Ferrying the Primates across the Rubicon

Nearly one year ago I wrote an essay titled “Crossing the Rubicon: Lambeth Resolution I.10, the Church of England, and the Anglican Communion,” which began this way:

Earlier this year I was speaking with an English friend concerned about the direction of the Church of England. “Where do we draw the line?” he asked. “That’s easy,” I replied: “It’s called Lambeth Resolution I.10.”

I then analyzed (“fisked”) a letter by Mr. William Nye, the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, who had clearly been authorized to speak for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. In this letter Mr. Nye attempts to relativize the 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality as speaking for that Conference only, hence having no ongoing normative authority.

In the light of the Communiqué from the October 2017 Primates Meeting, I would go a step further and say that in the view of the Lambeth Establishment, Resolution I.10 was a huge mistake and aberration, the effects of which will be undone at Lambeth 2020.

Let me briefly state why the 1998 Lambeth Conference and its key Resolution constitute an historic “Rubicon” moment for Anglicanism:

  • The Resolution addressed the major theological issue of our time: God’s creation of mankind in his image, male and female, and the “unchangeable standard” of “faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union” and of “abstinence as right for those who are not called to marriage.”
  • The Resolution, backed up by several others affirming the authority of the Bible, claims that this standard of marriage and abstinence is held “in view of the teaching of Scripture” and therefore that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture” and “cannot be advised.” The Church, in the words of the Articles, has no authority to “ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written.”
  • The Resolution was formulated by and approved overwhelmingly by bishops from the Global South, in opposition to the Conference organizers and those in the West who were promoting the homosexual agenda, now called “LGBTI.”
  • The Resolution, in line with other Resolutions since 1978, assumed an enhanced role of the Primates, who would see that it was carried out for the entire Communion. This assumption was tested in a series of Primates’ Meetings from 2000 through 2007, culminating in a specific call from the 2007 meeting in Dar es Salaam for repentance by the Episcopal Church, with exclusion from Lambeth 2008 as a consequence of refusal. When the Archbishop of Canterbury chose not to carry out this Resolution, a large number of Global South bishops convened the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem in 2008.
  • Finally, Resolution I.10 was a Resolution of the church’s moral and spiritual authority, in continuity with those of Lambeth Conferences that preceded it. Since that time, resolutions have been replaced by “indaba,” reducing Lambeth to an extended tea party with agenda and conclusions controlled by conference facilitators. By contrast, the Jerusalem Conference in 2008 produced a concise theological statement – the Jerusalem Declaration and emergency legislation establishing a Primates’ Council and inviting formation and membership of the Anglican Church in North America.

The 2017 Lambeth Primates’ Communiqué makes no mention of Lambeth I.10 and indeed seeks to undo all of its effects. It expresses “sadness” that the Scottish Episcopal Church, like the Episcopal Church USA before it, has proceeded to bless same-sex marriages in the church in the Name of the Triune God. The “consequences” of this action are a 3-year suspension from representation or voting in certain councils.

What, I might ask, follows when these consequences expire? I think the answer is quite obvious: by 2020 same-sex marriage will have been accommodated as a moral option within the Anglican Communion. The Communiqué goes on to say: “We welcomed the news that the Church of England has embarked on a major study of human sexuality in its cultural, scientific, scriptural and theological aspects and anticipated considering the results of this work at a future meeting.” Is there any doubt that the new study will discover that the unchangeable standard of marriage and abstinence is, well, changeable after all? Is there any doubt the “cultural and scientific” aspects of postmodernity will open a way around the clear teaching of Scripture?

The 2017 Primates’ Meeting was, contrary to appearances, a disenfranchising of the Global South and a dis-enhancing of the Primates’ authority. The agenda and Communiqué were clearly prepared in advance, and the indaba process prevented any real dissent. The false tears for the absence of three major Provinces were accompanied by the back-hand of fellowship to the Anglican Church in North America: “you are not Anglican, but we love you as Christian brothers anyway.” Read carefully, the 2017 statement is the utter reversal of the Primates’ Communiqué ten years ago.

As I see it, the 2017 Primates Meeting was an attempt, using the prestige of Canterbury and funds from New York, to undo Lambeth I.10 and the Global South movement that resulted from it.

The Archbishops of Canterbury (and York) have crossed the Rubicon and taken the Church of England with them. Now they are seeking to ferry the Global South with them.

So how many Global South Primates are actually in this boat – a relevant question since there are no signatories to the Communiqué? And if certain Primates are on board with Canterbury, then how many bishops and churches of their Provinces are willing to go along for the ride?

This is a Joshua 24:15 moment: whom will you serve? We remember the costly answer of our forefathers in the faith: “Here I stand; I can do no other.”

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll is Professor Emeritus of Trinity School for Ministry and former Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University. This essay is adapted from his forthcoming book [2018] The Global Anglican Communion: Contending for Anglicanism 1993-2018.

Caminemos Juntos Conference 2017

The conference gathered Anglican representatives from across the Americas in Recife, Brazil the week of October 5 – 7.

“Passion for the Americas” was the theme of the Caminemos Juntos 2017 conference, a conference with more than 200 Anglican representatives from North, Central and South America held in Recife, Brazil, with the goal of catalyzing mission and church planting throughout the continent.

This second annual gathering of Caminemos Juntos in South America brought clergy and a diversity of lay leaders from more than 9 countries together. The three themes of the conference were: Mobilizing, Equipping, and Planting, in order to walk together as the Anglican Church in the Americas.

The conference was organized by the Greenhouse Movement, the ACNA, the Diocese of Recife in Brazil, the Anglican Church in Chile, and GAFCON.

It is important to note that this year’s gathering included a visit from Charles Raven, Secretary of Membership Development for GAFCON, who shared about the Anglican movement worldwide.

The three day gathering was hosted by Parróquia Anglicana Espíritu Santo (PAES), the largest anglican church in Latin America, with more than three thousand members. The program was comprised of plenaries, workshops, and small working groups, along with a special worship and prayer night on Thursday, which was attended by more than 800 people.

For the first time this year, there were pre-conference equipping sessions 2 days prior to the main conference gathering. One of the workshops was led by MOCLAM and was focused on teaching the panorama of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Similarly, there was a training for those interested in becoming church planters and global missionaries sent out from Latin America. Caminemos Juntos’ worship movement, United Adoration led a retreat for songwriters where new songs were written and then sung throughout the conference. You can listen to one here.

Rev. Jonathan Kindberg, co-director of Caminemos Juntos, said that having the conference in Brazil was key as participants were able to experience first hand the spontaneous growth and revival being lived out in Brazil, a dynamic similar to what happened in the Anglican church in East Africa. This fire and passion that God is awakening is not only for Brazil but is spreading throughout Americas.

PASSION FOR MOBILIZATION

The first day focused on Mobilization. The focus was how to mobilize the Latin American church on global mission. One of the key questions was: “How can the Anglican Church in Latin America shift from being a mission field that simply receives missionaries to being a church that sends missionaries throughout the world?”  The day began with a talk by Carlos Scott, former president of COMIBAM (a consortium of Latin American mission and sending agencies) and the current facilitator of an organization called Misión Glocal (Glocal Mission) in Argentina.  In his presentation, Scott described the evolution of the Latin American missionary movement in recent years and how we are experiencing an enormous paradigm shift in how mission is seen and practiced.

As Scott emphasized, if at the end of the 90’s there were four thousand missionaries, today Latin America has a total of twenty five thousand missionaries both in Latin America and being sent from Latin America throughout the world. He said there is a growing missionary expansion and that the Church in Latin America is beginning to understand its purpose of extending the Kingdom of God to all nations.

Rev. Jonathan said that this awakening is also beginning to happen in the Anglican church in Latin America. For example, in recent years there has been a growing reciprocal sending and receiving of Latin American Anglicans to and from the US. “Today we are seeing how Chile, for example, is sending missionaries to serve in Latino or Central American communities in the United States. We also have the example of Chilean Anglican missionaries like Verónica Vega who is serving in India.”

This first day of the conference also included a talk by Filipe Santos, mission pastor of City Church in Sao Paulo, the largest Baptist church in Brazil, who spoke on how to develop a church culture that values mobilization in order to creatively reach the key cities of the world.

Participants once again were not only able to hear about examples, but got to experience this kind of creative mobilization first hand by visiting congregations throughout the Diocese of Recife, which since separating from the Episcopal Church in 2005, has planted more than 30 churches in only 12 years, thanks to missional strategies such as Casas de Paz (“Houses of Peace”) and is on it’s way to becoming a province.

As Bishop Miguel Uchoa explained, “Houses of Peace is a lay-led initiative and evangelistic tool to enter non-Christian homes and has led to the planting of new congregations… and the mobilization of the entire church.” Some of the other innovative missional initiatives of the diocese are: social ministries aimed at reaching the poor and marginalized like House of Hope, church-based outreach Karate classes, the planting of congregations inside prisons and an evangelistic marriage ministry and video curriculum for couples which has millions of hits on youtube (see here).

PASSION FOR EQUIPPING

A second focus of the conference was “passion for equipping.” One of the sessions this second day of the conference was led by a team from Chile. Diocesan Bishop Héctor (Tito) Zavala spoke about “passion for formation,” and how this has facilitated the ongoing growth and maturity of the Chilean Anglican Church.

On this same topic, some of the leaders from Chile spoke aboutthe Center for Pastoral Studies (CEP), the Chilean Anglican seminary which started in 2003, and also about other Chilean equipping initiatives for leaders, which have led to the planting of 19 churches and the ordination of almost 50 clergy in the past 17 years.

Bishop Zavala said, “I believe that the reason we have had this fruit these last years is that we have been seeking to be truly evangelical, in the fullest sense of that word: centered on teaching the Word, the formation of leaders, and the empowerment of the entire local church for mission.”

Along these same lines, the importance of being able to share equipping resources between the different countries in the Americas thanks to Caminemos Juntos was highlighted. One example of this is the exchange that has taken place between Mexico and Chile. Chile this last year brought their highly successful Anglican Marriage Encounter program (EMA) to the fledging ACNA deanery of churches in Mexico. Also this last year a leader from the Chilean seminary came to the church of Iglesia del Gran pastor in Fresnillo, Mexico to do a week long intensive course on Anglican Mission and Identity.

“The Anglican church in Mexico today is weak in terms of equipping and these kinds of exchanges greatly motivate us because without formation there is no vision” said Juan Manuel Herrera, one of the lay ministers of Gran Pastor, one of the larger ACNA churches in Mexico.

PASSION FOR CHURCH PLANTING

The Greenhouse Movement (known as Sociedad Misionera San Pablo in Latin America) presented on the third focus of the conference: “passion for church planting.” Greenhouse’s Missioner General, William Beasley, along with Bishops Marcio Meira and Flavio Soares of Brazil, spoke on the work of lay church planting both in the US and in Brazil.

The Greenhouse Movement has been deeply shaped by Anglican Church in East Africa which has also experienced explosive growth thanks to the move of God through lay leaders. William Beasley explained that we are seeing God pour out this same fire of revival in Latin America. While holding firm to the gospel and the historic roots of Anglicanism, lay leaders throughout the Americas are engaged in a creative missional effort that opens the door for the spontaneous expansion of the church that is able to reach all kinds of cultures and communities.

Adrian Torres, a lay leader at San Pedro, a church in Buenos Aires Argentina, similarly iterated: “Today we are seeing a thriving movement that grows through the laity. It is crucial that we shift our missional paradigm to include this new reality. Argentina needs this missional effort because we yearn new church plants.”

A NEW REFORMATION

One of the main emphases during the conference was that the Global Anglican Church is currently in the midst of twin reformation: a doctrinal reformation and a missional reformation.

Charles Raven, who led a workshop on this very topic, explained that this year, as the Church celebrates the 500th year since the Protestant Reformation, we have come to grips with the fact that we are not simply celebrating a historical event. The Church has always been and is always reforming. Today, we are working to recover and restore the truth of the Gospel. It is this Gospel of grace rooted in the Bible that ultimately drives us to fulfill the Great Commission.

Rev. Jonathan Kindberg, co-director of Caminemos Juntos, referred to this same theme of reformation:

“We are continuing to work alongside GAFCON to expand our network to share resources and training in all 35 countries of the Americas and the Caribbean. We are striving towards mission centered unity, while also holding firmly to our biblical foundations, knowing that it will result in the formation of new Anglican church plants all across the Americas and throughout the world.”

We expect that this vision will continue to spread, and, at our next conference in Chile (Oct 4-6, 2018), we hope to witness even more countries walking together under the same vision and passion of reaching all the Americas with the love of Christ.

 

In Memory of Professor Daniel Westberg

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I have just learned of the death of The Rev. Dr. Daniel Westberg, Professor of Ethics and Moral Theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary.  Fr. Westberg died yesterday while boating on Lake Nashotah.  Please join me in praying for the repose of his soul, and the Holy Spirit’s comfort and peace to be upon his wife, family, friends, and the whole Nashotah House community:

Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: deal graciously with those who mourn, especially the Westberg family and Nashotah House community. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For more information regarding the passing of Fr. Westberg, please view the Nashotah House announcement here.