No-one else will care about this (it drew numerous blank looks when I was asked to explain it at the weekend), but GAFCON began today.
No, this isn’t come high tech conference dealing in the latest GPS-related gadgets or a superhero-fans get together: GAFCON is the Global Anglican Future CONference, a gathering of right-wing, ‘conservative’ clergy from the UK and the Third World.
Basically a whole host of ‘Traditionalist’, anti-gay, anti-women, leaders got offended that our beloved Rowan invited so many of those evil liberals to his once-a-decade Lambeth Conference that they went off in a huff and created their own gathering. Kind of a “we don’t like your smelly club, so we’re going to have our own! – And you’re not invited!!”
Yes, it is a whole load of Bishops and other significant spiritual leaders behaving like 6-year olds, including respected evangelicals like Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, and Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria.
Seriously, this whole thing makes my blood boil, and I am having a hard time writing about it in anything approaching a balanced manner. My angry, opinionated b*****d side rears its head every time someone mentions the word ‘Reform’ or Anglican Mainstream.
If you wanted to deliberately set out to give the secular world exactly the wrong impression of a Christian response to the (very real) issues of homosexuality and women in leadership, GAFCON would be it. There is no message of love or Grace for the individual here, rather an approach of ‘if you even conscience to begin to sensitively wrestle with these issues, we will have nothing to do with you’. All that communicates to the world is at best angry indifference, and at worst real hate towards what is an established position in Western society.
That’s not to say that the church should just capitulate and abandon centuries old belief to follow the conventions of society, especially when the perspectives of societies around the world are so wildly different. It is just that this is an issue that deeply affects individuals’ core beliefs and perceptions of themselves and so needs to be dealt with sensitively. Instead we have a perfect example of how ignorant the church is of media relations and its perception in society: what is communicated to the world by these actions is often the exact opposite of what I believe the vast majority of individuals concerned would choose to convey in person.
Like I said, I don’t suppose many people, even Anglicans, will care about the gathering of a minority of Anglican leaders. But if there is a split in the Anglican Communion, it will be this conference that historians point to as the significant precursor.