The week-long Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) has just finished. The thousand-plus Anglicans met in Jerusalem as a protest to the July Lambeth Conference in the UK, and the failure of the Archbishop of Canterbury to strongly stand for Christian orthodoxy, especially on the issue of homosexuality.
The delegates at GAFCON – who represent more than 35 million Anglicans worldwide – reaffirmed the importance of the authority of Christ and the Word of God. They also reaffirmed God’s intention for human sexuality. As a closing resolution, they produced the 700-word document, “The Jerusalem Declaration”. It is a solid proclamation of orthodox Christian teachings, and a renewed affirmation of taking the Bible seriously on matters of sexuality.
The fourteen points lay out the basic Christian doctrinal positions. It reiterates historical Christian creeds and teachings. Point three says this: “We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”
Of course as an Anglican declaration, it reaffirms the Thirty-nine Articles, the historic Anglican statement of faith laid out in 1563. It also upholds the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
Point 8 has special reference to the major source of friction in the Anglican Communion. It reads, “We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.”
Of course Anglicans in 1563 and 1662 never would have imagined that such a statement would have been necessary. Indeed, Anglicans 100 years ago would also not have seen the need for such an assertion. But such has been the success of the militant homosexual lobby – both in the world at large, and in the Christian church – that now such basic beliefs have to be highlighted and reaffirmed.
Of equal importance is point 13: “We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.” That is a very bold and strong position. It is also a Biblical one, and a most necessary one. It takes seriously the issue of apostasy and heresy.
As the Rev Rod Thomas of the conservative Church of England group Reform put it, “The Anglican Church is being destroyed by false teaching of the Bible on issues such as homosexuality. We are going to stand against this trend, and spread the true message of the Bible with confidence.”
Another conservative, Bishop David Anderson, head of the American Anglican Counsel, put it this way: “Those attempting to revise Christian faith [are] leaving the box the same but changing the contents — making Jesus a way, a truth, a light, a savior, but there are others. You pick what works for you, which in fact is not monotheism. It’s polytheism. That is such a radical departure … not only from Anglicanism [but] from Christianity full-stop.”
A key player in this biblical reform group is the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen. He knows the dangers of caving in on these vital issues. He said that the “revisionist agenda which we’ve seen in the same-sex agenda is a missionary one and will spread its views as much as it can. So the rest of us have to do missionary work to defend the gospel and to promulgate it.”
Many African Anglican leaders were present at the conference. Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda said that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was a friend, and a godly and nice man. But he said this about the Church’s leader: “Sometimes it’s not enough to be nice. You ought to make some clear-cut decision where you stand… He doesn’t want to hurt anybody. He wants to be good to everybody. Then he ends up pleasing nobody. That’s a problem.”
One must applaud these Anglicans and this Declaration for affirming the time-honoured Christian teachings, and for refusing to bow to Political Correctness and the secular erosion of the churches. In a day in which morality is under attack, truth is rejected, and trendy social theories supplant Biblical absolutes, it is refreshing indeed to see this strong stance being taken.
Would that other denominations battling the same issues also muster some courage and take a strong stance. These issues are too important and the cause of the Gospel too great to allow the steady inroads of secularism, relativism and apathy. May there be many more such conferences and declarations in the dark days ahead.