Monday, May 6, 2019


GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference) has taken a giant step toward schism. This occurred last week when the GAFCON leadership met in Sydney, Australia, from 29 April to 2 May. Today, May 6, they issued a formal statement, "A Communiqué from the GAFCON Primates Council." Find it here . This is GAFCON's strongest assault yet on the Anglican Communion.

The major news in the statement is that GAFCON is calling a rival meeting challenging the Lambeth Conference:

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 1.10 are invited to join...

Recall that the Jerusalem Declaration and 1998 Lambeth 1.10 were manifestly homophobic.

GAFCON's anti-Lambeth Conference conference will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, 8-14 June 2020, just a few weeks before the real Lambeth Conference meets in Canterbury. This is a bold challenge to the Anglican Communion and to its unifying force, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who just won a significant victory of unity in the Anglican Consultative Council in Hong Kong. If this is not schism, it is the next thing to it. The people of South Carolina (and Pittsburgh, Quincy, San Joaquin, Ft. Worth) should not be surprised. They have seen this sad movie before.

To reiterate a point, GAFCON is a recent fundamentalist interpretation inside historic Anglicanism. All great religions experienced fundamentalist movements in the late Twentieth Century. These were backlashes against what some of the faithful saw as the threats of modernism against traditional religion, thus a defensive retreat into "fundamentals" of the religion. (In Protestant Christianity fundamentalism is defined as:  literal interpretation of the scriptures, dualism of the universe, authoritarianism, social conservatism.) In the Anglican world, GAFCON led this fundamentalist backlash identifying it primarily on social terms under the guise of the scriptures: opposition to some Anglican churches' moves to equality for and inclusion of women and open homosexuals in the life of the church. Thus, GAFCON's basic raison d'être was to prevent women and homosexuals from gaining equality in the Anglican world. 

In the old diocese of South Carolina, the leadership moved to fundamentalist Anglicanism in the early 2000's, then broke from the Episcopal Church in 2012, and subsequently joined the Anglican Church in North America which was set up by GAFCON to be its proxy in the United States. GAFCON has declared the ACNA to be the only legitimate "Anglican" province in the U.S. and has made the ACNA archbishop, Foley Beach, the chair of the GAFCON primates.

Thus, the two dioceses in SC today are on the opposite sides of the wider Anglican civil war. DSC has thrown in its lot with GAFCON. The church diocese, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, is part of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. DSC is anti-equal rights for women and gays. TECSC is pro-equal rights for women and gays. The differences are starkly clear. 

The anti-women and anti-homosexual stands are very clear in GAFCON's new communiqué. It is mostly about 1.10 but also addresses women:  the provinces of Gafcon should retain the historic practice of consecrating only of men as bishops...

A showdown in the Anglican world is at hand. The two sides are 1-Anglican Communion, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This seeks to retain the historic structure of Anglicanism and the AC, that is, 40 independent churches in communion with the ABC; and 2-GAFCON, led by the equatorial African primates and dissident Americans. This side seeks either to gain control over or to divide up the old Anglican Communion in order to remake Anglicanism into a confessional religion forcing a fundamentalist conformity on its individual members. 

At the moment, it appears that GAFCON has given up on the idea of unifying the AC under a fundamentalist "covenant." They are apparently moving to plan B, that is, to divide up the old AC into two parts. They believe they will have the larger part since tha majority of Anglicans reside in GAFCON provinces. If they succeed, the Anglicanism of the future will be radically different than anything we have known. There will be two expressions of Anglicanism. Old Anglicanism will remain in the progressive First World while new Anglicanism will prevail in the Third World. In the end, the schism will be about social policy, not theology.

At any rate, it appears now that the year 2020 will be the deciding moment for the future of Anglicanism. All we know at this time is that GAFCON has failed to take over old Anglicanism. What we do not know, and will not know until next year, is the effect of GAFCON's challenge to the old AC. As a student of the schism in South Carolina, I conclude that all signs point to an impending schism in the Anglican Communion. If today's statement from GAFCON says anything, it says this.