Church in the World
Anglican conservatives say ‘second reformation’ is already under wayMatt Cresswell
- 28 June 2008
A "second reformation" is under way, say conservative bishops and clergy meeting at the controversial Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) in Jerusalem. Gafcon leaders have described the breakaway conference attended by traditionalists who oppose gay priests and the blessing of same-sex partnerships as a "rescue mission" to the Anglican Communion and a "godly instrument" to bring about repentance and change. Some bishops, including Primate of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, and the US rebel bishop, Martyn Minns, criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for not adequately dealing with the issue of homosexuality.
The Archbishop of Rwanda, Emmanuel Koloni, said: "This is the beginning of the second reformation", and that those at Gafcon were agents and heralds of this reformation. Defending his statement, he said: "Some of us have gone against the teaching of the Bible. This is about going back to the Bible." In the conference's opening speech Archbishop Akinola said Gafcon would be a reforming "instrument", adding: "Gafcon is a veritable tool within the Communion which God is using."
However, many have criticised the conference for threatening the fragile unity of the Anglican Communion. On Monday the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Saheil Dawani, told delegates gathered at St George's Cathedral that the unity of the Communion remained with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Catholic Archbishop Antonio Franco, nuncio to Israel, also urged the pilgrims to seek unity, saying that this is what Jesus taught.
The conference has been well attended by African bishops, particularly from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, many of whom are boycotting the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops next month. However there are several American bishops present and two British bishops, including the outspoken Dr Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester.
Although there are only 30 per cent of the Anglican Communion's bishops at Gafcon, they represent at least 70 per cent of the Communion, or approximately 41 million Anglicans worldwide. Conference worship has been conducted in a fashion uncharacteristic of traditional Church of England services and has included guitars, raised hands and lively hymns. During the talks, delegates have responded with loud "amens" and occasional sighs.
Speaking to The Tablet US Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy, an Anglo-Catholic, was enthusiastic about the conference. "I am one of the last three traditionalist Anglican Catholic diocesan bishops in the Episcopal Church," he said. "The Archbishop of Canterbury has an extraordinary love and appreciation for the Anglo-Catholic tradition and I believe that his heart breaks when he sees provinces that ignore or reject various Lambeth resolutions." But missionary Bishop Martyn Minns, who led thousands out of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2007 to the breakaway Convocation of Anglicans in North America, was not so supportive of Dr Williams. Referring to the beleaguered archbishop he said: "The initiating situation didn't come from him, but his response has not been in line with what he said he would do."
Speaking on Tuesday evening Bishop Nazir-Ali said the Church was threatened by a "militant secularism" which was "creating a double jeopardy for Western countries". He added: "The West is losing the Christian discourse at the very time when it needs it most." Regarding his decision to boycott the Lambeth Conference, he said he would attend if certain "difficulties" were removed, reflecting his earlier call for members of TEC to repent over their consecration of the openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson.