GAFCON 2018: A Turning Point in the History of Anglicanism – Part 2
By Ed Loane
Drift and Schism
Unfortunately, towards the end of last century, some of the churches began to move away from the biblical and doctrinal basis of Anglican unity. At the 1998 Lambeth Conference these churches sought to validate their departure from scriptural norms by seeking the endorsement of the conference, particularly in relation to human sexuality. However, led by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, the Lambeth Conference overwhelmingly rejected the attempt and affirmed the biblical doctrine upon which Anglican unity had always been based. 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 made clear that “in view of the teaching of Scripture” the conference upheld the Christian doctrine of “faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union” and affirmed “abstinence is right for those not called to marriage”. In this Resolution the instruments of unity declared again the fellowship of global Anglicanism was rooted in biblical truth. For the schismatics this was an intolerable defeat and they went on to blatantly defy the instruments of communion. At this point, fellowship was tragically broken because the basis of fellowship was no longer shared.
Abusing the Instruments
Making matters worse, as the new century commenced the instruments of communion began to behave as though they were the basis of Anglican unity. Rather than facilitating a fellowship based on the underlying unity of biblical doctrine as they had been designed, they included in their fellowship those who had rejected that doctrinal basis and rebelled against the previous resolutions in its favour. Furthermore, they would not include some faithful Anglicans who bravely chose to stand against the schismatics rejection of biblical Christianity. The rhetoric from those in authority declared that being Anglican amounted to “recognition” by the Archbishop of Canterbury and attending certain conferences rather than sharing in a common history, doctrine and mission. In taking this position the instruments of communion defaulted on their mandate and nullified their purpose.
As the invitations went out for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, those who remained faithful to the biblical doctrines which were the basis of Anglican unity found the instruments of communion were being employed to condone fundamental disunity. By including schismatics in fellowship with orthodox Anglicans and claiming that unity was a result of attending the same conferences the instruments of communion had become a conceited phantasm. This was called out for the fallacy that it is and GAFCON was born. In 2008 the first GAFCON arrived at the Jerusalem Declaration which was a statement reaffirming what it means to be an orthodox Anglican. Paradoxically those who had betrayed the basis of Anglican unity began ridiculing the orthodox Anglicans as schismatics. Nevertheless, fidelity to the gospel compelled the GAFCON movement forward and a deep spiritual unity, the kind of unity the instruments of communion were supposed to foster, was cultivated. The GAFCON movement continued to call upon the instruments of communion to fulfil the mandate they had been created for. Unfortunately, in the decade since the first GAFCON there has been no indication that the instruments of communion will return from their usurpation of the basis of unity being in shared history, doctrine and mission. Rather, they continue to contend falsely that they are the basis of Anglican unity.
Ed Loane is an Anglican minister who lectures in Theology and Church History at Moore Theological College, Sydney.