Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ruth Gledhill: There Will Be No Spilt

Ruth Gledhill has certainly provided great coverage of GAFCON. Here is her latest report:

Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, primate of Kenya and leader of that country's four million Anglicans, confirmed last night that there will be no split at Gafcon. See our news report. This is significant because he is heading the committee that is drawing up the final communique that will be issued on Sunday night. It also confirms the word here that the agenda is now reform from within, as we reported earlier. The figure that is crucial in all this is not based in Africa at all, although he is in the Global South. The formidable Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, pictured here at Gafcon, has become the key player on the Anglican conservative wing, shifting the emphasis from the US conservatives to the South. Significantly, Pittsburgh bishop Bob Duncan, who heads Common Cause, isn't even here, although he was in Jordan and looked after the Pakistani and Sudanese bishops who weren't allowed into Israel after the others left to be with Archbishop Akinola. Bishop Duncan's address in Jordan has been emailed out widely.

. . .

But we are here at Gafcon, and it is clear that the mantle of leadership has fallen on Archbishop Jensen. With all those lovely pies to have fingers in in England - Wycliffe, Oak Hill (whose principal is here), St Helen's - does anyone seriously think this man wants to walk away? No, he is building an impressive empire from within and none of us should underestimate. Anyway, I like worship at St Helen's. The music is great, it feels good. It is full of highly-intelligent doctors from St Bart's. (The hospital, that is!) This is what gets the people in and in an age of a declining liberal centre, finding a Christianity that still works is important.

At Gafcon, the 300 or so bishops, and that includes probably a dozen or maybe more from the American continuing churches, are visibly impressed by Archbishop Jensen and it comes over in what they say. The change of tone is significant. The rhetoric is still high, but it has become more, somehow, recognisably 'Anglican'. In other words, although they would resist strongly calling it this, compromise is in the air.

I asked Archbishop Nzimbi at the press conference to talk about the communique. Will there be a split?

'I cannot think of anything better than maintaining the faith. The faith remains to me more important than the other positions I have. Gafcon is going to help the Anglican Church. We are still Anglicans.

'Lambeth passes resolutions. No action is taken. It becomes something which cannot have authority... It is one of the instruments which is not giving results.'

In other words, what they are looking for is authority and leadership. They are not getting it from the figure of unity or the instruments of community, save in one respect. Love or loathe his views, and I fall Anglican-style in the middle here, Achbishop Jensen is one of the few in the Church outside Africa who can lead and who possesses authority.

Archbishop Henry Orombi, of Uganda, also at the press conference last night, took over at this point: 'What we are meeting for here is not to plan to walk away. We are meeting to renew our commitment, to renew our faith, to get a sense of direction of what we can be as Anglicans. We do not want to start a new Church.'

So there you have it folks. There will be no schism. The Anglican in me is delighted. But what do I tell my newsdesk?



Read it all here.

I think there two developments of note. First, despite expectations that GAFCON would lead to a split in the Anglican Communion, that is not occuring. Second, leadership of the orthodox Anglicans is moving away from the Africans to Archbishop Jensen.

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