Why does Gafcon exist? What are the problems within the Anglican Communion? What is the Lambeth Conference?
If you’ve ever wondered why Gafcon started on 29th June 2008 then this ‘Anglican Reality Check’ timeline will help to answer those questions above. This timeline (below) shows some of the key events and the impact of liberal and revisionist teaching in the Anglican Communion over the last 21 years. The authority of the bible has been set aside by some, but this led to the birth of Gafcon and its growth throughout the world.
First, let’s set the scene…
This ‘Anglican Reality Check’ below sets out the facts in an easily accessible way to empower faithful Anglicans. It reveals how predominantly Western church leaders have relentlessly sought to undermine the authority of Scripture and its teaching on marriage and sexuality as reaffirmed by the vast majority of the world’s Anglican bishops at the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
The fact that the 2020 Lambeth Conference is being held two years later than expected and is already marked by controversy and confusion is symptomatic of the deep and continuing crisis caused by this rejection of biblical authority in the Communion. Although Lambeth 2020 will no doubt retain a superficial continuity with previous conferences, the history set out here demonstrates that it is very likely to represent a fundamental shift from the Anglicanism of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The false teaching overwhelmingly rejected 22 years previously seems set to be institutionalised as an acceptable option and it will become even clearer that the true continuation of the Anglicanism of the 1998 Lambeth Conference is the Gafcon movement which since 2008 has established itself as the voice of global orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion.
To see truly we need to have a sense of what has happened over time and this timeline empowers faithful Anglicans by revealing the processes at work.
In 1 Chronicles 12:32 certain men of Issachar are described as those ‘who had understanding of the times’. This quality is very much needed by faithful Anglicans today. In a global culture of instant communication and soundbites, there is a danger that we live in the moment, but our times can only be understood by knowing other times, by learning the lessons of history. The Bible continually warns of the danger of forgetfulness and the need to remember, both to recall the goodness and mercy of God and to learn the lessons of past failure and disobedience.
This is especially true for the Anglican Communion in the twenty first century. In the space of a generation, there have been huge changes in Western culture and while the majority of Anglicans are no longer found in the West, its leadership and most of its resources are. This is the context of the crisis of faith and order which has afflicted the Anglican Communion throughout the twnty-first century and this timeline charts that history.
To be ignorant of history is to be disempowered. Those who want to move the boundary markers of apostolic faith do so incrementally and those who live just in the present are easily blinded to the fact that their inheritance of faith is being taken from them. To see truly we need to have a sense of what has happened over time and this timeline empowers faithful Anglicans by revealing the processes at work.
For those new to things Anglican, here’s a very brief summary of how the Anglican Communion came to be and what it is.
In the West the sexual revolution and the rapidly changing culture in England, Canada and America in particularly started to infiltrate the Anglican Churches. Biblical principles on marriage and human sexuality were increasingly questioned.
The foundations of the Church of England as distinct from the Roman Catholic Church were laid during the sixteenth century Reformation which became a Europe wide movement after Martin Luther (so the story goes) nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany on 31st October 1517 in protest against the abuses of his day. In studying Scripture, especially the books of Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians, he discovered that justification is entirely the work of God by faith in Jesus Christ alone, but many practices encouraged by the Church obscured or denied this truth.
In 1534 the English church formally separated from the Pope in Rome, the trigger having been King Henry VIII’s need for a divorce for dynastic reasons. However, the Church of England did not adopt the teaching of the Reformation until after Henry’s death in 1547. Under Edward VI, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, oversaw the emergence of a Protestant (Reformed Catholic) Church of England. He wrote the 42 articles (which were revised and eventually finalised as the 39 Articles in 1571), the Prayer Book of 1552 (slightly revised and finalised as the 1662 Book of Common Prayer) with the Ordinal (the liturgy of ordination) and a Book of Homilies. These contain the founding doctrines of the Church of England.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, a powerful missionary movement began, which coincided with Britain’s rise as a world power, and the Church of England began to establish itself as a global form of Christianity, coming to be known as Anglicanism in the nineteenth century.
It has fallen to Gafcon to call the Anglican Communion back to its Reformation roots and provide ways of keeping faithful Anglicans within the family of its Churches.
The Anglican Communion is made up of a family of legally independent Churches called Provinces (sometimes a country, sometimes groups of countries) which are overseen by Archbishops knows as ‘Primates’. The Provinces are divided up into dioceses, which are overseen by Bishops. The dioceses are divided up into Parishes which are led by clergy.
The traditional focus of the Anglican Communion has been the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Primate of the ‘mother church’, the Province of Canterbury. His official residence is Lambeth Palace which was the venue for the first Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in 1867. This tradition continued throughout the twentieth century, but is now breaking down because the traditional leadership has been unable, as this timeline shows, to maintain the integrity of the Anglican Communion in the face of contemporary challenges to faithful interpretation of Scripture and Christian living. It has fallen to Gafcon to call the Anglican Communion back to its Reformation roots and provide ways of keeping faithful Anglicans within the family of its Churches.
In the West the sexual revolution and the rapidly changing culture in England, Canada and America in particularly started to infiltrate the Anglican Churches. Biblical principles on marriage and human sexuality were increasingly questioned. But good news was just around the corner, or so we thought…
The Bishops at the Lambeth Conference overwhelmingly vote to reaffirm the teaching of Scripture on marriage and human sexuality, despite many bishops in the West urging the provinces to explore same-sex unions. A Resolution was passed which is called Lambeth Resolution I.10.
The Episcopal Church (TEC, USA) formally rejects Lambeth Resolution I.10 and acknowledges sexual relationships other than marriage.
The Diocese of New Westminster (Canada) authorises liturgy to bless same-sex unions which directly contradicts the Lambeth Resolution I.10. Representatives of nine parishes walk out of the Synod including globally respected Anglican theologian Dr J I Packer (author of Knowing God).
This article here by The Gospel Coalition: How Anglicans in Canada Found New Life After Their Eviction contains testimonies of those who decided to leave the Anglican Church of Canada:
“If you’re a faithful Christian, you can’t go ahead with the blessing of same-sex marriages. You can’t join fully into that by giving money [to that denomination]. So what do you do? … being faithful with what God has put in front of you, and the whole time, you preach the gospel.” Revd David Short
Dr J I Packer
Six parishes within the Anglican Church of Canada begin using rites of blessing for same sex unions after a motion passed by the Synod in June 2002.
An emergency Primates Meeting is held in October and they urge TEC and Anglican Church of Canada to apologise for their actions.
November 2nd, Ven. Gene Robinson is consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire – the first bishop in a same-sex relationship to be consecrated in the Anglican Communion.
The Civil Partnerships Act comes into force in the UK which gives same sex couples very similar rights to those of married couples. The legislation is supported by the Church of England’s House of Bishops.
In February the Primates Meeting in Tanzania requests ‘that the House of Bishops of TEC cease to authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions and not to consecrate as a bishop anyone living in a same-sex union’ TEC is required to make an unequivocal response to this request by 30th September.
In May the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams invites the all the TEC bishops, including the consecrators of Gene Robinson to the Lambeth 2008 conference. The only exception is Gene Robinson himself.
In December a group of Primates meet in Nairobi and in view of the failure of the Archbishop of Canterbury to discipline TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. They feel they cannot go to the Lambeth 2008 conference because of the compromising of God’s Word in America and Canada. So, they agree to hold their own conference, which they called the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem in June 2008. Many bishops and clergy left TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, losing their houses, pensions and church properties. These leaders are invited to GAFCON 2008 to be united with other Bible-believing Anglicans.
June 2008: The Gafcon movement is born as 1148 bishops, clergy and lay leaders gather in Jerusalem to consider how to respond to the breakdown of the Anglican Communion. They affirm the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, form a Primates Council and call for the formation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as a new Anglican Province.
The Jerusalem Statement laments:
‘the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming this false gospel, have consistently defied the 1998 Lambeth statement of biblical moral principle (Resolution 1.10). Despite numerous meetings no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008. To make matters worse, there has been a failure to honour promises of discipline. We can only come to the devastating conclusion that we are a global Communion with a colonial structure.’
The reading of the Jerusalem Statement 2008:
In July the Archbishop Rowan Williams attempts to gather Anglican Communion bishops for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, but over 200 bishops are absent.
Founding of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as a new Anglican Province – Due to TEC’s actions about 100,000 faithful Anglicans left The Episcopal Church but in April the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was born and is recognized as a province of the global Anglican Communion by the Primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (Gafcon). However, the ACNA is not recognised as a member of the Anglican Communion by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Watch this interview here to find out what it was like for some of the clergy who left TEC:
TEC reaffirms its commitment to ordaining those in same-sex unions.
TEC consecrates the first openly lesbian bishop, the Rev Mary Glasspool as a bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
GAFCON 2 takes place in Nairobi with 1358 delegates, including 331 bishops, from 38 countries
In October GAFCON 2 takes place in Nairobi with 1358 delegates, including 331 bishops, from 38 countries representing tens of millions of faithful Anglicans worldwide. The conference statement recognises the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), as an expression of authentic Anglicanism both for those within and outside the Church of England. AMiE is a fellowship of faithful Anglican churches committed to gospel mission:
“We are passionate about planting, strengthening and partnering for the salvation of many and the glory of God.”
November – The Church of England recommends services to mark a ‘faithful same sex relationship’ as a matter of ‘pastoral accommodation’. But the Rt Rev’d Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead, issued a statement which honours the position of Lambeth I.10 and expresses a deep pastoral concern for the transforming power of the gospel.
Rt Rev Foley Beach is elected 2nd Archbishop of ACNA and seven Anglican Archbishops including Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Myanmar, Kenya, South America, Jerusalem & the Middle East recognise him as a fellow Primate of the Anglican Communion.
TEC changes the Marriage Canon to allow same sex marriage. TEC also commits to supporting LGBT advocacy in Africa.
In January the Gafcon Primates, including Archbishop Foley Beach, play a leading role at a meeting of the Anglican Communion Primates in Canterbury called by Archbishop Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Here, the assembled Primates voted overwhelming to apply disciplinary measures (or ‘consequences’ as Archbishop Welby preferred to call them) to the Episcopal Church of the United States, following its official adoption of same sex ‘marriage’.
But in April leaders and laity from around the Anglican Communion, known as The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) undermined the decisions at the Primates Meeting, in fact TEC took part in the meetings and the attendees concluded that ‘No consequences were imposed by the ACC and neither was the ACC asked to do so.’
July – The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada votes to change its Marriage Canons to permit the marriage of same sex couples. This decision will need to be affirmed by General Synod in 2019 to become law.
October – Gafcon holds its first Bishops’ Training Institute (BTI) in Nairobi, Kenya to train godly leaders in ministry, mission and discipleship. Bishops travelled from Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Nigeria and other parts of Kenya.
In November Gafcon UK issuses a report detailing numerous breaches of Lambeth I.10 in the Church of England. Mr William Nye, Secretary General of the Church of England Archbishops Council responds by claiming that:
“Lambeth I.10 does not have the force of Scripture”
But this statement contradicts the Lambeth 1998 bishops’ claim to speak ‘in view of the teaching of Scripture’ and to teach that homosexual practice is ‘incompatible with Scripture’. The Archbishop of Canterbury subsequently circulates Mr Nye’s letter to all the Primates.
Scottish Episcopal Church votes to bless same-sex marriage, and states: ‘a same sex couple are married in the sight of God’.
May – After the immense success of the first Bishops’ Training Institute (BTI), Gafcon holds its 2nd BTI again in Nairobi, Kenya gathering and training bishops from Papua New Guinea, Congo, Brazil, Uganda, Nigeria, America, South Sudan, Tanzania and other parts of Kenya.
Reading from Koran during Epiphany Eucharist in St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow.
Lesbian activist, Vicky Beeching given Thomas Cranmer award by Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace.
October BTI 3 is held again in Nairobi, Kenya and bishops from Kenya, South Sudan, Nigeria, Rwanda, UK and Madagascar. For the first time the bishops’ wives join for training in diocesan ministry too. The training was a great success and proved vital for the bishops’ and their wives’ ministries.
Later on in October the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to answer the question of whether gay sex is sinful or not during an interview with a British magazine (GQ) saying:
“You know very well that is a question I can’t give a straight answer to… Because I don’t do blanket condemnation and I haven’t got a good answer to the question…inherently, within myself, the things that seem to me to be absolutely central are around faithfulness, stability of relationships and loving relationships.” (24minutes 20seconds)
November – The Archbishop of Canterbury writes a foreward to an updated version of Valuing All God’s Children, the new guidance provided for the Church of England 4700 schools which permits sex education materials provided by gay and transgender lobby groups such as Stonewall and Mermaids.
After a Primates meeting (although the Archbishops of Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania did not attend) at Canterbury the communique bears no mention to the significance of the seriousness of some of the provinces decisions to ignore Scripture and the Lambeth Resolution I.10. They claim that despite their different views on marriage, the provinces can still ‘walk together’, as same-sex ‘marriage’ is merely a difference of understanding. The Archbishop of Southern America tried to explain that these provinces are rejecting scripture and therefore it’s a salvation issue.
AMiE holds its first ordination service in London.
April – the Gafcon Primates Council recognise the new orthodox Province of the Anglican Church of Brazil as a Province of the Anglican Communion.
May – Archbishop Justin Welby’s book ‘Reimagining Britain’ suggests a ‘reimagining’ of marriage. He writes:
“same sex marriage builds on the presumption that marriage is stable and lifelong (the rootedness of the tradition), while also responding to the massive shift in cultural acceptance with regard to the understanding of human nature and sexual orientation” (p80).
Anglican Church in New Zealand passes a resolution to allow churches in NZ to bless same-sex relationships.
The General Synod of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (IEAB), Episcopal Church of Brazil introduces same sex marriage and changes its canons.
In June GAFCON 3 returns to Jerusalem, this time with 1,950 representatives from 50 countries around the theme:
“Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations.”
Gafcon launches 9 strategic global networks to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. During the conference, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda announces that the bishops of the Church of Uganda will not attend unless these conditions are met:
Highlights from Jerusalem 2018 here:
It’s announced that Archbishop Ben Kwashi, Jos Nigeria will take over as General Secretary in January 2019 and Archbishop Foley Beach, ACNA USA will take over as Chairman in April 2019.
In September the Nigerian House of Bishops join Ugandans in withdrawing from Lambeth 2020, and in December the Rwandan bishops also confirm their withdrawal from Lambeth 2020 due to conscious and unwilling to compromise.
Gafcon commisions Bishop Andy Lines as Gafcon’s Missionary Bishop in Europe:
In December the Church of England authorises transgender celebration services using the baptismal vows liturgy. The English House of Bishops release guidance commending the use of the rite of reaffirmation of baptismal vows for those wanting to mark gender transition. It is widely criticised as condoning the rejection of God given identity as male and female (Genesis 1: 26) and for potential harm to children. In January 2019, 2,155 bishops, priests and lay members of the Church of England write to condemn the guidance. Read Bishop Andy Lines’ Statement here.
Canadian Bishop Kevin Robinson marries male same sex partner at St James Cathedral in Toronto by Bishop Susan Bell. The Gafcon Chairman Archbishop Nicholas Okoh issues a warning from Gafcon.
February – It’s announced that the spouses in the same-sex unions won’t be invited to the Lambeth 2020 conference, despite the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby claiming that ‘all bishops’ spouses will be invited’. This causes upset in TEC and Anglican Church of Canada and they write a resolution which declares that this goes against TEC’s definition of marriage. However, they decide to attend.
February 25th – March 1st Gafcon holds ‘G19’ in Dubai, a conference for Christians in ‘restricted situations’, gathering Christians from Iran, Pakistan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Sudan, Turkey and Bangladesh. The delegates urge Gafcon to launch a 10th network called the ‘Suffering Church’ to support those who are persecuted for their faith. You can read the full conference statement here.
Gafcon Primates meet in Sydney in April and Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA takes over as Chairman from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh. Archbishop Laurent Mbanda becomes Vice Chairman succeeding Archbishop Stanley Ntagali Uganda. The Primates approve the launch of the Suffering Church network, they agree to support a new diocese of 12 churches in New Zealand who left the Anglican Church in New Zealand due to the blessings of same-sex unions. They also announce that Gafcon will be holding a conference in Kigali, Rwanda for Gafcon bishops in June 2020. The conference will have a specific focus for bishops not attending the Lambeth 2020 conference.
May – Gafcon’s 5th Bishops Training Institute is held in Nairobi, Kenya. The success of the joint training with the bishops’ wives was so useful that the programme was similar a second time round.