Reuters misunderstands GAFCON

For the last week, orthodox Anglican leaders have been meeting at a conference in Jerusalem. Reuters reports on the results, managing to get nearly everything wrong:

Conservative Anglicans Reluctant to Break Away

Conservative Anglican leaders meeting at a rebel summit expressed frustration with the church’s leadership on Thursday but indicated that an outright schism might be avoided.

The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a week-long convention of hundreds of conservative bishops and clergy, opened on Sunday amid talk that it was a first step towards a split between conservative and liberal wings in the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion.

The Communion is divided over issues such as homosexuality and biblical authority. [Scofflaw: The latter is the central issue, but the former is what interests the media.]

But mid-way through the conference, conservative leaders spoke only of making GAFCON a “movement,” without indicating how such a process would be handled and if there was enough support among the bishops to initiate a split.

As we’ll see, this is simply wrong.

When asked whether worshippers would be able to belong to both the new movement and the Anglican Communion, [Archbishop Nzimbi of Kenya] said: “This is something which should emerge clearly at the end of GAFCON.”

The very question indicates that they have no idea what is going on. The assumption seems to be that orthodox Christians (“conservatives,” the article calls them) would secede from the Anglican Communion. What Reuters does not understand is that the Anglican Communion is overwhelmingly orthodox. If anyone found themselves on the outside, it wouldn’t be the orthodox members.

What is happening is a small province of the Anglican Communion (the United States Episcopal Church) is aggressively challenging the core tenets of the Christian faith (such as the unique redemptive work of Jesus Christ), and is persecuting dissident congregations. Many of those dissident congregations are looking to leave the Episcopal Church and join another province within the Anglican Communion. That is the split being contemplated, one within the Episcopal Church, not the Anglican Communion as a whole.


The conservatives, who claim to represent 35 million Anglicans, mostly in developing countries, have been hinting at a split within the Communion since Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop was consecrated in the United States.

However, it seems that they might now shy away from that step.

“They are trying to back down from the difficult position they put themselves in, as gracefully as possible,” said Jim Naughton, Canon for Communications with the diocese of Washington.

Notice that the only quote the article solicited was from an opponent of the conference, and it is presented uncritically (despite, we’ll see in a moment, being completely wrong). However, basic demographic facts are qualified by “claim”.

Anyway, the main thrust of the article is that participants are backing away from schism (and, according to Naughton, trying to back down gracefully). In fact, the official statement is out, and it doesn’t back away in the slightest:

We recognise the desirability of territorial jurisdiction for provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, except in those areas where churches and leaders are denying the orthodox faith or are preventing its spread, and in a few areas for which overlapping jurisdictions are beneficial for historical or cultural reasons.

We thank God for the courageous actions of those Primates and provinces who have offered orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership, especially in North and South America. The actions of these Primates have been a positive response to pastoral necessities and mission opportunities. We believe that such actions will continue to be necessary and we support them in offering help around the world.

We believe this is a critical moment when the Primates’ Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church. In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council.

(Emphasis mine.) The statement explicitly endorses the formation of a new, orthodox province in North America. Far from backing off, this is actually a stronger position than what has recently been contemplated. (What is now being contemplated is to move orthodox parishes and dioceses to another existing province — probably the Southern Cone — rather than creation of a new province.)

This article completely misunderstands what happened in Jerusalem (or worse, deliberately misrepresents it). Truly a shabby piece of work.

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