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The Anglican Communion after Dublin: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 18, 2011 p 11-12 February 18, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, GAFCON, La Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The divisions within the Anglican Communion are theological, not political, and can be resolved only through an appeal to providence and Scripture, the chairman of the Gafcon Primates Council meeting, Bishop Gregory Venables has said.

In an interview recorded by AnglicanTV and broadcast on February 5, Bishop Venables outlined the Gafcon group of Churches’ disquiet with the innovations made by the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, appeals to diversity, conversation or political compromise to fix the Anglican Communion will not save it, if the Gospel is not preached.

ATV: What’s the most important issue going on in the Anglican Communion today?

GV: The vast majority of Anglican leaders worldwide, together with Anglicans in general, want to get on with preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ: the fact that there is a message of hope, and love and forgiveness and new life in Jesus Christ.

But we’ve hit a problem. And the problem is that within what we call the Anglican Communion there is a significant group, which unfortunately seems to dominate much of the public life of our church, which is suppressing the truth.

The reason why we feel this urgency is because it is clearer than ever, even within our own Church, that we are under the wrath of God. Now that is not something that people like to talk about very much, and it’s not a very pleasant subject, but it is an important one.

Back in the 1960s when I was a teenager, I remember Archbishop Michael Ramsey saying that the one place where we could all engage with God and identify God at that time, within the world situation, was under his judgment. And that was a shocking thing to say, but it was true.

He was saying that because of our behaviour, because of the fact that in the West we turned our back on God, the one place where we can identify the presence of God in our lives and our society in the world we’re living in is where we see his judgement. And this is true about the wrath of God.

And we’re under the wrath of God and we need to preach the gospel into that situation.

Although we’ve received the truth, although we know about God, although we know about this Gospel, people have chosen to go down the path of the pride of human wisdom … of seeking to find answers that are satisfactory to our own self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction … to go down the path of delighting in wickedness. Doing the things that God has forbidden, yet thinking that they are good and wonderful and lovely.

We’ve become darkened in our thinking. And you can see it in the situation with which the Anglican Communion has been grappling for the past 15 years. You can see that many have become darkened in their understanding. Paul says they become foolish and that’s why there’s no dialogue.

We are talking from completely different perspectives. In some cases it’s because the blindness and the ignorance, which is there if we’ve never known God personally. But sometimes, sadly, it’s because people have turned their back on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s far worse.

We have this urgency of preaching the Gospel. Of saying that there is a way out. But the way out is not in human wisdom, it is not in human self-sufficiency. It is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ which he has revealed to us. God has spoken and we cannot block our ears and pretend we haven’t heard it.  And that is a situation which has to be addressed.

ATV: Is the Anglican Communion under God’s judgment?

GV. I believe we are under God’s judgement —- having received a revelation of truth which we are suppressing, as Paul writes in Romans chapter 1. Many of us believe that.
It’s not something we feel happy about. We feel devastated and we all share in the guilt. But we can’t go on as if nothing has happened. The gospel has to be preached.

ATV: What are your thoughts on the Dublin Primates’ Meeting?

GV: A large number of Primates just simply didn’t want to go because of the lack of trust and because the certainty that it was not going to go anywhere. What’s happened is that a small group is undoubtedly pushing a false gospel, a gospel which does not proclaim the need for salvation, which does not proclaim that Jesus is the one and only path back to God.

The sad thing is that although we spent years trying to get this thing right as a Communion, suddenly that crisis is put on one side. Suddenly the urgency has gone and we’re told no, that all we have to do is sit and talk.

If my house is on fire, I am not just going to sit and talk to my family, we’re going to get up and we’re going to something about it.

ATV: Is it true the Primates have no authority any more?

GV: That was coming. You could see it coming. You could see it coming by the fact that in spite of everything that has been said, suddenly now that all goes into some dusty file somewhere. Suddenly we have no authority, apart from this little standing committee of Primates —- and only time will tell with what’s going to happen with that.

If that proves to be a little centralised group of authority, then we have moved away from the very spirit of Anglicanism —- which is about teamwork, which is about bishops being first among equals, which is about us listening together to the voice of God and discerning the voice of God together.

Nowhere in the New Testament do you find one or two people making decisions. It is always the body discerning God’s voice together. It seemed right to us and the Holy Spirit. We’ve come to the very place where we were told for years we couldn’t go. We were told there is no authority and now suddenly there is, and that’s very, very, concerning.

ATV: Are we moving away from a Canterbury-led Communion?

GV: We never had to go to Canterbury to get to Jesus. There never was a centre of the church in one place. That was very, very, clear from the beginning … for the first few hundred years of the church until 1065, when the authority was centred on the Bishop of Rome after the Great Schism.

But up until then we never located authority in one place. There were always patriarchs, but never one who was in charge of everything except at the moment of presiding in council. While Canterbury is a wonderful part of our history and although there is tremendous amount of affection … a tremendous amount of respect for the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, (and the same is true of the persons we been thinking about over recent years including Archbishop Rowan at the present moment, there is tremendous respect and love for him and for the people who were there before him) we cannot allow one person and a small group around that person to assume authority over the Anglican Communion. That was never within Anglicanism and it should never be within Anglicanism because it’s not in Scripture.

ATV: Would you support the calling of an Anglican Church council?

GV: I think if somehow that as a whole body we could come to the conclusion that it would be good to call together a council of the Church, to come to some resolution about the present crisis, that would be a good thing to do. But it would have to be a joint decision made by the whole of the Anglican Communion and with the whole of the Anglican Communion being represented.

At the moment it’s very clear that we have slipped into a Western, almost colonialist leadership. We have to ask the question if this have been the other way round, if this sinful behaviour had been promoted and sought to be lifted up as something God approves of in a part of the world that did not have the money and the power and the place that the United States has [how would it have been received?] It would be very interesting to see what would happen after everything unfolded.

ATV: Has the Primates’ Meeting been changed forever?

GV: The fact that such a large number didn’t go and made it very clear that they weren’t interested in going says that it’s gone. But it wasn’t just because things weren’t dealt with now.

We sought to deal with them constantly and it hadn’t gone anywhere. Things go on and people are still going on as if nothing has happened. And there is the terrible silence. The silence which now is so loud, as we heard it in the Dublin meeting.

ATV: Who controls the agenda for a Primates’ Meeting?

GV: The agenda turns up. There were moments, because I was attending Primates’ Meetings, I was elected Primate in 2001, so between then and last year when I was attending meetings, there were times when we were given very important papers just a few moments before we were told to consider them.

That can’t be. We have to know what’s on the agenda and more than that we have to control what’s on the agenda. It has to be a joint decision, not another decision made by a small group that has been selected by a group of people that were not selected to make that decision by the Anglican Communion.

ATV: Do you think the Global South if it had its own resources, would call its own Primates’ Meeting?

GV: So long as we remain submitted to God and seeking to do what God wants, God will provide us with everything we want.

Believe me, the vast majority of the Anglican Communion are in love with God the Father, are in love with Jesus Christ the son, in love with the Holy Spirit and want to get on with the will of God and do what he wants. To be dependent on him —- that is a wonderful place to be, but it has given us an enormous responsibility.

The answer is not to move out, to form another Communion or go to another Church —- although we respect those who have done it. Anglicanism has got a lot of life left because it’s something God has created. There’s an awful lot to be done yet and we can come through this.

But we will not come through this situation sitting in meetings where we consistently and apparently deliberately refuse to engage with the very crisis which has broken us up.

ATV: What is the hope for the Communion?

GV: The Global South and Gafcon are planning very important activities in the coming days. The reason why so many did not attend [the Dublin meeting] is because there are other things that need to be done. The reasons why they chose not to go were not simple reasons. They were reasons that were expressed very clearly, both verbally and in writing.

It was quite incorrect to present the absence of some people as being secondary matters. That was not the case. People made it very clear that they were not going … [however] there’s a lot going on and there will be a lot to be involved in the coming.

We are not ashamed of the Gospel. If we’re not ashamed of it we have to proclaim it, which is the principal activity in the Anglican Church worldwide. We just have to get on with it and that is what both the global South and Gafcon together are planning on doing: working together, working in unity, working in love and working in collegial community to do what God wants us to do.

ATV: Have you been in touch with Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt?

GV: It’s a desperate situation. It’s a part of the anarchy going on in the world. It’s true here in Latin America. It’s true now in Europe. It’s true in North America. It’s true in other parts of the world.

We are in a situation of anarchy because we are first of all in ignorance and blindness. Not living the way God wants us to. But even worse in the case of those of us who have received the Christian revelation of truth in Jesus Christ — we are living in a rebellious way, suppressing the truth which is our only hope of salvation.

So it is no surprise and it’s not getting any better until there is repentance and people turning back to this wonderful loving God. A God who loves us so much that he’s not going to let us live in darkness.

He is going to insist and insist and insist until people turn back to him.


1. Keith Bramlett - February 19, 2011


Are you going to be able to join us as Archbishop Greg leads Anglican Men’s Weekend in southern California May 13-15? Our friend Kevin will be there. More info and online registration at http://www.AnglicanMensWeekend.org

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