human rights issue.

to:

We grieve that several national governments, aided by some church leaders, have claimed to redefine marriage and have turned same-sex marriage into a human rights issue.

And changed:

Evangelising the West

to

Evangelising areas of our world where clear gospel witness has become obscured or lost

V. No Kudos to Canterbury

The final statement deleted:

We commend the Archbishop of Canterbury for opposing the same-sex marriage legislation in the House of Lords.  

VI. Two Integrities?

No, that language was not used! However, the final statement made another descriptive statement that may foreshadow where next year’s ACNA Commission on Holy Orders will end up:  ‘

We recognize that we have differing views over the roles of men and women in church leadership.

VII. Culture of Life

The final document added a “culture of life” type statement to the end of this sentence:

We repudiate all such violence against women and children and call on the church to demonstrate respect for women, care for marginalized women and children around the world, and uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

VIII. Contributions Optional

The language was changed from dropping financial giving to the Communion to either drop that giving, OR adding giving to the GFCA. From:

and contribute instead to the financing of the GFCA’s on-going needs.

to:

and contribute instead, or additionally, to the financing of the GFCA’s on-going needs. 

IX. Action or Thinking about Action?

A bold statement was made about acting outside of Anglican structures in the draft:

In such circumstances, we will seek to work beyond those structures as an obedient response to our Lord ‘s primary command to take the gospel to all nations

This was tempered in a typically Anglican way to add “careful consideration” of action:

In line with The Jerusalem Statement’s expectation that the Primates’ Council would intervene to provide ‘orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership’, the Primates’ Council will carefully consider working beyond existing structures as an obedient response to Jesus’ commission to take the gospel to all nations.

The language was also changed from a broadly Anglican concern for “order” to  a more Scriptural definition of “structures of human authority.” From:

We commit ourselves to the primacy of truth over order. We support good order as God’s will for the church, but believe that when the defence of the truth requires it, such order must be broken.

to:

We commit ourselves to defend essential truths of the biblical faith even when this defence threatens existing structures of human authority (Acts 5:29). 

Finally, a statement was added to the effect that this will not be the last meeting of GAFCON:

We commit ourselves to meet again at the next GAFCON.

7 thoughts on “Changes to GAFCON’s Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment”

  1. I was very glad to see several of the wording order changes:

    FROM: In 2008, the first GAFCON was convened in order to counter a false gospel which was spreading throughout the Communion. This false gospel sought to mask sinful behaviour with the language of human rights. It promoted homosexual practice as consistent with holiness, despite the fact that the Bible clearly identifies it as sinful. It questioned the uniqueness of Christ and his substitutionary death, despite the Bible’s clear revelation that he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). It undermined the authority of God’s Word written.

    TO: In 2008, the first GAFCON was convened in order to counter a false gospel which was spreading throughout the Communion. This false gospel questioned the uniqueness of Christ and his substitutionary death, despite the Bible’s clear revelation that he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). It undermined the authority of God’s Word written. It sought to mask sinful behaviour with the language of human rights. It promoted homosexual practice as consistent with holiness, despite the fact that the Bible clearly identifies it as sinful.

    Important as the false doctrine about sexuality follows from false doctrine about Christ and the authority of Scripture.

    Also I was glad that in one instance the emphasis on the Jerusalem Declaration was lessened:

    FROM: Our adherence to The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration expresses both our willingness to submit to the written word of God and our unwillingness to have fellowship with those who will not.

    TO: Our willingness to submit to the written Word of God and our unwillingness to be in Christian fellowship with those who will not, is clearly expressed in The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.

    i.e our submission is to SCRIPTURE, not any human document. Much better…!

  2. Joel,

    I had anticipated that the Nairobi Conference might retreat from the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. An ACNA bishop John Guernsey also chaired the committee that drafted the communique.

    The Way, the Truth, and the Life: Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future identifies two major challenges to the authority of the Bible and the Anglican formularies–Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism. The communique focuses upon the challenge of liberalism but ignores the challenge of Anglo-Catholicism, except for one indirect reference: “Guarding the gospel. We shall continue publicly to expose any false gospel that is not consistent with apostolic teaching and clearly to articulate the gospel in the church and in the world.”

    Despite this statement the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans fails to expose the false gospel that Anglo-Catholics preach–the gospel of sacraments and good works. It is certainly not the New Testament gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone.

    The communique also contains this statement: “•Authorising and affirming faithful Anglicans who have been excluded by their diocese or province. The main thrust of work here would be devoted to discerning the need for new provinces, dioceses and churches — and then authenticating their ministries and orders as Anglican.”

    With the ACNA “theological lens,” the ACNA Ordinal, and now Texts for Common Prayer the ACNA bishops are excluding Anglicans faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies. The Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has yet to take any action against the ACNA if it ever will!

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