TOWARD REVIVING, REFORMING, AND REORDERING THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION
By the Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll
Introduction to Theses 6-10
The second group of theses – “The Gafcon Response” – sketches the events that led to the calling of the Global Anglican Future Conference in 2008. It then examines the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration as a significant confession of faith, with political, theological and pastoral dimensions, addressing the current crisis in the Communion.
The focus here is on the Gafcon movement, but it does not intend to diminish the parallel and overlapping work of the Global South Anglican Fellowship (as it was then called). In particular, the development of an Anglican Communion Covenant, which was temporarily hijacked by the Communion establishment, has been revived by the Global South Fellowship in recent years.
The convening of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem in 2008 was the most significant event in recent Anglican history. The bold leadership of Archbishop Peter Akinola and six other Global South Primates upset the assumed dominance by the Communion establishment and set a precedent for the future of the Communion.
Lambeth 1998 was the last true Lambeth Conference. Its successor was the Global Anglican Future Conference, held in Jerusalem in 2008. GAFCON, as it came to be called, was a continuation of a movement of global Anglicans which had produced and passed Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality. This movement had brought together churches and leaders from Global South Provinces and other faithful Anglicans in the West. For a decade, Global Anglicans had sought to revive biblical authority as essential to Anglican identity and to discipline those churches that had openly defied the Communion. By 2008, it had become clear that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Communion establishment were obstructing the Global South leaders and enabling the Episcopal Church USA to stay on course with its radical agenda.
The movement that coalesced in Jerusalem in 2008 was political, theological, and pastoral including bishops, theologians and concerned laity and clergy. Bishops from Asia such as Moses Tay and Yong Ping Chung, from Africa such as Emmanuel Kolini, Donald Mtetemela, and Henry Orombi, from Australia such as Peter Jensen and Glenn Davies, from South America such as Robinson Cavalcanti and Greg Venables, and from North America such as Robert Duncan and Martyn Minns, all had had a role in the contested period between Lambeth 1998 and GAFCON. The movement had also gathered a Theological Resource Team of more than twenty scholars and church leaders, convened by Vinay Samuel and chaired by Nicholas Okoh, who produced a pre-Conference book The Way the Truth and the Life, which defined “Anglican orthodoxy in a global context” as including evangelical, catholic, and charismatic streams. Finally, the Conference itself gathered more than 1,000 Anglicans worldwide in an Assembly in the land of Jesus and the Apostles. We worshipped God in great choruses of praise, attended various presentations on Scripture, Anglican identity, and current issues, and we finally approved by acclamation the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.
The instigator of GAFCON was the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, Primate of Nigeria. In 2000, Peter Akinola had inherited the primatial mantle from Archbishop Adetiloye, who had spearheaded passage of Lambeth I.10. At first, Akinola took a restrained view of the consecrations of John Rodgers and Chuck Murphy as extra-provincial bishops. However, as the total resistance of the North American churches became clear, culminating in Gene Robinson’s elevation to the episcopate, Peter Akinola stepped forward as the leader of the Global South opposition.
Akinola did not limit his opposition to North America. When the English bishops agreed to apply the 2004 Civil Partnership Act to partnered gay clergy, Akinola accused them of “being double-faced” and led the Church of Nigeria to remove “communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury” from its Constitution. “No church is beyond discipline,” he said.
In the critical years leading up to GAFCON, he was Chairman of the Global South Primates and of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA). This is the point at which I became directly involved with the Archbishop. When in February 2006, the CAPA Primates called for a report on “The Road to Lambeth,” Peter Akinola commissioned two African bishops and myself (I was residing in Uganda at the time) to produce a document that would make clear to Canterbury the stakes for the upcoming Lambeth Conference in 2008 (now available here). The peroration of the document reads:
We in CAPA want to say clearly and unequivocally to the rest of the Communion: the time has come for the North American churches to repent or depart. We in the Global South have always made repentance the starting point for any reconciliation of fellowship in the Communion. We have sought to give time for those who have violated biblical and Communion norms to turn back. Now that time is up. We shall not accept cleverly worded excuses but rather a clear acknowledgement by these churches that they have erred and intend to “lead a new life” in the Communion (2 Corinthians 4:2). Along with this open statement of repentance must come “fruits befitting repentance” (Luke 3:8). They must reverse their policies and prune their personnel.
The current situation is a twofold crisis for the Anglican Communion: a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the “Instruments” of the Communion to exercise discipline, has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under a common foundation of faith, as is supposed by the Lambeth Quadrilateral. Due to this breakdown of discipline, we are not sure that we can in good conscience continue to spend our time, our money and our prayers on behalf of a body that proclaims two Gospels, the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of Sexuality….
We Anglicans stand at a crossroad. One road, the road of compromise of biblical truth, leads to destruction and disunity. The other road has its own obstacles because it requires changes in the way the Communion has been governed and it challenges our churches to live up to and into their full maturity in Christ. But surely the second road is God’s way forward. It is our sincere hope that this road may pass through Lambeth, our historical mother. But above all it must be the road that leads to life through our Saviour Jesus Christ.
“The Road to Lambeth” was never approved, and the way this happened is significant in itself. The document was presented to the joint Global South and CAPA Primates at a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, in September 2006, to which I was invited as advisor. There was nearly unanimous support for it, except for Archbishop Ndungane of South Africa, who dallied, stating he would need approval by his House of Bishops (South Africa was sharply divided over homosexuality). In delaying the vote, he nullified its official enaactment. Nevertheless, the document was forwarded to Canterbury, noting the fact that the vast majority of Global South bishops were prepared to avoid Lambeth unless he were to take action.
The conflict between Peter Akinola and Rowan Williams became more pointed in 2007 at the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam. When Williams ignored the unanimous Resolutions of that conference and excused the Episcopal Church and invited its bishops (minus Gene Robinson) to Lambeth, the die was cast, and GAFCON was underway.
There is one other outcome of the Global South meeting in Kigali that became significant in the unfolding conflict within the Communion: Canterbury’s coopting of the Anglican Covenant. The idea of an Anglican Covenant had been proposed by the Windsor Report, and the Global South Primates responded positively to the idea and appointed a drafting group to prepare their own Covenant. Shortly before the Kigali meeting, Rowan Williams established a Lambeth Covenant Team, to be headed up by two Global South Primates, John Chew of South East Asia and Drexel Gomez of the Caribbean. This was a classic divide-and-conquer maneuver. Archbishop Chew was known to be more deferential to Canterbury than the Africans and yet was Vice Chairman of the Global South Primates. It was suddenly announced at the Kigali meeting that the Global South team was disbanding – and from that point on, I was excluded as an advisor. Rowan Williams, of course, appointed additional “diverse” members to the new team, and the process was now administered by the Anglican Communion Office. This coup was significant because it divided the Global South movement, with the majority following Peter Akinola on the Road to Gafcon, while important Global South leaders did not attend GAFCON and went on to Lambeth in 2008.
(I note that the Lambeth bureaucracy is trying this tactic once again. At the recent Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Accra, Justin Welby intimated that he might relinquish Canterbury’s role as “Instrument of unity,” and a study was announced to “explore theological questions regarding structure and decision-making [in the Anglican Communion] to help address our differences.” The study is to be conducted by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order” (IASCUFO), a wholly owned subsidiary of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office. Rest assured that any reordering of the Canterbury Communion will be firmly in the hands of Lambeth loyalists.)
Returning now to the Covenant process from 2006, after three drafts and a preemptive rewrite of the disciplinary section by Rowan Williams himself to assure its ineffectiveness, the Anglican Communion Covenant was published. When the major churches in Africa, North America, and England failed to sign on, the Canterbury Covenant became something of a beached whale.
A decade later, the idea of a Covenant has been revived by the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans. I shall argue that elements of this Covenant proposal overlap with the founding document of Gafcon, the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.
It is my hope that these two roads that were diverted in 2008 may converge again in the near future.
The 2008 Jerusalem Statement on the Global Anglican Future provides an authoritative basis for a new Communion of orthodox Anglicans. The Statement contains three elements: a prophetic indictment of the existing Communion, a confession of Anglican faith (the Jerusalem Declaration), and a new governing structure (a Primates Council).
The convening of the Global Anglican Future Conference was remarkable: it was organized in six months; it attracted 1,148 attendees, including 291 bishops and 7 archbishops who paid their way to get to Jerusalem (unfortunately those from Muslim nations could not get visas from their home countries and participated in a parallel meeting across the Jordan River). Attendees were treated to first-class teaching, joyous plenary worship, regional fellowships, and a side trip to the Sea of Galilee. Above all, there was a sense of God’s presence and blessing, such that the Jerusalem Statement claimed that this occasion was “not a moment in time but a movement in the Spirit”; and as of April 2023, there will have been three Assemblies since then.
The question arises: what was this movement that birthed these conferences?
Soon after the first GAFCON Assembly, “Gafcon” came to be a moniker for the “Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.” There are four important claims staked out in this title.
First, Gafcon is a movement arising from the global character of Anglican Christianity. While it is an historical fact that the Gospel accompanied the extension of British imperial power across the seas, it is also true that it was conveyed, often at great price, by missionaries from England and then by national local evangelists and martyrs (Bishop Hannington and the Uganda martyrs being symbols of this reality). Gafcon represents the coming of age of that global movement, both in the sense of finding a mature identity and in the sense of “leaving home base.”
Second, Gafcon is a spiritual fellowship, aimed at reviving the church. GAFCON II in Nairobi focused on the East African Revival, which was a second-generation outpouring of Holy Spirit power that spread from Rwanda and Uganda throughout East Africa and beyond, as exemplified in charismatic renewals as wide apart as North America and Singapore. As such, it was a reminder that the invisible Church is a creation of the grace and the Spirit of God, not of man’s invention.
(As I write this, there are reports of a revival on several Christian college campuses in the USA. As a veteran of the charismatic renewal fifty years ago, I can testify that, despite theatrics and exaggerations, revival in the Spirit is genuine and can lead to profound transformations in the life of the Church, as well as in the lives of individuals and the wider society [the most recent appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court was a participant in the renewal]. Surely there is precedent in Scripture and church history of God working to revive and reform His Church and the wider society. Let us pray for any such movement in the West and Global South, in Anglican churches and other Christian bodies.)
The true Church is a koinonia in the Holy Spirit, where the Word is preached and the Sacraments administered (Acts 2:42; Article XIX). The word koinonia can be translated “fellowship” or “communion.” As such it refers not to an organization but an organism, the Body of Christ: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Gafcon claims to be a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church in the service of a particular historic tradition.
Third, Gafcon is a confessing fellowship, aiming to reform the Church according to God’s Word. The confession of the one God, who had delivered His people from Egypt, was foundational to the Jewish people (Deuteronomy 6:4; Exodus 20:2). Similarly, the apostolic church confessed “Jesus is Lord” in short acclamations and in longer “creedal statements (1 Corinthians 8:5-6; 15:1-11; 1 Timothy 3:16). Confessing the faith and reforming the church go hand in hand. The patristic church expanded these statements into the catholic creeds in order to clarify the nature of the Triune God and the Person of Jesus Christ. In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformers added confessions to make clear that “we are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith” (Article XI).
In our day, the doctrine of human nature has proved the point of contention and division in church and society, and the Lambeth Conference addressed this matter in 1998 with a clear statement on “human sexuality.” Although the rejection of this doctrine and the failure to discipline those who denied it was the proximate cause of GAFCON 2008, the Gafcon movement took the opportunity to reaffirm Anglican essentials and address related issues of world mission, environmental stewardship, ecclesiology, and eschatology.
Fourthly, the Gafcon movement took the first step toward reordering the Church. While the first GAFCON was a living example of the global church gathered, it also proposed structures of continuity for the movement. These structures mirrored in some ways the so-called “Instruments” of the Anglican Communion, especially in the enhanced roles of the Primates, but the Gafcon movement did not go so far as formally to replace these Instruments. Still, it introduced a tension between them. By boycotting Lambeth 2008 and the subsequent “Canterbury” Primates meetings, some churches began to look to Gafcon and to its Primates and Assemblies as authoritative.
This differentiation became more pronounced as congregations, clergy, and laity in North America began to separate or be expelled from the official heterodox bodies in what came to be called “realignment.” As early as 2009, the Gafcon Primates recognized the Anglican Church in North America as a legitimate Anglican Province and admitted its Archbishop, Robert Duncan, as a full member of its Primates Council. Since that time, one other Province (Brazil) has been added, along with a number of confessing “branches” and independent dioceses. The Global South Fellowship likewise has recognized these entities.
What I am arguing in these Theses is that what we are seeing before our very eyes in this movement is God’s reviving, reforming, and reordering of the Anglican Communion. The defection of the Church of England from its Christian heritage will accelerate this development greatly in the days to come.
In the next three Theses, I shall seek to demonstrate how the seeds of this development were sown in the fundamental declaration of GAFCON: the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.
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 and heterosexual relations, is condemned as sinful more 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 of 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 prophetic word was often 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.
The Statement from GAFCON 2008 includes the Jerusalem Declaration, which has been widely hailed as an excellent confession of Anglican faith and has been used as the basis for subsequent Conferences. Its first seven clauses recall historic Anglican essentials: the Gospel and Lordship of Christ, the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and in accordance with Scripture, the Creeds, the Articles, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal. The second seven clauses address contemporary issues: sexuality and marriage; the Great Commission mandate; stewardship and social justice; and unity in diversity of the flock, while rejecting false shepherds.
The Old Testament prophets are backward-looking as well as forward-looking, or perhaps better, they look through the lens of the past to envision God’s future for His people. The same Jeremiah who foresees a new Covenant calls on the people to “stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16).
Similarly, the Jerusalem Statement envisions a future grounded in the “ancient roads” of Anglicanism. In line with the vast majority of attendees in Jerusalem, it states: “Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion.” The Statement, however, defines Anglicanism not by formal structures, the so-called “Instruments of Identity,” but by the historic formularies. In particular, it cites the canon law (A5) of the Church of England:
The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. [italics in the original]
It continues: “We intend to remain faithful to this standard, and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it.” Implicitly, the GAFCON Assembly is accusing churches of the Anglican Communion, and the Instruments, of having wandered off the ancient path. As Jeremiah put it to the church of his day: “They said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
The Jerusalem Statement does not deny, indeed it honours, the history of the Christian faith in England, stretching back to Augustine of Canterbury and beyond and up through Thomas Cranmer to the present, but as the English Reformers themselves said, historic churches can err and have erred in matters of faith and practice insofar as they “ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written” (Articles XIX-XX1).
For this reason, the Statement makes clear: “While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.” In 2008, Canterbury was judged deficient in confronting the false doctrine of the North Americans, and the Jerusalem conference felt led to offer a new confession of faith to guide its churches: the Jerusalem Declaration.
The Jerusalem Declaration
As the Statement Group formed itself in June 2008, I was appointed scribe for its drafts. I recall urging that the Statement be as concise as possible and theologically cohesive, not simply a laundry list of sundry concerns. As it turns out the Statement is less than 2,500 words and the Jerusalem Declaration just over 700 words in fourteen brief clauses. These clauses “build upon the doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity” and hence become paving stones of the new movement.
The introduction to the Jerusalem Declaration refers to two great pillars of catholicity, the Triune God and the Gospel of the Kingdom proclaimed by the Lord Jesus, which liberate and transform individual believers and constitute the Church. “In light of the above,” it continues, “we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.”
As I have expounded the fourteen clauses of the Jerusalem Declaration elsewhere in some detail, I shall summarize its main themes here.
The Jerusalem Declaration is backward-looking and forward-looking. Just as Articles I-V of the Thirty-nine Articles receive the Trinitarian orthodoxy of the first five centuries, so the Jerusalem Declaration lists simply in clauses 1-7 basic tenets held by Anglicans: the Gospel of salvation and Lordship of Christ and His atoning death (clauses 1 and 5), the authority of Scripture (clause 2), the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds (clause 3), the Thirty-nine Articles (clause 4), the Book of Common Prayer (clause 6), and the historic episcopate and Ordinal (clause 7).
The second group of seven clauses addresses current and future matters facing the Church today: sexuality and marriage (clause 8), the Great Commission to evangelize the nations (clause 9), stewardship of the earth and relief of the poor (clause 10), church unity and differentiation (clauses 11-13), and Christ’s Return (clause 14).
The Jerusalem Declaration is biblical. It affirms the inspired revelation of Holy Scripture as God’s Word written, which alone is sufficient for salvation (cf. Articles VI and XX). It also affirms the need for the Church and its members to appropriate this Word through reading, preaching, teaching, and obeying it. Contrary to claims that Scripture yields radically diverse interpretations, Clause 2 establishes a hermeneutic rule for reading the Bible in its “plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.” This clause upholds the unity and clarity of Scripture which is useful for comforting the believer and building up the church (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16 and Cranmer’s Scripture Collect).
The Jerusalem Declaration is eirenical and ecumenical. It seeks to embrace Evangelical, catholic, and charismatic strains of contemporary Anglicanism. It also seeks unity among all orthodox Christians, distinguishing between essential truths and secondary matters (adiaphora). While recognizing that this distinction can be and often is disputed, the Gafcon movement is “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). On this basis, its Primates Council in 2015 commissioned a task force, with diverse members, to study the contentious issue of women in the episcopate.
The Jerusalem Declaration calls for church discipline. Clause 13 reads as follows: “We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.” Even as Global Anglicans seek unity and peace, they also recognize that heresy and schism have existed in the church since apostolic times. In their indictment, they claim as a “fact” that certain Anglican churches have been holding a false Gospel and that the Communion Instruments have failed to discipline those churches. On this basis, Gafcon churches have declared themselves out of communion with those churches and have recognized alternate jurisdictions. This break in fellowship was done only after a decade of fruitless negotiation. Nor is Gafcon being schismatic: like the Anglican Reformers, they argue that those who rejected Lambeth I.10 have in effect embraced schism. “Who moved?” it is saying.
Finally, clause 13 holds out the goal of church discipline – repentance, reconciliation, and restoration – with the hope that God may grant revisionists repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25). Just as there are always two sides to a marital separation or divorce, so there are two sides to discipline. To be sure, the revisionist side owns the primary fault of breaking the Communion, but Global Anglicans recognize their own failures and accountability (see clause 8), and they beseech the Bridegroom to sanctify and cleanse His church that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:26-27).
Before the 2018 Gafcon Assembly, Archbishop Welby warned the English bishops not to attend because to affirm clause 13 would abrogate their “good disagreement” with fellow revisionist bishops in the Church of England. What happens now that that House of Bishops as a body has openly endorsed false doctrine and practice? A painful time lies ahead for those in the Church of England. Clause 13, as I see it, gives those within and without a place to stand.
Finally, the Jerusalem Declaration is amendable. There is good precedent for this. Recall, for instance, that the original Nicene Creed in 325 AD was amended at the Council of Constantinople in 381, and Thomas Cranmer’s Forty-two Articles in 1553 became the Thirty-nine Articles in 1563. To be sure, no formulary should be lightly revised, but neither should it be sacrosanct. As I recall, the Statement Group in 2008 never considered the issues surrounding human life, such as abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, gender identity, and artificial intelligence, yet these matters are bound up in the larger attack on God’s creation of humankind and his lordship over life and death. I hope the Gafcon and Global South leadership will carefully weigh these issues and amend the Declaration at the right time.
The Jerusalem Declaration has been accepted as an authoritative confession of faith for those churches of the Gafcon fellowship, and attendees at the upcoming meeting in Kigali are asked to affirm it. It has been included in the “Documentary Foundations” of the Anglican Church in North America. It has also been endorsed by the Global South Fellowship. It is my hope that it may serve as a basis for a future Communion of Global Anglicans (Thesis 13).
The Jerusalem Conference established a Primates Council independent of the Lambeth “Instruments” and authorized it to recognize new confessing Anglican jurisdictions. Subsequently, the Gafcon Primates Council has recognized the Anglican Church in North America, the Anglican Church in Brazil, and a number of “Branches” inside existing unfaithful Anglican provinces.
I recall the following anecdote from my dear friend John Rodgers. As John headed off for one of the many Anglican meetings he was involved with in the late ‘90s, his wife Blanche said to him: “John, don’t just come back with another statement.” Shortly after, John came back from a meeting in Singapore consecrated as an extra-provincial bishop in the Anglican Communion!
This was the spirit which most attendees brought to GAFCON 2008. So there was great rejoicing as the eight Primates present – Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Henry Orombi of Uganda, Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, Valentine Mokiwa of Tanzania, Bernard Malango of Central Africa, Justice Akrofi of West Africa, and Greg Venables of the Southern Cone of South America – walked solemnly to the front of the Assembly and signed the final Statement.
The Assembly that day unanimously ratified the establishment of a new entity, as expressed in the final section:
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, do hereby acknowledge the participating Primates of GAFCON who have called us together, and encourage them to form the initial Council of the GAFCON movement. We look forward to the enlargement of the Council and entreat the Primates to organise and expand the fellowship of confessing Anglicans.
In particular, the Assembly authorised the Primates to take emergency action within the Anglican Communion by recognizing its own Primates Council, with partially overlapping membership but independent authority of the “official” Primates Meeting. The first independent action of the new Primates Council authorised by the Jerusalem Statement was to recognize new Anglican churches:
We urge the Primates’ Council to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith.
The first step in this direction had already been taken after 2003 when Global South churches gave recognition to those churches, clergy and laity who had felt conscience-bound to separate themselves from the Episcopal Church USA, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Province in Brazil, as noted in the Statement:
We thank God for the courageous actions of those Primates and provinces who have offered orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership, especially in North and South America.
The justification and authorization of this extraordinary action had been given in the prior sections: the indictment of certain Anglican Provinces as heretical and clause 13 of the Jerusalem Declaration, which denies their spiritual and ecclesial authority.
Now, however, those caretaker Provinces were free to allow those churches to organize their own jurisdictions, beginning in North America.
We believe this is a critical moment when the Primates’ Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church. In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council.
Since 2008, the Gafcon Primates Council has recognized two Provinces: the Anglican Church in North America (2009) and the Anglican Church in Brazil (2018) and a number of “Branches” which have not yet reached provincial status in New Zealand, Great Britain and Europe, Ireland, South Africa, Ghana, and Australia. More recently, it has recognized independent dioceses, such as the Diocese of the Southern Cross (Australia) and the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand.
The legitimacy of the Gafcon Primates Council and its actions has never been accepted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “Instruments of Unity.” Justin Welby dismissed Gafcon as a “ginger group” and did not deign to reply to the 2018 Assembly, representing 40 million Anglicans, when it appealed to him to invite bishops from the Anglican Church in North America to Lambeth 2020.
While some may have been inclined to see Archbishop Welby as simply abiding by the rules of the Communion, his recent embrace of the Western agenda, coupled with his abrupt treatment of the Global South bishops who attended Lambeth 2022, should dispel any such charitable interpretation.
The Form and Future of the Primates Council
By speaking of a “Primates Council,” Gafcon was identifying a kind of authority known to Anglicans worldwide. Anglicans had lived within the regional Provincial structures of the Communion for more than a century. Provinces are “episcopally led” by diocesan bishops and a metropolitan Primate and “synodically governed” by a representative assembly of bishops, clergy and laity, all in conformity with diocesan and provincial constitution and canons.
For historical reasons having to do with the Established Church of England, Provinces were considered “autonomous,” while being recognized by (“in communion with”) the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was accorded “primacy of honour.” As the Global South Provinces emerged from the shadow of colonialism, the formation of a “Primates Meeting” as an “Instrument of Communion” and the idea of “enhanced primatial authority” had been promoted by successive Lambeth Conferences. Then when the crisis of truth arose following Lambeth 1998, the Archbishop of Canterbury unilaterally decided that the Global South Primates had overstepped their bounds.
There was, however, no formal reason preventing a group of Primates from constituting their own Council, just as there was no formal reason preventing global Anglicans from recognizing a new entity as authoritative. According to the Statement from GAFCON II in Nairobi in 2013: “We believe we have acted as an important and effective instrument of Communion during a period in which other instruments of Communion have failed both to uphold gospel priorities in the Church, and to heal the divisions among us.” In a similar fashion, the Gafcon movement now looks to its Assemblies to exercise the kind of function held by previous Lambeth Conferences.
Many in the Gafcon movement – and even more in the Global South Fellowship – are looking ahead to a church order based on “conciliarism,” which makes church councils, guided by a Covenant, to be the locus of unity for the Communion. There is a long history of church councils, from the first Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 to the ecumenical councils of the early church, which commend conciliar governance of the church, from the local to the national to the international level.
But conciliarism is not enough. One could argue that the structure of the official Anglican Communion is conciliar, with subsidiary levels of representation, dialogue and oversight built into its “Instruments,” and it functioned adequately for its first century. The crumbling of the Anglican ethos is due to the undermining of its foundation by a false and demonic ideology, which replaced the truth of the Gospel with a lie and is out to destroy the precious children of the heavenly Father.
That is why reforming and reordering the Communion must begin by speaking the truth in love to those who are promoting a false Gospel, by separating from the false structures of the Communion, and by restoring the biblical foundations and mission of Anglicanism to preach the Gospel to all nations. The Jerusalem Declaration, as I see it, gets those priorities straight. From that start, God willing, good structures of order can be returned to the global Anglican Communion.
The next four Theses will sketch certain directions this movement may take.