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Anglican Church in Australia faced with two 'irreconcilable' views of marriage, Bishop Condie warns

GAFCON meeting in Melbourne warns of future conflict in Australian and global church

The Vicar of St Alfred's Blackburn North, the Revd Peter MacPherson, is flanked by GAFCON's visiting international leaders Archbishops Ben Kwashi of Nigeria and Foley Beach of the US.

PHOTO: Mark Brolly

By Mark Brolly

June 4 2019Bishop Richard Condie of Tasmania has warned that drafts of documents to be considered by General Synod next year presented two irreconcilable views of marriage in the Anglican Church of Australia.

Bishop Condie, the Chairman of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Australia, also warned of conflict in Australian dioceses with a mix of conservative and progressive Anglicans if any attempt were made to bless same-sex unions in those dioceses.

He was speaking at a gathering for GAFCON's international Chairman, Archbishop Foley Beach of the US, and its General Secretary, Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Nigeria, at St Alfred's North Blackburn on 7 May.

Bishop Condie said when a branch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which became GAFCON Australia, was formed four years ago, he had said that it was a “Break glass in case of emergency” organisation that was ready to go when the need arose.

“We're very close to breaking the glass in Australia,” he said on 7 May.

Bishop Condie said the meeting of Australian bishops earlier this year considered a draft of essays on marriage prepared by the Doctrine Commission for consideration at the 2020 General Synod. While the Constitution of the Australian Church was strong on what was at the centre of Anglicans' faith, at least one bishop had declared their intention to move forward on blessing same-sex marriages, regardless of what any General Synod might do.

“Now, as you know, the dioceses in Australia, there are some that are almost exclusively conservative, some that are almost exclusively liberal and then many mixed. Where that happens in an almost exclusively liberal diocese where all the clergy and the bishops are the rule, it will probably happen that we will co-exist. It won't happen in the conservative dioceses but in the mixed dioceses, that's where we're going to have conflict and we're in for a very unhappy time as we face that.

“GAFCON Australia, our pledge is that we're thinking of this, thinking about the strategies and the ways to support faithful Anglicans in Australia. GAFCON has always had two aims: to promote the orthodox faith and to provide support for those who are marginalised over the actions of others who put them in a difficult situation.”

Archbishop Beach, who leads the Anglican Church in North America (which is not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury), said liberal innovations in theology and sexual ethics were pushing Anglicans towards embracing a new understanding of God, gender and sexuality that had more in common with pagan theology and ethics than with historical Christianity.

“Pagan theologies and pagan morality are now being taught and practised as normal Christianity in certain provinces of the Anglican Communion, mostly in the West. But it's spreading like a virus throughout the Communion.

“I'm not suggesting that this is being done overtly. Pagan deities are not being set up explicitly in our churches and cathedrals, or at least that's very rare where that happens. Rather, what I'm suggesting is that the real danger has come in through the back door. Liberal innovations in theology and sexual ethics are pushing Anglicans towards embracing a new understanding of God, gender and sexuality that has more in common with pagan theology and ethics than with historical Christianity.

“The liberal tactic has often been to substantially change the theological content of belief while maintaining a facade of orthodoxy. The house looks right but when you open the door, you discover that something is very wrong...”

Archbishop Beach said attempts by the US Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican Communion, to change the way God is addressed ignored the fact that God had been revealed as “Father” more than 160 times in the Gospels.

God's being was beyond gender “but God has revealed to us His preferred pronouns ... or His preferred gender”. “We haven't been left wondering,” he said.

“This movement is calling on Anglicans to repent of our sins, return to the Lord, return to the historic teaching of the Bible and to resist the economic and political pressures to compromise biblical faith.”

Archbishop Kwashi said the Gospel could not be negotiated.

“We cannot negotiate truth ... But we are clear as GAFCON to confront situations in love. We speak truth with grace and we exercise love as we enthrone truth.

“If we emphasise unity at the expense of truth, we will all lose because God is not going to write a new Scripture because of us. What is written is already written. There is no other way to salvation except in Jesus Christ, so we cannot negotiate that truth.

“While we do not want any break-up or divisions and so on, we at the same time cannot help it but stand with the truth. If the truth we proclaim and live has caused some other people to dislike us, or to disagree with us or therefore to break, whatever that means, that is a choice that has to be made.”

Archbishop Kwashi said the only thing that helped him make sense of his context was the Word of God.

“If I throw away the Word of God, I lose twice. The revisionists are very comfortable ... we don't have anything, we only have this Bible.”

* The GAFCON Primates' Council met in Sydney from 29 April to 2 May and decided to recognise an extra-provincial diocese for New Zealand Anglicans opposed to the direction of the Anglican Church there. The Revd Jay Behan, Vicar of St Stephen's Christchurch, is to be consecrated as first bishop of this GAFCON province, probably in October.

The Council also announced a Global Bishops Conference from 8-14 June 2020, only weeks before the Archbishop of Canterbury convenes the Lambeth Conference of the world's bishops.

Archbishop Beach wrote on 20 May: “This gathering, to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, has been made necessary by the fact that the 2020 Lambeth Conference is being conducted in violation of its own previous resolutions, especially Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Conference, which reaffirmed the biblical teaching on marriage and human sexuality. We will gather for excellent Bible teaching, worship, training, fellowship and counsel together regarding the challenges facing our sheep.”