In a significant response to the Appellate Tribunal opinion of last month, GAFCON Australia have this afternoon issued their “Commitment 2020“. The Commitment, accompanied by a covering letter, sets out very clearly what steps they will take in order to respond to any further departures from orthodoxy in the Anglican Church of Australia.
The cover letter, addressed to GAFCON’s supporters, urges restraint and perseverance until the General Synod in May/June 2021 can take a definitive position. The letter describes the General Synod as “the proper place for determining the doctrine and practice of the church”. There is also a call to faithful Anglicans all over the country to now consider “how to respond to matters locally”.
The Commitment itself will be understood not just to provide clarity to GAFCON’s supporters, to whom it is primarily addressed, but also to those who want to pursue further revision in the national church. Its emphasis is on the role of bishops to maintain catholicity and discipline in their own dioceses and sets out what GAFCON Australia will do to work within the existing structures of the Anglican Church of Australia if they are not upheld.
GAFCON Australia explains their position as a natural consequence of the Jerusalem Declaration:
We affirm the Jerusalem Declaration, which in section 13 says: ‘We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed’.
What is striking about the cover letter and the Commitment is that GAFCON Australia have now made clear public accusations that there are bishops in the Anglican Church of Australia who do not uphold the doctrine of the church. What is also striking is that they are clear in their commitment to respond.
The Commitment sets out 5 scenarios where Anglicans may no longer be able to accept the oversight of their diocesan bishop. They include inaction on the part of the bishop in the face of denial of doctrine by their clergy.
GAFCON Australia’s most marked commitment in response is, if necessary, to form an “Extra-Provincial Diocese”.
If a sufficient number of churches and clergy disaffiliate from the ACA, Gafcon Australia will seek the approval of the Gafcon Primates Council to establish an Extra-Provincial Diocese (EPD) for Australia authorised by the Gafcon Primates.
davidould.net has spoken to senior leaders and their intent is clear – there is no desire to have to enact any of the more drastic contingencies and every wish that all sides will hold back from anything that will further exacerbate the situation until the General Synod meets in just over 5 months time. But it does appear that GAFCON Australia have learned from other Anglican provinces around the world that the revisionists are persistent in their actions and so clear plans must be made and communicated and, if necessary, acted upon.
The ball is now firmly in the revisionists’ court. Will they listen to the call of their Primate for restraint? Will they recognise that both the Appellate Tribunal opinion is seriously flawed and that the right place for determining this matter is the General Synod? Or will they push on regardless, sacrificing the catholicity of the Anglican Church of Australia?