This week the GAFCON 2 Conference is taking place in Nairobi. It’s good that Anglicans from many different parts of our Communion are gathering to worship, pray and study together. It’s sad that they are gathering around an attitude towards LGB&T people which fails to live into God’s unconditional love which is God’s gift in and to all creation.
The Archbishop of Canterbury preached yesterday morning at All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi, as the conference delegates gathered. Singing in the choir was a member of the Changing Attitude Kenya committee. He told me the Archbishop’s sermon was powerful and impartial. He was made homeless last week, unable to pay the £108 rent he owes his landlord. A second member of the committee was unable to attend because he is in hospital. Still recovering from radio and chemotherapy treatment for throat cancer, he is now being treated for TB and pneumonia. Had both of them been healthy and stable, and had CA Kenya been able to raise funds, they would have registered as exhibitors at GAFCON 2.
The GAFCON founding documents – the Jerusalem statement and declaration – identify a false gospel and false leaders in the Anglican Communion. Their false gospel is one which extends unconditional welcome and full inclusion to LGB&T people. The false leaders are all those bishops, clergy and lay leaders who are themselves LGB or T or fulfill the Gospel of Jesus Christ by welcoming LGB&T people unconditionally as brothers and sisters in the Church.
GAFCON maintains that the false gospel “promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony. In 2003 this false gospel led to the consecration of a bishop living in a homosexual relationship.”
GAFCON 1 grieved “for the spiritual decline in the most economically developed nations, where the forces of militant secularism and pluralism are eating away the fabric of society and churches are compromised and enfeebled in their witness.”
Last Thursday I attended the launch of Things Unseen by CTVC in Southwark Cathedral. www.thingsunseen.co.uk
It’s a podcast exploring belief in post-religious Britain. The think tank Theos had undertaken research in preparation for the launch. This revealed that for all that formalized religious belief and institutionalized religious belonging has declined over recent decades, a spiritual current runs as, if not more powerfully, through the nation than it once did. www.theosthinktank.co.uk/research
A majority of people (59%) are believers in some kind of spiritual being, 30% believe in God “as a universal life force”, 30% in spirits, 25% in angels, and 12% in “a higher spiritual being that can’t be called God.” What people don’t believe in now is a God who is selectively punitive and who doesn’t love and value women and LGB&T people equally with straight men. There is deep spiritual energy in “revisionist” Christians and people of faith.
The research doesn’t support GAFCON’s claim about spiritual decline in the most economically developed nations. What has happened is that people no longer believe in GAFCON’s kind of God, nor in the somewhat tepid, boring God present in many western churches.
GAFCON a force for unity
Thus claims Canon Chris Sugden in an article in last Friday’s Church Times. He claims that GAFCON is biblically-based and Christ-focused. Changing Attitude is equally and passionately biblically-based and Christ-focused – so nothing special there about GAFCON. Chris claims that those present at GAFCON represent more than 40 million Anglicans, though the 40 million have never been polled. I know people who would be counted in the 40 million in congregations in South London and Kenya who disagree with the GAFCON stance on sexuality. It’s the numbers-game being played all over again.
Also still there is the desire for global domination. Chris writes positively about the FCA (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans) UK and Ireland belief that the Anglican Communion is worth preserving, with FCA committed to serve the Communion. GFCA (Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans) “offers the strongest, some would say the only, effective remaining glue that holds this precious unity intact, now that the structural four instruments no longer do the job. It is GFCA that promotes a dynamic mission and counters inauthentic expressions that depart from a biblically ordered faith.” GFCA believes that it and it alone can and will replace the present instruments of unity and redefine membership of the Anglican Communion in its own image.
GAFCON and GFCA have to overcome their antipathy to the presence of LGB&T people in every Province and at every level of the Anglican Communion. The GAFCON Gospel is built on a reading of scripture and a relationship with a God whose love is conditional and judgmental. People in the West and the Global South increasingly reject such a God, knowing in the core of their being that God’s love has to be utterly unconditional.
Groups which base their common identity on a homophobic attitude to gender and sexual diversity and the full inclusion of LGB&T people in the Church will not ultimately thrive because the Spirit is transforming lives and energizing faith beyond the GAFCON boundaries and beyond organized, orthodox, institutionalized patterns of religion.
GAFCON 1 declared that provincial bodies in the Global South are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote the ‘false gospel’. A major realignment has occurred and will continue to unfold. Moreover the Communion Instruments have still failed to exercise discipline in the face of what they claim is overt heterodoxy.
The Church of England House of Bishops is about to receive the Pilling Report. Almost certainly next year the Bishops will recommend changes to C of E teaching and practice in relation to LGB&T people. It will not be in a GAFCON-approved direction but in the direction of the full inclusion of all the people of God under the tender care of God who is infinitely tender and loving.
God Loves Uganda
On Friday evening I attended an event in the crypt of St Paul’s cathedral organized by The Human Dignity Trust at which the film ‘God Loves Uganda’ was shown. The film showed how American, bible-believing, fundamentalist Christians are pouring human and financial resources into Uganda in the belief that conquering the evil of homosexuality there will lay the foundations for a global defeat of what they see as ‘the gay agenda’. Both in the USA and Uganda, people are indoctrinated into a frightening mindset which believes gay people are intrinsically evil and disordered.
I reflected at the end on the huge numbers of people involved in this campaign and the massive financial resources at their disposal, compared with the 100 people watching the film and the tiny budget of CA England and the non-existent budgets of CA Kenya and Nigeria.
Despite this, I have a profound faith in God who loves me and all creation unconditionally and in the Spirit, immersed in creation and woven into the heart and soul, body and spirit of every human being. Transformation, global transformation, is happening, and it is melting fear and anxiety in millions of people and opening hearts to God’s infinite love. Meanwhile, secular governments and rulers across the global community and undoing homophobic legislation and introducing equal marriage.
God loves Uganda and God loves LGB&T people everywhere and God loves with a passion the whole human global community and God is melting the hardened hearts of all who think otherwise.