The Jerusalem Statement from GAFCON 2008 opens with a prophetic indictment which identifies the ideology of the Western churches as “a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel.” Such rank heresy, it continues, has obliged orthodox churches to break communion with these churches. Finally, it faults the Communion “Instruments” for failing to take action and discipline those churches ten years after Lambeth 1998.
PREFACE: How the Jerusalem Statement Came to Be
The Jerusalem Statement from GAFCON 2008 is the foundational text for the Gafcon movement. (Note: the “Jerusalem Declaration” is an integral part of the Jerusalem Statement.) The gestation and birth of this statement took place as a result of careful consultation. Here are the main steps:
- Scholars and bishops from the Theological Resource Group (who produced the pre-Conference book) exchanged ideas via email during the month prior to the Conference. Some of these ideas were incorporated into the Statement, but the final version is significantly richer and more comprehensive than any earlier strand.
- On arrival on June 22, every attendee at the Conference was asked two questions: “Do you expect GAFCON to do something?” and “Do you want GAFCON to leave the Anglican Communion?” When these replies were tallied, there was virtual unanimity: Yes to the first question and No to the second.
- The Statement Group was appointed by the participating Primates. The Chairman of the Group was Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya; other members included Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Bishops Michael Fape of Nigeria and Glenn Davies of Sydney, the Rev. Rod Thomas from the Church of England and myself from the USA and Uganda. Our Group worked closely with the Primates and their advisors each step of the way.
- During the Conference we received input from regional meetings, churches and individuals, and in some cases we incorporated suggestions into the Statement.
- On June 27, our draft was approved by the Primates, and I read it to the Assembly, along with a Power Point text. We invited responses to the draft and received yet more comments.
- On June 28, while most delegates toured the Sea of Galilee, the Statement Group laboured to produce a final text and took it to the Primates for their OK, literally at the eleventh hour.
- On June 29 at the closing assembly of the Conference, the Jerusalem Statement was read by Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda and was unanimously acclaimed by the Assembly of more than 1,000, with ululations and hallelujahs. Gafcon was launched.
I shall be considering the Jerusalem Statement in three parts over three weeks: the prophetic indictment (Thesis 8), the confession of faith (Thesis 9), and the structure of governance (Thesis 10).
The Prophetic Indictment
Having stated the goals of the Conference – to launch the GAFCON movement as a global fellowship of confessing Anglicans; to publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of the fellowship; and to recognise GAFCON Primates Council – the Statement turns to an indictment based on three facts of the Global Anglican context.” Gafcon, like an able prosecutor, is laying out “facts on the ground” from the life of the Communion that had become apparent over the ten previous years of futility (see Theses 1-7).
The Old Testament prophets acted at times as God’s prosecutors in a controversy with the leaders of Israel: “Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1).
The first fact in the Gafcon indictment is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel.
In citing “the Gospel” as the heart of the controversy, the Jerusalem Statement makes clear that what is at stake is nothing less than the central truth of the Christian faith, of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Writing to his new converts in Galatia, St. Paul, the apostle of the Gospel of grace, expressed amazement “that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” He immediately adds, “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7).
The Statement describes this false Gospel specifically in terms of religious pluralism (teaching that all ways lead to God) and pansexualism, which goes today under the ever-expanding LGBTQIA++ acronym. Paul and the Apostles would recognize these prototypical sins as idolatry and sexual immorality (Romans 1:21-31). Sexual immorality (porneia),which includes homosexual relations, iscondemnedas sinfulmore than thirty times in the New Testament, by Jesus (Mark 7:21), by the first Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:20,29), by Paul (1 Timothy 1:10), by Jude (verse 7), and by John the Divine (Revelation 2:20-21). Paul states the consequences for those who practice sexual immorality without repentance: “they will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:3-5).
This is a Gospel issue, a salvation issue, according to the Jerusalem Statement. It is also a pastoral issue, because the souls of those who call themselves Christians are at stake, “for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). This warning bears a special application for pastors who teach God’s Word. “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:1). Jesus also speaks of the hireling who sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees (John 10:12), and he warns against those who relax the least of His commandments and teach others to do the same (Matthew 5:19). In his moral teaching, Paul warns Christians: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6).
“Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” the Apostle warns (1 Corinthians 9:16). This warning applies to any church that calls itself apostolic. For this reason, the primary indictment in this section of the Jerusalem Statement is of the false teachers of those Anglican churches in the West who have called evil good and good evil and thus, as the prophet Micah puts it, “tear the skin from off my people and their flesh from off their bones” (Micah 3:2).
False doctrine – and doctrine includes the Moral Commandments (Article VII) – requires a clear and strong response from the guardians of the Church, the bishops of the Anglican Communion and their delegates, the “Instruments in Unity.” But that response was not forthcoming, which leads to the following two “facts” of the indictment: the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy,” which led in turn to “the declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel.”
As I see it, there has been no change in the situation since 2008, except perhaps to admit, sadly, that bishops of the Established Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury have now shown themselves to be hirelings. Representatives of the Global South Fellowship went to Lambeth in 2022, hoping against hope that the Communion leadership might repent, but it has not happened.
The Prophetic Hope
Due to the enormity of Israel’s sins, the prophets’ word was weighted toward judgement. Through his jeremiads and soul-searching, Jeremiah could still look to a hopeful future: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). This text became a banner for the “Hope and a Future” conference in Pittsburgh in 2005 and became part of the 2008 Conference name title “the Global Anglican Future.”
In 2018, the Gafcon “Letter to the Churches“ takes up this hopeful note:
The gospel of God creates the church of God. Through the invitation of the gospel, God calls all people into fellowship with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. As the word of the gospel goes forth in the power of the Holy Spirit, they respond through the work of the Holy Spirit to repent, believe and be baptised, and are thereby joined to Christ’s body which is his church (Acts 2:37-44; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13). As members of Christ’s body, they are sanctified in him, called to live lives of holiness and to be salt and light in the world.
Over the past twenty years, we have seen the hand of God leading us toward a reordering of the Anglican Communion. Gafcon has claimed from the beginning: “We are not leaving the Anglican Communion; we are the majority of the Anglican Communion seeking to remain faithful to our Anglican heritage.” As Archbishop Nicholas Okoh stated in the inaugural Synodical Council: “We are merely doing what the Communion leadership should have done to uphold its own resolution in 1998.”
The latest betrayal by the Communion leadership fifteen years on is cause for regret but not for loss of hope, because our hope is in the Gospel, “which was preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Colossians 1:23).
Anticipating the need for a revival, reformation, and reordering of the Communion, the Jerusalem Statement goes on to lay out a new statement of Anglican essentials, the Jerusalem Declaration. This will be the subject of my next thesis.
Note: See here the Introduction to the Fourteen Theses. On each subsequent week, I shall comment on one of the Fourteen Theses. The FIRST FIVE theses with Commentary on “The Crisis of Contemporary Anglicanism” have now been collated and are available HERE. Theses 6-10 will be collated and posted next week.
Stephen Noll is Professor Emeritus at Trinity School for Ministry, former Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University and author of two books and numerous articles on global Anglicanism.