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By John Jalsevac

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 4, 2008 ( – After years of speculation, rumors that a number of leading conservative Anglican clergymen may call an opposing conference to the upcoming 14th decennial Lambeth Conference seem to have been confirmed this past Christmas Eve.

In a press release dated December 24, nearly twenty archbishops, bishops and clergymen announced their decision to convene the so called Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFC) in Israel. The main precipitating factor behind the decision to call the controversial conference appears to be the increasing movement of mainstream Anglicanism towards accepting homosexual behavior and clergy.

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, one of the most prominent figures on the list of those who called the GAFC, has been hinting at the possibility of a split with the global Anglican Communion over the matter of homosexuality for a number of years already. In 2003 he told BBC radio: “We claim we are Bible-loving Christians. We cannot be seen to be doing things clearly outside the boundaries allowable in the Bible. This is only the beginning. We would sever relationships with anybody, anywhere… anyone who strays over the boundaries we are out with them. It is as simple as that.”

The GAFC will take place in June, only a few weeks before the Lambeth conference. The Lambeth conference is the decennial invitation-only conference of Anglican clergy, and is considered to be one of the Four Instruments of Communion of the Anglican Church.

Archbishop Rowan Williams himself seems to have anticipated a looming split in the Anglican Communion. In mid-December Williams released his Advent letter, which was devoted exclusively to the question of communion and the Lambeth conference.  “The existence of our Communion is truly a gift of God to the wholeness of Christ’s Church,” he wrote in that letter, adding “All of us will be seriously wounded and diminished if our Communion fractures any further.”

 “From 15-22 June 2008, Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings of the church will make pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where Christ was born, ministered, died, rose again, ascended into heaven, sent his Holy Spirit, and where the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out, to strengthen them for what they believe will be difficult days ahead,” read the press release announcing the GAFC.

Despite the fact that the GAFC press release quotes Canon Chris Sugden denying that the conference is a direct challenge to Lambeth, the decision to hold the conference mere weeks before Lambeth is being widely interpreted as an act of defiance against the mainstream Anglican Church.

“While this conference is not a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference, it will provide opportunities for fellowship and care for those who have decided not to attend Lambeth,” said Sugden.

Anglican Bishop Tom Frame, however, voiced the commonest reaction to the calling of the GAFC when he said, “It [GAFC] can only be construed as a provocative gesture. Any international gathering of only part of the Anglican Communion might suggest, in the minds of some that an alternative force to the Anglican conference is coming in to existence.”

While some of the clergy who plan on attending the GAFC will not attend the Lambeth conference for conscience reasons, some will attend both conferences, said the GAFC website.

The Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, where the GAFC is set to take place, has outspokenly opposed the conference, pleading with its coordinators to cancel the conference. “I urge the organizers to reconsider this conference urgently,” said Bishop Suheil Salman Dawani. “I am deeply troubled that this meeting, of which we had no prior knowledge, will import inter-Anglican conflict into our diocese, which seeks to be a place of welcome for all Anglicans.”

In announcing the conference, Southern Cone Primate Gregory Venables said, “While there are many calls for shared mission, it clearly must rise from common shared faith. Our pastoral responsibility to the people that we lead is now to provide the opportunity to come together around the central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging historic Anglican faith. Rather than being subject to the continued chaos and compromise that have dramatically impeded Anglican mission, GAFCON will seek to clarify God’s call at this time and build a network of cooperation for Global mission.” 

Those who called the conference include: Archbishops Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Henry Orombi (Uganda), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Donald Mtetemela (Tanzania); Archbishop Peter Jensen (Sydney) and Archbishop Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria); Bishop Don Harvey (Canada) and Bishop Bill Atwood (Kenya) who also represented Archbishop Greg Venables (Southern Cone); Bishop Bob Duncan (Anglican Communion Network and Common Cause USA.) and Bishop Martyn Minns (Convocation of Anglicans in North America); Canon Dr Vinay Samuel (India) and Canon Dr Chris Sugden (England); Bishop Michael Nazir Ali (Rochester, England)  and Bishop Wallace Benn (Lewes, England) were consulted and also form part of the Leadership Team.

See related coverage:

50 Homosexual Anglican Clergy Couples “Married” in Civil Partnerships

Anglican Church of England Will Allow Gay Clergy to “Marry”

Anglican Bishops Group Formed Against Acceptance of Homosexuality in Church

World Leader of Anglicans Acknowledges Massive Split Coming Over ‘Gay’ Bishop