Global Anglican Future Conference
The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) is a series of conferences of conservative Anglican bishops and leaders, the first of which was held in Jerusalem from 22 to 29 June 2008 to address the growing controversy of the divisions in the Anglican Communion, the rise of secularism, as well as concerns with HIV/AIDS and poverty. As a result of the conference, the Jerusalem Declaration was issued and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans was created. The conference participants also called for the creation of the Anglican Church in North America, as an alternative to the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada, and declared that recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury is not necessary to Anglican identity.
GAFCON occurred one month prior to the Lambeth Conference, the ten-yearly gathering of Anglican Communion bishops. GAFCON stated the movement rose because a "false gospel" is being promoted within the Anglican Communion, which denies the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and "promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right". This is commonly considered a result of the consecration in 2003 of openly non-celibate homosexual bishop Gene Robinson by the Episcopal Church and more generally from the perception that some parts of the Anglican Communion might be departing from biblical teaching.
The leading participants of GAFCON included seven Anglican primates, Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Justice Akrofi, of West Africa, Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda, Valentino Mokiwa of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, and Presiding Bishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone; Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia, Bill Atwood of Kenya, Bishops Wallace Benn and Michael Nazir-Ali of England, Don Harvey of Canada, Bishops Robert Duncan and Martyn Minns of the United States; Canon Vinay Samuel of India, Hugh Pratt and Canon Chris Sugden of England. GAFCON was attended by 1148 lay and clergy delegates, including 291 Anglican Bishops, from 29 countries. The identities of those attending have not been published and may have included bishops and clergy outside the Anglican Communion, including some from the Continuing Anglican Movement. Hugh Pratt was also Treasurer, responsible for security, accommodation and the implementation of the Conference.
The leaders present claimed to represent 35 million "active" Anglicans in the worldwide communion. The leadership team listed by GAFCON on its website consisted of 16 men, of whom 9 were from England, North America and Australia, and one other was UK based.
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At the beginning of the conference a booklet was released by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria entitled The Way, the Truth and the Life: Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future. Delegates also visited sacred sites in and around Jerusalem.
Originally GAFCON was intended to take place in two parts: a week in Jordan and a week in Jerusalem for the conference. This was also intended to allow participation by bishops from Pakistan and Sudan, who would not be able to visit Israel. To make accommodations and meet issues raised by the local Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem the Jordan part of the programme was subsequently downgraded to a "pre-GAFCON preparatory consultation", with the Jerusalem segment upgraded from a pilgrimage to a period of substantive deliberation.
After one day, on June 18, Jordanian authorities closed GAFCON, and forcing approximately 140 people to relocate to Jerusalem. Archbishop Akinola's diplomatic passport was denied entry.
The conference took place from 22 to 29 June 2008 at the modern Renaissance Hotel near the outskirts of Jerusalem.
A GAFCON statement was released on the final day of the conference. It was produced based on input from all 1148 delegates. The statement claims that the GAFCON movement has arisen because a "false gospel" is being promoted within the Anglican Communion, which denies the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and "promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right".
The GAFCON statement announced that GAFCON would be a continuing "movement in the Spirit" rather than a once-off event. Although GAFCON did not decide to create a formal schism in the Anglican Communion, it expressed plans to set up new ecclesiastical structures, particularly within the liberal provinces of North America, to cater for conservative Anglicans. Of particular note, the GAFCON statement claims that recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury is not necessary to Anglican identity. It calls for the formation of a new council of unelected GAFCON Primates.
The GAFCON statement was criticized by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who said that "A ‘Primates’ Council’ which consists only of a self-selected group from among the Primates of the Communion will not pass the test of legitimacy for all in the Communion. And any claim to be free to operate across provincial boundaries is fraught with difficulties, both theological and practical."
The GAFCON statement contains the "Jerusalem Declaration", a doctrinal confession which was intended to form the basis of a new "Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans" (FCA). The declaration upholds the Holy Scriptures as containing "all things necessary for salvation", the first four Ecumenical councils and three Creeds as expressing the church's rule of faith, and the Thirty-Nine Articles as authoritative for Anglicans today. In addition, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is called "a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer" and the Anglican Ordinal is recognised as an authoritative standard.
Archbishop of CanterburyEdit
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said on 19 December 2007 that plans to hold a pre-Lambeth meeting for conservatives did not signal disloyalty as such a meeting "would not have any official status as far as the Communion is concerned".
Bishop of JerusalemEdit
The Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Mouneer Anis, who is conservative on matters of human sexuality, publicly announced that he would not attend GAFCON, observing that "the Global South must not be driven by an exclusively Northern agenda or Northern personalities".
The Bishop of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, in whose territory it was to be held, initially issued a press release saying:
I am deeply troubled that this meeting, of which we had no prior knowledge, will import inter-Anglican conflict into our diocese, which seeks to be a place of welcome for all Anglicans. It could also have serious consequences for our ongoing ministry of reconciliation in this divided land. Indeed, it could further inflame tensions here. We who minister here know only too well what happens when two sides cease talking to each other. We do not want to see any further dividing walls!
He indicated that the regional primate "is also concerned about this event. His advice to the organisers that this was not the right time or place for such a meeting was ignored."
On 12 and 15 January 2008, the Bishop of Jerusalem had meetings with the GAFCON organisers, including Archbishops Jensen and Akinola, in which he explained his reasons for objecting to the conference, and the damage it would do to his local ministry of welcome and reconciliation in the Holy Land. He insisted that the Lambeth Conference was the correct venue for internal discussions. However, he proposed as an alternative, "for the sake of making progress in this discussion" that the GAFCON conference should take place in Cyprus, to be followed by a "pure pilgrimage" to the Holy Land. The minutes of the meetings were published.
The announcement of the conference received criticism from some conservatives due to it potentially giving liberals a more powerful voice at the Lambeth Conference. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, said: "If the Jerusalem conference is an alternative to the Lambeth Conference, which I perceive it is, then I think it is regrettable. The irony is that all they are going to do is weaken the Lambeth Conference. They are going to give the liberals a more powerful voice because they are absent and they are going to act as if they are schismatics." Carey has also called for the American House of Bishops to commit itself to the Windsor Covenant, which imposes a moratorium on the consecration of homosexual bishops and blessing of same-sex unions.
Liberals and Anglo-CatholicsEdit
The conference was, however, particularly welcomed by bishops in conflict with the official policies of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Former Episcopal priest, now suffragan bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, David Anderson said: "The gathering will be in the form of a pilgrimage back to the roots of the Church's faith: thus this journey begins with a pilgrimage."
The second Global Anglican Future Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 21 October to 26 October 2013, at All Saints' Cathedral. It was attended by 1358 delegates, 1003 clergy and 545 laity, from 38 countries. The number of bishops and archbishops in attendance was 331. The Primates who attended were Eliud Wabukala, of Kenya, Nicholas Okoh, of Nigeria, Stanley Ntagali, of Uganda, Onesphore Rwaje, of Rwanda, Bernard Ntahoturi, of Burundi, Henri Isingoma, of Congo, Daniel Deng Bul, of Sudan, Solomon Tilewa Johnson, of West Africa, Tito Zavala, of the Southern Cone, and Robert Duncan, of North America. The focus was on the shared Anglican future, discussing the missionary theme of "Making Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ". Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made a flying visit to the conference on 20 October 2013. He expressed his condolences for the Westgate shopping mall attack and preached two sermons at All Saints' Cathedral.
The third Global Anglican Future Conference was held in Jerusalem, Israel, from 17 to 22 June 2018. The GAFCON 3 was the largest international reunion of Anglicans since the Toronto Congress, in 1963. It was attended, according to their official numbers, by 1966 delegates, 1292 men and 670 women, from 53 countries. These numbers include 993 clergy, among whom were 333 bishops, and 973 lay people. The number of active and retired archbishops attending was 38, including seven current Primates of the Anglican Communion, Jackson Ole Sapit, of Kenya, Stanley Ntagali, of Uganda, Laurent Mbanda, of Rwanda, James Wong, of the Indian Ocean, Nicholas Okoh, of Nigeria, Stephen Than Myint Oo, of Myanmar, and Gregory Venables, of South America. Two GAFCON recognized Primates also attended, Foley Beach, of North America, and Miguel Uchôa, of the Anglican Church in Brazil. Primates Justin Badi Arama, of South Sudan, and Maimbo Mndolwa, of Tanzania, weren't able to attend, despite being registered. Six retired Primates also attended, Peter Akinola, of Nigeria, Eliud Wabukala, of Kenya, Onesphore Rwaje, of Rwanda, Jacob Chimeledya, of Tanzania, Tito Zavala, of Anglican Church of South America, and Robert Duncan, of North America. The largest single national delegation was from the Church of Nigeria, with 472 members. The number of Anglo-Catholics was smaller than in the two previous conferences. At the conclusion of the conference, it was announced that in early 2019, Archbishop Foley Beach, Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, will succeed Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of the Church of Nigeria, as Chair of GAFCON's Primates Council; and Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi, former Archbishop of Jos in Nigeria, will succeed Archbishop Peter Jensen, former Archbishop of Sydney, as GAFCON's General Secretary.
An additional conference, named G19, took place from 25 February to 1 March 2019, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for those who weren't able to attend the previous year GAFCON III. G19 was hosted by Bishops Michael Nazir-Ali, of the Church of England, and Azad Marshall, of the Church of Pakistan, and was attended by 138 delegates, including 31 bishops and archbishops, and four primates, Nicholas Okoh, of Nigeria, Foley Beach, of North America, both who also attended GAFCON III, Justin Badi Arama, of South Sudan and Samuel Mankhin, of Bangladesh.
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- Fuel for Prayer, GAFCON Official Website
- Standing with the Suffering, GAFCON Official Website, 1 April 2019
- GAFCON website
- GAFCON booklet*
- All Video from speakers and presentations at Conference—GAFCON Jerusalem
- Constructing the boundaries of Anglican orthodoxy: An analysis of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)[dead link] An article based on interviews and fieldwork conducted at GAFCON by the authors