GAFCON 2018: A Turning Point in the History of Anglicanism – Part 3
By Ed Loane
GAFCON 2018 marks a significant turning point in the history of Anglicanism. The conference was not only the largest international gathering of Anglicans in the last 50 years, it represented the majority of the Anglican Communion. In the final statement the movement reiterates its earlier calls for schismatics to submit to the authority of the Bible and the instruments of communion to return to the purposes they were established for. But the legacy of GAFCON 2018 will be more than a reiteration of orthodox Anglicanism and a call for schismatics to return. In a highly significant move the conference endorsed the establishment of several networks which will foster the fellowship between Anglicans who share a unity of history, doctrine and mission. Nine networks were established including networks for theological education, youth and children’s ministry and all importantly, mission and evangelism. In this way, GAFCON 2018 has effectively declared that the mission of the church is too urgent and important to indefinitely wait for errant churches and corrupt fellowship structures to fulfil their original purposes. These new global networks will deepen the fellowship and expand the mission of those who share unity in Christ.
Under God, the new communion structures that GAFCON has endorsed hold great promise and there is good reason to be hopeful about the future of Anglicanism. Of course, it is desired that the original instruments and the errant churches will return to their purpose, but now whether they do or not is quite irrelevant to the future of global Anglicanism. Some within the GAFCON movement, out of love, will continue to engage with the old structures and call for repentance. Others will see participation as a validation of a false fellowship and will choose to not be involved. Either way, the fellowship and unity of global Anglicanism will grow as the majority of the church get on with mission and partner in the gospel through the newly established networks.
Those familiar with the history of the fourth century will know that the struggle for upholding orthodox truth did not end with the Council of Nicaea. Indeed, bishops like Athanasius spent the rest of their lives contending for the doctrine that had been agreed to. But Nicaea was a significant turning point. Not only was biblical truth upheld but a creed was agreed upon which would propagate that truth through the churches. Similarly, those in the GAFCON movement will need to continue contending for the truth but I think it is fair to call this a significant turning point. Not only has biblical truth been upheld, now a means of deepening the fellowship of those who are united in sharing that truth with a lost world has also been established. The Apostle Paul thanked God for partnership in the gospel—GAFCON 2018 is a cause for great thankfulness to God.
Ed Loane is an Anglican minister who lectures in Theology and Church History at Moore Theological College, Sydney.