Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Thoughts on the Jerusalem Declaration and the GAFCON Statement

Let me preface this by saying that this conference was a real blessing to me, in that I got to see the Holy Land with over a thousand Anglican pilgrims. I walked where Jesus walked. I knelt before the most important places in Christendom - the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Via Dolorosa, Capernaum, etc. etc. I echo what Archbishop Venables said in this morning's homily - this is about Jesus. Without Him, it is impossible to know God because true religion starts with God and Christianity with God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. The proclamation of the true Jesus, and therefore the true Gospel is essential to what the Church is, and that is what GAFCON was all about.

All stripes of faithful Anglicans were represented. There were Evangelicals, Charismatics, Africans, Asians, Middle Easterners, Missionaries, Priests, Laity, Bishops, and Anglo-Catholics like me. It is clear that our practices are rather different, but we came together to proclaim Jesus, and Him as Lord, in the very city where He was first proclaimed as such. Speaking to other pilgrims, the most moving part of the pilgrimage was sitting on the steps of the Temple, where Peter preached the gospel for the first time on the day of Pentecost.

So, having said all that, let me comment on the statement.

I think the statement represents a sea change in the Anglican Communion, from one in which traditionalists and reasserters beg the Archbishop of Canterbury for his gracious help to one in which we press on toward the future, paving the way that God has called us to pave. Whereas before we had looked to old means to solve our issues - namely the instruments of unity outlined in the Windsor Report, now we will simple be who we are. That's the most important thing the Jerusalem Declaration says - it says clearly who we are. Now, for an Anglo-Catholic like me, I have struggles with accepting the 39 Articles as a doctrinal standard on which the movement is founded. But, we have been here before with the Common Cause Theological Statement, a document which I continue to support. (In fact, I think it's better than Jerusalem!) I think the various difficulties we Anglo-Catholics have with the Articles are things which can be overcome. One of the interesting things about the Jerusalem Declaration is that in it, we have people rallying around the Anglican Ordinal (which certainly wouldn't support the ordination of women) and the first four ecumenical councils (which tell us that female deacons (deaconesses) should be counted among the laity). So, there are contradictions for everyone, this much is certain.

What the Jerusalem Declaration states, at its best, is that classical Anglicanism - the comprehensive and Elizabethan settlement kind of Anglicanism. This is huge. It could have taken a fundamentalist, sola scriptura turn, but it did not. Instead, the statement says "The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures." On this, I can agree. I think any catholic Christian would agree with this statement. So this is a huge day.

The next thing is that this document has huge teeth! Finally, no more ambiguity. We are no longer asking revisionists who peddle a cheap gospel to make themselves clear or to self-impose moratoria. This is a huge change. Instead, the Jerusalem Declaration states (Article 13): "We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord." So there it is. If you ordain those who practice homosexuality, if you refuse to cling to Christian orthodoxy, if you call evil good, we simply don't recognize you. Those bishops who fall into this category - their dioceses are now open territory. We will not apologize. This is where the document was most clear, and about that I'm thrilled.

The third thing that is really positive is that it encourages the formation of a new Anglican province for the Common Cause Partnership. We've been praying for this for some time, and now it has come to fruition. Hopefully, in the next year, we will see the Common Cause Partnership form this province. There is still much to be ironed out, but I think it is very near.

Fourthly, and lastly, this meeting promises to be really the last important meeting we'll have on the subject. If you're like me, you've grown weary of meeting after meeting, not really going anywhere. You're tired of waffling on the part of North American leadership, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury. Well, I happen to think that the Jerusalem meeting pretty much has sealed the deal for North America, and our struggles. It gives us primates committed to our aid, a strong identity, and the go-ahead for a province. I don't know if we could have asked for more.

With that said, I turn your attention to this great news article by Guardian writer Anne Atkins. One of the things that impressed me about the conference was that the reporters gathered to report on the conference were really touched by it. One from the National Review sitting next to me at this morning's mass wept at the proclamation of Archbishop Venables in his homily. It was amazing. And that's what's refreshing about GAFCON - clarity about who we believe Jesus Christ to be.

Inside the Ruins of the Synagogue of Jesus in Capernaum

Pilgrims Dipping their Feet in the Sea of Galilee...

Right on the shore where the catch of 153 fish was brought up in Peter's boat in St. John's Gospel.

Church of the Primacy of Peter

In the back of the church, you can see the mensa, the rock table upon which the Lord made breakfast for His disciples on a charcoal after His Resurrection. it is also the site of Peter's restoration.

Church of the Heptapegon (The Church of the Multiplication)

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

Yesterday, we took a boat across the Sea of Galilee, stopping to tie together with three other boats to pray. It was really neat. After that, we went on to the Mount of Beatitudes, the Chapel commemorating the Primacy of Peter, the place of the Feeding of the 5,000, and Capernaum.

Venerating the Place of Jesus' Birth

Entering the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Here we are entering the church. They filled in the entry a bit to keep horses out, but inside it is positively beautiful. We had a great trip into Bethlehem on Friday afternoon. Very sad to see the wall, and the plight of Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem.

Back Blogging Again...

Well, I'm back. I'll have some things to say about the statement in good time, but first I'd like to show you some pilgrimage pictures.