GAFCON III urged to pursue good disagreement

Jerusalem archbishop urges GAFCON leaders to engage in dialogue and reconcilliation with liberal Anglicans

The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem urged delegates to GAFCON III not to walk away from dialogue with the liberal wing of the church, but to to engage in good disagreement with their separated brethren.

The Most Rev Suheil Dawani, the bishop in Jerusalem and Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East greeted the 2000 delegates to GAFCON III meeting at Binyenei HaUma in Jerusalem, welcoming them to his diocese. In his address, Archbishop Dawani pressed the need for the Anglican Church to be a catalyst for reconciliation within the Christian community and the wider world.

He stated that his diocese was composed of indigenous Christians, whose members traced their lineage to the day of Pentecost. However, the Christian community had dwindled in the region, he said, from 27 per cent in 1948 to approximately 1 per cent in the Palestinian territories today. Though small the Anglican church was comprised of 32 parishes and 37 schools and hospitals and played an outsized role in the life of the community.

The mission of the Anglican Church in Israel and Palestine was to be a bridge builder — a pivot in relations between the “three Abrahamic faith”. Since his consecration in 2007, Archbishop Dawani said he had pursued a ministry of reconciliation in the pursuit of peace. The “city of Jerusalem” he added was the “key to peace in the region and in the world.”

The archbishop said this view of interfaith and political relations guided his understanding of the way forward for Anglicans. To be faithful to the gospel imperative, the Anglican churches must be communities of faith centered round “listening and dialogue”.

Anglicanism celebrated “diversity and differences,” wherein “Christ was revealed anew”, he said. As Christians we were called not to “impose our views of god on others” but to “keep our fellowship alive, excluding no one from the love of god.”

The “path that takes the way of exclusion”, that did not pursue “hospitality” misunderstood the gospel of Christ, Archbishop Dawani said. We should see the “abundance of the Holy Spirit,” and not be limited by the “paucity of our own selves,” he said, citing the story from Genesis 13:18 of Abraham and the “three visitors” at the Oaks of Mamre.

The Jerusalem archbishop criticized his peers break in altar fellowship with the primates of the Episcopal Church of the USA and Anglican Church of Canada. “Hospitality is participation in the communal life of God,” he explained, noting “fellowship at the eucharist highlights not our gifts but the grace of God.” He concluded that “brokenness is the failure to share Christ’s hospitality with one another” so that “through hospitality we can be Christ to the other.”

He closed his address by thanking GAFCON for its support for the city of Jerusalem.

The archbishop’s views mirror statements he made in 2008 at the first GAFCON conference, which he declined to attend or to welcome delegates to St George’s Cathedral. His presence at GAFCON III, an American bishop who asked not to be names said, was a tremendous step forward in relations between the diocese and GAFCON. The American bishop further noted that at GAFCON III there were speakers and session leaders from the dioceses of Jerusalem and Egypt — and that while the address was unimpressive, the archbishop’s symbolic presence on the dias with the GAFCON leaders was a welcome act of hospitality.

The archbishop’s address received a polite, but quiet response from the delegates. Anglican Ink commentator Dr. Gavin Ashenden noted the archbishop had “misidentified reconciliation which comes in the Gospel as a symptom of the kingdom of heaven rather than a primary objective of the faith.”

“You come at it by repentance and conversion,” he observed.

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