GAFCON 23 – Day 2. Revived, Reformed, Re-Ordered

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Tuesday draws to a close and GAFCON has seen a momentous day.

The morning opened with Morning Prayer which included a Bible study given by Bishop Jay Behan of New Zealand. This week the conference is working it’s way through Colossians. Behan pointed us towards the supremacy of Christ in all things.

The morning plenary began with Bishop Glenn Davies giving an overview of the past few decades, helping those who were not clear on the facts understand the history that has brought us to this significant moment. He was followed by Stephen Noll speaking on the nature of the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement. But the most significant address was given by Bishop Keith Sinclair.

Sinclair told of the difficulties in the Church of England and exhorted the conference of the need for an Anglican Communion that would be Revived, Reformed and Re-Ordered. At the very end of the presentation, joint-MC of the conference Bishop Lee McMunn let the packed room know that Bishop Sinclair had provided the lone minority report rejecting the compromised Pilling Report in the Church of England. Sinclair, who had experienced profound ostracism and isolation in the Church of England due to his courageous stance now stood in front of 1300 delegates who applauded him at length. The emotion of the moment was clear on his face. It was a profound moment – watch here from 4:21:20 onwards.

The use of the word “re-ordered” was no accident. It is already clear this conference that there is now a clear sense that the Anglican Communion needs exactly that – re-ordering. It’s structures have failed to uphold Biblical faithfulness and the Archbishop of Canterbury has to take a large degree of responsibility. I’m sure it was no accident that Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu, used exactly the same word in his hard-hitting interview he gave us for The Heart of GAFCON. Watch the whole thing, it’s worth the time:

The afternoon saw the first all-conference involvement in the final Conference Statement. The process was explained to delegates in seperate meetings of bishops and clergy & laity. The process is a quite extraordinary attempt to make sure that it truly reflects the mind of the conference.

Delegates were given a list of “Communion Challenges”. Next they were asked to break into small groups and, over 30 minutes, produce precise statements (no more than 3 each group) beginning with “Our hope for the Anglican Communion is….”. There was then a time of sharing of the statements followed by some time spent on the Conference Statement itself.

A first draft has been prepared by the statement writing group working on guidelines provided by the Primates Council. They have decided that a shorter, more deliberate statement is required. Based on their priorities a framework was prepared and then presented to the conference. Using an online survey delegates were asked to express their approval or disapproval of the framework section by section.

Rather than an manipulative Delphi-type process this appears to be a genuinely collaboratively effort. I’ve spoken to a number of the members of the statement writing group and there is a clear desire expressed by them that the final statement carefully and accurately expresses the mind of the whole conference. Delegates I talked to were also happy with the process. There was a palpable sense in the room that they had a genuine contribution to make to what is shaping up to be a historic moment in Anglican church history.

At the close of the afternoon session the conference was presented with the tragic news that Rwandan Primate Laurent Mbande’s son had died at his home in the USA. It cast a somber shadow over what was otherwise a day of great optimism.

Like yesterday, we put together a panel to review the day’s events. I can’t think of a better way for you to understand exactly what is happening here, the significance of the moment, but also the as-yet unresolved issues:

feature image courtesy GAFCON

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