THOUGHTS ON THE JERUSALEM DECLARATION 1: Gafcon and the Church

Sep 9, 2019 by

by Stephen Noll, Contending Anglican:

The Jerusalem Declaration has been one of the best and enduring fruits of the Gafcon movement. I was a member of the Statement Group in 2008 that drafted the Declaration and have written a commentary on it (see Essay 7 of my book). In the next three essays I shall share further thoughts on what the Declaration says and what it does not say.

From the very beginning, the question “Is Gafcon a Church?” has roiled the reputedly placid sea (or is it “See”?) of Anglicanism. In a recent Q&A session in Parliament, when Archbishop Justin Welby was asked about his commitment to the Jerusalem Statement from GAFCON 2008, he (through a Lambeth spokeswoman) referred to an 800-word piece by the previous Archbishop Rowan Williams, posted immediately following the Conference. To my knowledge this is the long and the short of what Canterbury has ever said about the substance of the Statement, and it appears Justin Welby sees no need to expound on it further.

In this piece Rowan Williams speaks positively of the “tenets of orthodoxy” expressed by “those who met for prayer and pilgrimage,” noting that these tenets were “shared by the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues.” (Issues like whether God ordained marriage exclusively between a man and a woman – Archbishop Welby now assures us that the “Living in Love and Faith” consultative process will sort all that out.)

After this moment of positivity, Williams moves on to the question of “by what authority” the Conference set up a “self-selected” Primates Council, creating overlapping and competing jurisdictions within the Communion. This is a serious question indeed, and many within the Gafcon movement and its sympathizers continue to wrestle with it. It touches on deep-seated loyalties, personal relationships, and a host of practical matters. The churches of the Reformation faced the same kind of challenge – often with life at (the) stake – from Rome: “by what authority do you claim to be a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic church?”

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