Archbishops Jensen, Orombi and Venables held a press conference, (July 5th I believe) in the context of a meeting at All Souls Langham Place, London, billed as a post-GAFCON meeting. It is reported that there was an overflow crowd.
Archbishop Peter Jensen said, "Something is going on here of a spiritual nature. Something is happening of great importance." The GAFCON followup (the Fellowship of Concerned Anglicans) is "to assert the authority of the Bible over the Church and the importance of the Gospel for the Church. If we treat it (GAFCON / FOCA) in some other way we really have misunderstood it."
Presiding Bishop Venables, also sometimes called Archbishop, said, "it i(again the GAFCON/ FOCA movement) is not a seizing of power, it is the exercise of legitimate authority for the sake of the Anglican Communion. A group of leadership has go to take things in hand to move forward...we are just bringing this together because we believe it is the time to do it."
Both men tried to draw a distinction between exercising authority and exercising power.
The claim is that GAFCON / FOCA is a spiritual movement whose authority relies on spiritual grounding in the Bible and the Gospel is debatable, but at least it is an understandable claim.
The much more tenuous argument is that such a spiritual grounding gives the GAFCON authority to do what its Primates Council contemplates following GAFCON's recommendations, recommendations which are decidedly political and not particularly spiritual.
"Taking things in hand" and exercising authority "for the sake of the Anglican Communion" involves taking things OUT of the hands of others and exercising power in order to rescue, save, or otherwise "do something" that makes the Anglican Communion what it ought to be.
GAFCON / FOCA may a spiritual movement and the actual meeting in Jerusalem was no doubt for many an insightful, grace filled, enlightening or transforming experience. The Church Times ran an article titled "Treat GAFCON with respect." It began, "GAFCON was a good thing. Other complexions have, of course, been put on it, but the conference in Jerusalem transformed disaffection from the Anglican Communion into a renewed commitment to its core, which is the love of Christ. Against the expectations of many, the week was not spent fulminating against gays. Bishop Robinson’s name was not heard. Clearly, dissatisfaction with liberal developments in ethics and theology, principally in the United States, had brought many of the participants to Jerusalem. But, once settled in Jerusalem, the participants spent too much of their time worshipping God and making their pilgrimage for GAFCON to be written off as a godless mistake." There is some merit to its admonition to "treat GAFCON with respect."
Respect or no for GAFCON, respect stops where the GAFCON Primates begin. The new Primates Council, essentially the GAFCON central initiating Primates, keeps wanting the eyes of all in the Anglican World to be upon the conference itself, or upon the "fellowship of confessing Anglicans," and not upon the actions of its leadership. The Archbishops at the press conference in London want us very much to pay attention to the "movement" and not its leadership, to the spiritual force of FOCA and not to the political force of the Primates.
It is a shell game the purpose of which is to avert the eyes from the reality of a power shift in which "things are taken in hand" for "the sake of the Anglican Communion." In the fellowship of Provinces and Churches that constitutes the Anglican Communion the GAFCON Primates have no authority at all over what individual Provinces do and no authority to determine what the Anglican Communion will be or look like, except in so far as the existing Anglican Communion "instruments" simply rolls over and plays dead.
GAFCON leaders claim that their authority to determine what constitutes the Anglican Communion derives from their commitment to the authority of the bible in the church, a commitment which they believe is not shared by others within the Anglican Communion. They will use that claimed authority, unless it is challenged, to pronounce the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and Brazil defunct as Anglican Provinces and replace the whole lot of us with some new agency of Provincial character in North and South America. I don't know what they think of Mexico, but I bet it isn't good. It appears that they are now recruiting to take on the Church of England as well.
The Primates Council will shortly admit a new Province in North America into communion with those Provinces making up the churches committed to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and the existing Provinces of TEC and ACoC will be considered heretical and outside the fellowship. Later they will take up Brazil and who knows who else.
Explain to me again, dear Archbishop Venables just how the Primates Council is not in the process of seizing of power. Explain it being an exercise of legitimate authority.
There is no legitimate authority here. The exercise of authority will grow, if it does, from the seizing of the power to do so. It will be legitimate after the fact, much as the legitimacy of a new government tends to depend on if it wins the war and struggle that accompanies its formation.
As far as I am concerned the Primates Council can do what it wishes. Indeed I have no power and no authority to say otherwise. But we can exercise the right of refusal: they have no more authority here in the Episcopal Church than any foreign bishops.
And when all the fuss and fury is over, we will be in some sort of ecumenical relation to whatever it is that the Primates Council conceives as necessary for North America. In peace they will be friends, in war enemies. That's the way it is out there in ecumenical land.
But when they say they are followers of Jesus Christ and we are not, I say we ought consider that an act of oppressive disrespect and seek fellowship elsewhere - say with the other thirty or so Provinces of the Anglican Communion.