Saturday, July 12, 2008

Will the GAFConners blink?

Even before the GAFCon meeting was over and the Jerusalem Declaration circulated, I wondered if the greatest challenge the new movement would face would concern how it "defined" itself vis a vis the "Anglican Communion" (aka Lambeth Anglican Federation) especially if, in order to be true to its principles, it would have to disassociate itself from parts of that group. And, indeed, since the Declaration was published, it is precisely along those lines that many opponents (starting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and working its way down) have criticized it.

And a real danger is both that erstwhile "supporters" of GAFCon will, when push comes to shove, not want to make that step (many "traditionalists" in PEcUSA have a 30 year history of refusing to make a break, regardless of the provocation or degree of apostasy) and that the position of the GAFConners themselves will be undermined by those who claim to "support" their position and yet refuse to leave the LAF.

In a pessimistic speculation, I posted this a week or two ago...

A PREDICTION: A possible post-GAFCON scenario.

Of far more concern (and significance on the national and global stage) than the penny-ante players are the statements and actions of someone like +Lawrence -- hailed as a GAFCON supporter and as an "anglocatholic" voice in their midst -- who had this to say about GAFCON and the Declaration:
Briefly let me say that The Jerusalem Declaration (the fourteen points in the document) affirms much of what I understand as basic Christianity as Anglicans have received it. As for the call for a North American Province to align the various judicatories of the Episcopalian diaspora, it is a noble and necessary endeavor, though it does not address any particular need that we in South Carolina have.... I am grateful that we here in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina remain in full communion with Canterbury, that most historic and prominent See of Anglicanism.
Now while this is, no doubt, not his final and definitive statement, just his initial one -- and while it admits of several interpretations -- it sure sounds like setting the stage for a "fight from within" approach.

He praises the fact that groups like the AMiA and Global South parishes get support and recognition... but sounds as if he's saying that he has no intention in joining them outside PEcUSA, since the meeting and Declaration "does not address any particular need" of himself or his diocese. In fact, his statement that

I rejoice that these brothers and sisters who have long looked for validation as “continuing” Anglicans are now recognized by important Provinces on the world stage when Canterbury, for various reasons, has been unable to do so
(note the clever attempt to muddy the waters by appropriating the "continuing" label for them) is rather misleading... as best I as I can tell, all the missions, splinter groups and individuals at GAFCON already had the "recogni[tion] by important Provinces" before the meeting was held. While a big formal announcement to that effect is no doubt encouraging and flattering, it hasn't - on that score - added anything new to the situation.

In short, ++Lawrence's comments seem to amount to:

  • I support much of the Declaration [no indication here as to what conflicts between it and theological anglocatholicism he perceives, or where he falls on those issues]
  • I'm glad these various splinter groups got affirmed by provincial authorities [though they already had this affirmation and recognition before the meeting was held]
  • GAFCON and this statement don't do anything to address the needs of me or my diocese [true enough -- there's not much that can be done for people until they're willing to dissociate from PEcUSA]
  • I prize my official recognition by the ++ABC [and, implicitly, he has no intention of ever joining a group which - regardless of what other primates say about it - isn't recognized by the leader of the Church of England]

Hardly the kind of ringing endorsement, support and participation the GAFCON folks have said they expect from leaders like +Lawrence. Of course, a I said, this isn't his last word, only his first... but it's a pretty weak and discouraging first word!

But if this pattern continues -- and we've seen it from other supposed "sympathizers" like +Wright -- then what you've got is, already, a falling off of support because of GAFCON's implicit "separatism" from both "inside" and "outside" its movement -- i.e. a falling off for support of those statements or actions which would actually DO ANYTHING DEFINITE.

And this is going to present them with the very real challenge of having to decide if they are going to hold fast to a traditional notion of "communion" -- one based on shared faith and ecclesiological compatibility -- and make a stand on that (in word and deed)... or if, realizing that this will cost them supporters both in and outside the movement, they back down and take a more ambiguous stand with vague definitions and undefined terms in an effort to please everyone.

In fact, this "try to include everyone, regardless of the facts or theology" is a real hallmark of the movement to date -- notice how so many of them treat the Continuum with contempt, insult and dismissal in day to day operations, choices, beliefs and relationships... until it's time to release a press statement. Then suddenly (and briefly), the Continuum is a fellow-fighter and valued comrade, nearly 70% of of whose members (or so the FIFNA press release tells us... though where that incredible figure came from mystifies everyone actually in the Continuum) are members and supporters of GAFCON!

So, let me make some "predictions" about one possible scenario. I'm not saying that I think this is certain to happen -- but I think it's a very real and present danger, and each statement like that of +Lawrence above make it seems increasingly likely:

The GAFCONers are going to "blink".

Or, rather, the North Americans are. The African primates, I think, will stick to their guns and hold fast to their formal rejection of PEcUSA's authority, and will continue to support their missionary efforts in the U.S. After all, this is what they've been doing for years -- the only new thing they announced at GAFCON on that score was that they were giving up trying to do so through the impotent and useless existing mechanisms of the "Communion".

But their efforts, and support for the "traditionalists" (mainly "moderate revisionists") in North America, are going -- in this prediction -- to be undermined by the "Institutionalists" and "Enablers" in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Now, no doubt, these folks will continue to praise themselves as supporters and sympathizers of the GAFCON movement and the non-PEcUSA provinces. And they will evolve some elaborate theories and new military metaphors (to go along with the nonsense of "little stone bridges") about how they are part of a "pincer movement" or something -- the "resistance from within" supporting the "defenders from without". I fully expect soon to be reading WW2 metaphores -- about how the non-PEcUSAn GAFCONers in their various jurisdictions represent the Allies, while the institutionalist GAFCON "fight from within"-ers are the loyal French, fighting a noble foxhole resistance movement from withing Nazi-occupied territory.

The problem is, of course, that this is the wrong comparison -- the accurate one is to Vichy France, kowtowing to the invasion of a foreign ideology and power (an apostate theology and false gospel) and staying within the system that supports, empowers, and legitimizes it.

Even more -- unlike the French resistance, with their raids and broadcasts from unknown hideouts -- these "fight from within"ers who claim to support GAFCON, have no such hideouts. The apostate PEcUSAn powers know exactly where they and their families live. Heck, to find +Lawrence just check the clergy directory and pick up the phone... or look for him at the buffet table at the next HOB meeting! There are no commando raids under the cover of dark these folks can pull, not with the scrutiny that will be on them; they have no "institutional power base" outside of their parishes or (in a few cases) dioceses, and that "power base" is ultimately part of apostate PEcUSA (the apostates - to mix my military metaphors - control the "high orbitals" already); and the local power base that they do have is a stationary target for (to open the floodgates to a whole galaxy of mixed metaphors) the river of apostasy to erode and the missals of apostasy to bomb. [Er, wait, not missals. That's angloatholics. "Wiccan Rite III" bombs perhaps?]

Anyway, wasn't GAFCON supposed to be D-day? No, wait, it was supposed to be Dar Es Salaam. No, wait, the Windsor Report. No, wait, Lambeth 1998. No, wait....

So what this actually means is that the "oh, I support -- hey, I'm a member of! -- GAFCON"ers who remain in PEcUSA -- and whom GAFCON will (in this prediction) refuse to disavow because they don't want to alienate anyone (well, except theological anglocatholics of course!) -- will wind up undermining much of the appeal and legitimacy of the movement, because, whatever its concerns or pronouncements, it obviously doesn't really require a break from PEcUSA.

Which, in turn, will undermine any effort to create an alternate jurisdiction in North America -- an effort already faced with grave challenges by the extreme differences of theology and praxis among its members (including things like sacramental theology and ordination). After all, if "GAFCON members" and "GAFCON supporters" are still in PEcUSA, then, even if you do set up an alternate jurisdiction, you're still split between 2 groups. And if 2, why not several? After all, there are differences on some other fundamental issues -- like WO -- which has already created such splits (the AMiA and AMiC both being Kenyan missions, one which ordains women to the priesthood, one which doesn't).

And add to this the fact that the African jurisdictions will still be "in communion" with the CoE -- or, at least, "in the Anglican Communion" with them -- and that the CoE won't have broken off communion with PEcUSA or the AcoC (but still be having meetings and panels and review committees and a "listening process") but still won't recognize any other bodies in N. America (after all, PEcUSA and the AcoC are the 2 official Lambeth groups there)... well, out the airlock goes much of the "impetus" to reform into a unified "replacement" jurisdiction to take the place of PEcUSA and the AcoC in North America. The very best you could hope for would be "parallel" Lambeth jurisdictions... which gets us back to the last point!

All in all, then, these early reactions to GAFCON present the very real possibility that the fallout of all this will be a whole bunch of fragmenting Protestant Anglican jurisdictions tracing their roots back to the GAFCON movement and the Declaration, but being in an ever-more confusing relationship with each other, with Canterbury, and with the "Anglican Communion"... and with increasingly different interpretations of (or commitment to) that Declaration.

And oh, won't it be interesting THEN -- should that happen -- to see if many of these folks can eat their years of insults against the Continuum for being fragmented, and not part of the "Anglican Communion", and not showing adequate commitment to unity, and having divisions which sometimes reflect their leader's egos or hangups on (ecclesiologically) secondary issues. Very Interesting Indeed.

Still, as I say, this is only one possible scenario -- and I'm by no means convinced that it is even the most likely one. But it is a very real possibility.

Time will tell!