Friday, July 04, 2008

Archbishop Haverland on GAFCON

If there is one place that comments from the Archbishop of the ACC should be posted about an important event like GAFCON, it is on The Continuum.


A number of self-described traditional Anglicans from around the globe, including many bishops and archbishops from the ‘global South’ bodies of the official Anglican Communion, recently met in Jerusalem at a meeting called GAFCON. This meeting was called largely in response to the refusal of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and of the Anglican Church of Canada to heed earlier calls to rein in innovations concerning matters of sexual morality, including notably the ordination and consecration of self-proclaimed and practicing homosexuals and the blessing of ‘same sex unions’.

GAFCON produced a now widely published statement which does not address the innovations that led to the formation of our own Continuing Church in 1976-8: namely the ‘ordination of women’, a new and radical Prayer Book, and a pro-abortion policy. Concerning GAFCON and its statement, I have several observations, which I believe are widely shared in the Anglican Catholic Church and, indeed, by most Continuing Churchmen. For that reason I make bold to write in the first person plural in what follows.

1. On the immediate issues that led to the GAFCON conference, we stand with GAFCON and its statement. That is, the ACC believes and teaches what Scripture and the universal Church have always taught everywhere concerning human sexuality. We would only note that GAFCON fails to address the problem of divorce and remarriage, which antedates the present crisis concerning homosexuality, and which in many ways prepared the ground for the more recent aberration.

2. The GAFCON statement, by its silence concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate, implies that this earlier aberration is tolerable, if not desirable, and is at worst a much less serious departure from the universal practice of the orthodox and catholic Church than is homosexuality. This silence and its implications are profoundly mistaken. The ordination of women and homosexuality both flow from a confusion concerning both sexual roles and also the place of sexual identity in Church and Christian life. Furthermore, pretending to ordain women to Holy Orders requires a rejection of clear Biblical teaching and of the unbroken practice of the Catholic and Orthodox Church. The ordination of women is in effect a claim by official Anglican bodies to authority over the deposit of the Faith. The ordination of women assumes a falsehood: that Anglicans have authority to alter the doctrine and practice of the central Tradition of Christendom, which is represented by the consensus of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and all older Anglican Churches. Such a claim, once made, can be pressed into service to justify any further innovation or aberration in doctrine or morals. No one should be surprised that Churches which began to ordain women in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, began to legitimize homosexual conduct in the 1990s and in the first decade of the 21st century.

3. GAFCON asserts and appeals for support to formularies which have a notable Anglican pedigree: namely the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the three Creeds, and the first four Ecumenical Councils. No one can or should deny the authority of these formularies. However, these same formularies received formal assent from the same Anglican bodies that since the 1970s have abandoned orthodox and catholic doctrine as noted above. Many Anglican bodies traditionally cultivated a kind of studied doctrinal ambiguity which combined material toleration of grave theological errors with formal acceptance of traditional creeds and formulas. Therefore, the Continuing Churches wisely have fixed our doctrinal stance firmly in the Affirmation of Saint Louis. The Affirmation, confirmed by the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Catholic Church, explicitly positions the ACC within the great central Tradition of Christendom, represented by the consensus of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and of the teaching of the Undivided Church of the first millennium. Since the studied ambiguities of some traditional Anglicans permitted the grave errors of recent years to arise, it is no longer enough to recapitulate compromise positions and formulas. A clearer, more explicitly catholic and orthodox stance is demanded by the times. GAFCON’s statement, therefore, is far inferior to the Affirmation and in the long run will not stand up to the winds of error blowing in our world. I would note also that the Affirmation is not a confession or a new statement of belief, but rather affirms the authority of the great central Tradition of Christendom.

4. By way of fixing our own Church’s teaching clearly, I note the following teachings of the Affirmation of Saint Louis and of the Anglican Catholic Church on matters about which GAFCON is silent:

– there are Seven Ecumenical Councils, not merely Four;
– while the 1662 Prayer Book has many strengths, it also has some notable weaknesses, including a truncated Eucharistic Canon, which the 1928 American, 1954 South African, and other later Prayer Books have corrected. We by no means assert the invalidity of any form in the 1662 book, but neither can we accept that 1662 is the central or best model for Anglican liturgy;
– the 1979 Episcopalian Prayer Book, and many other contemporary language books at use in the official Anglican Communion, are radically flawed and are often subject to grave theological objection;
all three Holy Orders are male in character;
– the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are generally necessary for salvation and as divine acts convey God’s offer of grace objectively and unfailingly;
– there are seven sacraments received by the central Tradition of the universal Church, namely Baptism; Confirmation or Chrismation, the Eucharist, Penance, Unction of the Sick, Matrimony, and Holy Orders.
all Anglican formularies, practices, and beliefs properly are subject to evaluation and interpretation in the light of the central Tradition. If both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches reject something that some Anglicans believe, then that something probably is false, particularly if it concerns a matter of importance. Our security lies in the authority of Scripture as interpreted by the universal Tradition and by the living consensus of the great Churches, not in peculiarly Anglican notions;
– human life is sacred from the moment of conception to natural death, and directly willed abortion always is gravely sinful.
– valid Christian marriage establishes an indissoluble sacramental bond which cannot be broken save by death;

5. We call upon all self-described Anglicans to reject clearly and decisively all of the liturgical, moral, and theological errors of recent years, beginning with the ordination of women. We call upon all self-described Anglicans to return to the central Tradition of Christendom and to recognize that evangelical and neo-Pentecostalist Protestantism is no safe haven. We welcome GAFCON as a small step in the right direction. But we confidently predict that the ambiguities and silences that characterize its statement will lead rapidly to fragmentation and confusion without any countervailing theological achievement. The only issue addressed in a somewhat adequate fashion by GAFCON is homosexuality. Far more is at stake.

– The Most Reverend Mark Haverland, Ph.D.
Archbishop and Acting Primate
Anglican Catholic Church


Anonymous said...

Most excellent!

I am especially heartened that the Archbishop does not discount the 39 Articles, but simply notes that they they and all other peculiarly Anglican formularies must be construed in subordination of the central Tradition.

* * * *

From a broader ecumenical point of view, the only possible quibble with Archbishop Haveland's statment would be his contention that the bond of sacramental marriage is put asunder by death
(which is standard Latin theology). In contrast, the Eastern Church recognizes no such limitation [though they do not ex-communicate INNOCENT parties who contract a second or successive NON-SACRAMENTAL (or natural) marriage. Moreover, the Eastern Church claims that their marriage doctrine and discipline is the older, catholic position.

poetreader said...

Thank you, Fr. Hart for posting this. I just came from reading it elsewhere on line, and had said to myself that, if it were not yet posted here it needed to be and would have done so myself. I was delighted to find it.

I can be persnickety about details of theology, but I find myself unable to differ from this statement. ++Haverland is to be praised for incisive thinking.


Anonymous said...

Moreover, the Eastern Church claims that their marriage doctrine and discipline is the older, catholic position.

Unfortunately, many parts of the Eastern Church are not in a position to throw any stones about marriage doctrine.

Consider the following: Among the Eastern canons (I can't recall off the top of my head which council) were those which limited laity to 3 marriages. (Clergy were limited to one by the same canons & councils). [That's 3 successive marriages after being widowed.) Whatever interpretive quibbles may exist on some issues, to remarry (or even engage in sexual activity) while a former sacramental spouse is still alive is - by the clear statements of Scripture itself - adultery.

Nevertheless, some jurisdictions (such as the Greek Orthodox one where I encountered this teaching) use the patristic canon I just mentioned to justify the remarriage of formerly-married members while their former spouse is still alive. When I asked the Greek priest I heard this from "but doesn't that contradict Scripture and go against the clear context of that canon itself?" his only reply was to say "oh, well, people will do it anyway, so we might as well get them to do it in the Church so we can bless them." I find - and still do - that response troubling.

Now, the explanation of one particular priest does not an official jurisdictional explanation make. And I"m not familiar enough with the Orthodox practices in this case to know whether or not they have a formal "investigation" of that former marriage -- like a Roman annulment investigation -- to discern whether or not it constituted a sacramental marriage - or the Eastern equivalent of the distinction. (I.e. whether or not the proposed 2nd or 3rd marriage in question is, sacramentally, the first). They may well do so - I don't mean to suggest otherwise.

However, theology of marriage is one issue where observers might be justified in taking a closer look at their teachings and practices before being too sanguine about them. (Though, I must say, there more 'eastern' ceremony itself is really gorgeous liturgically!)


On the issue of "until death do you part", I have trouble seeing how that could be reconciled with the fact that Scripture clearly permits individuals to remarry, sacramentally, after the death of the former spouse. This presaged in the OT; implied (though, perhaps, not explicitly examined and condoned) in the NT; and practiced in the early Church.

I would be interested to see the Scriptural passages, patristic interpretations, and canonical ruling behind the suggestion that a sacramental marriage is binding after death or prevents the remarriage of the widowed partner. (For laity I mean -- I know that there are canons and patristic teachings to precisely this effect for clergy).


++Haverland's commentary is right on target. The only two observations I could add are this:

* the GAFCON statement says that the Tradition of the Church in interpreting Scripture is to be "respected". It doesn't give it the normative force the Affirmation does. This is a clear example of how it is far to weak on upholding the kind of respect for Tradition that not only the Romans and the Orthodox teach, but also the Protestant Reformers and the Anglican tradition gives Tradition. (Check Hooker, for example). This weak "respect" word is a good example of precisely this weakness, which ++Haverland rightly notes.

* Other venues have raised the question of GAFCON's pro-life stand, in light of its absence from their Declaration. Reports from those who were there and were "in the know" said that the question was raised and the decision not to include it was made not on a rejection of a pro-life position, but because of a desire to focus on the specific and most pressing issues immediately causing the current crisis in the Lambeth Anglican Fellowship. Certainly, one might criticize that decision as too short-sighted or as ignoring some of the more fundamental roots of the current divide in the L.A.F.

But - and this my caveat - its absence apparently does not denote an endorsement of the anti-life position from some (or even any) of its members -- but, rather, simply the choice to keep the Declaration focused on a set of issues which didn't include that particular concern. Supposedly, fuller statements of position and belief from this new angloprotestant group will be forthcoming, and, presumably, this issue will be one of the things those statements address.


Anonymous said...

It truly is a fine, scholarly, workmanlike statement, but diplomatic and charitable in tone. The Gafcon statement does not affirm anything false; it only neglects to affirm some important truths. I hope the our Gafcon brethren will take to heart the omissions pointed out here. Many of them very well may.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

a desire to focus on the specific and most pressing issues immediately causing the current crisis in the Lambeth Anglican Fellowship.

Conservative wannabe-orthodox Canterbury Anglicans consistently surrender to the Devil, and this is exactly how they always do it. They want to concentrate on the newest and latest symptom of the disease. They refuse to get to the root of the problem, and so they continue to be led by the Devil, not by the Holy Spirit.

They follow the Devil at a safe distance, thanking God they are not as other men who follow him more closely. By not taking a stand where it needs to be taken, they allow the enemy to lead the way.

Anonymous said...


Remember that remarriages by Orthodox are not considered "sacramental" but "natural" and are not necessarily a permanent bar to communion, which may seem scandalous to the legally rigorist Latin Mind!

In contrast, the widowed in the West can have limitless sacramental marriages, which may seem scandalous to the mystical Eastern Mind because a true sacrament ("mysterios" in Greek) is not meant be put asunder by death but rather overcome it!

* * * * *

The larger point, however, is that Bishop Haverland has penned a lightening rod for authentic Anglican unification. (I wish I could write like he!) We can worry about the broader ecumenical issues later!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

On the contrary: The Orthodox Church calls sacraments by the name mysteries. And, they most certainly teach that marriage is one of these seven mysteries.

Fr William Bauer said...

I see posted here reference to the Affirmation repeatedly. And point out that the fellowship that wrote the affirmetation needs each reader here as a member. Just google Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen.

And about Bp Haverland's missive.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Google it? We have a link to it right here.

Anonymous said...

The statement of Bp John Roders of AMIA (posted this morning on VOL) helps somewhat:

"This singular focus meant that many very important matters were not directly addressed at GAFCON, in the Statement or in the Jerusalem Declaration. This by no means relegates matters such as the status of 5th, 6th and 7th Councils, the ordination of women, the form of the Anglican Communion, abortion, the nature of and conflict with militant Islam, our relation to the persecuted Church etc. to secondary issues."

Sounds like he has been listening to our concerns!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

As much of a puzzle as the AMiA can be, Bp. John Rodgers has always struck me as a straight shooter.

BackN82Blogger said...

Archbishop Haverland hits the matter on the head: let's stop all this ignoring the elephant in the room. Mere assent to the Creeds and Councils is no more proof of orthodoxy than mere words are proof of a living faith (cf. James 2).

This demonic and philosophically bankrupt confusion of gender roles has got to be dealt with -- we have to reassert that Christology doesn't negate manhood or womanhood, but fulfills and confirms the meaning of each.

Anonymous said...

Bp. Rodger's comments about these things NOT being secondary issues should be compared to J.I.Packer's statement - given at the press interview in London I believe - that these things ARE secondary issues.

It would seem that the GAFCONers, for all that they agree on those things listed in the Jerusalem Declaration, still have a wide variety of views among their ranks, to the extent of not even agreeing on what the "bare essentials" or "primary issues" are.

One of the things which the Affirmation did was to give a larger and sounder and more consistent "base" of mutual agreement in matters of Faith and Order than the Declaration does.

Jim Packer: It is important to know who our friends are. Anglo-Catholics generally believe in Trinity, Scripture, atonement, resurrection, judgement, prayer, etc. A ‘higher’ view of sacraments and priesthood seems secondary in the light of those primary correspondences. I can be friends with Anglo-Catholics. Modern Anglo-Catholicism has a different agenda from in the past. I can, with qualifications, be friends with Anglo-Catholics. I have good will towards Forward in Faith. Liberals are different, denying many of the aforementioned. We have let Liberals get away with too much with regard to leadership in the past.