This week over 350 Anglicans from around Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu, are gathering in Canberra for the Gafcon Australasia Conference. The conference had been postponed from previous years due to COVID but, in God’s wisdom and providence, it has come at just the right time.
The conference opened with the announcement of the establishment of the Diocese of the Southern Cross, an extra-provincial Anglican diocese in fellowship with the majority of the world’s Anglicans through the Primates’ Council of the global Gafcon network. The conference will close with the commissioning of former Sydney Archbishop, Dr Glenn Davies as the Initial Bishop for the diocese.
Gafcon Australia was set up some years ago as a “break glass in case of emergency” measure. We had hoped that our national church would resist the decline into liberal revisionist teaching that has characterised the Anglican Church in the West. But this year proved that this hope was in vain:
- a majority of diocesan bishops (12) chose not to affirm biblical marriage at the General Synod in May;
- dioceses have announced their intention to bless same-sex unions;
- diocesan bishops have ridiculed those who uphold the Scriptures in their synod Presidential addresses;
- orthodox clergy and churches are facing increasing obstacles to gospel ministry in their dioceses.
The crisis is no longer a future possibility. It has arrived.
For those unfamiliar with all things Anglican, GAFCON (all-caps, Global Anglican Future Conference) had its inaugural conference in Jerusalem in 2008 in response to the consecration of a same-sex partnered bishop in The Episcopal Church (USA) and the decision by the Anglican Church of Canada to bless same-sex unions. The bishops, clergy and laity at the conference represented the majority of the world’s worshipping Anglicans.
The movement continued to grow with two further global conferences (2013, 2018), with another planned for 2023, and through regional branches and initiatives.
Human sexuality was the presenting issue that occasioned the formation of Gafcon. Yet the real concern was (and remains) the loss of a clear biblical witness to the saving gospel of Christ and the promotion of a different gospel that is no gospel at all (Gal. 1:7). At heart, it is about the authority and clarity of the Bible as God’s good and perfect word.
The global Gafcon network now exists to promote and defend the biblical gospel, to reform the Anglican church, and to provide episcopal oversight, support, and fellowship to those churches disaffiliated from their dioceses or national churches through the unorthodox actions of their bishop. New Anglican churches have been set up in North America, Brazil, Europe, and New Zealand.
Which brings us to Australia and the events of this week. On the one hand, the creation of the new diocese is a cause for grief. It reflects the sorry state of much of the national church and the failure of its appointed shepherds to uphold historic and orthodox Anglican faith.
Their actions reveal the loss of faithful gospel witness in Anglican churches in many parts of our country—as well as the struggles and pain of orthodox churches and clergy who have been hindered in gospel ministry, and marginalised and ridiculed because of their faithfulness to Christ and his Scriptures.
But these developments are also cause for great thanks and praise to our gracious God. The Diocese of Southern Cross is an answer to the prayers of many. It will provide an Anglican home for churches which leave their dioceses and enable them to continue in faithful Anglican ministry promoting the biblical gospel of repentance and saving faith in Christ. The first church to join the diocese, Southern Cross Anglican Beenleigh and Logan (Brisbane), has already started to meet. Other churches are likely to follow.
Please pray for the remainder of the conference; for those who will provide leadership in the newly formed Diocese of the Southern Cross and the churches that will join it; for courage, gospel clarity, and conviction for them (and for us all) to stand against the liberal revisionist ‘gospel’; and for humble hearts ready to share the good news of sins forgiven with all Australians.
 I am on the board of Gafcon Australia.