05 July 2008

Gospel Authority?

In the Church Times this week, the Archbishop of Sydney, Bishop Jensen responded to Lambeth Palace’s official declaration on the GAFCON manifesto. You may read the whole statement here.

Responding to the statement in which the Archbishop of Canterbury had questioned the authority of the proposed “Primates’ Council”, the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, said that it had authority because the Primates had been elected by their own people, and their very coming together gave them authority.

“They have what I call gospel authority. There are moments in the Church where . . . authority must be taken; and this is one of those moments when the most senior people available . . . have decided to come together and take an authority to do certain things which is in their capacity to do.

This statement is troubling for many reasons, but two are most dangerous in my opinion. First, Jensen says they have authority because they have been elected. As far as I can remember, there was no global Anglican primary held to elect these men (all men, of course) to preside over the Anglican Communion.

Second and more troubling is that he says they must “take” authority. I do not recall any command of Jesus to seize, grasp, appropriate, or filch anything. What Jesus said was that we must forgive all people and we must love our neighbours as we love ourselves. It would be hard to find a group of people who love themselves more, so what are they doing? Not loving their neighbours, but attempting to filch the Anglican Communion.

“I was a little surprised at the Archbishop’s remarks. I was hoping he might be very joyfully receptive of what he sees here as a development of quite legitimate authority to help bring order to the chaos of the Anglican Communion in the last five years. It’s a development to be applauded, not rejected.”

Notice that the Archbishop of Canterbury was supposed to leap for joy upon reading the manifesto. I wonder why they thought that. However, after ++Williams’ scathing response to the ultimatum (and in British-speak it was scathing), the GAFCONites simply dismissed him:

Dr Jensen said that the Archbishop of Canterbury had no particular role in the autonomous Churches of the Communion, and that Dr Williams’s moral authority had reduced in the past five years. “I’m not saying I blame the present Archbishop for that: I suspect it would have happened, whoever would have been Archbishop. What is happening because of the American initiatives is that the Communion has woken up . . . A sleeping giant has been roused by what has occurred.”

Williams has no particular role in the communion? If that is true then why have the neo-Puritans spent the last four years bullying him to throw the American and Canadian churches out of the Anglican Communion? I smell a lie here. Williams has no particular role now because he did not do what he was told to do and has been dismissed like a recalcitrant schoolboy.

It all boils down to this: the Gang of Six has legitimate authority over the whole communion just they said so; that’s why.

But that’s not the case. Even Jensen’s own Australian fellow bishops disagree with his assertion. In an article posted in The Age The Rt. Rev. Philip Huggins says Jensen is “deluded.” Huggins stated “Over the years, one learns to stay well clear of people who have been to intense conferences…it is easy to be deluded into thinking the world is defined by conference resolutions.” And that’s what the “authority” the FAFCON primates have, conference resolutions. They have no authority, gospel or otherwise outside of their own jurisdiction. He also states “Jensen .. breached protocol by publishing an opinion piece in another diocese without talking to his colleagues there, which puts Melbourne’s bishops in a difficult position. ‘we are not a client state of an imperial state required to be silent, and people have been hurt.” Bishop Huggins hits the nail on the head.

[The] negative publicity hurt ordinary Anglicans, devalued the work of faithful Christians, and endangered young people who were confused about their sexuality and threatened by homophobia.

Huggins said he had spent much of the week trying to comfort and encourage Melbourne Anglicans.

The gospel is never about hurting people; it is about setting free those who are in captivity, to heal the broken hearted and teaching love for all.