Bishop Iker has announced his intention to attend GAFCON, the Global Anglican Future Conference, here.
Some of you will remember that GAFCON is the conference that a few disgruntled primates announced they were going to have in Jerusalem in lieu of going to Lambeth. These primates include Greg Venables, the Presiding Bishop of The Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, as well as Peter Akinola, Primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria. They said it would be a meeting to chart the course of a new "Global Anglicanism," along with a pilgrimage.
The primates announced the conference, it turned out, before they had consulted with Bishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem. Bishop Dawani was not happy about them importing their homophobic agenda into his already challenging diocese and asked them to move it elsewhere.
After trying to persuade Bp. Dawani to change his mind, and after portraying him as a petulant prelate, the organizers finally did move the conference. To Jordan. Which, it turns out, is part of the Diocese of Jerusalem.
George Conger reported "The Gafcon organizing committee, which is arranging an alternative to the Anglican Lambeth Conference, has announced that the dates and venue of the Jerusalem conference have been changed.
"Following consultations with the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Rev Suheil Dawani, the conference will now be broken into two parts: a consultation for church leaders in Jordan from June 18-22 and a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from June 22-29."
As Mark Harris remarked on his blog, "Then again, perhaps the Bishop of Jerusalem gave in. Who knows? Still, if I said, "not in my house, please" I would somehow assume it was understood that I included the back porch."
Anyway, Bp. Iker is going. The press release on the diocesan website said, "Described as 'a full week of planning and pilgrimage,' the event is being organized by the leading orthodox Primates of the Anglican Communion, and participation in the conference is by invitation only.
"'I want to demonstrate my solidarity with the Bishops of the Global South,' Bishop Iker said, 'and to stand with them as we seek a positive way forward for the mission of the Anglican Communion during this time of dissension. I expect it to be a time of spiritual renewal and refreshment.' The conference program will focus on worship, prayer, discussion, and Bible study, shaped by the context of the Holy Land."
There is a key phrase in that statement -- "as we seek a positive way forward for the mission of the Anglican Communion during this time of dissension."
Got that? Attending a conference in a diocese whose bishop has asked the organizers several times not to hold the conference there, attending a conference whose purpose is to be an alternative Lambeth meeting designed to embarass the Archbishop of Canterbury, attending a conference to begin establishing a new Anglican Communion is "seeking a positive way forward."
When the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Fort Worth issued its first statement on aligning the diocese with Southern Cone, it said that such an alliance would "allow the Diocese to concentrate on the call of Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel and make new disciples, while at the same time assuring our continued place in the mainstream of Anglicanism, an assurance The Episcopal Church is unable to give."
Another key phrase here -- "A continued place in the mainstream of Anglicanism."
Hold that thought while you return with me to 2005, and an interview that Archbishop Bernard Malango, Primate of Central Africa, gave to David Virtue. Fr Jake has also pointed out this interview on his blog, as has Mark Harris.
...If there is no resolution and solution of this situation, the Global South will go it alone and we will form a church - a true Anglican Church - and those in the West who believe in the authority of the Scriptures only would be admitted...
...We shall meet as CAPA Primates in October and one of the questions will be where a new Anglican Communion will be set up. We shall approach that question very carefully. The choice right now is Alexandria. We did not want it to be in Israel....too political, nor any other Middle East nation, nor Africa, for obvious reasons, nor Europe or Southeast Asia. We think Alexandria, Egypt is best as we can trace our historical roots from there. We can then start from an historical basis...
...It will all be resolved before the next Lambeth Conference. It will all be done within the next three years because we are fed up with talking...
OK. A couple of more key phrases here -- "The Global South will go it alone and we will form a church, a true Anglican Church. . .One of the quesions will be where a new Anglican Communion will be set up. . . It will be resolved before the next Lambeth Conference."
So it looks as if they are right on schedule in their plan to set up a "new" Anglican Communion.
This would be an Anglican Communion without the Archbishop of Canterbury, and with only six [so far] primates in attendance -- including the Man Who Would Be Primate of The Diocese of Fort Worth, Greg Venables.
By way of contrast, six hundred bishops [so far] are planning to attend Lambeth.
Which sounds to you like the "mainstream of the Anglican Communion"?
But hold on. Bp. Iker still might go Lambeth.
According to the release on the diocesan web site, he "'remains in consultation' with several other bishops regarding attendance at the upcoming Lambeth Conference of Bishops, which is to be held at the University of Kent in Canterbury from July 16 to August 3. He also will be seeking the advice of his own clergy about participating in this gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world that meets once every ten years. Bishop Iker was among those in attendance at the last Lambeth Conference, which was held in 1998."
It's hard to resist that tea party with the Queen. So Bp. Iker may go to BOTH meetings.
But interestingly enough, right now what Bp. Iker does is less important than what Greg Venables does.
Why? Well, if you are a member of the Diocese of Fort Worth, your leadership has promised you that if you follow them to the Southern Cone, you will still be an Anglican, because the Southern Cone is part of the Anglican Communion.
But given Venables' refusal to attend Lambeth, and his role in planning GAFCON, a conference whose stated goal is to start the establishment of a "new" Anglican Communion, I wouldn't be so sure about that.
If the Southern Cone leaves the Anglican Communion -- whose membership is defined as "being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury" -- for a 'new" communion based in Alexandria with no ties to Canterbury at all, I don't see how they can claim to still be Anglicans. And if they are not Anglicans, where does that leave all the folks who are willing to follow Bp. Iker to the Southern Cone?
So, let's review here.
Bp. Iker and the Standing Committee and many of the clergy here are telling us repeatedly that the Diocese of Fort Worth has to leave The Episcopal Church and align with the Southern Cone to make sure we remain in full communion with the See of Canterbury, which will let us retain our Anglican identity after TEC is kicked out of the Anglican Communion, which they are SURE is going to happen.
The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church has been invited to Lambeth and plans to attend. The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone has announced he's NOT going to Lambeth.
Instead, the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone is an organizer of a meeting whose stated purpose is to established a plan to leave the Anglican Communion and to start a new Anglican Communion that does not include the Archbishop of Canterbury.
So when they promise you that you will "still be Anglican," be wary. Be very wary.