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GAFCON Chairman Clashes with Archbishop Welby over Boundary Crossing

GAFCON Chairman Clashes with Archbishop Welby over Boundary Crossing
Athanasius consecrated orthodox bishops...because he knew that the apostolic faith itself was at stake
The creation of a missionary bishop for Europe is an historic moment, says Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

By David W. Virtue, DD
June 15, 2017

GAFCON chairman and Nigerian Primate, Nicholas Okoh, clashed with Archbishop Justin Welby over the recent passage of a resolution by the Scottish Episcopal Church to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, resulting in the announcement that GAFCON would ordain a bishop to provide episcopal oversight for bishops and clergy who believed that such actions betray the faith once received.

Welby wrote to the GAFCON Archbishops saying he did not consider the appointment of a "Missionary Bishop" in the person of Andy Lines to be necessary and berated the Primates for "cross-border intervention", arguing that it was not a Church of England appointment and therefore carried no weight in the Church of England.

"Historically, there has been resistance to cross-border interventions and ordinations from the earliest years of the universal Church's existence. Such weighty authority as canons 15 and 16 of the first Council of Nicaea in AD 325 are uncompromising in this regard and make reference to the 'great disturbance and discords that occur' when bishops and their clergy seek to minister in this way," wrote Welby.

The Nigerian Primate fired back, saying that what happened in Scotland was similar to the clash between the heretic Arius and Athanasius in the fourth century, which nearly overwhelmed the church by the Arians, but was rescued by Athanasius.

"If the Church had continued to follow Arius, the Christian faith would have been lost. I am reminded of Athanasius because we are facing a similar struggle for the integrity of the gospel in our time. On Thursday, 8th June, the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) changed its teaching to allow men to be married to men and women to women. It followed the path already taken by the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada.

"This attempt to redefine marriage is not a secondary issue about which we can agree to disagree and continue to walk together. It means that Jesus was mistaken when he taught that marriage was between a man and a woman and that sex outside of such a marriage is a sin. It is a radical rejection of the authority of Scripture. The Church claims that it can consecrate behavior that God's Word clearly teaches to be sinful. According to the Bible, this behavior, without repentance, separates those who practice it from his kingdom.

"Athanasius consecrated orthodox bishops in dioceses led by Arians because he knew that the apostolic faith itself was at stake. This was the principle guiding the interventions which led to the formation of the Anglican Church in North America in 2009 and it was affirmed by over three hundred bishops in assembly at GAFCON 2013 in Nairobi. It was therefore very appropriate that on the same day that the Scottish Episcopal Church formally turned aside from the historic Christian faith, GAFCON announced that Canon Andy Lines, already an internationally recognized missionary statesman, will be consecrated later this month as a GAFCON missionary bishop for Europe."

Archbishop Okoh said it was not a step taken lightly, and from the beginning GAFCON has been committed to standing with the marginalized. "Requests for help from Scottish orthodox leaders to the Archbishop of Canterbury were turned down. Indeed, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church told his General Synod last year that the Archbishop of Canterbury had assured him that he would welcome the Scottish Church to the 2020 Lambeth Conference even if it chose to change its marriage canon to include same sex unions."

Archbishop Okoh said GAFCON stands ready to recognize and support orthodox Anglicans in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe as the drift away from apostolic faith and order continues.

"For reasons of mission and conscience, we can expect to find a growing number of orthodox Anglican congregations needing oversight outside traditional structures, as is already the case with the Anglican Mission in England.

"The creation of a missionary bishop for Europe is an historic moment. It is a recognition that the era of European Christendom has passed and that in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, a new start is being made by building global partnerships for mission."

Okoh called on orthodox Anglicans to stand with the marginalized and to work tirelessly for the continuing reformation of our "beloved Communion."


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