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The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a gathering of biblically orthodox archbishops, bishops, priests, laity and spouses held in Jerusalem June 22-29, 2008, had its origins as a conference but has expanded to become a "spiritual movement to preserve and promote the truth and power of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ as we Anglicans have received it."
Plans for the conference were begun in late 2007 after Lambeth invitations were extended to bishops in the U.S. and Canada who permitted same-sex blessings or consecrated Gene Robinson as a bishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury did not extend invitations to Bishop Robinson nor to the U.S. bishops consecrated by overseas provinces.
Global South Primates who could not in good conscience attend the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference conceived GAFCON as an opportunity for bishops to gather for prayer, fellowship, and counsel on matters vital to their Church's mission and ministry. As Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone explained, "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." The conference also included orthodox bishops who planned to attend Lambeth and bishops who were not invited to Lambeth because they serve under overseas primates.
GAFCON drew 1184 pilgrims. The attendees included 7 primates and 291 bishops along with clergy, laypeople and spouses from 25 different countries and 19 Anglican provinces. During the eight-day conference and pilgrimage, they gathered together for worship, Bible study, workshops, teaching, visits to holy sites, fellowship and to seek the Lord's will.
The conference statement, which was unanimously approved, includes a statement of faith that characterizes the movement-the Jerusalem Declaration. It also sets forth an action plan that charts a way forward for biblically orthodox Anglicans in contrast to the "manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy."
Archbishop Peter Akinola, Nigerian primate and chairman of the GAFCON leadership team, reiterated that GAFCON is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. "We have no other place to go, nor is it our intention to start another church," he told the pilgrims in his opening address. Nor is GAFCON a church within a church.
The GAFCON Statement:
The formation of the FCA is a major step forward in the move towards Anglican realignment and reformation. The current instruments of communion reflect the colonialism of an Anglican Communion that was birthed from the British Empire, and those structures are no longer effective in defining or uniting the Communion.
In his address to the GAFCON participants, Bishop of Rochester, Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, stated that Anglicans need to reclaim their heritage of being a "confessional, conciliar and constitutorial church." The church is confessional because it looks to a shared faith for unity. Going back to the early Christian church described in the Acts of the Apostles, the church has always been conciliar. Bishop Nazir-Ali explained that the councils of the church must have authority to "make decisions that stick." Furthermore, those councils must be constitutorial-they must exercise the authority of their teaching office and articulate the faith.
Since the conclusion of GAFCON, the Primates' Council has made steady progress in establishing and leading the FCA. In August 2008, the Primates' Council held their first meeting and established an Advisory Board to assist them and a Secretariat to handle administrative matters. Those who wish to become members of the FCA can do so by contacting the Secretariat by mail or through the FCA website, www.fca.net. The Primates' Council also issued a communiqué which offered a brief response to Lambeth, noting that:
The Jerusalem Declaration is a statement of orthodox Anglican belief that was approved by the GAFCON participants and the leadership of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). To sign the Declaration, go to www.fca.net.
In the name of God the Father,
God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, 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.
1.We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.
2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.
3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.
5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.
6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.
7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the
classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.
8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.
9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.
10.We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.
11.We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.
12.We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.
13.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.
14.We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives.