6 February 2023

What is GAFCON, and why should I care? Explainer

GAFCON is a movement of Anglicans who perceive beliefs about sexuality as core to integrity of faith. Image: SteveCollender.

Kirralee Nicolle

8 August 2022

GAFCON stands for Global Anglican Future Conference. You may have heard the acronym and wondered what it was.  

Perhaps your minister mentioned it, you saw it in a news article, or someone mentioned the GAFCON Australasia Conference in August. 

So, what is GAFCON and what does it mean for you and your church? 

Journalist Kirralee Nicolle set out to find out. 

What is GAFCON? 

GAFCON, or Global Anglican Future Conference, is a movement formed in 2008 with the stated aims of addressing a lack of Biblical and moral standards in the Anglican church.  

It is made up of both clergy and laity from Anglican churches across the globe who are united in their alignment with certain statements of faith and perspectives on issues including sexuality and Biblical interpretation. 

Their website says the formation of the movement was driven by two key events. In 2002, a Canadian diocese instituted an informal ritual to recognise same-sex unions. The following year in the United States, a bishop was consecrated who happened to be part of a homosexual union. 

Six years later in 2008, a gathering of concerned Anglican clergy and laity met in Jerusalem for the first Global Anglican Future Conference. Since then, global conferences have been held in Kenya, again in Jerusalem and most recently in Dubai in 2019. 

It was at the initial gathering that attendees signed the Jerusalem Declaration.   

Archbishop of Nigeria the Most Reverend Peter Akinola gave the opening address at the first conference in 2008. In it, he referred to those who sought to bless same-sex unions as apostates, saying that they had both denied the gospel and its power to transform and save and departed from the Scripture and the faith. 

What is the Jerusalem Declaration? 

When GAFCON first met in Jerusalem in 2008, attendees drafted a statement of faith known as the Jerusalem Declaration. This cites the Holy Scriptures, the four ecumenical councils, the three historic creeds and the 39 Articles as the basis of their belief. It also contains statements on clerical orders, the Great Commission, stewardship of creation and sexuality. 

What’s the situation with GAFCON in Australia? 

GAFCON Australia is an established wing of the global GAFCON movement, with a board directed by Bishop of Tasmania the Right Reverend Richard Condie.  

Read more: What we should and shouldn’t tolerate must be determined by God

Board members include lay member from Melbourne diocese Fiona McLean and Archbishop of Sydney the Most Reverend Kanishka Raffel. GAFCON Australia adheres to the Jerusalem Declaration and according to its website has three principal objects: 

  1. to promote orthodox Anglican faith and practice as set forth in the Jerusalem Declaration and in the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia; 
  1. to help reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world. 
  1. to provide fellowship to orthodox Anglicans who find themselves in a minority position in their own Dioceses due to the actions of others who depart from orthodox faith and practice. 

Why is the movement so controversial? 

On the GAFCON website, it equates the blessing of same-sex unions with a “collapse of biblical witness”.  

The Jerusalem Declaration also espouses marriage between one man and one woman as “the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family” and an “unchangeable standard of Christian marriage”. 

In December 2020, GAFCON also released a commitment known as Commitment 2020. This document stated that in circumstances where bishops chose to bless same-sex unions, GAFCON would seek approval from the GAFCON Primates Council to establish an Extra-Provincial Diocese, or a parallel diocese under GAFCON leadership. 

Additionally, the Jerusalem Declaration does not mention or attempt to define the role of women in church leadership. 

GAFCON Australasia is set to host its 2022 Conference in Canberra from 15-18 August. 

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