June 22, 2008
Brokenness vs. Schism
Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola likens GAFCON to Rescue Mission
I'm in transit to Israel to cover the Global Anglican Futures event in Jerusalem this week. But there has been great anticipation of Sunday's opening address of Primate Archbishop of All Nigeria Peter Akinola. Akinola is, according to imprecise media reports, the force behind talk of schism in the global Anglican Communion.
But any plain reading of his remarks, which the GAFCON press office released today, indicate that he and other consevatives have a reformist, not a separatist, agenda.
Here are some highlights from Archbishop Akinola's remarks:
People of the living God, welcome to Jerusalem. Welcome to GAFCON. One of the marks of apostolic ministry is signs, wonders and miracles. There are many in today’s Church, who would lay claim to apostolic authority without holding on to apostolic faith nor do they manifest any of the marks of the apostles. In GAFCON, I have seen signs and wonders. That we are able to gather here this week is a miracle for which we must give thanks to God.
Why are we here? What have we come to do?
The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) holding here in the holy land this week has understandably elicited both commendation and contempt in varying measures from all who claim a stake in shaping the future identity or in destroying the traditional identity of the global Anglican Communion.
Those who failed to admit that by the unilateral actions they took in defiance of the Communion have literally torn the very fabric of our common life at it deepest level since 2003, are grumbling that we are here to break the Communion.
Similarly, those who fail, for whatever reason to come to terms with the painful reality that the Communion is in a state of brokenness and lacked the ability to secure a genuine reconciliation, but simply carried on the work of the Communion in a manner that is business as usual are not happy with us.
And of course there are those who argue that while there may be some justification for GAFCON; why not call it after Lambeth 2008.
But thanks be to God that there are millions of people around the world including members of other denominations and those of other faiths who not only share our concerns but have chosen to partner with us and are praying for us.
For those of us gathered here in the Name of the Lord, and on behalf of the over 35 million faithful Anglicans we represent GAFCON is a continuation of that quiet but consistent initiative, a godly instrument appointed to reshape, reform, renew and reclaim a true Anglican Biblical orthodox Christianity that is firmly anchored in historic faith and ancient formularies.
Be that as it may, we must note that we cannot understand our present circumstance without locating it within the context of the controversies of the past decade. Every responsible historian knows that his task is predicated on the treasury of past events – rightly interpreted, as the compass for the present and guide for the future. For this reason, GAFCON takes its bearings from the tides of varied opinions and equivocations that have characterised our Communion in the last few years and exposed our once robust reputation as children of the Reformation to scorn. We were well-known for our stand on Scripture as the foundation stone of our tradition and reason.
The underlying objective of GAFCON necessarily compels a deep and honest reflection on the theological and ecclesiological inconsistencies of the past decade at the highest and most sacred levels of our Communion. While not contesting the right to personal opinions and attitudes to this new situation, we must disabuse our minds of the unworthy views about GAFCON being a monster on the horizon, or even a strange breed of Anglicanism devoid of antecedent factors.
Whichever way you look at it, the Communion is deeply in trouble. This is not only because of the actions of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada but also because the hitherto honoured Instruments of Communion, in recent years have, by design become instruments of disunity, putting the Communion in an unprecedented brokenness and turmoil.
My back of the envelope analysis is that both the conservatives and the revisionists are placing the blame on each other for the sorry state of the Anglican Communion. At the moment, the bottom line is the schism just isn't on the agenda for the left or right. There is, however, a struggle for the soul of Anglicanism in this post-colonial, pro-nationalist era.