GAFCON and GSFA

Just a reminder that The Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON) and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) are separate entities. If the average member of an ACNA parish knows anything about the global situation, he or she probably knows that ACNA is part of GAFCON. But last year the formal, organizational weight shifted more towards being part of GSFA as a structure whereas GAFCON is a movement. This has been talked about quite a bit but I don’t think it has filtered down to the local level much. For example, see this article, which says in part:

Archbishop Duncan was honored to present this historical resolution on the anniversary of his consecration as the first archbishop of the ACNA. He commented: “As this Covenant becomes the basis of the accountability for orthodoxy, partnership, and mission in the Provinces of the Global South, it will be the most significant development in the history and ecclesiology of Anglicanism since the emergence of the Lambeth Conference in 1867.”

The ACNA has been a partner member of the Global South since 2015, and the fundamental declarations, mission objectives, relational commitments, and inter-provincial structures of the Global South are completely consistent with the provisions of the ACNA’s Constitution and Canons, Fundamental Declarations, and the GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration. The ACNA continues to be committed to mutual accountability and biblical mission among Anglican provinces as remedies for both the ecclesial deficit and the gospel deficit plaguing the global Anglican Communion. All GAFCON provinces have been members of the Global South, and Bishop Bill Atwood stressed during the council meeting that GAFCON’s influence is not diminished by this covenant but rather strengthened and complemented by it. GAFCON’s primary focus remains the address of the gospel deficit by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus faithfully to the nations, while the Global South’s focus remains addressing the ecclesial deficit by creating enhanced ecclesial responsibility and accountability.

On a practical level, the current Chairman of GAFCON is Archbishop Beach, the current Chairman of GSFA is the Archbishop of South Sudan, Justin Badi Arama.

I. AMiA Upheaval – Discipline and Resignations

Much has happened since the Rwandan House of Bishops threatened to remove Bishop Murphy as the head of what was the AMiA. It was hard to keep abreast of developments for a time as events were happening on a day to day basis. Let me summarize what I see as the strategy of the Pawleys Island leadership (as named by Archbishop Duncan) to date.

First, to avoid the immediate loss of authority over the former AMiA, the majority of the AMiA bishops resigned en masse at the eleventh hour on December 5th, essentially fleeing church discipline. This resignation was communicated via two letters, one from Bishop Murphy, the other ostensibly from Murphy, but clearly written by Canon Kevin Donlon, with his trademark underlining, bolded, italicized underlining, and references to the canons he foisted upon Rwanda several years ago. The AMiA bishops signed the Donlon/Murphy letter, minus Thad Barnum and the resigned Terrell Glenn.

These letters adopted the stance that the Pawleys Island leadership had the authority to release to Rwandan oversight parishes within AMiA that wanted to remain with Rwanda, rather than the Pawleys Island leadership structure. The letters were part of a broader approach to the media that reversed an earlier reticence to speak. However, the articles that appeared failed to answer several key questions. But I am getting ahead of myself. The PR strategy included an interview with Anglican Ink. Before the resignations were made public, someone (probably Brust)  told Anglican Ink:

A spokesman for Bishop Murphy told Anglican Ink the proposed reorganization has “required the [AMiA] and the Province of Rwanda to engage in substantive dialogues, and we seek to ensure that our unique cultures are in clear communication with each other.”

“It has required that we listen carefully to one another in our attempts to fully understand all of the issues involved from one another’s cultural perspectives,” the spokesman said, noting the 30 Nov letter was “part of that yet unfinished dialogue and it will be addressed as our Archbishop has required.”

The impending discipline was referred to as dialogue and clarification was mentioned, when in fact very clear boundaries had been set and a “cease and desist” order regarding the new Mission Society had been issued.

After the break with Rwanda, Brust chalked up the mass resignation to a difference of opinion, no mention being made of the impending church discipline:

Brust said AMIA has every intention of remaining a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The association will seek a group of retired archbishops to serve as a college of consultors and connect to an undetermined Anglican province.

“It’s just a difference of opinion in the way Rwanda wanted to move forward and what the Anglican Mission felt like God was leading us to do,” Brust said.

The Pawleys Island leadership then released to David Virtue some of the notes from the November 17-18 meeting between Bishop Murphy, Canon Donlon and Bishop Mbanda and Archbishop Rwaje in Washington D.C. It is interesting to note that no one has characterized this meeting publicly except Bishop Murphy and other former AMiA clergy. As far as I can tell, David Virtue did not contact Mbanda or Rwaje to ask what their side of the story of the D.C. meeting was. If he did, there is no evidence of it in his reporting.

Four days after this precipitous resignation, Archbishop Rwaje appointed bishops Glenn and Barnum to oversee the clergy and congregations remaining affiliated with the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR). Archbishop Rwaje further stated that the resigned Pawleys Island leadership had “forfeited their authority over those clergy and congregations that have been affiliated with Rwanda through AMiA.”

After these events, two stories appeared publicly from clergy loyal to the Pawleys Island leadership. The first from Rev. Mark Quay leveled particularly incendiary charges against Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo and was published on Virtue Online. Quay is the President and Dean of the Anglican School of Ministry, an arm of the former AMiA. Quay’s story quickly vanished from Virtue Online, and I have not seen a further statement from him.

Next came a story from Rev. Joe Boysel, a priest at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, reporting up through Bishop Doc Loomis. Boysel’s story on Internet Monk offered further thoughts as to what had just happened. He posited a difference between ACNA and AMiA in terms of mission vs. structure – this has been a common theme, and one that makes little sense as any church on earth is to be engaged in mission per the Great Commission. Boysel’s version of events perpetuated the Murphy angle on the final meeting between Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Murphy. Boysel says that “Everyone smiled and warmly embraced everyone else” at that meeting. He does not say what his source for that angle on the meeting is.

Neither Boysel, Murphy or Quay mention the role of Canon Donlon in writing canon law for Rwanda and then pushing it on the bishops of Rwanda and AMiA. The Pawleys Island leadership are assigning blame on the Washington Statement clergy, Bishop Alexis, perhaps Archbishop Rwaje, and so on. And yet none of them have offered a cogent account of what Donlon has been up to these past several years.

Here is the rub: Donlon’s theology does not represent the founding theology of AMiA itself. See the Solemn Declaration of Principles of the Anglican Mission in America. The Solemn Declaration explicitly says:

This Church subscribes to the teaching of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church  of England. These are to be interpreted, as ordered in the Declaration which  prefaces them in the English Book of Common Prayer, “in the full and plain  meaning thereof” and “in the literal and grammatical sense.” Further, it is  understood that there are places in the Articles (i.e. Art. 37) that assume past  and present political structures in England which do not directly apply to this Church located as it is in North America.

Donlon’s theology does not represent the theology of the Rwandan Anglicans, nor does it represent GAFCON’s theology. The Jerusalem Declaration says:

We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

Further, the GAFCON document titled The Way, the Truth and the Life emphatically embraces the Articles as the norm of Anglican doctrine:

Authentic Anglicanism is a particular expression of Christian corporate life which seeks to honour the Lord Jesus Christ by nurturing faith, and also encouraging obedience to the teaching of God’s written word, meaning the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It embraces the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (published in the year 1571) and the Book of Common Prayer (the two versions of 1552 and 1662), both texts being read according to their plain and historical sense, and being accepted as faithful expressions of the teaching of Scripture, which provides the standard for Anglican theology and practice.

Donlon’s theology clearly contradicts the Articles and classical Anglican norms. I hope to outline this at length later, but suffice it to say that his sacramental views alone are a rejection of the Articles and early Anglican norms.

In order to bring about sweeping changes in theology and structure to Rwanda, AMiA and GAFCON, Donlon (and Murphy) should have submitted these changes for public discussion and debate. In fact, clergy who adopt the Romanist position of Donlon on the sacraments should not affirm the Solemn Declaration in good faith – how they have done so until now is a matter for their own consciences to answer. So, did Donlon submit his proposals on the sacraments and other theological issues to the broader denomination for review, interaction, debate or a vote? No, he rather performed an end run around the broader group and essentially subverted Rwandan theology from within (granted, this reflects very poorly on Rwandan leadership at the time and the AMiA bishops from that period). He (abetted by Murphy) then attempted to hustle through a Mission Society proposal, presumably in time for the next Winter Conference, and then when exposed to public scrutiny, did not engage in debate or obedience, but rather fled discipline.

Further, the stories by Quay, Boysel, and Bishop Murphy have not explained or even attempted to explain why both Glenn and Barnum felt the need to resign. Just what was it that pushed them to do this? We may never know, but you would think that an accurate backstory of what happened would at least venture a guess as to why they came to the decisions that they did.

This initial flurry of stories from the Pawleys Island associated clergy was not met with any public response from PEAR or PEAR clergy in the USA. Rather, bishops Glenn and Barnum called for an Advent respite to blogging and news sites, perhaps reflecting the difficulties inherent in the the age of internet communication. Church structures now struggle with how to handle comments from the priesthood of the plebs. This is understandable, but it cannot be changed – there is no going back to the pre web days, as much as communication organs wish that there is.

I will continue my look at events in days ahead, charting the changing reactions, the proposed Society, and the lay of the land currently.

Ending the Anglican Alphabet Soup

With the creation of the Anglican Church in North America, the time has come to end the various sub-groups which were necessary for the time of trials just passed through. Part of me doesn’t like this much because I think that parts of the AMiA are the best current representation of what a Biblical Church should look like. But it seems to me that every dollar spent on maintaining separate organizational structures is wasted. Why have a separate communications structure for CANA, AMiA, REC, etc? It’s waste of effort and money. And yet we see Bishop Minns saying:

Since Day 1, CANA has been and will continue to be a full participant in the life of the new province, and will continue to maintain our own identity.  We will encourage groups of congregations when they are ready, to establish themselves as free-standing dioceses.  Our goal is to support the work, mission, and ministry of the gospel on this continent and bring our own particular distinctive to that task.

Bishop Murphy has said similar things about AMiA continuing in something of a “Canterbury and York” model. Indeed, as I was writing this I received an e-mail from AMiA where Bishop Murphy says:

As a founding member of both the Common Cause Partnership and the emerging province, we will continue to fully participate in ACNA.  As we have consistently explained, however, we remain a missionary outreach of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda under the authority of Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini.  This allows us to enjoy dual citizenship, a similar relationship to that of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

But I think we need to ask whether in ten or twenty years we will need all of these separate groups? It’s great for AMia and CANA to continue missionary efforts, but they should be able to do this as some kind of missionary diocese under ACNA, without needing their own leadership and headquarters. How much of this division is due to leftover animosities between bishops and churches?

I do understand some legitimate reasons for staying apart. As my friend Jim said to me, many folks won’t want to be under a Bishop who approves of women’s ordination, for example. But these issues need to be worked out from within ACNA unless it becomes obvious that it will never change and is un-reformable, which is hardly the case right now at its inception. I think good Anglican in all the bodies that make up ACNA should voice their desire for unity to their leaders and pray for change.

A Drive to Kilmarnock

This past weekend we drove to a town called Kilmarnock which sits in a region of Virginia called the Northern Neck, on the Chesapeake Bay. It is something that I’ve wanted to do for three years but have been prevented from doing for one reason or another.

The drive over was beautiful and very typical of Virginia. By that I mean rolling hills, trees, farms, small towns and lots and lots of old churches with their attendant graveyards. Why is it that our modern churches never have graveyards? I understand that property is at a premium for most churches and perhaps a graveyard would be “wasted” when it could be a parking lot, but I think we would do well to re-establish the practice of Christian burial in a church graveyard.

Most of these old, rural towns have a United Methodist parish, a Baptist church or two, and sometimes an Episcopal parish. It is truly heartbreaking to see these gorgeous old buildings most of which are in the hands of heretics. Just imagine working and praying to build a parish, teach, preach and serve. You go down to your grave when your alloted span is done only to have the entire thing fall into the hands of the enemy within a century or so.

The churches that we saw were mainly built of brick. I imagined what life would be like if they were inhabited by preachers with evangelical fervor and sound doctrine. What would it be like to have our rural areas dotted with churches that were sacramental and reformed? Instead we have these sad monuments to a bygone age inhabited by the opponents of the truth.

Kilmarnock itself is not much to shout about, but if you drive down the roads that lead to the Bay, you find mansions of breathtaking size, all of them new. Apparently there is a lot of old money in Kilmarnock, or else folks in D.C. and Richmond who weekend down there. These homes are unbelievable, sitting right on the Bay with no neighbors to speak of. Trust me, these folks aren’t working in town. It never ceases to amaze me how no matter where you go in this country there are loads of rich people (or massively indebted people).

We ate lunch in the parking lot of the local Episcopal parish which is gorgeous. It looked like a small version of Truro in Fairfax. I looked it up on the web and of course it is in the revisionist camp and will probably vanish within a generation.

The entire drive led me to think about the AMiA and ACNA in general with regard to church planting. For obvious reasons the AMiA has focused most of its church planting activities on cities and urban centers. I favor this and think AMiA should have a 50-state strategy of hitting key urban areas. My question is how do the rural areas get served in any new evangelization? In some sense it is much easier to plant churches in urban areas because you have so many more people to potentially draw from, whereas in a small town there are only a limited number of people.

So do entire swaths of the country stay unserved by a Medieval Protestant alternative to unbelief? Can we reach small towns as well as urban areas? How many guys would we need in the pipeline of ministerial training in order to reach these places? What kind of resources would it require? I imagine that in the old days most of these churches rose from within the ethnic communities that were pioneering these new towns, but that pattern is gone now. What is the new method of reaching the rural parts of America with a liturgical, Bible-centered church?