Background on GAFCON
From the Church of Uganda
What is GAFCON?
GAFCON is the Global Anglican Future Conference (http://www.gafcon.org) being held in Jerusalem from 22nd – 29th June 2008.
There are three purposes:
1. To provide an opportunity for fellowship as well as to continue to experience and proclaim the transforming love of Jesus Christ
2. To develop a renewed understanding of our identity as Anglican Christians.
3. To prepare for an Anglican future in which the Gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centred mission is a top priority.
Who is organizing GAFCON?
GAFCON was conceived by the Anglican Archbishops of Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Southern Cone (South America), and Sydney (Australia). Evangelical Anglican Bishops from the UK and the USA were also involved in its organization.
How many people will participate in GAFCON?
More than 1,000 people have registered for GAFCON, including more than 280 Bishops, their wives, clergy and non-ordained church leaders. One hundred and seven (107) people from Uganda will be going, including 34 Bishops.
Why is GAFCON being held in Jerusalem?
GAFCON is essentially a pilgrimage. We are going back to the roots of our faith, to the place where Jesus was born, lived, died, and was raised from the dead.
How is GAFCON different from Lambeth?
The Lambeth Conference of Bishops is held every ten years and will be held this coming July at the University of Kent in England. The Archbishop of Canterbury convenes the Lambeth Conference and invites Bishops and their spouses from all provinces of the Anglican Communion. The purpose of Lambeth is to provide Bishops with an opportunity for worship, study, and conversation about matters that affect the Anglican Communion.
GAFCON is different because it includes clergy and non-ordained leaders from the church. GAFCON is the first of its kind and is a one-time event. It is, therefore, not an alternative to Lambeth.
Are the Bishops from the Church of Uganda going to Lambeth?
No. The Church of Uganda Bishops decided together not to go to Lambeth this year. Their decision has been supported by the governing body of the Church of Uganda, the Provincial Assembly Standing Committee. The reason the Church of Uganda is not going to Lambeth is because the purpose of Lambeth is for fellowship among Bishops, and our fellowship has been broken with the American church. We broke fellowship with them for three reasons:
1. In direct violation of the Bible and historic Christian teaching, they consecrated as a Bishop a gay man living in a same-sex relationship
2. After five years of pleading with them, listening to them, and giving them many opportunities, they have not repented of that decision.
3. The Archbishop of Canterbury did not follow the advice given to him by his own appointed Commission to not invite to Lambeth those responsible for the confusion and disobedience in the Anglican Communion. The Bible says, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” We have not been in fellowship with the Americans who have violated the Bible since 2003, so we are not going to pretend by going to Lambeth that we are in fellowship. We are not. What they have done is a very serious thing, and what the Archbishop of Canterbury has done in inviting them is grievous and we want them to know that.
Is the Church of Uganda seceding from the Anglican Communion?
No. We are simply not going to the Lambeth Conference. We are still part of the Anglican Communion, and the vast majority of the Anglican Communion opposes what the American Church has done and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s tacit support for it.
What is the Anglican Communion?
The Anglican Communion is a family of 38 independent churches that trace their heritage to the Church of England. It is the third largest Christian community in the world – the Roman Catholic Church is the largest; the Orthodox Church is the second largest; and, the Anglican Communion is the third largest. There are 77 million members in the Anglican Communion. The Church of Uganda is the second largest Province with more than 10 million members. The Church of Nigeria is the largest with more than 20 million members. The Church of England claims 26 million members because it is the State Church, and all English subjects are entitled to membership in the Church of England. But, less than 1 million people attend church on an average Sunday.
Is the Anglican Communion going to split?
The Anglican Communion has been deeply wounded. The 2003 decision of the Episcopal Church in America to consecrate as a bishop a gay man living in a same-sex relationship caused a deep tear in the fabric of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Not only has the American Church not repented of this decision and action, but they have continued to advance non-Biblical teaching and practice. Their Bishops and many clergy have presided at the blessing of same-sex unions. Their Archbishop does not believe the Bible when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” Another American Bishop has said, “The Church wrote the Bible, so the church can re-write the Bible.” It is wrong for them to continue to be Bishops and leaders in the Church. Yet, if their church will not discipline them, we will continue in broken fellowship with them. We cannot tolerate such theological corruption.
Is the crisis in the Anglican Communion about homosexuality?
No. The crisis is about authority. Homosexuality is only the presenting issue. All four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion – The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Lambeth Conference of Bishops, The Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council – advised against the American Church approving homosexual relationships. Yet, the American Church openly defied these resolutions and there was no disciplinary action taken against them. That is a crisis of authority in the Communion. Furthermore, the apparent lack of resolve to take action manifests a deeper crisis, namely a crisis of confidence in the authority of the Word of God as the ultimate standard of faith and moral living.
Can anything good come out of this crisis?
Yes. As Christians we are always people of hope. We believe that the Anglican Communion must base its identity on bonds of truth as well as bonds of affection. That’s why we are going to GAFCON. We hope that GAFCON will reassert as normative Anglican Christianity the reality we know in Uganda – that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can bring substantive change for good in a person’s life, in his family, and in our country. We saw it when Christianity came to Uganda. We saw it when the East African Revival broke out in the 1930’s and 1940’s. We saw families healed, cycles of revenge broken, and oppression from demonic powers lifted. The only hope from the human condition is eternal forgiveness that comes only through Jesus Christ. That’s what the Anglican Church is about, and that’s why we’re going to GAFCON and not Lambeth.
What is GAFCON’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
GAFCON participants are coming to Jerusalem from more than 25 countries for the purpose of pilgrimage. Many are from regions that suffer political instability and violence, and we empathize with all victims of injustice and violence in the Middle East. It is our fervent prayer that both Jews and Arabs find ways to work towards reconciliation and a political settlement to begin to bring a measure of security and justice to the peoples living in the region. We share our faith with Arab Christians, our biblical heritage with the Jewish people, and a common humanity with Muslims. We are going to the Holy Land as pilgrims and we stand against any form of unjust discrimination and violence against any people for ethnic, social or political reasons.
What is the Church of Uganda’s position on the ordination of women?
The Bible is very clear that homosexual practice is sin. But, nowhere in the Bible is being a woman described as a sin. The ordination of women and the ordination of practicing homosexuals cannot be compared. They are not the same issue. People of equally strong evangelical conviction come to different conclusions about the ordination of women, but we in Uganda have understood the Bible to teach that God created men and women in His image and both can be ordained to serve God in His Church.