Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bugs and Windshields

[NOTE: See UPDATE at bottom.]

When I was a young reporter, an old cowboy friend would occasionally share his wisdom with me. My all-time favorite is "Don't squat with your spurs on."

Another is, "Jest remember, some days you're the bug and some days you're the windshield."

One might make a case that the planners of the Global Anglican Future Conference [GAFCON] are the bugs today, and the bishop of Jerusalem is the windshield.

It turns out that the fact that this meeting will be held in Jerusalem came as a surprise to the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem. Apparently they failed to consult with him at all before they started inviting like-minded people to come to his diocese to talk about dividing the communion.
And he's not at all happy about it.

Episcopal News Online has a story about it here. The headline is "Jerusalem bishop objects to conservative Anglicans' planned Holy Land pilgrimage" and it's written by Matthew Davies from the new ENS London Bureau.

I've excerpted it below with my comments.


"A group of conservative Anglican leaders, including several Primates, who met in Nairobi in December, have announced that they will invite bishops, senior clergy and laity from every province of the Anglican Communion to attend a June 15-22 Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in the Holy Land.

"But the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, has objected, saying that he was not consulted about the planned conference that is set to be held in his diocese.

" '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,' Dawani said in a January 2 statement urging the organizers to 'reconsider this conference urgently.'

. . .According to organizers, the GAFCON conference is not intended as a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference, but it 'will provide opportunities for fellowship and care for those who have decided not to attend Lambeth.'

"Dawani said that it is his understanding that the Anglican Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, is also concerned about the event. 'His advice to the organizers that this was not the right time or place for such a meeting was ignored,' said Dawani, who was enthroned April 14, 2007 as the 14th Anglican bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

'Dawani also expressed his concern that the Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen, one of GAFCON's organizers, is encouraging clergy and lay people from the Jerusalem diocese to attend the conference.

"The conference, Dawani says, could 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.' "


The news story also points out that this conference, the theme of which is "A Gospel of Power and Transformation" is only for "Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings of the church," according to a December 24 news release from the conference organizers.

I agree with Colin Coward, head of the U.K.-based LGBT advocacy group, Changing Attitude, who is quoted in the story as describing GAFCON as "an event for the like-minded."

"A gathering of the like-minded is very specifically not a Christian ideal nor part of the teaching of Jesus Christ," the Changing Attitude release said.

" 'The Lambeth Conference indeed has a different agenda. It will be a more authentically Christian conference. Lambeth will bring together bishops from every Province and from radically different backgrounds. It will focus primarily on equipping bishops to fulfill their leadership role in God’s mission and will continue to engage with the conflict in the church focused on homosexuality.'

The news story also points out that Changing Attitude "is challenging GAFCON's interpretation of numbers, taking on their claim that they represent more than half the Anglicans in the world. Colin Coward also points out that not all the Global South bishops agree with everything Peter Akinola says.

" 'The global south conservatives have had to prepare for the reality that many of their bishops will attend Lambeth against the wishes of their Primates. The GAFCON press release concedes this," the Rev. Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, said in a December 31 news release.

" "It is a significant change of strategy from the original claim that they would boycott Lambeth if The Episcopal Church bishops were invited.' According to Changing Attitude, the Church of Nigeria bishops voted 'by a significant majority to attend the Lambeth Conference' despite earlier claims by their Primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola, that they would be boycotting the conference. 'The conscience of the Nigerian House of Bishops is divided,' Changing Attitude said.

"Present at the Nairobi meeting, where GAFCON was finalized, were the Primates of Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Southern Cone, and Uganda, as well as several bishops, some who have been irregularly consecrated to provide oversight to conservatives in North America. Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan, who serves as moderator of the conservative Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDAP), was also present."

Since Southern Cone Primate Gregory Venables is trying to hijack us all under his "protection" --ahem-- Episcopalians in Fort Worth are paying close attention to what he says.

The news story quotes him:

" 'While there are many calls for shared mission, it clearly must rise from common shared faith," said Southern Cone Primate Gregory Venables, who has recently offered oversight to dioceses outside his South American jurisdiction, despite repeated calls from for such unauthorized actions -- known as "boundary crossings" -- to cease. 'Our pastoral responsibility to the people that we lead is now to provide the opportunity to come together around the central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging historic Anglican faith.

" 'Rather than being subject to the continued chaos and compromise that have dramatically impeded Anglican mission, GAFCON will seek to clarify God's call at this time and build a network of cooperation for Global mission,' Venables added."

Don't you just love it when the people causing the chaos use it as an excuse to cause more chaos?


UPDATE: George Conger posted on the House of Bishops/House of Deputies list links to Jerusalem Post stories on GAFCON here and here, and says, "Since these were filed with the Post, the GAFCON organizers released a statement saying they had contacted Bishop Suheil on Dec 24."

No, apparently they did not contact the Bishop of Jerusalem on Dec. 24. What they did was send a letter to him on the very same day they issued a press release announcing the meeting they are planning to hold in his diocese.

Conger reports that the head of the Anglican Church in the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, also raised concerns about the meeting:

"The head of the Anglican Church in the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, has also urged caution about the date and venue of the Jerusalem meeting. In correspondence with the meeting's chief organizer, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Anis cited internal Anglican political considerations in opposing a June gathering. "

The story quotes Bishop Anis saying, "'It is my region, and I know it better than you,' Anis told Akinola, cautioning against an overt pro-Israel spin to the meeting. "To say we will do a pilgrimage to attract bishops, and [that] yet it is not entirely a pilgrimage, is not right in my point of view.'

So that's two bishops protesting GAFCON being held in Jerusalem. And we all know how much importance Peter Akinola places on bishops consulting one another before making decisions that might affect other provinces.

So are they canceling GAFCON or moving it to a another location?

Well, no. Gonger writes, "Akinola responded that the organizers had considered the Egyptian bishop's concerns, but had come to the 'unanimous conclusion' to go ahead with the Jerusalem meeting."

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